JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -
Jacksonville is looking globally to bring in new jobs.
The mayor and other city leaders on Thursday pointed to a new study showing that small businesses in the area could bring in millions more dollars if they look to export.
It might sound like a given, but Mayor Alvin Brown and others say many local businesses are leery of taking that step.
L & J Diesel Services Inc. on the Westside was highlighted by city leaders to show why exports in the River City are an untapped market that is profitable.
L & J Diesel is growing because it's exporting products around the world. Three years ago, it had 20 employees. That number has since doubled, and next year the business plans to add 20 more.
The owner says it's because his company is now going global. Before, the product was used locally, but now with the help of a loan from the city and the know-how from the group Global Cities Initiative, the business is moving to a bigger facility and has expanded its customer base worldwide.
"It's huge," owner Omar Cueto said. "There is so much opportunity. It's unbelievable. I just came back from China this past weekend and I can't believe how much opportunity there is."
Brown said Jacksonville is far behind in exports. He said the study shows that about 13 percent of the national economy comes from exports. In Jacksonville, it's only 7 percent.
"Just getting to the national average, it will be an $8 billion benefit to the city, with 44,000 new jobs," Brown said. "I think that is the real benefit."
Like L & J, the mayor said, other companies can benefit from exporting. He said they can get help and information from the city with the Office of International Trade. L & J did that with a $200,000 loan from the city.
"I think there is a way of working with the private sector that is important, working with the public sector, making them aware of the programs and opportunities to mediate their cost," Brown said.
"They have helped us with the initiative with our new facility to expand and to gain more expand-ability for our exporting," Cueto said.
Brown said more growth for businesses means more jobs for Jacksonville.