Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayor Pushes Progress for Everyone

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayor Pushes Progress for Everyone

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

When I sat down to talk with Mayor Alvin Brown recently about his successes this past year, it was no accident that we met at Corner Bakery Cafe.

That eatery, like Fresh Market, is in the long-neglected Brooklyn neighborhood.

"We've had a lot of jobs to come to the city," Brown told me. "We've landed jobs like GE, which is going to hire 500 people locally. ... Greencore from London hired more than 300 people. We're modernizing the port, and we're creating more housing downtown and more restaurants downtown."

Then, there's the $35 million economic development plan, Renew Jax, which is poised to make infrastructure and housing improvements, and to bring jobs and amenities to more struggling Northwest Jacksonville neighborhoods.

"I think like everything else, you have to make the economic case and the business case," he said. "We had a market study done for the New Town/Kings Road corridor, and we found that there is $20 million of disposable income that's leaving the neighborhood.

"So the goal is how do we recapture it and bring it back to the neighborhood and leverage it to the tune of $40 to $60 million?"

Yet while the mayor talked of jobs and the potential of neighborhoods that are often seen through the prism of fear or stereotype to support them, he also talked of successes in getting jobs to disadvantaged youths who, far too often, fuel those stereotypes.

This past summer, around 580 such youths were working in jobs created through Brown's summer jobs initiative. Eighty-five private companies participated - more than quadruple the number that participated in 2013.

That wasn't charity. That was crime prevention. Jobs prevent the kind of crime that causes many businesses to avoid or flee the types of places where struggling youths live.

Current research tells us that. …

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