Jacksonville isn't Silicon Valley. But recent indicators say it's becoming more like it.
Forrester Research's recent report looking at the U.S. tech economy named Jacksonville as one of 15 U.S. "tech talent hotspots."
The River City ranked in the top 5 high-growth talent markets “where you can get in on the ground floor.” Forrester said Jacksonville, along with Charlotte; Portland, Ore.; Indianapolis and Oklahoma City are promising tech hubs seeing exceptional growth.
The study said Jacksonville offers businesses an “opportunity to grow alongside their burgeoning tech scenes. Startups and venturesome enterprises should check out what they have to offer.”
Forrester said it looked at identifying locations that offer a tech workforce with the size, skills, and experience to support their operating model for the foreseeable future.
Cost of living, thriving colleges, active local business associations and a dynamic start-up community were also identified as factors.
Forrester analyst Andrew Bartels told WJCT News that Jacksonville’s strong workforce helped propel it in the rankings.
“We found it’s been growing by an almost seven percent annual rate since 2012 — very high growth in job categories like app developers and tech managers. It’s also been quite successful in attracting millennials. So a strong and growing job growth market, a low cost of living which is attractive to younger people and a low cost of operation,” said Bartels.
Jacksonville has been cultivating a techie image for several years, gaining attention during the early years of its One Spark innovation festival, which was started in 2013 by financial backer Peter Rummell and a group of innovators. Although the festival ran into financial issues in later years and has been considerbly downsized, at one point it was being compared major innovation events like South by Southwest in Austin.
Jacksonville has been on a roll the last few years with high-tech companies such as Amazon hiring more than 4,000 employees here and JinkoSolar setting up a major solar panel manufacturng operation.
Thursday Jacksonville scored a big multi-million dollar win for its flashiest high-tech project, the Bay Jax Innovation Corridor. Specifically, JTA has been awarded $12.5 million to pursue its plan to bring autonomous electric transit to downtown Jacksonville. The city was also awarded $12.5 million for traffic flow improvements that will tie together with the innovation corridor on Bay Street.
JTA is also joining forces with Florida Polytechnic University’s Advanced Mobility Institute, which focuses on advancing and testing driverless transportation on research.
The North Florida Transportation Planning Organization also looks to roll out a coding competition to help write the software that will eventually help bring the innovation corridor to life.
Northeast Florida also has its sights set on becoming a spaceport, with part of the former Cecil Field Naval Air Station rechristened as Cecil Spaceport. Officials there have been pursuing a government satellite launch.