AT&T's Clay County expansion latest in business boom for area

Orange Park also seeing boost, expecting further development

By Scott Johnson - Reporter, Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

ORANGE PARK, Fla. - A major jobs announcement in Clay County is the latest economic boon for the growing community. 

AT&T is cutting an estimated 150 jobs in New York and bringing them to Clay County.  Those jobs will be merged into the Fleming Island call center that’s right by Fleming Island High School.

But that’s just part of the economic growth going on in the county.

Up and down U.S. 17 through the town of Orange Park, businesses have popped up over the last two years. Town manager Sarah Campbell said increasing businesses has been a focus of town leadership.

Two years ago, the town added a Fleet Readiness Center on Wells Road, as well as a Brooks Rehabilitation facility, Starbucks and AT&T store along U.S. 17.

Last year, the Orange park Fish House & Oyster Bar and Thyme Down South came to Kingsley Avenue, and Tom & Betty's, Get Air Indoor Trampoline Center, Wendy's and a Wawa gas station were added along U.S. 17.

That Wawa sits in property that was once the Parkway Inn, a hotel deemed a nuisance because of crime and prostitution.

North Florida residents are noticing the changes.

“I’ve been here a few years, and I’ve noticed that it is improving and the traffic’s picked up, too,” said Kim Rachel.

Across from the Wawa, a new Hampton Inn is set to open soon.

The town of Orange Park also plans to add a Fanatastic Floors on U.S. 17 and Palagio Assisted Living Facility on Kingsley Avenue.

It's also entertaining proposals for a hotel behind the Wawa on U.S. 17 and several other businesses.

“They have expressed an interest in the town and we have positioned ourselves to be developer-friendly and business-friendly, because we want to welcome those businesses to our town,” Campbell said.

The goal of the county’s Economic Development Corporation is to keep people who live in Clay County working in Clay County because statistics show 77 percent of the community's working residents leave the county every day to work -- most in Jacksonville.

The announcement by AT&T that it’s expanding its Fleming Island call center by around 150 jobs after closing up shop in Syracuse, New York, is an indication employers are starting to look at what was once a mostly rural county as a place to hire.

Another area that’s growing is around the outer beltway project, where Green Cove Springs is expecting to grow by 10,000 to 20,000 residents in coming years.

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