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2023 Jacksonville Industry Retrospective

A brief summary of the year's impact across sectors from the perspective of North Florida business leaders. Take a moment to look back at the changes and challenges of 2023.


Nick Allard,
Randall C. Berg Jr. Founding Dean of the Jacksonville University College of Law

In 2023, every sector, including higher education, was buffeted by chaos, dysfunctional economic and governmental institutions, political and cultural polarization as well as disturbing threats to the wellbeing of people and the natural world.


2024 will be another year where, paradoxically, the only constants are accelerating change and tumult. The most successful educators will focus on three priorities:


  • Value: Higher education may not be seen as a springboard to the American Dream. Many doubt the worth of college and university studies. Successful educators must articulate the value proposition of higher education in terms of lifelong earnings, professional accomplishments and accolades, and intangibles such as self-worth, satisfaction, and the gratification of meaningful service to others.


  • Adaptation: The most successful educators will prepare students to be ready for the world as it will be, not as it was in the past, instill lifelong learning skills, and demonstrate how to acquire the knowledge and ability to adapt and qualify for future careers and challenges that do not yet exist.


  • Purpose: While academic faculty, staff and students are troubled by the seemingly hopelessness of current issues, academic communities must remember that the world has always been full of troubles, and always will be. Scholars and students have the purpose, responsibility, and opportunity to use what they are teaching, studying and learning to make the world better.


Universities and colleges are the field hospitals of wounded democracies, equality, justice, and suffering people. In other words, it’s important to remind and inspire academic communities about the purpose of their mission, which is to do what they can to make the world better.

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Hank Hurst,
CEO President at The Hurst Company, CPA, P.A.

At the end of 2023, the primary economic issue facing the public accounting industry is adequate staffing. There are two main factors:


  • Tax and accounting educational requirements are increasing, turning potential accounting professionals away from the industry. Prospective CPAs must take a fifth year of college, and CPA exam study materials and fees can be costly. The number of accounting graduates awarded degrees after the 2019-2020 academic year fell, according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. This number of degrees awarded decreased by 2.8% for bachelor’s and 8.4%, for master’s, extending a five-year trend.

  • The number of seasoned CPAs is dwindling with the retirement of baby boomers. More than 300,000 accountants left the profession during the past two years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This represents a 17% decline from a 2019 peak. While there is a shortage of CPAs, the demand for services has increased. In Northeast Florida, there is an influx of retirees with tax situations that may include multi-state and other complex issues, increasing the need for tailored consulting to make informed financial decisions.


This has created the perfect storm for our industry, which has caused us to have to be creative with our hiring.  At The Hurst Company, we have hired staff that are not the traditional right out of college type. We have had success with middle-aged folks starting new careers who bring high levels of maturity while also having the vigor of new staff.

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Chad Sorenson,
President and Founder of Adaptive HR Solutions


A thriving employment market and the demand for qualified workers along with changes in regulations from Washington, DC proved challenging for many employers in 2023.

The current administration is altering regulations to "support employees" with new directives from the National Labor Relations Board, the Federal Trade Commission, and a proposed massive change in the required salary level for exempt employees. Each change threatens to hinder hiring, operations, and growth. Instead of helping employees, these results frequently harm businesses.

  • Low unemployment is changing the dynamics in hiring and retention. In response, employers are making headway by focusing on engaging and retaining employees and combatting potential turnover costs. That said, hiring challenges vary by industry.

  • While it is reported that only about 45% of Americans were able to work from home (WFH) during the pandemic, giving the overwhelming number of service and manufacturing employees, return to office (RTO) efforts by employers have dominated the news this year.

  • Some employees continue to push back against RTO, but the pendulum continues to swing in the employers' favor, often moving from full-time WFH to a hybrid model. This shift renews company culture, employee engagement and the natural creative process that happens through informal conversations between employees...something that is missing when you need to schedule a meeting or make a call to talk with a co-worker.


At Adaptive HR Solutions, more employers are turning to us to strengthen the teams they have by providing leadership and management development to their teams, increasing their employee engagement and improving the bottom line. 

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Doug Wilder,
Business Coach at Wilder Success

The year 2023 started strong with economic growth, allowing executives and business owners to invest in their own development. There are now more coaches available, and the International Coaching Federation estimates there is a total of 109,200 coaches worldwide – an increase of 54% more than 2019.

  • As 2023 progressed, some employers felt the strain of inflation and other factors preventing them from budgeting for coaching. Meanwhile, other business owners put more of a focus on coaching with the increased need for leadership and intentional strategy. This created fertile soil for collaboration and brainstorming with lawyers, accountants, and small business owners to define new ways to attract and engage customers.

  • Larger companies, like AstraZeneca, are turning to corporate coaching. EZRA Coaching was hired by AstraZeneca, Citizens Bank, Conde Nast and many others. More people are trying out virtual coaching, allowing coaches – including Wilder Business Success - to find new clients and reach an audience beyond the local community.

  • Next year, more coaches will use AI as a resource for finding and distilling information for their clients. We will also focus on accountability when using these algorithm-based tools, ensuring that data is current, relevant, and correct.

Wilder Coaching has found inspiration from 1) TV show “Ted Lasso” where Coach Ted motivates struggling soccer players and 2) the real-life coaching relationship between Coach Doug Pederson and Trevor Lawrence. Despite adversity, both coaches push players to overcome against all odds. Coach Doug Wilder has the same goal of generating remarkable change with every individual he coaches.

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Jessica Evans,
Senior Vice President, Commercial Division, First Citizens Bank

In the financial sector, we are focusing on client selection and full banking relationships rather than transactional business. Banks are focusing on deploying capital to their best customers who fully bank with them. Banks will need to grow efficiently to preserve liquidity, capital and generate earnings commensurate with the risk.


