Growth at Innovation Square increasing jobs and sales at local companies

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New companies and developments at Innovation Square are increasing the demand for local goods and services, allowing businesses all over Gainesville to expand their workforces and invest in other local organizations.

“We used to be surrounded by empty buildings and undeveloped lots,” remembered Omar Oselimo. Oselimo owns the Reggae Shack Café, a restaurant in Innovation Square, with his wife Arpita. “Now, we have companies and students around Innovation Square that patronize our restaurant.”

After growing Reggae Shack Café from four to 30 employees within Innovation Square, the couple announced their intent to open a new restaurant, Southern Charm. In its location on Hawthorne Road in East Gainesville, Southern Charm has directly created 20 jobs.

Enrico Moretti is a professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a leading scholar on the issue of jobs in America. In his new book, The New Geography of Jobs, Moretti states that “for each new high-tech job in a city, five additional jobs are ultimately created outside of the high-tech sector in that city, both in skilled occupations (lawyers, teachers, construction workers) and in unskilled ones (waiters, hairdressers, cashiers).”

That’s good news for the Gainesville economy. Innovation Square’s high-tech growth has also spurred local job growth in various industries.

The Jones B-Side is another restaurant that has witnessed success after opening on the outskirts of Innovation Square. Owner Tree Garner stated that The Jones B-Side has grown to 36 employees since its inception one year ago.

When asked if he’s seen a recent increase in sales within the borders of Innovation Square, Garner responded, “Definitely.”

“We are fortunate to be here while everything at Innovation Square is coming together,” said Garner, who also owns Jones Eastside on the northeast side of Gainesville.

Because Oselimo and Garner both use local vendors for “virtually everything” from food and alcohol to printing and plumbing, any money spent on local service or product suppliers is reinvested back into the economy, adding to jobs and the economic impact of the Innovation Square area.

The Citizens Co-op is one of the local food vendors for restaurants like The Jones B-Side and Reggae Shack Café. The Co-op is a community-owned market that offers locally-grown produce to Gainesville individuals and businesses. In the past year, the Co-op has witnessed a steady rise in sales.

“Just this week we reported an 18% sales increase,” said Citizens Co-Op marketing director Julie Matheney. The Citizens Co-op, which will be celebrating its second anniversary this month, has seen its workforce steadily increase. Among these employees is a new general manager.

The expansion of sales at organizations all the way through the supply chain illustrates the impact a high-tech development like Innovation Square can have on jobs in all industries in a community.

Less than 2 blocks from Reggae Shack Café and The Jones B-Side, artist Alexis Dold has also seen business expand within Innovation Square at his design and fabrication company, Circle/Square.

“Innovation Square has been an absolute boom for this business,” Dold said.

Plans to collaborate with Skanska and other neighboring companies have allowed Dold to bring in his first employee from Eastside High School’s Architecture Construction Engineering (ACE) program. Dold, who utilizes the services of local lumberyards, revealed substantial plans for future growth as he harnesses jobs all over Gainesville.

“My ability to hire this employee is a direct result of the Innovation Square project,” Dold said. “I’m getting jobs all over the city that I wouldn’t have gotten if I didn’t have the connections that I do being located in Innovation Square.”

Infrastructure projects within Innovation Square are also keeping the local workforce active.

Gainesville-based Oelrich Construction is planning on adding a wide array of jobs through its construction of SW 9th Street, Innovation Square’s much-anticipated “signature corridor”.

“All of the subcontractors that we’re bidding to are local,” said Oelrich Construction project manager Derek Dykes when describing the jobs that will be added in Gainesville through the project. “We’ll be bringing in asphalt layers, equipment workers, electricians, carpenters, landscapers, and others jobs.”

O’Steen Brothers is a 40-year Gainesville-based company that is currently bidding on a part in Oelrich’s SW 9th Street project. O’Steen Brothers estimator and project manager, Hugh Feather, discussed the workforce needed if the company were to be awarded the contract.

“I have a workforce ready of over 65 people,” said Feather. “If we were successful on the bid we’d be able to add some more concrete finishers, equipment operators, those kinds of jobs.”

Oelrich Construction is currently bidding several other projects and redevelopments around Innovation Square in which it will provide similar jobs and contracting services to Gainesville.

From restaurants to artists to construction, organizations all over Gainesville are feeling the collective growth that follows high-tech developments in Innovation Square. Gainesville-based businesses are describing a pivotal transformation that Innovation Square is causing in the city’s economic landscape.

“My proximity to Innovation Square has given me an opportunity to witness a metamorphosis,” stated Oselimo. “I have seen one era crumble to pave way for a new, energetic life in the vicinity. It has been an amazing ride to see the area grow and my company grow with it.”

 

Virginia MacKoul

Virginia is a graduate from the University of Florida's College of Design Construction and Planning with a degree in Sustainability and the Built Environment, and a minor in Urban Regional Planning. Virginia joined the Front Street team in 2011, as an intern. Upon graduation, Virginia joined the Front Street team full-time as the Director of Client Services. Ms. MacKoul’s addition furthers Front Street’s continued growth and expansion within Gainesville and other North Central Florida markets. She was promoted to Director of Marketing in 2014 and now manages the firm’s team of interns and oversees all marketing and branding activity. Virginia was born in Boston and moved to Lee County, Florida in 1997. Virginia graduated her high school's International Baccalaureate program and started at the University of Florida with a focus on Architecture. Virginia shares Front Street's passion of giving back to the community and those in need. Virginia's hobbies include photography, cooking, football, movies, music, and spending time with her dog, Brinkley.

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