Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Business News

Work Wanted: Those in the background deserve thanks, too - Tuesday, Novembe

It’s the week we dedicate to giving thanks, so I thought I’d offer some ideas on how you can incorporate a gratitude practice during your workday.

First, the why: a 2012 study found that grateful people are 10 percent happier than those who don’t practice gratitude. The University of Kentucky found that grateful people react more kindly in stressful situations and reported fewer feelings of envy and frustration. Grateful people are healthier, sleep better, and complain less. This is a free and easy practice that actually works.

One recommended practice is to keep a gratitude journal. Jot down at least one thing each day you’re grateful for in a digital app or an actual journal. It can be as profound as you like, or as small as finding a short line for your morning latte. Keeping track of good things can help you on darker days when it’s harder to connect with positive feelings. And it doesn’t require a big investment; you can connect with gratitude and write it down in less than five minutes a day.

Take time to thank people who usually work in the background with little notice. We often walk by the cleaning staff, the landscapers and the copy repair guy without a second glance. Remember that while they may be an extra in your movie, they have another life where they are the star. They work hard at jobs that we take for granted, and they may be excellent at what they do. It takes just seconds to say make real eye contact, say hello and thank them for making the office a better place to work.

Then move on to someone you know has given extra effort to make a project work, but whom you’ve not acknowledged. They may think you’ve never noticed how hard they work, and chances are they’ll be delighted to find out you have. An unexpected compliment or sincere thank you costs you nothing, but can make someone’s day.

Finally, on your way home, think about who you might thank for something you’ve typically responded to with annoyance or irritability. Thank the dog for being unable to contain his enthusiasm when you come home. Thank him for barking when he senses danger to the family he’s protecting.

Thank your toddler for screaming her delight at her stewed apples, or her anger at not being able to catch the cat’s tail. She’s reminding you to express what you really feel and stop holding it in. Thank the slow driver in front of you for slowing your frantic pace and bringing you back to mindfulness on your commute. Thank the cable for going out and providing you a chance to actually have a meaningful conversation with your spouse this evening.

And, if you are working, even if it’s at a job you don’t really care for, be grateful as well. Even the worst jobs have something to teach us (patience, grit, resilience), and there are plenty of people still looking for work who would gladly take your place.

As I say every year, tomorrow I’ll be giving special thanks for my job, which allows me to share my thoughts here with you every week. I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Candace Moody is vice president of communications for CareerSource Northeast Florida. Her column appears every Wednesday in the Times-Union, and she can be reached at

CSX cannot explain relocation notice - Tuesday, Novembe

Jacksonville-based CSX is mystified over a June notice on a bulletin board stating that train dispatchers had until September to relocate to Jacksonville. Company spokespeople could not explain how or why the erroneous notice was posted.

The company does, however, acknowledge that there was a miscommunication, and that some workers had at least moved possessions to Jacksonville. CSX is not investigating, but has said it would pay for relocation expenses.

The problem is the latest in a series of difficulties since Hunter Harrison took over as president and CEO of the railroad. Customers have complained about slow and unpredictable service, prompting a hearing before the federal Surface Transportation Board and changes by CSX. Some top management officials have been replaced, rail yards have been closed, thousands of rail cars removed from service and close to 4,000 people, including contractors, dropped from the payrolls.

In the latest issue, several members of the American Train Dispatchers Association union operating in various parts of the country began the relocation process after the notice initially was posted in June.

Bryan Tucker, vice president of corporate communications for CSX, said that a posting in Atlanta was the only one of which he was aware. CSX dispatchers are also based in cities such as Louisville, Ky., Nashville, Tenn., Chicago, Ill., Albany, N.Y., and others.

Now, some dispatchers have started to relocate to Jacksonville, but the company has no jobs readily available for them.

A complaint filed with the company by one dispatch worker said the dispatcher now has “home contents [that] will be stored in warehouse until relocated to Jacksonville, living out of a suitcase till then … .

“Must find long-term accommodations to cover me through March, 2018,” the complaint filed with CSX dated Sept. 19 said. The name of the dispatcher was redacted in the company complaint.

The Times-Union attempted to contact Rory Broyles, the vice president of the dispatchers union, several times this month, but was unable to get an interview. Broyles said Monday he wanted to discuss the complaints, but did not have the time then and did not respond to additional requests for an interview.