  • The primary economic issue in banking is the uncertain economy putting pressure on our credit portfolios (small business stressed) and margin compression (the rate we pay on deposits versus the rate we charge on loans)

  • Banks face challenges related to the uncertain commercial real estate environment due to increased rates and increased vacancies in various real estate sectors, specifically office building.


2023 has been a banner year for First Citizens Bank, celebrating our 125th anniversary and having the opportunity to stabilize the banking system when we acquired SVB.  The bank has a long history of successful FDIC acquisitions and non-FDIC acquisitions.  


Our North Florida team nearly doubled loans outstanding and deposits by focusing on professional services, medical/dental, skilled trades, and commercial and industrial business. This year we will have deployed over $120 million in loans to small businesses.

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Kevin Rabin,
Director of Litigation at Three Rivers Legal Services, Inc.

Housing stability remains a top priority. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed a tumultuous economic impact on renters and homeowners across our assisted communities. Over the last three years, the rate of eviction lawsuits filed against Jacksonville renters rose approximately 20%, displacing numerous households and contributing to economic instability across the city.


As a Jacksonville non-profit legal services organization, our 2024 goals include:

  • Increasing the total number of low-income, elderly, and veteran households served in the communities of Jacksonville and through North Central Florida.

  • Expanding current partnerships in the community to address systemic challenges, like aiding families with heirs’ property and long-term generational wealth building.

  • Increasing the capacity of our new office in Nassau County, by hiring additional staff to achieve our goals.

  • Preparing for natural disaster legal assistance and ensuring that we have the capacity to meet the needs of the community in the aftermath.

Rent prices throughout Florida have climbed considerably, and rental screening barriers make affordable housing a mirage for far too many. Increased mortgage rates and the ballooning costs of homeowners’ insurance place low-income and elderly homeowners in a bind. Three Rivers Legal Services, Inc. is committed to addressing these problems to our highest capacity, helping our community remain housed and positioned to build wealth and prosper.


Angela Campbell,
Publisher for the Jacksonville Daily Record

While you sometimes hear comments like “Newspapers are dead” or “Who reads newspapers anymore?” I know that for our audience, the demand for the high-quality, verified news content in print and online has never been greater. Each week, more than 65,000 business leaders turn to the Jacksonville Daily Record and as their indispensable source for what’s important now to the First Coast business community.

  • 2023 has been a record year for audience growth, engagement, and advertising revenue at the Jacksonville Daily Record and

  • The newspaper has been expanding its editorial coverage, distribution, and legal advertising services to better serve the needs of North Florida readers. We are available in print weekly by mailed subscription or pickup at 150 free rack locations in business nodes throughout metro Jacksonville, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties.

  • Marketing and advertising play an essential role in moving a business from Point A to Point B on the path to success. Some of our advertising partners are celebrating record-breaking years and being part of their success story is an extraordinary feeling.


As a local multimedia company, The Jacksonville Daily Record relies on our team of experienced journalists to provide accurate and reliable business news, giving readers what they want and need to know, and staying active in the communities we serve. Readers can start the day with the Daily Brief e-newsletter, follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn, pick up a paper or scroll the website. Stay tuned for new ways to read and engage with us in 2024.

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Gregg Gerlach, 
Labor and Employment Attorney at Gerlach Employment Law

In 2023, Florida introduced a significant legislative achievement involving immigration and having the proper work authorization to work in Florida.

  • Effective July 1, 2023, Florida enacted new legislation to combat illegal immigration in Florida requiring private employers with 25 or more employees to use the E-Verify system for new employees and then certify on its first Florida tax return each calendar year that it is in compliance.

  • Penalties for non-compliance are not slaps on the wrist and can include a daily fine of $1,000 and the suspension of employer licenses after multiple findings of noncompliance.  Specifically too, an employee leasing company can be held responsible for compliance unless it has entered into a written agreement with client company placing the primary obligation for compliance on client company.  

Gerlach Employment Law assists employers in finding creative and workable solutions to new and existing state and federal mandates.  We’ve been providing such guidance for employers for over 30 years covering a full plate of employment law compliance, litigation, workplace issues and disputes.



Mark Addington,
Labor and Employment Attorney at Addington Law, UNF Faculty Member

Economic trends challenging small businesses in 2023 and beyond from an employment law perspective include the Federal Government Non-Compete Ban proposal, AI regulations, handbook rules, and the New Overtime Rule.

  • In January 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed a rule banning most non-compete agreements across the country. Employers were left to play a painful waiting game for the rest of the year as the news emerged that the rule was not scheduled to be finalized until April 2024. While a few states in 2023 have created laws banning non-competes, Florida is not among them.

  • In 2023, the Senate kicked around ideas for regulating Artificial Intelligence. The nation’s first law requiring employers to conduct an independent bias audit when using AI tools to hire and promote workers took effect in NYC in July 2023. In May 2023, the EEOC began sending warnings that it was working on AI rules, and in October 2023, the President issued an Executive Order initiating more activity from the Federal Agencies.

  • The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision in Stericycle, Inc. that dramatically affected employers by changing the law again on employee handbooks. Under the new standard, the validity of employer’s policies are whether an employee “would reasonably construe” the applicable rule as chilling the employee’s right to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection.

Increasing governmental regulation is the overriding theme impacting small business. The U.S. Dept. of Labor has also proposed a raise in the salary threshold for exempt employees, a change that the agency says would impact 3.6 million workers. All employers should be preparing for big changes in their compensation plans. Florida has historically been among the states with the most wage and hour litigation in Federal court, and that trend remains growing and constant.


Wilder Business Success

Doug Wilder’s purpose is to help great people find and live their purpose. He welcomes the challenge to discover the keys to each person’s success, and to inspire that person to unlock his or her potential.

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