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Mayor Brown Meets With Task Force To Boost Development In Northwest Jacksonville

Peter Haden

Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown met for the first time with his new Community Wealth Building Task Force yesterday.

The 15-member team is looking for ways to boost development in Northwest Jacksonville.

The issue is, some of Northwest Jacksonville suffers from generational poverty and lack of opportunities. Mayor Alvin Brown says the New Town neighborhood in Northwest Jacksonville is "the toughest zip code in the state of Florida, as I understand it. It's where the poverty gap is. And so having people who are in the trenches - working in the trenches everyday - is what I believe, what I call, 'community empowerment.'"

The Community Wealth Building Task force is made of of people in those trenches. Business leaders, bankers, educators, pastors, health care administrators... they all stepped up to serve.

The task force model works by prioritizing: creating a short-term and a long term-strategy.

Brown says "The short term is, for example: can we have more retail attracted to these areas? If so, can we do that now? We know that they need restaurants. They need a grocery store. They need more access to transportation."

Other short term goals could be supporting entrepreneurs with access to capital and marketing.

As for the long game?

Brown asks the task force "What's the vision for this area? How can we make it a destination area? How do we improve the quality of life?"

Florida Blue Market President Darnell Smith leads the task force. He says, whatever plans the task force makes, they have to be permanent - and sustainable.

Smith says "It has to be something that when we walk away, 16 months from now, 24 months from now, that we are on a roll and we will accomplish our goals, to get the outcomes that we're looking for."

The Community Wealth Building Task Force is modeled after a successful targeted development program in Cleveland. The group hasn't yet set a time for its next meeting.