“There were some communications that were posted [at CSX operations] in Atlanta that we’re aware of that could have caused confusion,” Tucker said. “We recognized that and we have communicated with the union that we are willing to mitigate any of the hardships that have been experienced by those who have made decisions based on this information.”

Tucker again reiterated that the company cannot explain how the messages got posted.

He also said there is no internal investigation at this time.

The company has already compensated one worker for all costs incurred by the relocation and additional expenses for storage or other associated costs, Tucker said. He declined to say how much that reimbursement cost.

Tucker said the mistaken relocations affect a limited number of workers.

“From what I understand it’s a handful of people, less than a dozen,” Tucker said.

“We are aware of some of these individuals who have made decisions based on this information and we were willing to mitigate the hardships that may have occurred. However, they need to provide the documentation that demonstrates the hardships,” Tucker said.

Tucker said CSX is in the process of evaluating all applications for assistance in the relocation confusion. He said he did not want to downplay those hardships. But he also said the relocations and circumstances of those involved did not lead to a state of destitution.

“The assertions that we saw in some [media] reports are exaggerated. We are aware of no employees that are living out of their cars. We are aware of no employees who are homeless. And there’s no reason for anybody to be in that position,” Tucker said.

Ultimately, CSX is working with union representatives to resolve the snafu as soon as possible.

“There are rules and processes that are put in place that are within the collective bargaining agreement and we are working within that to support employees as they move,” Tucker said. “A relocation of this size and nature is a complex process … it’s unfortunate that this has happened. But by no means is this a widespread issue.”

Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098

Florida tourism trends through first nine months of 2017 snap records - Tuesday, Novembe

Florida hit another record high number in tourists visiting the state, according to new figures released this week.

Visit Florida, the state’s tourism bureau, announced Monday that there were 88.2 million visitors to the Sunshine State in the first nine months of the year, the most ever in that time frame. It also represents a 3.3 percent increase over the same period in 2016.

In that record batch of visitors for the first nine months, 77.6 million of those tourists came from domestic markets, 7.9 million came from overseas and 2.7 millio came from Canada.

The third quarter of visitation alone, from July through September, saw 27.9 million tourists coming to Florida, which is also a record. It’s also a 3.3 percent increase over the same stretch in 2016.

Ken Lawson, president and CEO of Visit Florida, said the agency is building upon a string of record-setting figures that date back about five years.

“Back-to-back-to-back record quarters in the first nine months of this year show the Florida tourism industry has great momentum,” Lawson said in a prepared statement. “Visit Florida will not rest on our laurels, but will continue to be at the forefront of creating leading-edge original marketing programs for our industry partners … .”

The state trends are reflective of the First Coast boom in visitation as well so far this year. Local numbers for the first nine months aren’t available yet, but the trends so far show rising visitation.

Tourism trends showed occupancy rates at Duval County hotels increased. And tourism spending on hotel rooms went up by more than $12 million in the first six months — from $212.41 million in the first half of 2016 to $224.97 million for the same time frame this year.

Meanwhile, St. Johns County, a traditional tourism hub, also saw spikes in occupancy rates and revenue even though that county has added more hotel rooms, too.

The St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau reports STR figures show the rate for the first six months of hotel occupancy was 70.75 percent this year, up from the average rate for the first half of 2016, which was 70.17 percent. The amount spent at hotels for room rentals jumped from $95.52 million in the first six months of 2016 to $101.77 million for the same time period this year, a record high for St. Johns County.

In Nassau County, the Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau saw a slight drop in hotel occupancy, coming in at 74.35 percent average for the first six months of this year, down a bit from the 2016 figure of 74.58 percent. But Amelia Island, too, saw an increase in the number of hotel rooms.

The revenue generated at those resorts and hotels went up in the first half of the year. There was $57.79 million spent at Nassau County hotels, up from the 2016 figure of $55.95 million.

Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098

Rayonier Advanced Materials completes $870 million acquisition - Monday, November

Rayonier Advanced Materials has completed its acquisition of a Canadian company, effectively doubling its size. The company had announced its plan in May to acquire Tembec for $807 million. The final price was approximately $870 million, a spokesman said.

Both companies are in forestry products, but while Rayonier Advanced Materials focuses on high purity cellulose, Tembec has a wider variety of products including packaging.

Tembec is the slightly larger company with an annual revenue of $1.1 billion while Rayonier Advanced Materials’ is $852 million.

The stock rose from $13.25 to $17.39 in the week after the May announcement. It opened Monday at $16.78 and fell as low as $16.59 early afternoon before rising again.

