Friday, December 15, 2017

Business News

No details given on CSX CEO’s condition - Friday, December

CSX stock fell Friday morning with news that Hunter Harrison, its CEO and president, has taken a medical leave. The stock fell 12 percent to $50.34 in premarket trading.

“The importance of Harrison’s influence is immense,” wrote Benjamin Hartford of Baird Equity Research.

Meanwhile, the acting CEO of the nation’s third-largest railroad gave no indication Friday morning how long Harrison will be on leave from the railroad. James Foote would only say that Harrison became ill in the last week.

The company announced Thursday night that Harrison was on medical leave and that Foote, who had been COO, would take the top spot at the railroad.

Foote, speaking to investors and the media Friday morning on a conference call, said that Harrison had taken part in the Credit Suisse conference two weeks ago. Last week, he held one of his retreats called Hunter Camps with managers from the railroad.

“After that he became ill and went on medical leave,” Foote said. “That’s all I can say.”

Foote, who had worked with Harrison for 11 years at Canadian National Railway, came to CSX in October as the company announced that three of its executives were leaving. The same day that the railroad announced those changes, it said it would be cancelling its planned Oct. 30 investor day with little explanation.

Foote said Friday that it was cancelled because he didn’t have time at that point to learn everything he needed to meet with investors. That day will be held in early March, he said.

Harrison came from Canadian Pacific to take the top spot in CSX, bringing with him his plan for what’s called precision scheduled railroading. In March, the board approved his four-year contract, which could reach $300 million if he meets all his targets. In May, it was disclosed that he was often using oxygen to help breathe and was working from home on some days.

He reportedly refused the board’s request for a medical exam when he took over the railroad.

Anthony Hatch, a railroad analyst with ABH Consulting, said that without knowing Harrison’s condition or how long he’ll be out, the impact is all speculation at this point.

“He has assembled the team that likely he would have stayed with,” Hatch told the Times-Union on Friday, “and Jim Foote is a good man, a PSR veteran, obviously — and someone who also is aware of what needs to be done after the PSR ‘revolution’ is installed.

“The fact that [Harrison] is all by himself a de facto change agent will be missed, naturally.”

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296

Check back with or Saturday’s Times-Union for more details.

Harrison takes medical leave from CSX - Thursday, Decemb

Hunter Harrison has taken a medical leave from his position as CEO and president of CSX, the company announced Thursday night. The railroad gave no details other than saying the leave was due to “unexpected complications from a recent illness.”

But it will hold a conference call at 7:30 Friday morning to discuss the situation.

The board of directors has named James M. Foote, the chief operating officer, as acting CEO.

Harrison, 73, took over the Jacksonville-based railroad earlier this year in a highly publicized move. In May, reports came out that he had a health situation that required him to use oxygen and work from home several days a week.

“I’m having a ball and I’m running on so much adrenaline that no one can stop me,” Harrison told the Wall Street Journal at the time. “Don’t judge me by my medical record, judge me by my performance.”

The railroad did not release details about his health.

In a statement from CSX on Thursday, Chairman Edward J. Kelly III said, “On behalf of the Board and the entire CSX family, I want to express that our thoughts are with Mr. Harrison and his family.”

Harrison took the top position at the railroad in March after hedge fund Mantle Ridge Capital bought a share of the company and pushed Harrison as president. He was head of Canadian Pacific at the time and a well-known in the railroad industry for turning around companies with what he called precision railroading.

Since then, the railroad has often been mired in controversy. Harrison has removed hundreds of locomotives, tens of thousands of rail cars and laid off at least 2,300 people with predictions of more.

The federal Surface Transportation Board has stepped in, saying its received complaints from companies about poorer service. Harrison said his strategy simply needs fine tuning and said that more changes were coming.

But CSX’s stock has responded positively to Harrison’s reign. It was at $38 when word of his interest first arose and closed at $57.31 Thursday, though it saw a slight drop during the day Thursday.

Rumors about Harrison’s health surfaced again in October when three top executives left CSX and Foote, who had worked with Harrison at Canadian National Railway, came on board as COO.

At a Credit Suisse conference two weeks ago, Harrison hinted a succession plan, saying that he was “trying to stay back a little bit” and let other executives take more control.

“I am there to help if they need me,” Harrison said, according to news reports. “But at the same time … this company’s got to be ready to deal, and it is going to be ready to deal, without Hunter Harrison. And that’s one of the steps in the succession.”

Harrison has a four-year contract estimated at more than $300 million if he reaches all his targets.

Anyone who wants to listen to the conference call Friday morning can dial 1-888-EARN-CSX (888-327-6279) and ask for the CSX call.

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296

City offered Amazon riverfront land for second headquarters - Thursday, Decemb

The city’s offer to Amazon includes riverfront land downtown that it would give to the retail giant at no cost.

