FLEMING ISLAND – Everyone who has lived in Florida knows that there are essentially only two seasons, hot and two weeks of cold. But for JJ Harris that is perfectly OK with him because he finally …
FLEMING ISLAND – Everyone who has lived in Florida knows that there are essentially only two seasons, hot and two weeks of cold. But for JJ Harris that is perfectly OK with him because he finally gets to be in the sun.
In March 2018, the Clay County Economic Development Corporation and its board of directors announced Harris had accepted the offer to become the organization’s new president and executive director after a nationwide search.
Harris, who was raised in Bedford, Indiana, sees a lot of the same things in Clay County as his hometown.
“It reminds me of my southern Indiana roots,” said Harris.
Harris studied at Indiana Wesleyan University and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in management.
Harris served in the Army from 1985 until 1995 where he rose to first lieutenant. He re-enlisted in 2007 before retiring in 2017 as a major.
Harris said the opportunity present in Clay County is one that makes him excited to get to work and work with residents. He said that the people he has meant are outgoing and friendly and have been eager to show him what the community is all about.
“I’m very very excited for the opportunities here and I’m looking forward to working with the communities,” said Harris.
Before coming to Clay County, Harris served as executive director of Bedford Urban Enterprises Association, which he held from 1995 until 2007. He also held the role of chief executive officer and president of Laramie Chamber Business Alliance in Laramie, Wyoming and was president and chief executive officer of Laramie Economic Development Corporation.
Harris said he sees a lot of opportunity within Clay County and believes the county will begin to see growth.
One of the biggest projects that he is working on is the First Coast Expressway, the multi-lane, limited access toll road that will cross parts of Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties when completed. Part of this is already finished and the tolls are expected to begin being collected this fall.
He also said that he is working with Florida Power & Light on an 850-acre solar power project in Green Cove Springs to help create green energy for the community.
Harris believes Clay County is a community that is willing to invest in itself and has leadership that wants to provide a livable community. He also sees Clay as being a hot real estate location.
With the changes he does expect pushback, but Harris asks the community to be patient until the proposals have been shown. He asks that the community to be open-minded while the business is being done before making judgments.
“Listen to the facts about those industries that are coming here,” said Harris.
Harris is looking forward to working with the community that he sees as being aggressive and people that are willing to put forward the effort to help the community grow.
Harris said the FPL project should start in June 2019.
Meanwhile, the segment of the First Coast Expressway from Blanding Boulevard to Green Cove Springs is always scheduled to get under construction next year as well.