A narrative circulating before Lenny Curry‘s election contended that Jacksonville wasn’t getting all it could out of the annual economic development trips to London.
Some said, perhaps for political reasons, that former mayor Alvin Brown was ill-suited to make the sale to multinational companies that otherwise might be persuaded to relocate to or launch operations in Jacksonville.
That supposition, of course, will never be definitively proved or disproved. With Thursday’s latest corporate relocation announcement, though, the Curry Administration showed its ability to align its priorities neatly with the economic development wing (read: JAX Chamber) of the local establishment. Also, Council President Greg Anderson, a banker himself, is uniquely positioned to help make the sale.
The decision of international recruitment outsourcing firm Resource Solutions to bring its North American Global Service Center to Jacksonville, will bring at least 50 jobs by July 2016 and 25 more in the next three years. The deal was sealed on the London trip, and representatives of the company and the JAX Chamber pointed to the united messaging front as a reason.
Janine Chidlow, managing director of EMEA Americas at Resource Solutions, said her company was “impressed by the proactive approach taken by the mayor and the Jax Chamber to bring new businesses to Jacksonville.”
She said Jacksonville was “shortlisted” before the economic development trip, but that the “appetite of the mayor’s office and the Chamber” was a “major swing for us.”
The company with operations in 24 countries and Global Service Centers in Hyderabad, India; Manchester, England; and Johannesburg clearly could have gone anywhere in the United States. However, Jacksonville’s effort closed the deal. Jax Chamber Chairwoman-elect Audrey Moran, a 2011 mayoral candidate who still has a cadre of devoted admirers, made it clear this initiative would not have succeeded without the economic development trips to London.
“We have to get in front of people to make a connection,” Moran said. “It’s important who we bring with us.”
In addition to Curry, Anderson, and Moran, former mayors John Delaney and John Peyton made the trip.
“Trips are about building relationships,” Moran said, calling the convergence of influence “unprecedented,” emblematic of “continuity and vision,” and spotlighting “how engaged in these conversations” Curry is.
Curry, meanwhile, whose increasingly close political relationship with Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan has not been missed by #jaxpol observers, cited the trip as an example of “leverage[ing] the Jaguars brand” and emblematic of the “clearly strong business links between London and Jacksonville.”
Curry and Moran both expect further announcements to come via the London trip’s outreach, which could disarm critics of the economic development trips.
In that context, meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how the council president position evolves in the next few years.
Next year, Council Vice President Lori Boyer will take the trip with Curry and business community representatives. She’s known as one of the smartest people in Jacksonville politics, and also will help make the sale as Anderson did last month and will on trips to come during his tenure.
The open question, though, is who will succeed her as council VP, and then as council president two years hence.
A number of names have been floated as potential VP candidates, and questions for council members to consider as they choose their next VP include the following:
- Would that person be effective in helping the business community close deals for projects like this?
- Would that person be inclined to upstage the mayor or contradict the messaging?
- Can that person keep his or her mouth shut when it comes to deals that must be kept confidential?
With that in mind, expect a Chamber-friendly candidate such as Aaron Bowman or Anna Brosche to emerge in the end.
Some long-timers, including one who reportedly has nine commitments already and another whose plainspoken ways aren’t exactly going to be catnip to the global business community, might squawk. But clearly, the key to these deals is the ability to put forth a unified coherent message, reflective of an aggressive unified vision for economic development.
Who can deliver? Who can help push the ball over the goal line?
In the end, expect the mayor’s office to lobby for the right candidate … and against the wrong one.