When Amazon announced in September that it was seeking proposals for sites for a second headquarters, the response was predictably huge.

After all, the company was promising to spend $5 billion and employ 50,000 people. The company said it received 238 proposals across 54 states, provinces, districts and territories throughout North America. One of those came from Jacksonville, but city officials have not said much about the proposal.

Thursday, a video that accompanied the bid was played at a JaxUSA Partnership luncheon. It spoke of a 200-acre “live, work and play campus” on the river that would be given to Amazon. The video placed the campus at the Shipyards between downtown and the stadium.

With a mix of imaginative renderings of the campus on the river, animation showing futuristic transportation along with plenty of videos of Jacksonville’s beaches and waterways, the video promised a “one of a kind urban core campus” with an “inspired, year-round coastal lifestyle.”

It is a place, the video assures Amazon, that its employees can surf before work. It spoke of Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, MD Anderson Cancer Center and all the universities within a two-hour drive.

This year, Amazon has opened three centers in Jacksonville employing more than 3,000 people.

Mayor Lenny Curry released this statement with the video:

“I greatly appreciate and value the work city staff and the chamber have led on the development of this proposal. Proposals are a first step that communicate our genuine interest, commitment, and vision for a project. This Amazon project, like any other project we pursue, will be negotiated against a scorecard to ensure it provides a return to taxpayers and contributes to job growth and economic development. We will continue to work hard on this deal that would result in over 50,000 jobs for Jacksonville.”

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296

Times-Union to outsource printing operations - Wednesday, Decem

The Florida Times-Union announced plans Wednesday evening to print the Jacksonville daily paper, Monday through Saturday, in Gainesville, and its Sunday paper in Daytona.

The Times-Union is currently printed at the newspaper’s central facility at One Riverside Avenue.

The change will occur in mid-February 2018.

Officials at the newspaper also indicated the Times-Union’s remaining departments, including news and advertising, will be moving later in 2018 to new headquarters in downtown Jacksonville.

Times-Union President Mark Nusbaum said approximately 50 employees in the production department would be displaced as a result of the outsourcing.

He made the announcement to those affected at a 6 p.m. employee meeting.

“We are deeply indebted to those individuals who have helped us produce the daily paper here in Jacksonville over the years,” Nusbaum said. “But our presses are obviously getting older, and to upgrade them or replace them would require a very, very substantial investment. For that reason, it makes financial sense for us to move in a different direction.”

Nusbaum said the displaced workers would have the opportunity to pursue openings at other newspaper printing plants operated by Times-Union’s parent company, GateHouse Media.

The Times-Union was purchased by GateHouse in October 2017, along with 10 other dailies across the United States, from the Morris family in Augusta, Ga. GateHouse operates more than 140 dailies.

The Morris family still owns the 18-acre site at One Riverside, and has indicated an interest in developing the property.

Nusbaum said that the Times-Union is focusing its search for new headquarters in downtown Jacksonville.

“It’s where we need to be,” Nusbaum said. “Downtown Jacksonville, and its revitalization, is a major source of interest to us here at the Times-Union. Also, much of our coverage is generated from central government entities, including City Hall, the County Courthouse, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, etc. We want to be there, right in the middle of it.”

Nusbaum said the Times-Union hopes to be in its new offices by the fourth quarter of 2018.

The Florida Times-Union has a daily circulation of 45,000 and Sunday circulation of 70,000., the Times-Union’s digital sister, has daily pages views of about 380,000, and unique visitors numbering about 1.9 million a month.

“We will continue our expansion in the digital space at a very aggressive rate,” Nusbaum said. “But it is important to us to continue to serve our print readers at an exceptional level as well. We believe we can achieve this through these moves.”

Delivery deadlines are expected to remain the same.

Wawa opens two stores Wednesday with plans for dozens more - Tuesday, Decembe

The first two Wawa stores in the Jacksonville area open this week. The third opens next week. Then another six come next year. In all, the gas station/convenience store chain plans 30 to 40 stores in the area.

The first two open Wednesday at Wilson Boulevard and Lane Avenue in Jacksonville and 678 Blanding Blvd. in Orange Park. The third store opens Thursday, Dec. 21, at 4866 Gate Parkway at the Town Center.

At an invitation-only ceremony Tuesday at the Wilson Boulevard store, Brian Duke, regional director of real estate, said the company has a total of 16 sites under contract in the area. Another half-dozen have contracts pending. After next year, he said, he expects the company to open three to five each year in Clay, Duval and St. Johns counties. At some point, he said, they’ll move into Nassau County.

Growth in Northeast Florida is a little more agressive than it was when the company first came to Florida in 2012.

