RNC goes on without Jacksonville

And the shipyards might need a new construction partner

Just a few weeks ago, it seemed all but certain that the Republican National Convention (RNC) would be moving from Charlotte to Jacksonville. While a few formal events were still planned for North Carolina, the majority of the event’s schedule had been shifted to Jacksonville. The whole planning was a disaster, and luckily we’ve ultimately been spared any participation in it.

Well, except the rounds of national headlines that are likely to embarrass Jacksonville reputation for years to come: first that we’d be foolish enough to host the convention at a time like this; and then that we weren’t even able to pull that off. Many local businesses had invested heavily in the planned event, and they’ll be disappointed to know that all they’re getting out of it is a bad public image for the place they live and call home.

It’s ok though. Jacksonville still has plenty of other things going for it. Like the Jaguars. And we’ve got big plans for property that’s sat undeveloped. There’s the Regency Square Mall – or this week’s biggest local story: the Jacksonville Shipyards.

A long, long time ago…

Once upon a time, Jacksonville was an industrial and transportation hub of some note. Port met rail downtown and manufacturers were always a right at the heart of the distribution network. The shipyards area used to be an essential loading spot, but it’s largely sat empty for the last few decades.

It’s not for a lack of development interest. There are many who would like to put some business up on the land. The problem is that the land is thoroughly saturated with industrial chemicals and pollutants that didn’t used to be so well regulated.

In fact, Khan’s development firm, Iguana Investments, had negotiated an exclusive right to build up the land parcel.

Except they sat on it, until it expired.

It seems like Khan, despite his billions, has encountered the same reality as every would-be builder before him. Construction plans are nice, but land has limits. Low lying, swampy land, saturated with pollutants is kind of hard to work with.

The city is willing to pay some big bucks to get that land off its books, but it’s passed up multiple opportunities to do reclamation and cleanup. While cleanup doesn’t guarantee a buyer, it’s also important to note that finding a buyer doesn’t guarantee cleanup. Like Berkman Plaza, the city might end up subsidizing a venture that suddenly doesn’t exist – then they’re out the money and still stuck with a polluted plot of land.

Jacksonville goes on, anyway

The new Jacksonville Jaguars season is coming and fans are likely to quickly forgive Khan for his failure to act quickly on the shipyards development. It’s 2020, after all, and who among us hasn’t had our plans disrupted or at least delayed a little?

Mayor Curry, on the other hand, isn’t providing prime football entertainment. It’s likely that the voters won’t look too kindly at his legacy, so although he won’t be eligible to run again for Mayor, he isn’t likely to have much of a hometown advantage if he tries to advance his career to the next level. If Rutherford holds off Donna Deegan’s challenge then retires in 2022, Curry might have a shot at that historically GOP-friendly district. But in a city-wide vote? Or running for a state office? Curry would struggle to show a wide base of local community support. Any such election would also draw attention to the JEA scandal or his mismanagement of various construction initiatives in the city.

Nevermind – the RNC is one less 2020 problem for Jacksonville

Not even a day after my last post, the president abruptly announced that he was going to cancel the Jacksonville portion of the Republican National Convention. And for once, that’s good news! With everything that has been going on in 2020, it’s nice to have one less thing to worry about. As it was, the RNC was merely inviting the increased spread of infections and increasing the odds of large-scale protests.

Unfortunately, a lot of local Jacksonville businesses are going to be left on the hook with large orders and expensive plans that won’t pan out. Hotels that had shored up staff for the influx will now be announcing around for layoffs.

There’s a business lesson there, one buried in the often forgotten realm of political economy: you have to be careful which politicians you take business and economic advice from. They might have control over most or even all of the branches of government at any given time, but if they’re using their power to lead you off a cliff, your fortune will still be doomed before election season even hits.

In Jacksonville, the political economy of DeSantis, Curry, and Trump seems to be an economic loser. Betting against their plans might just be good for your business. 2020 is barely half way over, and there’s still time to turn it around with new leadership and new vision for your business.

The Jacksonville RNC is creating a disaster

Mayor Lenny Curry decided he wanted to put Jacksonville on the map – the pandemic hotspot map, that is. When Charlotte demanded that the Republican National Convention adhere to common-sense measures designed to limit the spread of illness, Curry sprung in to action and began lobbying the GOP to move the events here to Jacksonville. He promised a more casual approach to the pandemic, implying we could fill a 15,000 seat arena without having to worry about things like masks and social distancing.

It was pitched as an economic boost at the time local business needed it most. But what if it turned out to be a headache and nightmare rolled in to one?

When Jacksonville was announced as the new location for the event, there was celebration. At least for a day or two, before reality kicked back in.

