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Times-Union: New mayor moves ahead on Jacksonville's downtown, economic development

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Posted: July 11, 2011 - 7:18pm  |  Updated: July 12, 2011 - 10:41am

Following up on two of his major campaign issues, Mayor Alvin Brown took steps Monday toward creating both a public-private partnership focused on economic development and a downtown development authority.

Executives on loan from other civic institutions will lead the two programs: Jerry Mallot, who heads the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce’s economic development arm, will spend about 15 hours a week on the jobs creation initiative, while Don Shea, executive director of the Jacksonville Civic Council, will focus on downtown.

Neither of the appointees will be paid by the city.

Flanked by Chamber President Wally Lee and Chairman Hugh Greene, Brown said the partnership will focus on aviation, transportation, financial services and health care. “We want to be competitive in the marketplace,” the mayor said.

Read the transcript of live blog coverage from the announcement

The new program doesn’t say anything about the future of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, Brown said, but is simply a way to explore job creation. 

JEDC’s executive director, Ron Barton, submitted his resignation along with the other top-level mayoral appointees; none of those position-holders have been officially told if they’re being kept.

Shea’s job will be to help the mayor fulfill his campaign promise to develop downtown by setting up a Downtown Community Empowerment Corp., which will oversee growth in the area. Over the next three months, Shea said, he’ll talk to local stakeholders and a range of experts to determine what Jacksonville should do going forward.Following up on two of his major campaign issues, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown took steps Monday toward creating both a public-private partnership focused on economic development and a downtown development authority.

Executives on loan from other civic institutions will lead the two programs: Jerry Mallot, who heads the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce's economic development arm, will spend about 15 hours a week on the jobs creation initiative, while Don Shea, executive director of the Jacksonville Civic Council, will focus on downtown.

Neither of the appointees will be paid by the city.

Check out more photos from Monday's announcement

Flanked by Chamber President Wally Lee and Chairman Hugh Greene, Brown said the partnership will focus on aviation, transportation, financial services and health care. "We want to be competitive in the marketplace," the new mayor said.

The new program doesn't say anything about the future of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, Brown said but is simply a way to explore job creation.

JEDC's executive director, Ron Barton, submitted his resignation along with the other top-level mayoral appointees; none of those position-holders has been officially told if they're being kept.

Shea's job will be to help the mayor fulfill his campaign promise to develop downtown by setting up a Downtown Community Empowerment Corp., which will oversee growth in the area. Over the next three months, Shea said, he'll talk to local stakeholders and a range of experts to determine what Jacksonville should do going forward.

Shea has worked on downtown issues for decades, heading up authorities in St. Petersburg, Shreveport, La., and New Orleans and serving as chair of the International Downtown Association in 2004. Over the past several weeks, he's helped oversee the 18 committees Brown set up to consider various topics during the transition.

That experience with the transition might come in handy as he focuses on downtown Jacksonville, said Shea, who came to Jacksonville about a year ago.

Working with the committees showed him how many people want to take part in making the city better.

"There's an awful lot of expertise in a lot of areas we can tap," he said. "There's a number of people who want to be involved."

timothy.gibbons@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4103