“We were just in Tampa and Orlando then,” he said. “But now we’re in Southeast Florida, too. We have total brand recognition on the Mid-Atlantic states. We’re growing that in Florida.”

The company has about 770 stores in six states and has been averaging one new store a week recently, he said. There are now 132 in Florida with 11 more openings planned this month alone.

The chain is based in Pennsylvania, and Florida is the first state in which it has opened stores south of Virginia.

Duke said Wawa created a new prototype for Florida stores, which includes the new Jacksonville stores. The food service counter is right in the center of the store where the cashiers usually are. The cash registers are off to the side. That’s something other stores, including Gate, have also started to do.

Catherine Pulos, chief operations office for Wawa, wouldn’t say what percentage of sales its sandwiches, soups, etc., are compared to the more traditional convenience store items. She’d only say that it’s the fastest growing area of the business.

Wawa’s Florida stores also have outside seating.

“That’s something we’ve never had up north,” Duke said.

At Tuesday’s celebration, employees handed out samples of food and I ♥ Wawa buttons. There was music, dancing mascots and speeches.

City Councilman Garrett Dennis thanked the store for coming to his district, for hiring 40 people per store and developing what had been a blighted corner.

And then he made the first ceremonial hoagie.

The two Jacksonville stores open at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Ribbon-cutting will be at 9 a.m. at the Wilson Boulevard store and 1 p.m. at the Orange Park store.

Roger Bull: (904) 3589-4296

More new homes being built than last year, or the year before … - Tuesday, Decembe

New home construction in the Jacksonville area continues to be well ahead of last year’s pace.

Through November, more building permits for new single-family homes have been issued in the four-county area than in any full year since 2006, according to Northeast Florida Builders Association’s monthly report.

With one month left to go, there have been about 300 more permits issued than in all of 2016 and more than twice the number of any full year 2009-2011.

The 691 permits issued in November were down from the 867 issued in October. But the number usuall drops in November and October was a particularly high — the most permits issued in any month in a decade.

Through November, St. Johns leads the area with 3,675 permits issued, followed by Duval with 2,804, Clay with 937 and Nassau with 794. Both Duval and St. Johns have seen more permits issued than in all of 2016.

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296

MOD Pizza to celebrate opening at Bartram Village - Tuesday, Decembe

MOD Pizza is making its Jacksonville debut Tuesday in Bartram Village.

The 2,475-square-foot Southside location has an outdoor patio, as well as original artwork and a hand-painted mural by Jacksonville artist Joe Stark, along with MOD’s signature “Wall of Fame,” a photo collage that pays homage to the local community and people from the MOD journey.

BBX Capital is the exclusive franchisee of the MOD Pizza brand for the state of Florida.

“Along with the incredible pizza, the MOD brand is a purpose-led organization that is committed to making a positive impact on as many lives as possible by offering well-paying jobs, career development opportunities and partnering with local nonprofits that support the community,” said Brick Kerge, vice president of operations for BBX’s MOD Pizza business in Florida.

MOD Pizza offers individual, artisan-style pizzas with any combination of more than 30 toppings, as well as a menu of MOD classics.

The price remains the same — $8.17 — regardless of the number of toppings. Pizzas are cooked in an 800-degree oven in minutes and salads are individually hand-tossed for each customer.

The menu is rounded out with handspun milkshakes, house-made lemonades and iced teas, and local craft beers and wine.

To celebrate the store’s grand opening, MOD Pizza will be offering a free artisan-style pizza to the first 52 guests. After that, 100 percent of all pizza sales on opening day will be donated to Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Florida, a nonprofit agency dedicated to helping young people improve their lives by developing values and skills during their critical period of growth.

MOD Pizza will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

For more information, visit

Work Wanted: Connecting your job to a higher purpose - Tuesday, Decembe

Lindsay Pollack, who writes on millennial issues in the workplace, recently posted some thoughts about the Japanese concept “ikigai.” She writes, “It’s a combination of the words “ikiru” which means “life,” and “kai,” translated as “the realization one hopes for.” The Japanese describe ikigai as “a reason to get up in the morning,” or … purpose.”

We coach candidates to ask about all kinds of things as they evaluate a job offer: leadership styles, company culture, professional development, even how and how often the team has fun together. But we seldom ask about the sense of purpose the job inspires.

Companies worry about cultural fit with new employees, but studies indicate that purpose is one of the key factors in attracting and retaining young workers. It’s a high-stakes challenge; Gallup reports that turnover among Millennials costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion each year.

Most young workers say that connecting their work to a higher purpose is an important factor in whether they stay engaged. But Gallup also reports that only 26 percent of millennials say that, in the past week, they have “heard someone talk about how their daily work connects with their organization’s mission.”

