Is Jacksonville Shipyards project shortchanging local small businesses run by women, minorities?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars and the City of Jacksonville met with local small businesses Tuesday night as they looked for companies to work on the Jacksonville Shipyards development.

Action News Jax first told you that the city approved spending about $130 million towards a nearly $400 million project, which means valuable contracts are up for grabs.


But Action News Jax Investigator Ben Becker has learned that small businesses led by minorities and women may not get a big piece of the action.

The Shipyards is supposed to revitalize the Downtown Jacksonville waterfront.

In 2021, the City Council passed a bill to subsidize billionaire Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s Shipyards vision, including a Four Seasons Hotel, luxury condos, hotels, office buildings, a Marina, Riverwalk, and more.

READ: Florida is home to 2 of the ‘most expensive’ ZIP codes in America, report shows

Becker wanted to know how much of those city contracts are going to companies in the Jacksonville Small and Emerging Business Program. These are mainly businesses run by women and minorities. The number is supposed to be 20%.

Becker dug into the Shipyards redevelopment agreement, and while $14.7 million in JSEB contracts are allocated toward the hotel and office building construction, it’s not for the Marina and Riverwalk where Khan’s Iguana Investments is only required to make a “good faith effort” to hire JSEB companies.

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It means that JSEB businesses could lose out on $12 million as part of the city’s $130 million commitment.

Not only that, there’s no requirement for Iguana Investments to meet that 20% threshold for its $250 million portion of the deal, meaning JSEBs lose out on potentially another $50 million.

Becker reached out to the city about the deal it cut and received a statement from JSEB Administrator Gregory Grant that reads in part, “It is a top priority of the Office of Equal Opportunity to ensure that our JSEB program positions small businesses with contract opportunities.”

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The project has already broken ground. The entire Shipyards development is expected to be completed in 2026.

The City of Jacksonville sent Action News Jax the following statement:

“The marina contracts mirror the ordinance language per the OGC. The cost disbursement agreements are for specific CIP projects, and for example, there may not be a JSEB marina contractor. On the larger private project scopes they can always find a sidewalk or landscape contractor, or a JSEB in another discipline that the project includes. It is harder on a very narrow scope.”

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