EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace column.
Nassau County is hungry for new business — despite being sandwiched between two delectable destinations.
Even still, Nassau boasts enough amenities and proximity and vacant land to whet the appetite of any company looking to relocate or expand. There is plenty here to butter their bread.
The competition to attract new business is keen. With a remote location, and a powerful competitor to the north (the state of Georgia) and to the south (the city of Jacksonville), Nassau faces some inherent disadvantages.
But that hasn’t stymied the efforts or interest to attract new business, industry, and almighty jobs. After all, the first two exits on U.S. Interstate 95 across the Florida line are in Nassau County.
“That’s got to be attractive to a lot of people,” says Steve Rieck, who works tirelessly to enhance the local economy as executive director of the Nassau County Economic Development Board.
Rieck is most excited about what is still to come. The potential for growth within Nassau County is unmistakable. Two major projects are just months or years from coming to fruition.
A major tract of land owned by a subsidiary of Rayonier Corp. in Yulee could soon become the site of a new elementary school, a park and possibly a YMCA. A mixed-use project like this could become the seeds for additional growth for the massive Terra Pointe development (considered one of the largest industrial/commercial/residential projects of its kind in the southeastern U.S.).
“It gives us something to show people,” Rieck says. A few miles down the A1A corridor is the Crawford Diamond industrial park — that is ready, willing and able to handle a major manufacturer. The Bryceville location has been blessed as a “mega site” by Gov. Rick Scott for presenting an attractive landing spot for significant new industry.
Nassau officials are eager to partner with developers to accomplish these pro-industry goals. As they should be. If not, other areas (like Georgia and Jacksonville) will lure attractive industries away from this area.
Much has already been done here. Highways widened, land pre-zoned for industrial use, and an accommodative mentality adopted. These characteristics are as noticeable as an impact fee to potential industry and businesses.
Rieck’s agency is there to promote growth. This is their sole mission. And they’ve displayed an ability to bring together local officials and business/industry leaders to accomplish this.
In the past year, Rieck’s group has worked with seven projects representing some 500 new jobs and $100 million in capital investment here. This has been done within the multi-year economic initiative known as “Nassau Tomorrow.”
But this has only tickled Rieck’s palate like a Fred and Ginger tap-dance routine. His hunger and appetite for economic development endures. And manifests.
And his resolve gives you confidence that tomorrow will be brighter than today.