Florida: Jacksonville A Finalist For F-35 Squadron Base

Selection of Florida’s National Guard to host the new Joint Strike Fighters could have an annual economic impact of $100 million for the region.

By the BF Staff
From the January/February 2017 Issue

State senators recently expressed support for the Florida Air National Guard’s effort to attract a squadron of military F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Jacksonville.

Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville legislator who chairs the Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee, inquired about additional natural sound buffers to help residents living near 352 acres the National Guard leases for the 125th Fighter Wing at Jacksonville International Airport. But she otherwise backed the effort to attract the F-35 jets, which Maj. Gen. Michael Calhoun, adjutant general of the Florida National Guard, said could have an economic impact of about $100 million a year on Northeast Florida.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the U.S. military’s most-advanced attack aircraft. Now in production in Ft. Worth, TX, five locations are competing to be chosen as F-35 bases. (Photo: Air Force)

“I’m excited about the possibilities and I certainly want my pilots in planes that actually function and something doesn’t break down midway to where they are going,” Gibson said, in reference to the aging F-15s now based at the airport.

The Florida National Guard is one of five finalists to host the fighter jets.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said that while Jacksonville residents more than a decade ago fought a return of jet fighters to Cecil Field, he anticipates full support from Northeast Florida for landing the F-35. “I think everybody has come to a real understanding of how important this would be to our area if we were to gain these assets,” Bradley said.

A tour of the facility is planned by the base selection committee in April. While no timeline has been announced for site selection, Jacksonville is competing against facilities in Montgomery, AL; Boise, ID; Selfridge, MI, and Dane County, WI.


The Cott Corporation, one of the world’s largest beverage producers and distributors, will be expanding their headquarters in Hillsborough County. The expansion will create 60 new jobs and invest $800,000 in the local community.

“I am proud to announce Cott Corporation is expanding their headquarters in Hillsborough County and creating 60 new jobs for Tampa families,” Gov. Rick Scott said. “Florida businesses have added more than 1.25 million private-sector jobs in the last six years and we will keep working every day to make our state the number one place to grow a business. I look forward to welcoming more job creators like Cott Corporation to Florida.”

Jerry Fowden, CEO, Cott Corporation said, “Cott has undergone a significant and positive transformation in recent years including acquisitions such as DS Services, Aquaterra, Eden Springs and most recently, S&D Coffee and Tea. As we grow, we continue to strive to be an employer of choice in the Florida and Tampa market. Tampa has been a very good location for our global headquarters, offering a workforce whose skills align with our business needs. That makes this region increasingly attractive to us.”

With over 12,000 employees, Cott maintains operations in 20 countries worldwide. Cott also develops and manufactures beverage concentrates, which it exports to approximately 50 countries around the world.

Brad Goist, President, North America, Cott Beverages said, “We had an opportunity to evaluate aspects of our North America support structure recently and have decided to relocate positions from other domestic and international locations and further invest those jobs in Tampa. We believe this is a good investment for our business unit and we look forward to continuing to grow with Tampa in the years to come.”

This project was made possible through strong partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Hillsborough County and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.

Chris Hart IV, President and CEO, Enterprise Florida, Inc. said, “Cott beverages is following other businesses and is continuing to expand in Florida. They recognize that Florida is the best place to do business and 60 new jobs are being created for Florida families. The business-friendly climate and the talent pool in Florida lead the nation and continue to attract businesses like Cott Beverages.”

Cissy Proctor, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said, “Cott Corporation is a thriving Florida business that has harnessed the Tampa area’s talented workforce and the state’s superior distribution networks. I am proud of the company’s growth and commitment to job creation and expansion in Florida. Cott’s newly announced high-wage jobs will provide great opportunities to local job seekers.”

Stacy White, Chairman, Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners said, “Hillsborough County’s exceptional pool of diversely skilled talent and friendly business climate helped make Cott Corporation’s decision to add jobs here much easier. We thank Cott for providing more excellent career opportunities for local families and applaud their decision to bring jobs that had been located in other states and overseas to Tampa. We look forward to supporting them as they grow.”