The combined company will continue to operate under the name Rayonier Advanced Materials, but it will maintain Tembec’s Montreal headquarters.

Rayonier Advanced Materials has about 1,200 employees including 100 at its headquarters on Jacksonville’s Southbank, 300 in Fernandine Beach and 800 in Jesup, Ga.

The company was spun off of Rayonier in 2014. Rayonier still owns and manages millions of acres of forest land.

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296

Gas prices falling, but will be highest for Thanksgiving in three years - Monday, November

Gas prices have fallen slightly and are expected to drop even more this week. But drivers will still see the highest prices for Thanksgiving in the past three years.

The national average for a gallon of regular gas fell 2 cents to $2.54 in the past week, according to AAA. The average fell 3 cents in Florida to $2.49 and 2 cents in Georgia to $2.39.

In the Jacksonville area, the average fell 5 cents in the past week to $2.43. That’s up 3 cents from a month ago and 38 cents higher than a year ago.

AAA predicted that prices will drop 5-10 cents this week because the increased demand of the holiday will be offset by higher product and inventory.

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296

Blind Rabbit plans brewery at Jacksonville Beach location - Friday, November

Construction is underway at The Blind Rabbit for a brewery at the Jacksonville Beach-based restaurant.

Owner Jeff Stanford said he is using 700-square-feet of space at the restaurant, 311 3rd St. N. in Jacksonville Beach, for the new addition.

“We have a separate dining space in the back of the restaurant that we’re closing off for the brewery,” he said. “It will be a glass wall so guests can see in.”

Stanford said that he has a passion for making and enjoying beer.

“We make all of our food from scratch and our cocktails, so we thought why not go further and make our own beer,” he said.

The brewery is scheduled to open in January.

“We’ll start off with three core beers — an IPA for all the hoppy beer drinkers, a light blonde ale and a pecan brown ale,” Stanford said. “We will then grow our beers and variety from there.”

The other brew master who will be working alongside Stanford is his wife, Brittany.

“We will differ from the local [competitors] because we have a full-service restaurant and cocktails,” Stanford said. “With my chef background, we’ll introduce some unique flavor combinations.”

Once the brewery is open, guests can fill growlers to take home and Stanford said he hopes to have bottles and cans for purchase sometime in 2018.

Jacksonville area, Florida see another drop in unemployment rate in October - Friday, November

The Jacksonville area and Florida unemployment rates fell slightly in October, according to figures released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The Jacksonville area posted a 3.3 percent unemployment rate in October before seasonal adjustments, down from the September rate of 3.4 percent. That metropolitan area includes Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties.

Albert Loh, chairman of the economics department at University of North Florida, said after seasonal adjustments, the First Coast unemployment rate dropped from 3.5 percent in September to 3.4 percent in October.

Loh said October’s unemployment scene was robust.

“The jobs gains appear to be mostly across the board,” Loh said Friday.

Florida’s jobless figure also dipped slightly falling from 3.7 percent in September to 3.6 percent in October before seasonal adjustments. After taking into account seasonal impacts relative to hiring in the fall, that state figure fell from 3.8 percent in September to 3.6 percent in October.

Both the state and Jacksonville area October jobless rates are down by more than a full percentage point from a year ago. In the Jacksonville market, that accounted for the addition of about 15,600 new private sector jobs in the past year and about 127,400 new jobs across the state in the past 12 months.

Story continues after chart

Gov. Rick Scott was beaming at the jobs figure announcement Friday.

“I am proud to announce today that Florida’s unemployment rate has reached a more than 10-year low of 3.6 percent and that more than 127,000 private-sector jobs were created in October,” Scott said in a prepared statement.

Loh said there were some specific areas of employment that helped buoy the positive jobs picture.

“Job increases in food and beverage retail and administrative and waste services coincided with recovery from Hurricane Irma,” Loh said. “The other contributing factor is the rapid expansion of the St. Johns town Center area with newly developed residential communities, office and retail spaces and restaurants.”

October was the second month in a row that the jobless figure reached its lowest level in a decade and Scott said what made the report impressive was the job market remained strong despite Florida enduring Hurricane Irma in September.

“While Hurricane Irma was a devastating storm, we have worked day after day to help communities recover and send a message across the world that Florida is open for business,” Scott said.

North Florida industries that saw strong job growth in October included the transportation and utilities sector that added about 6,300 jobs in the past year. Professional and business services added another 3,500 new jobs.

