TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Local counties are working together to flex the First Coast’s legislative muscle in Tallahassee.
Leaders from nine local counties are joining forces to bring more money and jobs to the region.
Jerry Grubb spent three decades as a civil engineer in Jacksonville. He says it’s the perfect place to work and play but he feels more needs to be done to attract big businesses to Northeast Florida.
“Anything we can do to draw attention to the area," said Grubb.
There's a new group operating inside Florida's capitol to flex first coast influence in Tallahassee and Action News is getting a first look into its game plan.
The First Coast Delegation is working to expand EverBank Field, secure the St. Johns River Ferry's future and bring more jobs to Jacksonville. It's a multi-county partnership between local lawmakers from Duval, St. Johns, Nassau, Clay and Baker counties. Since their first meeting last month leaders from Columbia, Flagler, Putnam and Bradford counties have joined the cause.
“Many of the problems that we face know no county lines,” said the group’s chairman, Sen. Aaron Bean of Jacksonville. “We face a lot of these problems as a region so we figure if we can stick together regionally we have a much greater chance of success as we compete against the Miami’s, the Orlando’s and Tampa.”
The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce is throwing its support behind the delegation.
“We commend the Northeast Florida legislators for creating the First Coast Delegation. The highways, airports and port facilities impact everyone and benefit the entire region. When we advocate for a number of issues, including transportation projects or improvements in education, multiple counties working together can help build a stronger case,” said VP of Public Policy, Chris Quinn.
The group is coordinating its request to funnel more funds from Tallahassee into Northeast Florida. A move Grubb calls crucial to ensure effective and efficient representation. “I see a lot of the focus shifting from federal to the state and local governments from taking on initiatives like this and reaping immediate rewards with more jobs and prospects in the area."
One of the major projects they are joining forces for is House Bill 721. Rep. Travis Cummings, of Orange Park, filed legislation to make publicly owned stadiums – like EverBank Field – eligible for an annual $2 million sales tax rebate over the span of 30 years.
Sen. Bean says expanding EverBank Field will help ensure the city retains its professional football team. “The Jacksonville Jaguars are not just Jacksonville’s team. They’re really Northeast Florida’s team.”