Free Enterprise Staff  | September 10, 2015

Eyes on Miami, Jacksonville Becomes an Economic Destination

After visiting Lincoln, Nebraska, in August, we made our way to Jacksonville, Florida, the next destination in our ongoing #SiliconCitiesUSA series.

Jacksonville is both like and unlike other major cities in Florida that you might have visited—places like Miami and Tampa Baby. Situated in the state’s northeast corner, Jacksonville’s eastern border runs along the Atlantic coast, with the St. John’s River cutting through its center. Comprising more than 840 square miles, Jacksonville is the largest U.S. city by land size.

It might not carry the name recognition of an Orlando or a Palm Beach, but Jacksonville is well on its way to becoming a major player in the state. Its transformation into a regional economic engine has prompted an influx of new, young residents who have, in turn, fanned the city’s ‘cool’ credentials.

It’s not just Jacksonville’s restaurants, bars, and burgeoning retail sectors that are attracting transplants: It has a diverse economy that isn’t reliant on any one industry or individual employer. Four Fortune 1000 businesses have their headquarters in Jacksonville. There are more than 20 universities in the surrounding region, which also boasts vibrant health care, financial services, and technology sectors.

It’s also a cheap place to live, which helps to further explain why 190,000 of its residents are millennials. The median home value in the Jacksonville metro area is just north of $156,000, according to Zillow, which pegs the region’s median rent at slightly less than $1,200. That’s markedly lower than Miami, a city where the median home value is $287,000, and the median rent is $2,450.

So, what is Jacksonville doing to drive its economy forward, what lessons can other cities learn from its success—and what has it learned from its peers? These are some of the questions we’ll be exploring over the course of the month, as we take a deep dive into the regional economy.

What is #SiliconCitiesUSA?

Over the course of this year, we’re exploring how entrepreneurs and businesses are faring in non-major U.S. cities, beginning with Des Moines, Iowa. We’ll be reporting on the ground from each city, talking with elected officials and business leaders about how they’re harnessing their unique resources and local talent to fuel economic growth and better compete against more established urban centers like San Francisco and New York City.