CNN: St. Johns County one of ‘best places to live’

St. Johns County on Wednesday was named fifth on CNN Money’s list of “2013 Best Places to Live: Where the Jobs Are.” It said the county’s “vitals were strong” and cited job growth from 2010 to 2012 as 12.1 percent.

“It’s the healthiest county in Florida and leads the state in public education,” the Aug. 12 report said.  “Plus, the weather’s gorgeous year-round. No wonder highly educated talent is being wooed there in droves.”

That statement backs up St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce figures showing that 92 percent of the workforce have high school diplomas, 35 percent have associates or bachelor degrees and 12 percent have masters or doctoral degrees.

Norm Gregory, vice president for economic development at the Chamber, said Wednesday that “education is the cornerstone of economic development and will be for some time. Those are incredible numbers when you compare them against the state or nation’s.”

The unemployment rate here was 9.2 percent in 2010, but this year is 5.5 percent, he said.

“We’re a destination for travel. Our tourism is strong and growing,” Gregory said, adding that a very strong reason people live here is the county’s quality of life. “We have a very business-friendly government today. (Many factors) are coming together to maintain and improve that quality.”

The CNN report said opportunities in clean manufacturing are big here.

“2G Cenergy, an advanced clean energy technologies company from Germany, chose St. Augustine for its first manufacturing center in the U.S,” the report said. “The company has already hired 50 employees in the area and expects to add 70 more in the next four years. Meanwhile, defense contractor Northrop Grumman plans to build an aircraft production center that would bring 40 jobs.”

That news also dovetails Gregory’s belief that the airport is an economic engine all on its own.

“It’s got an 8,000-foot runway that can handle any type of plane. It’s also got a barge-port and seaplane port. After Northrop Grumman builds a new E2-D for an overseas customer, the plane is shrink-wrapped, put on a barge to Jacksonville and put on a ship.”

The Grumman E-2D Hawkeye is an all-weather, carrier-capable tactical airborne early warning aircraft and it’s one of Northrop Grumman’s top business products.

Gregory cites the company’s newly opened center of excellence here.

“We have a lot of assets,” he said.


St Augustine Record
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Thursday, Aug 15, 2013

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