As new Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry creates a city budget, he’s asking for recommendations from his transition committees.
On Monday, Curry’s Economic Development subcommittee met at the University of North Florida to start finalizing its proposals.
UNF President and former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney is heading up the committee. He says downtown growth should be a priority.
“This group is solid that downtown needs to be the major focus of any administration,” he said. “ [A focus on downtown] needs to be consistent across administrations.”
The group is also saying Jacksonville needs to better brand itself.
“We don’t have sort of a brand identity, a national brand identity,” Delaney said. “I’ve long-said Jacksonville is sort of a light under a bushel basket. But we’ve really got to kind of identify that and then focus our economic developments around that.”
Delaney says a focus on elevating underserved neighborhoods and communities will be in his committee’s recommendations. That doesn’t necessarily mean attracting only high-salary jobs to an area.
Delaney says in some Jacksonville neighborhoods it is better to try to bring in "higher-wage" jobs rather than focusing on "high-wage" jobs. “Sometimes a couple-dollar-an-hour improvement in wages is all that we can really get," Delaney said.
Delaney says the committee will not recommend changing the current economic development structure which includes: the Office of Economic Development, Downtown Investment Authority, an independent sports entity and the Chamber of Commerce.
The committee will recommend expanding or building a new convention center. Delaney says it’s something the city needs and should be moved up on the to-do list.
The group is also supporting the continuation of projects including deepening the port and developing the Shipyards.
Delaney says the group also recommending economic development ventures be held more accountable. There’s talk of a report card for projects or appointing someone to oversee city projects.
“The concern is, there’s been a lot of good ideas talked about down the years and we seem to keep coming back to them every few years,” Delaney said. “So I think the group would like to say, we want one person or one committee or one entity responsible for holding all of the components of economic development responsible.”
Curry’s Economic Development Committee will make its recommendations mid-July.