Second wave

Part of proving that Jacksonville was ready for the convention was abandoning most of the progress we’d made in reducing the spread of the coronavirus. When the lock downs eased and reopening began, we started to almost immediately see the rise of a second wave of infections.

Intent on proceeding at full steam ahead, this wasn’t matched with stricter controls. Instead, every opportunity to backtrack was met with another step toward reopening. As a result, we’re just now hitting our highest infection numbers here in mid July.

Hits close to home

The mayor, in particular, had a pretty glib attitude toward the pandemic. Right up until it affected him personally.

About two weeks ago, Mayor Curry announced he and his family would be isolating themselves in quarantine for a few weeks. After missing several press conferences, he finally admitted that someone they’d spent time with recently had tested positive. While there’s no news on the Mayor or his family’s health status, it was pretty clear that being personally impacted changed his views on the situation.

Not long after that, Curry announced that masks would be mandatory for indoor locations in Jacksonville. This didn’t sit well with out of state RNC organizers who wanted a regulation-free convention. It also didn’t sit well with local Fox News reporters who threatened to sue the mayor over his order: they claimed that he doesn’t have the legal authority to create such a rule without city council approval. For once, the mayor took the ride side of the issue and implored that anyone listening just wear the mask already.

Lawsuit alleges nuisance

A group of downtown residents and business owners got together earlier in the month to attempt to stop the convention, legally. Their lawsuit alleges that the event will create conditions amounting to a nuisance and threat to public health. Nuisance ordinances have been used to shut down several events in the Jacksonville area, and having it come from the very business leaders and lawyers who once supported the local GOP is quite telling.

If the petitioner’s aren’t able to completely stop the convention, they’d at least like to see it scaled back and conducted a little more carefully. They’re asking that if the event can’t be canceled, that it should at least be limited to 2,500 mask-wearing visitors in the main arena.

In response, GOP organizers started talking about moving parts of the event outdoors. There are obviously problems with having a large outdoor event in late August, but I’m sure the locals already knew that.

Sheriff’s concerns

Further complicating the event is the fact that the sheriff is publicly questioning whether or not the city can handle the required security. There’s speculation that he’s just trying to insure his department gets the cut of the budget they want, but his concerns are also being cited in the lawsuit being brought against the organizers.

Kettled protests

Organizers quickly responded again – this time assuring the sheriff and city that the DOJ had a large security grant available to assist with safety costs. Of course, that can’t go simply either: the DOJ informed the city council that they’d need to create a new, temporary ordinance that limits protests to a small, fenced in, and distant location. All protests would have to end by 6 p.m., as well. Critics and the city council president balked.

Unanswered questions and the aftermath

Why should citizens of Jacksonville give up their rights to peacefully assemble so that the police could earn a larger payday?

Why are we bringing people in to town in the middle of a deadly pandemic?

Why are our politicians more concerned about throwing a party for Trump, than they are about the safety and health of our citizens?

Far from the $100 million economic benefit the mayor originally claimed, it looks like VIPs are staying at out of town hotels and a large number of attendees have declared they’re not even going.

With the security bill unpaid and the risk of resulting illness rising, it looks like a bad deal for the city from every angle.

Constructing SEO strategy in Jacksonville

Increasingly, business is done online and if your potential customers can’t find you on the internet you might just be out of luck. Walk-in customer traffic is probably near an all-time low right now, and websites like Google, Facebook, and Instagram that are the best spots to reach your audience.

So what’s a local business in Jacksonville to do? Forget about outdated advertising platforms like billboards, radio, and TV. These formats target a large number of viewers, but they suffer from several drawbacks:

  • High upfront costs & minimum purchases
  • Little ability to target traffic toward a specific audience
  • No long term effects or benefits
  • Results (and financial return) are hard to measure

These specific limitations of broadcast advertising are all dramatically improved with internet-based marketing strategies. Ad purchases can be scaled down to any size of campaign. In an extreme example, you might have a one-of-a-kind product that only ever needs to find one buyer.

You can also target your ads directly at the type of people who would be interested in your product or services. Television and radio allows you to do this a little bit by picking your channels and time slots, but these matches still tend to be very broad and general compared to what internet marketing can do.

Yet another advertising problem solved by online marketing is the long term impact of your marketing campaign. While some ads and jingles may pay dividends long after the last commercial has aired, most advertising campaigns lose effect the minute you stop paying for more visibility. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a popular internet marketing strategy that fixes this issue by creating long term traffic sources through search, social media, and other content marketing channels. While the results of a constructed search campaign can take some time to kick in, they can also last for years. With a good enough website, a little bit of SEO work can also build a feedback loop as the people who visit share it with others, who visit and share with others, etc… etc…

And perhaps the most fatal flaw of broadcast marketing is the fact that there’s no way to measure the results. Sure, if sales go up the week your ad runs, that could be related. Or it might be because the weather was nice, or because a magazine you never heard of said your product was trendy this month. With so many unaccounted variables, it becomes a guessing game.