The national jobless rate saw a decline in unemployment figures as well falling from 4.1 percent in September to 3.9 percent in October before seasonal adjustments.

Applications for jobless aid rose by a seasonally adjusted 10,000 last week after a similar increase in the previous week, the Labor Department reported.

The four-week average, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, rose to 237,750, an increase of 6,500. But the number of people receiving benefits fell to 1.89 million, a drop of 44,000, putting this figure at the lowest level since Dec. 29, 1973.

In other economic indicators from October, Loh said the First Coast Consumer Price Index fell from 126.36 in September to 125.49 in October which also shows inflation actually dropped slightly over that month.

Loh said there were few actual changes in notable economic indicators on the First Coast.

“The food index was largely unchanged. The energy index slid mildly, in part reflecting the recovery from the impact of Hurricane Irma. The housing index continued to decline when home sales slowed,” Loh said.

The CPI is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services. UNF’s first CPI figures were collected in December 2001, when the rate was 100. The monthly CPI number is the comparison to that rate.

Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098

River & Post restaurant to open Monday - Wednesday, Novem

River & Post will open on Monday, Nov. 20.

The more than 10,000-square-foot restaurant will be split into two distinct spaces at the Summit Building at 1000 Riverside Ave. on the corner of Post Street.

One of the main features will be sweeping views of Jacksonville’s skyline and the St. Johns River.

On the first floor will be a chef’s table and banquet space, and a rooftop concept will have indoor and outdoor seating.

There will be 450 seats, including a pet-friendly patio with 48 seats on the first floor.

The first-floor restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner, while the rooftop will be open for happy hour and dinner.

The menu will primarily feature seafood and steak options with a focus on Southern American cuisine. The bar will feature craft cocktails and wine selections.

Menu highlights include Seared Sea Scallops, Mayport Shrimp and Grits, and Grand Platter, which features chilled Jumbo Mayport shrimp, raw oysters and clams, Alaskan King Crab, and Florida lobster with horseradish, cocktail sauce and drawn butter.

Local brews include Intuition Ale Works, Veterans United Craft Brewery and Aardwolf Brewing Company.

Elizabeth Arana, who trained under Wolfgang Puck, Eric Ripert, David Burke and Alain Ducasse and was educated at the Culinary Institute of America and University of Florida, is the executive chef.

Managing Partner Jeff McCusker said, “It’s a new restaurant, so we’ll go through some growing pains, but we ask that our guests be patient with us. I’m excited and eager to get this going.”

River & Post will be open for lunch from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, and dinner from 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Sunday. The rooftop will be open from 4 p.m.-12 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and from 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

For more information, visit

Rayonier Inc. opens new headquarters building in Nassau County - Wednesday, Novem

Rayonier Inc. timber and real estate investment company based in Nassau County opened a new 55,000-square-foot headquarters building Tuesday.

The new building houses 175 employee work stations, has 20 conference rooms and has an 1,100-square-foot fitness center for the workforce in a facility designed to resemble a shed overlooking the St. Mary’s River at 1 Rayonier Way in Yulee. The building is largely constructed of wood to reflect Rayonier’s connection to the lumber industry, a news release said.

Company officials said the decision to build the new facility reflects Rayonier’s commitment to Nassau County which it has had for about 80 years.

Beyond its workers at the company headquarters, Rayonier supports about 4,000 jobs annually in Nassau County and owns about 125,000 acres of property in that county.

Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098.

Jacksonville’s to construct new company headquarters on Gate Parkway - Wednesday, Novem

Jacksonville-based is in the process of developing a new global headquarters.

The internet site designer and marketer for small businesses announced in a news release Wednesday that it is planning a new headquarters in what will be a six-story, 218,700-square-foot building on 18 acres of land set to be opened in Jacksonville in the spring of 2019. The new headquarters will be at 5379 Gate Parkway.

The small business website company launched in Jacksonville in 1997 and has grown to employ 3,800 employees. CEO and president David Brown said about a third of those employees are split between two office buildings on Jacksonville’s Southside at 12808 Gran Bay Parkway West. That’s where more than 1,000 employees based in Jacksonville work.

The new headquarters will lead to a more centralized workforce at the new facility that will be called “Town Center Two.” The remainder of’s employes work in offices scattered in 28 different markets in the U.S. and five other countries.

The new building will be owned by VanTrust Real Estate LLC, the news release said.

Drew Dixon/Times-Union