Amelia Island, Nassau County Brighter Skies On Horizon

The business climate here just got a shot of adrenalin. Omni Hotel & Resorts will bring corporate philosophy & expertise to Amelia Island Plantation. New businesses have been opening in historic district of Fernandina Beach, & more…

Kelley's Courtyard Cafe, Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, Florida
Kelley's Courtyard Cafe, Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, Florida

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing Columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insights on various topics in Steve’s Marketplace column.


The business climate here just got a shot of adrenalin in its weakened system.

The purchase of the bankrupt Amelia Island Company by the Omni Hotel & Resorts group promises a bright future for the prominent resort. The ownership/management role of the resort’s amenities (hotel, conference meeting rooms, golf courses, restaurants, tennis courts) had obvious appeal.

Omni outbid two other notable suitors — The Noble Company, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts — to take over as manager of the resort. Along with its $67 million offer, Omni will reportedly infuse about $40 million into the aging infrastructure of the resort. Amelia Island Plantation was started in the early 1970s by the Sea Island Company of Hilton Head, S.C.

The most exciting prospect will be the anticipated conversion and expansion of the oceanfront Amelia Inn into a prestigious Omni Hotel. This will give the area another big-name luxury hotel to complement the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island.

The Omni will also bring a corporate philosophy and an expertise to the Plantation’s management structure. This will be a stark contrast to the Amelia Island Plantation Company’s single-family ownership of the past. Along with a sophisticated corporate vision, the Omni also brings in the deep pockets of billionaire investor Robert Rowling.

Dog Star Tavern, Fernandina Beach, Florida on Amelia Island
Dog Star Tavern, Fernandina Beach, Florida on Amelia Island

Though the U.S. economy is sluggish, the Ritz-Carlton has experienced record tourism this summer. Through a substantial investment, the Ritz has added meeting space — translating into greater corporate activity and traffic.

Another glowing development for the industrial base has been the emergence from bankruptcy by Smurfit-Stone Corp., which owns one of the two major mills downtown. Also, the Yulee International Tradeplex has welcomed a new industry, and Louis Scott Trucking has finished building its new headquarters there.

The critically important downtown of Fernandina Beach has weathered the economic downturn remarkably intact. A new, trendy pub has opened on Second Street — Dog Star Tavern — and Kelley’s Courtyard Cafe has apparently gotten off to a solid start.

The closure of the Bank of America branch in downtown left behind a dated, vacant building. However, the acquisition of the building by local entrepreneur Don Shaw has been a welcomed blessing. The impressive remodeling of the building is nearly complete; an upscale convenience store and a restaurant will reportedly share the spacious premises.

New Downtown Fernandina Grocery Coming To Centre Street
New Fernandina Downtown Convenience Store & Restaurant Coming To Centre Street (former Bank of America building)

There is more. The medical community continues to evolve into a major industry — to accommodate a burgeoning population of well-healed retirees. A new complex on Lynndale Road has been opened, and the multi-story addition to Baptist Medical Center provides even more hospital space and capabilities.

Nassau County has proven its resilience. With its multi-faceted business environment, the area has weathered the economic storm.

And brighter skies, filled with promise, are on the horizon.

(Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor who lives on Amelia Island. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or send eMail to [email protected])


Steve Nicklas
A four-week continuing education class, “Investing in Today’s Financial Markets,” will be offered beginning Oct. 5 at the Florida State College campus in Yulee.

Local financial advisor Steve Nicklas will teach the long-running class. The class will cover all aspects of the financial markets, including stocks and bonds and popular investment vehicles such as mutual funds, 401(k)s and annuities.

Sessions will be on Tuesdays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. They will be: Oct. 5, investing in the stock market; Oct. 12, investing in the bond market; Oct. 19, investing in IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement vehicles; and Oct. 26, implementing a financial plan.

Cost is $36, which includes all materials (you must pre-register at the college and make checks payable to FSC). The college office can be reached at 548-4432.