Manufacturing Thriving in Northeast Florida

Manufacturing in Northeast Florida
Apr 22, 2019 | Cargo Blog

Some 1,500 manufacturing companies can’t be wrong. Those with solid business models are thriving across Northeast Florida in a wide variety of industries, planted in a region with exceptional transportation and logistics, served by a deep, energetic workforce.

Manufacturers provide 93 percent of Florida’s exports, according to the First Coast Manufacturing Association (FCMA). That level of activity puts JAXPORT to work. Exports provide an excellent counter-balance to the port’s heavy Asian imports, and the manufacturing operations themselves require materials that can move through the port.

JAXPORT’s Chief Commercial Officer Kristen DeMarco said, “We collaborate to produce an environment that creates opportunities for manufacturers, painting an end-to-end supply chain picture, working with tenants, carriers and others, sharing information and advocating for opportunities.”

From introducing a manufacturer to a new service provider, to looking for commonalities that can lead to savings, to pushing to remove logistical bottlenecks, JAXPORT helps connect the dots to deliver efficiencies, DeMarco said.

As the third most populous state, Florida attracts manufacturers that fill the state’s consumption needs. Jacksonville’s location as a northern gateway to Florida is icing on the cake – from a footprint in the Northeast, manufacturers can efficiently move goods to and from markets across the country.

“Proximity is key. We have the international airport, interstates and three major railroads. But what pulls that all together is our location. The fact that our region provides all these resources in a condensed area means cost savings,” said DeMarco.


A number of companies are initiating or expanding manufacturing in Northeast Florida. For example, it’s reported that San Francisco-based Bonelli Enterprises is planning a 72,102-square-foot, 135-job factory at Jacksonville’s Westside Industrial Park for manufacturing windows.

New Jersey-based LaRose Industries, LLC, or Cra-Z-Art, which manufactures and distributes toy and stationery products, has chosen to locate in Jacksonville as well. In October, Tampa Bay Business Journal quoted LaRose Industries’ Chief Operating Officer Randy Tarino: “Jacksonville was eventually selected due to JAXPORT’s superior advantage, as it regards the frequency of container ships from China and due to the availability of a building suitable to the needs of LaRose Industries within the required time frame.”

Newcomers as well as those who have been in the marketplace for some time stand to benefit from JAXPORT’s steady and growing place in the Asian trade lane. The port has recorded an average of 14 percent annual growth in this trade lane over the past five years, a number that will continue to grow with the harbor deepening project well underway.

“The harbor deepening is the single most important thing we can do for manufacturers,” said DeMarco. “Transportation is costly. Efficient transportation is critical. A deeper channel will bring larger ships with greater economies of scale and more capacity. That will help minimize transportation costs – a real benefit for manufacturers,” she added.



Leading kitchenware and houseware manufacturer Hans-Mill Corp. opened its U.S. plant in 2017. Wolfgang Schau, Managing Director, said the company searched for two years for just the right location.

The site selected was influenced by transportation infrastructure (including proximity to a global seaport), the city’s and region’s approach to business and incentives, a large and affordable pool of labor, and suitable industrial and residential real estate – for operations and for employee lifestyle.

“Transportation infrastructure is very important. We receive much of our raw materials through JAXPORT. We need a good airport, and good connections with rail and interstate access to transport across the country,” said Schau.

“We had to place our operation so that we could recruit the right people. As our needs change and we need more highly skilled labor for injection molding, we are finding those skills here too,” Schau said, adding, “I pay much less for the line worker here than in Los Angeles or New Jersey. In the big-box mover market where the margins are extremely slim, we have to watch every penny. We are competing with China.”

Through selected automation, Hans-Mill is producing products in Jacksonville at almost the same price as China. Next up, Hans-Mill plans to bring its headquarters to Jacksonville. It has already expanded from a nearly 140,000-square-foot high-tech manufacturing facility, adding a 96,000-square-foot leased distribution center. In time, Hans-Mill would like to replace the leased facility with a building in the 150,000-square-foot range. “Having the distribution center here will give customers like the big box stores more flexibility to purchase locally, helping with timing and reaction to markets,” Schau said.


Jeff Juger is Director of Business Development for JinkoSolar (U.S.) Inc., the world’s largest solar module manufacturer. A truly global company, JinkoSolar has a full-service team in San Francisco and manufacturing in Jacksonville and Penang, Malaysia, serving the U.S. market.

Juger said, “The Jacksonville facility will produce our newest and most powerful Eagle G2 modules featuring high-efficiency Diamond cells. The plant will have 400 megawatts of annual capacity and will be producing modules before the end of 2018.”

The company chose to locate in Northeast Florida because, “Jacksonville has a favorable tax climate and an excellent transportation infrastructure, including access to a deep-water port. With lots of incoming material and finished products going out to all regions of the U.S., the transportation and logistics is essential to JinkoSolar’s operation. In addition, we benefit from a large pool of skilled labor from area universities and a major population of military veterans,” said Juger.

The company looks forward to JAXPORT’s harbor deepening. “With a large volume of production, increased access to Asia will be extremely beneficial,” Juger said. He also expects the port to play an important role in helping JinkoSolar make the best use of Foreign Trade Zone No. 64 in the coming years.


Vac-Con is a home-grown trailer-mounted truck and vacuum truck success story based in Green Cove Springs, Florida. After 32 years, it can attest to regional advantages for manufacturers.

Vac-Con is an original equipment manufacturer with an important export arm. Access to an international port has been crucial to its success. “As a worldwide distributor, JAXPORT is the preferred port for Vac-Con orders that must be shipped overseas,” said Vice President of Operations Blake Brown. He added, “The port is a vital asset. Having the port in our backyard allows us the opportunity to better manage our logistics cost for overseas orders.”

The company is moving forward with a $12-million facility expansion and a $4-million office and paint facility, setting it up for continued growth. “We have rooted Vac-Con in the foundation of Northeast Florida for years to come,” said Executive Vice President Todd Masley.

Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Johnson & Johnson Vision Care is a regional pride and joy. It was founded in Jacksonville, and the city continues to serve as a headquarters. As the city has grown, so has the vision care company Johnson & Johnson Vision is the world’s leading manufacturer of contact lenses. From its Jacksonville base, it developed the first mass-marketed disposable soft contact lens, the first daily disposable contact lens, and the first daily disposable eye-enhancing beauty contact lens.

The company’s contacts are manufactured – untouched by human hands – inside a controlled environment, using a highly skilled workforce readily sourced in the region. Excellent distribution and transportation options are important.

Johnson & Johnson Vision – along with other Johnson & Johnson companies – ships and receives goods through JAXPORT. As new routes and international service coverage options expand at the port, companies like Johnson & Johnson gain traction for ongoing growth and development.


Where manufacturers exist, jobs and services flock. Together, a business-friendly attitude, excellent real estate options, exceptional labor, and unparalleled transportation and logistics connectivity will continue to attract more manufacturing and help established facilities thrive in Northeast Florida.