By Nick Banks for Business in the Heart of Florida Magazine
Living in Gainesville is great! We enjoy all the benefits of living in a small city, but we have access to cultural events, world-class sports, a thriving arts community and a music scene typically only available in much larger cities. Gainesville has consistently ranked among the best places to live and best places to start and grow a company.
The last two years have been very exciting in Gainesville. We have companies like MindTree, Mobiquity, and SumTotal choosing to locate here. We have tremendous energy surrounding the Florida Innovation Hub at UF and Innovation Square. The biomedical presence at Progress Corporate Park continues to thrive with new acquisitions and expansions of companies such as RTI and Nanotherapeutics. Our community is doing a great job of growing, retaining and recruiting companies and creating jobs.
Competition, however, is fierce. Many cities in Florida and throughout the Southeast are trying to lure our companies away and to recruit the same ones we want to relocate here.
Those of us who live in Gainesville know we have an unmatched quality of life, but that quality of life may not be immediately evident to those visiting for the first time. When people and companies from outside Gainesville consider this area, they often are comparing us to much larger areas, often with superior shopping and dining choices.
There are a multitude of considerations in any corporate relocation, however, shopping and restaurants do factor more heavily into the decision than many realize. These factors are not only a recruiting tool for retention and attraction of companies, they are tools for retaining and attracting the top talent these companies need to grow and thrive here.
Thankfully, there are new restaurant concepts and high-end retailers seeking locations in Gainesville like never before. In recent months we have seen several national or regional concepts come to Gainesville. World of Beer recently opened in Tioga Town Center to record sales numbers. Trader Joe’s chose Gainesville as its second location in the entire state. KC Crave, from Jacksonville, is a tapas-style restaurant that recently opened in Gainesville and has received rave reviews. Orlando-based 4 Rivers Smokehouse is under construction and opening in August with fans waiting anxiously. We’ve got Wharf Express from Tallahassee under construction; and a Massage Envy recently opened. Recently, Hobby Lobby announced a new location near Oaks Mall, and several retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Academy Sports, and Marshalls all are seeking sites.
By continuing to attract these businesses, we can continue to enhance the wonderful quality of life Gainesville has to offer and continue to grow our economy and employment base. Butler Plaza recently was approved for a major expansion, and PREIT is making plans to begin its Springhills mixed-use project at the intersection of NW 39th Avenue and I-75. These projects and others will allow us to compete with larger cities in Florida by offering a well-rounded array of shopping and dining choices, allowing Gainesville to retain its ranking as one of the best cities to live, work and play.
Nick Banks is the managing director of Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group, a full-service firm located in Gainesville offering brokerage, management and mortgage banking services for commercial real estate clients. Nick is a 17-year vetaran of commercial real estate and a graduate of the University of Florida. www.frontstreet.net