Clay’s economic outlook continues to gain strength

Wages are up, unemployment is down, businesses are booming

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FLEMING ISLAND – If 2019 is any indication, the year 2020 should be one of continued growth and success for Clay County.

Clay County has risen not only in its population, going from 210,000 to 216,000, but in its educational ranking, improving from 22nd statewide around 2015 to eighth. At the same time, average weekly wage rose by $31 to $792 in 2019 and higher wage jobs now average more than $38,000 annually. Unemployment also has decreased from 3.1% a year ago to 2.6% this year.

In short, the outlook for Clay County in 2020 is bright, according to J.J. Harris, President of the Clay County Economic Development Corp.

Many new projects will lead to permanent jobs in the county down the road. One such is the $126 million extension of the Orange Park Medical Center. That project will create at least 100 more permanent jobs.

Intending to be completed by 2023, the First Coast Expressway, which runs north to south on the western side of the county and will connect I-10 to I-95, there is a $409 million investment in this highway. The construction of it brings jobs, as will the businesses which will spring up alongside it.

The long-term developmental outlook for the county has some key areas. Some of those are schools, roads and the governor’s park project.

“What you’re going to see in 2020, is the economic development organization as a whole, and those who support us, come out and be proponents of more infrastructure and long-term development thinking,” Harris said.

“Even though we have St. John’s River State College, there are also opportunities for four-year institutions that could come here and set a really nice footprint. That’s where we should be focusing some of our efforts, growing some of that advanced education institutions in this area.”

The average Clay resident can expect to see new jobs and new developments in the county. Florida Power and Light will begin construction in a few weeks of a 425-acre solar farm on U.S. Highway 17 south of Green Cove Springs on land that was purchased last year.

MOBRO Marine of Green Cove Springs, a crane, tugboat and barge rental company that supports bridge building and more, will be expanding as well.

Along with increased development, more people are moving to Clay. With the increased population, there is an increased demand for housing. More housing is being built and more is in the works. For existing properties, there is an average increase in value of $10,000 compared to the previous year.

Harris is pleased everything in the county is rising except for unemployment. That is great news for Clay County, for its residents, and for 2020.

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