Editorial by Mayor Alvin Brown - Jacksonville is a city on the move. In just the past year, our city has enjoyed progress in many areas that are helping me stay focused on my administration's goals to grow jobs, strengthen our education system and enhance our quality of life.
We owe much of our success in the past year to public-private partnerships that are building programs to enhance our parks, revitalize our Downtown and raise a stronger generation of leaders to compete in the 21st Century global economy.
I encourage everyone in Jacksonville to think about innovation and public-private partnership as a solution to leverage a greater return from our tax dollars and reduce the size of government while expanding the scope of service.
Already, my administration's partnerships have grown the city's school-based mentoring ranks by 600 new highly qualified volunteers. We've partnered with the Sierra Club Northeast Florida Group and SORBA Jax, a local affiliate of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, to increase the quality of the experience on our hiking and bicycle trails.
We've unveiled more than $7 million in commitments from the Jacksonville Jaguars, Florida Blue, Wells Fargo, CSX, Terrell Hogan, and Farah & Farah to benefit veterans, education, Downtown revitalization and neighborhood stabilization.
This is exactly what I had in mind when I created Jacksonville's first ever Office of Public-Private Partnerships and staffed it with an executive-on-loan from Florida Blue, Renee Finley. The executive-on-loan agreement costs taxpayers just $1 a year. That's just $1 a year for someone focused 100 percent on building relationships, developing new funding sources and exploring ways to optimize use of publicly owned real estate. So far, the results have been incredibly positive.
Public-private partnerships are helping to push the needle forward at a time money is tight all around and we, as a city government, must learn to do more with less. My goal is increased service at reduced taxpayer cost. That's why it was an honor to be recognized at a Bloomberg Philanthropies event in April for using executive-on-loan staffing as an innovation in government.
I encourage everyone to think about public-private partnership to build Jacksonville's future. You don't have to have $1 million dollars to make a difference. The simple act of volunteering at a St. Johns River cleanup or at a local homeless shelter embodies that same spirit that we're seeing in the form of financial donations and service commitments. Public-private partnership is about everyone pitching in to put Jacksonville first.
As I look back on my first year in office, public-private partnership is an area that I know will help to set a more positive tone for our city moving forward.
We have a lot going for us in Jacksonville. When I was sworn into office on July 1, 2011, Jacksonville's unemployment rate was 11.2 percent. In just the past year, that's come down nearly three percentage points to 8.4 percent. We're seeing good-paying, career-driven opportunities come on line at companies like Saft, Medtronic, Web.com, GE Capital, National Healing Corp. and Kaman Aerospace.
Through a lot of hard work and dedication from my administration, City Hall and Gov. Rick Scott, we convinced BI-LO Holdings to move from South Carolina to combine corporate headquarters with Winn-Dixie in Jacksonville – a move that's bringing 100 new high wage jobs and preserving nearly 900 more.
Business isn't the only thing growing in Jacksonville. In 2013, the USS New York is scheduled to relocate from Norfolk, Va., to Mayport as part of a fleet buildup that will be followed by two additional ships in 2014. This means thousands of new residents for our city between the crew and their families.
All of this progress does not give us a license to rest. We must remain a city on the move to continue working hard every day. It takes partnership. It takes good legislation like my economic development plan that recently passed City Council by a unanimous vote to transform our Jacksonville Economic Development Commission into an executive-managed Office of Economic Development.
It takes energy and enthusiasm. It takes me. It takes you. Our future is based on "we" and how far we want to go.
About the Author: Alvin Brown was elected in May 2011 to be the 7th mayor of the consolidated City of Jacksonville. Mayor Brown is a graduate of Jacksonville University who went on to oversee a $4 billion community empowerment fund as a senior official in the Clinton/Gore Administration starting in 1993. Mayor Brown also served as the executive director of the Bush/Clinton Katrina Interfaith Fund, a $20 million effort to rebuild 1,100 houses of worship throughout the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.
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