Internet advertising, on the other hand, provides metrics that can inform you directly about the results of every visitor. The cost to acquire a new customer is something that can be calculated, and this means you can expand your business exactly to the marginal ad budget that makes the most sense.

Finding an SEO agency in Jacksonville

One potential complication with SEO is finding a reputable provider. Picking a good SEO firm is critical because poor techniques can hurt your search efforts and set back your advertising goals. Many SEO agencies use prohibited search strategies to boost their ranks, and while it may work in the short term, it may cause long term headaches in your search standing.

It’s also good to make sure the “local” firm is actually local. Some advertise as being local SEOs, but their local address is just a virtual office that amounts to a post office box that automatically forwards their mail out of state. In fact, the Jacksonville search engine market is in quite a questionable state! Don’t worry though, there are some good recommendations and insights at this link.

The most important thing to remember when you’re constructing an online marketing strategy is that each business has unique goals and strengths. Your online marketing strategy should reflect those goals and strengths, and not be some cookie cutter ad package that’s also being turned around and sold to your competition, as well!

Instant and long term investment, alike

By combining paid search and SEO, internet marketing can deliver instant results at the same time it’s building up to something long term and potentially self-sustaining. All it takes is great content combined with smart marketing!

Jacksonville Construction Headaches

I’ve always said that if you live in this town for too long, you’ll start to forget how to get anywhere. Since the roads are constantly under construction, you’ll have to unlearn the old way to get around and learn a new one. It starts to get a little difficult once you remember at least three different ways that used to be the best way to get from one place to another.

Speaking of, you’ll need to forget everything you knew about the I-10 and I-95 interchange. It’s all going to be different, soon, and so too will the entire area bounded by the Fuller Warren, U.S. 17, and McDuff.

That said, it could be worse. At the very least, we’ve been lucky that the city of Jacksonville has kept up with the required road updates that come along with the expansive development we’ve experienced over the last few decades. Traffic really hasn’t gotten worse, and in many places it is dramatically improved. Additional highways, toll lanes, and the completion of I-295 have done wonders for many parts of town.

Or maybe it doesn’t exist anymore

While the big orange dinosaur is still out on Beach Boulevard, the big orange mall that used to be downtown is no more. Mayor Curry seems to enjoy demolition more than he enjoys building things, so he was quick to have The Landing torn down when a dispute came up with the property managers.

Google maps has a great picture of it, but I’m sure their street view will be updated soon enough so I’ve saved it here:

Oh and did I mention that the Mayor knocked over the land bridge at the Hart Expressway? This is supposed to gin up traffic around the new entertainment district at the Sports Complex, but that new project was never finalized before the pandemic hit. It wasn’t terribly popular either, considering how little money the city has made off of Daly’s Place and the other construction ventures subsidized on Khan’s behalf.

The one that never got done

The most infamous construction headache in Jacksonville, Florida, is probably the Berkman II highrise. It’s been sitting, unfinished, for more than a decade.

This project had big hopes for downtown real estate during the last property boom, but a parking garage collapsed during construction and the condo tower was never finished. It’s been sitting on the riverfront, half-done, for about 12 years now. I’m pretty sure the company that built it went out of business at least three times, since.

At some point, another company came and bought out the unfinished frame. Based on their prior successes in renovating old buildings, they thought this one would be a quick and easy profit. Well, that was over two years ago. Then they stopped paying their property taxes on the lot.

Do 3D Glasses Give You Headaches?

If they do, then you are among the majority of people.  Millions of people are uncomfortable or sick when they wear them.  Doctors suggest that as many as 1 in 4 viewers suffer.  The technology either strains the eyes or causes depth perception.  Worst case scenarios are queasiness, dizziness or headaches.  The headaches are a result of working both eyes together for a long period of time.  In normal circumstances, only one eye works at a time; the other eye rests.  Then they switch off.

This doesn’t seem to be slowing down movie makers, tv manufacturers or television channels.  Theatre owners and tv manufacturers are spending more than $1 billion upgrading.  New satellite and cable channels are carrying 3D programming and ESPN announced its 3D network will begin broadcasting 24 hours a day in February.

And while these companies actually conduct testing, they are not sharing the results.  However, Samsung warns on an Australian website that its 3D tvs can cause a number of problems.  Nintendo recommends that children ages 6 and under NOT play with the upcoming 3DS gaming system as it may affect vision development.

New technology to address these issues may be many years away.  In the meantime, pay attention to the warnings, sit as far back as possible in the theatre, OR watch it in 2D.  We managed since the introduction of the tv in the 1950′s and we can probably still manage until they come up with something safer and more comfortable.