Legal Market Spotlight: Jacksonville, Florida

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Jacksonville, Florida: We all know that Florida conjures up images of sun, surf, and seafood. But did you know that Jacksonville offers all that AND sweater weather, bonfires, changing leaves and brisk fall football games? One of the most diverse cities in Florida, Jacksonville truly offers something for everyone. Home of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (Florida-Georgia football game), the Jaguars, The Players Championship, Jazz Fest, and boasting rivers, lakes and the ocean, Jacksonville appeals to a variety of pursuits and interests. A thriving music scene supports local artists and has produced Lynyrd Skynyrd, Limp Bizkit, Cold and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

It may also come as a surprise that Jacksonville is actually the largest city in the continental United States by land mass at over 800 square miles, and also the 14th largest city in the US by population. This creates an area that offers big city opportunities with a remarkably small town feel.

The median age in Jacksonville is 36 years old which is younger than all major cities in Florida! A burgeoning number of young professionals have fueled Jacksonville’s growth. Lured by low cost of living, beaches, golf, no state income tax and the opportunity to have a year round healthy lifestyle while still enjoying a change of season, legal professionals are seizing Jacksonville opportunities.

Jacksonville’s economy is growing in strength every year and 2014 is showing an economic rebound that tops the state of Florida. The legal community is one well entrenched with the local community. Corporations continue to flock to Jacksonville because the low cost of doing business. Several AmLaw 100 firms are headquartered in Jacksonville and a number of large, regional firms have offices in Jacksonville as well. In addition, Jacksonville has a plethora of prospering large and mid-sized firms that are unique to the city. The local Association of Corporate Counsel thrives in this market, and the city is proud to have major corporations with operations in Jacksonville such as Adecco North America, Fidelity National Information Services, Bi-Lo LLC, CSX Transportation, Deutche Bank, CIT and Rayonier and PHH Mortgage. Just check out some of Jacksonville’s notable recent accolades:

• #3 on “Ten Best Cities to Find Employment” by Forbes Magazine.
• #1 on “Best U.S. City to Start a Business” by Wallethub.com.
• #16 on “Top U.S. Economies” list by On Numbers Economic Index.
• # 5 in “2013 State Business Tax Climate Index” by The Tax Foundation.

So pack your bags and come see for yourself what this fantastic North Florida city has to offer!

Where to Stay

The Ponte Vedra Inn and Club stands out as a Florida landmark since the 1920s. Luxurious accommodations, a renowned PGA golf course, and family friendly offerings make this a not-to-be missed beach side destination. Located miles from Jacksonville’s bustling downtown, the resort amenities will have you relaxing within minutes of arrival.
One Ocean Resort is a hip, elegant and sophisticated option in the heart of Atlantic Beach. The well-appointed art gallery, tranquil spa, five star dining and ocean front suites make this the destination of choice for the Jacksonville visitor who appreciates family friendly luxury. Kids will especially enjoy the Sea Turtle club activities. www.oneoceanresort.com
To take part in the city’s vibrant art and music scene, consider Wyndham Jacksonville Riverwalk in historic San Marco. Steps away from the boutique shops and charming restaurants in San Marco, this hotel boasts views of the St. Johns River and easy cab access to Avondale/Five Point area where you can catch a live music set or tour an art exhibition. www.wyndham.com

Where to Eat

Bistro Aix in San Marco serves up authentic French bistro with true Southern feel. A seasonal menu (and 250+ wine choices!) guarantees you will come away pleased and satisfied with this dining experience. Chef Tom Gray brings the stunning success of Bistro Aix to his new venture Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails. Located in the bustling Town Center area, Moxie is trendy, sleek yet welcoming space, with creative, unpretentious food. I am still thinking about the delicious pimento grilled cheese sandwich with a side of cheese grits (yes, I love cheese that much) that I had last month at a lunch meeting at Moxie. Don’t miss it! Want dinner and great live music? Try Indochine at their San Marco location. Locals will tell you that Indochine has some of the best Thai food in Jax, as well as a number of other savory Asian dishes cooked to perfection. Have a craft cocktail, ask for a seat on the patio for terrific people watching and stay for live music and dancing!
Take a step back in time to the days of Prohibition with The Blind Rabbit in the heart of Jacksonville Beach. This Southern-Creole inspired menu is in a setting reminiscent of a speakeasy, paying tribute to those establishments of the 1930’s. The name refers to the practice speakeasies would use to entice customers in by charging admission to see blind pigs. With more than 100 whiskeys on offer, there is sure to be a cocktail that whets your whistle on this upscale, inventive drink menu.

Where to Drink

Orsay is a favorite among young professionals who gather here nightly to enjoy cocktails and company. Orsay changes their drink menu often and you can expect to enjoy fresh, hip concoctions like the French pear martini or the Lower East Cider. If casual beach bars are your scene, consider Lemon Bar in Neptune Beach. This bar housed in the open air courtyard of the Seahorse Oceanfront Inn is the site of many festivals and events, so expect to find a packed house and a lively atmosphere. Star gaze at one of the only roof top bars in Jax at The Black Sheep. Perfect for a date night, this hot spot is nestled in the historic 5-Points neighborhood in Riverside. Their high end and original cocktails pair well with their tasty bar food. Try the The 901 with the fried green tomatoes and blue cheese fondue for a great start to your night.

What to Do

Art lovers will want to head to the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville to see one of the largest collections in the Southeast. Be sure to have lunch at the Café Nola, the MOCA restaurant housed in the middle of all the beautiful art. For sports enthusiasts, the Jacksonville Jaguars will give you something to cheer about. The World Golf Hall of Fame in nearby St. Augustine is a great stop for golf enthusiasts. Plan your trip for early November and you can see the Florida Gators battle the Georgia bulldogs in one of the nation’s most storied and heated college football rivalry at Everbank Field. Be sure to check the Florida Theatre’s event calendar before you visit to ensure you take advantage of the terrific arts and music shows hosted by this historic venue. Established in 1927, this place still knows how to rock a good time.

Where to Live

So many choices! Do you love living on the river? San Marco offers gorgeous views of the St. John’s River in a historic and carefully preserved setting. Want to be close to a downtown job but escape the bustle? The Riverside/Avondale area offers an excellent dining, music and art scene. If you are intent on being beach bound, consider Ponte Vedra or the more laid back Atlantic Beach area. Finally, these great neighborhoods are also popular choices: Southside, Mandarin, Ortega, Orange Park or Baymeadows.

Please contact Nondas Davis at nondas.davis@specialcounsel.com if you have any questions about the Jacksonville legal market.

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