Connecting work to a compelling mission creates higher engagement, and both the company and its customers benefit. One powerful way to connect workers with mission is to tell stories about the impact your company has on the people you touch. Loan processors aren’t just pushing paper; they’re helping people achieve their dreams of home ownership or starting a business. Construction workers are creating a place where families will gather and thrive. Connecting the customer’s stories and helping workers see how they play a part in the outcome makes their work feel more personal and more important.

Another benefit of purpose is a commitment to excellence. If the work matters, it matters that it’s done right. Entry-level workers sometimes don’t perform routine tasks well because they don’t see how the task contributes to the greater mission. Speaker Michael “Doc” Norton says that purpose and excellence are deeply interconnected. He calls purpose ‘connection,’ which he defines as “what makes a community. Internally, organizations need cohesion within and between all teams; one collective, united toward a common cause.”

Cheryl Dorsey, president of Echoing Green, a firm that supports social entrepreneurs, says, “We believe that if more institutions — from work places to educational systems—were to embed programs and policies into their work that consciously cultivate purpose-directed individuals, we would see more passionate, engaged and flourishing employees, volunteers and others driven to make a difference in their daily lives.” Simon Sinek is a business consultant and author of “Start with Why; How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.” He encourages people and leaders to figure out why they get up in the morning and what matters to them. Then he says, go find a place where you feel aligned with the mission and purpose of the work.

“When we discover our WHY,” he writes, “we are better able to find the clarity and confidence to choose the careers, organizations, communities and relationships that are most likely to inspire us.” Connecting with your inner and your company’s ikigai can transform your work and personal life.

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

Brewery and restaurant in the works for Brooklyn, brewery for Mayport Road - Monday, December

One new brewery is in the works on Mayport Road while another, with a restaurant, is in the planning stages for the Brooklyn neighborhood.

The Brooklyn project is planned for Dora Street between Chelsea and Spruce streets, four blocks north of 220 Riverside. The former Mt. Calvary Baptist Church at the corner of corner of Spruce and Dora was built in 1955 and abandoned since 1999. That would become the beer brewery, according to plans submitted to the Downtown Development Review Board.

A 5,000-square-foot restaurant would be built on the empty lot at the corner of Chelsea and Dora, according to the plans.

But there is no restaurant or brewery ready to go into those places yet. The projects are going through the design and permitting processes, while CBRE commercial brokers are talking to prospective tenants.

Building would not begin until the entitlements are in place and the tenants signed, said Tripp Gulliford, senior managing director of CBRE. He said Laura Bahri is in charge of the leasing and talking to several prospective tenants.

Bedopas LLC of Jacksonville Beach paid $147,900 for four parcels totalling 0.65 acres there last year. The property had sold for $400,000 in 2006.

The project on Mayport Road is more definite. Eric Luman, part-owner and head brewer at Green Room Brewing in Jacksonville Beach, is opening Reve Brewing with his wife, Vanessa.

It’s going to be a small place, just 1,200 square feet total, including brewery and taproom, in a strip shopping center at 1237 Mayport Road, a little less than 1 mile north of Atlantic Blvd. It’ll seat about 50 people, he said.

He plans to have 8 to 10 of his own beers on tap at a time along with a few guest beers. The focus will be on imperial stouts, often barrel-aged, sours and New England style IPAs. And he’s not planning to distribute at all. Everything made on his 3.5-barrel system will be for the tap room.

“We’re a neighborhood bar that happens to serve its own beer,” he said.

As more breweries continue to open in Jacksonville and elsewhere, it gets harder to get your beer out into the marketplace, he said. Green Room, which opened a little more than six years ago, sells half of its beer in kegs to distributors, and then on to bars and restaurants.

“I don’t know what the saturation point is,” he said. “But we haven’t hit it yet. And the number of neighborhood bars is probably unlimited.”

He said they’re shooting for a March opening and that his involvement in Green Room, as part-owner and brewer, won’t change.

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296

Gas prices continue slide - Monday, December

Gas prices are continuing their month-long decline. The national average for a gallon of regular gas fell 1 cent in the past week to $2.46, according to AAA. The average fell 3 cents in Florida to $2.41 and 2 cents in Georgia to $2.32.

It fell 4 cents in Jacksonville to $2.33 in the past seven days. It’s now 16 cents lower in Jacksonville than a month ago but 19 cents higher than a year ago.

Gas prices at this time of year have varied greatly in recent years.’s figures show a range on Dec. 11 from $1.97 in 2015 to $3.35 in 2013.

“Seasonal trends like reduced gasoline demand and increased fuel supply are allowing pump prices to keep moving lower,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, for AAA. “The first half of December is normally characterized by weak demand, as cold weather and shorter days cause Americans to drive less. Look for another week of declines as refineries continue to produce gasoline at a much higher rate than what is being consumed.”

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296