Cott Corporation joins a growing list of companies that have recently made the decision to locate or expand their headquarters in Hillsborough County, including Bertram Yachts, BlueGrace Logistics, North American Roofing Services, Inc., and Velocity Resource Group.

Ken Atwater, Ph.D., Chairman of Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation and President of Hillsborough Community College said, “We are pleased to see Cott Corporation continue to thrive in Hillsborough County. The competition for the quality jobs they provide is intense, and Cott had several other options to consider. We appreciate Cott’s decision to increase their investment in our community, and know it will pay great dividends for them.”


BlueLine Associates (BLA), a professional services firm, will relocate its global headquarters from Cary, NC to Tampa. The relocation will create 150 new jobs and invest more than $2 million in the local community. BlueLine Associates, which currently has offices in Tampa, will move its headquarters including its financial, legal, and human resources groups.

Gov. Rick Scott, shown here announcing new jobs in Tampa. (Photo: TBO.com)

Gov. Scott said, “It is great news that BlueLine Associates chose to move their international headquarters to Florida from North Carolina, which will create more than 150 new jobs for Tampa families. We were competing with North Carolina and Louisiana, but ultimately BlueLine Associates chose Florida for their new headquarters. I look forward to BlueLine Associates continued success in our state.”

BlueLine Associates provides consulting, managed services, and staffing solutions to small, mid and large companies in a variety of industries. In 2015 and 2016, BlueLine was recognized on the “Best Places to Work” lists of both Consulting Magazine and the Triangle Business Journal. New jobs are expected to pay an average annual wage of $71,909.

Rocky Silvestri, President of BlueLine, said, “This move gives us access to Florida’s strong talent pool and allows us to continue the strategic expansion of our business. Our company culture is at the core of our business success, our client’s satisfaction, and the happiness of our people. We are excited to bring those guiding principles to Tampa.”

BlueLine Associates joins a growing list of companies that have chosen Hillsborough County for their new corporate and regional headquarters, including North American Roofing Services, Inc., Velocity Resource Group, Fay Servicing, Ashley Furniture Industries’ Ashcomm, Johnson & Johnson, and Cohesion. Florida is already home to nearly 3,000 headquarters offices, and is the 4th largest economy in the U.S. and the 19th largest economy in the world.


The project was made possible through strong partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Enterprise Florida’s Chris Hart said, “Blueline Associates has chosen Florida because it is the best place to do business. The talent and the strong, business-friendly climate in Florida continue to attract growing businesses. Hard-working Floridians are getting jobs that could have gone to other states, but they ended up right here in Florida.”

Proctor said, “BlueLine Associates’ relocation to the Tampa area is yet another example of a business recognizing the unique opportunities for growth in Florida. Our state boasts a strong and talented workforce, a business-friendly, low tax environment and fewer regulations that enable companies to grow and succeed.”

Stacy White, chairman of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, said, “Hillsborough County offers BlueLine Associates a deep bench of information technology consulting, staffing, and management consulting talent, as well as the amenities that will make it easy for them to recruit exceptional candidates to the area. We thank BlueLine for their investment in our community and look forward to supporting them as they thrive in Hillsborough County.”

Mayor Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa, said, “Tampa’s star continues to rise as more companies like BlueLine Associates discover the advantages our city offers as a corporate headquarters home. As millennial talent flocks here and our downtown undergoes an historic and exciting transformation, Tampa is gaining a national reputation as the place to be for companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 corporations. We wish BlueLine Associates a prosperous future here.”

[Read our Snapshots interview with Mayor Buckhorn to learn more about recent developments and growth strategies in Tampa.]

“Other cities fought hard to have BlueLine Associates relocate to their communities,” said Atwater. “But those competing metros couldn’t touch Tampa’s pro-business climate, incredible quality of life, and the convenient air access Tampa International Airport affords to BlueLine’s customers across America and in Europe. We’re excited to welcome Rocky and his team and wish them great success in Tampa.”