City Website: cityofalachua.com
City Hall Address: 15100 NW 142 Terr., Alachua, FL 32615
Mayor: Gib Coerper
City Manager: Adam Boukari
Contact: (386) 418-6100
Located in the heart of North Central Florida, the City of Alachua has a wealth of small-town charm, recreational facilities and a cutting-edge biotech industry.
Alachua is a historic Greater Gainesville municipality and home to a scenic main street, a bundle of locally owned restaurants and frequent festivals. The city also boasts a collection of bioscience, technology and life-research companies.
Known as “The Good Life Community,” Alachua’s connection to commerce is served by U.S. Route 441 and Interstate 75. The city’s access and transportation connections have greatly enhanced employment opportunities, ranging from life-sciences research and development to logistics and distribution.
Alachua also offers some outdoor adventure, most notably the San Felasco Preserve State Park. With one of the few remaining mature forests in Florida, the preserve connects residents and visitors to over 7,000 acres of hiking, biking and horseback trails. Bobcats, white-tailed deer, gray foxes, turkeys and many species of songbirds live in the 18 natural communities found in the preserve.
Residents can enroll their children in four public schools: W.W. Irby Elementary (K-2), Alachua Elementary (3-5), A.L. Mebane Middle (6-8) and Santa Fe High (9-12).
The University of Florida and Santa Fe College are both situated just minutes away, with Santa Fe College also offering a satellite campus in Alachua. With UF in near proximity, residents and visitors can enjoy a wide variety of arts, captivating museums, collegiate sporting events and everything in between.
Special events in Alachua include the Fourth of July celebration, Spring Festival, Harvest Festival, Christmas Parade and the new Third Thursday on Main, a monthly event sponsored by the City’s Community Redevelopment Agency that includes live music, artists and bands, street performances and unique shopping and dining experiences, all in a festive atmosphere on Main Street.
Residents have convenient access to health care with local physicians and other medical specialists practicing in the city. UF Health Shands Hospital and the North Florida Regional Medical Center are just a 15-minute drive.
Visitors and residents alike can enjoy the city’s Welcome Center, which houses both the Alachua Historical Society and the office of the Chamber of Commerce. The Welcome Center, which was formerly a post office and then a police station (with a jail), opened in 2014 after an extensive overhaul. The Center provides information on local businesses and also features displays and exhibits from the Alachua Historical Society.
Alachua is also home to Progress Park, a 204-acre private corporate park. Established by UF, the park has 35 companies and over 1,100 employees, making it the third-largest concentration of bioscience companies in the state of Florida.
Some city highlights include the new Legacy Park at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex, a host site for the Babe Ruth Softball World Series; Alachua Towne Centre, a restaurant and shopping hub featuring numerous shopping and dining opportunities in addition to professional and service-oriented businesses; and Main Street, a winding road lined with boutiques and eateries in the heart of the city. Coming soon is the environmentally friendly Tech City, which will be located near the San Felasco State Park.
Progress Park is home to many bioscience, technology and professional services companies, conveniently located five minutes from I-75 with easy access to UF and the Gainesville Regional Airport.
According to the Park’s website, in the early 1980s, Dr. Robert Marston, then-president of the University of Florida, envisioned an office and research park where university technology projects and private startup companies could co-locate for mutual benefit. Two-thirds of the more than 30 Park businesses are bioscience or technology companies.
Nearly 1,200 people now work in the Progress Park. The Park’s tenants include the following:
- The University of Florida’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute
- RTI Biologics, a surgical implant company
- The UF Center of Excellence for Regenerative Health Biotechnology
- NCCER (originally The National Center for Construction Education and Research), which provides a standardized training and credentialing program for the construction industry
The InterMed Group – a service, training and medical equipment sales company formally located in Progress Park – recently moved into the former Sabine building on 441.
Charles R. and Nancy V. Perry Center for Emerging Technologies
Across from the Park is Santa Fe College’s newest satellite campus, the Charles R. and Nancy V. Perry Center for Emerging Technologies. The campus promotes training and education in the life sciences and offers an Associate of Science degree in Biotechnology Laboratory Technology and a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Clinical Laboratory Science.
Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute
The Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute is a world-recognized leader in biotechnology business incubation with well-equipped laboratories and a strong network of mentors, advisors and collaborators.
The incubator, which the University of Florida operates, has graduated more than 50 companies that have generated more than $1.5 billion in revenues and other funding. The International Business Innovation Association named it the Incubator of the Year in 2013 and 2017.
During 2016, the incubator welcomed 10 additional companies, bringing it to 95 percent of its capacity.
The new companies include the following:
- Assembly Biosciences, Inc., which has developed new oral treatment for hepatitis B
- Curtiss Healthcare, Inc., which is developing a salmonella vaccine
- AlphaChem Innovations, Inc., which markets an insecticide for the mites that kill honeybees
- Amend Surgical, which is developing and marketing a group of bone graph substitutes
“These companies, with game-changing technologies, have come to the right place,” said Director Mark Long. “Our incubator is an innovation engine able to offer entrepreneurs and inventors the tremendous resources of the University of Florida.”
AxoGen provides innovative grafts of nerve scaffolding – and the company is growing rapidly.
In fact, AxoGen reported a revenue growth of $4.8 from June 2016 to June 2017, an increase of 46 percent in just one year.
“We’re in the upper echelon of companies in our field,” said President and CEO Karen Zaderej. “We’ve had double-digit growth over our six years, and we have a high margin – the difference between our costs and the selling price for our products.”
According to Zaderej, the company’s move into a new market – oral and maxillofacial procedures – is contributing to the growth. Patients need these procedures if they suffer nerve damage during surgery on the mouth, teeth, jaws or face, including extraction of the wisdom teeth, dental implants and removal of tumors.
“These are the ‘oops’ cases,” Zaderej said. “The patients lose feeling in part of their face after surgery. These cases are rare, but they represent an important market opportunity for us.”
The company isolates material from donor tissue that serves as the framework for nerves and processes and sterilizes the graft to prepare it for implant by a surgeon.
Before the oral and maxillofacial market developed, AxoGen’s nerve scaffolding was used primarily in repairing nerve damage in the arms, hands, legs and feet caused by traumatic injuries.
Patients receiving the company’s products include members of the armed services injured on the battlefield, people injured in accidents and people suffering repetitive motion damage.
AxoGen’s approach has an advantage over the traditional approach of taking a nerve graft from one part of the body to repair a damaged nerve, Zaderej said in a 2016 interview on the PBS show “American Health Journal.”
“That meant that, at a bare minimum, the patient was going to lose function in one place to fix something that was more important someplace else,” she said on the show. “Today, with our innovative solutions, they don’t have to have that deficit.”
AxoGen’s expansion into oral and maxillofacial surgery came about organically. Surgeons on an online forum the company hosts began talking about the need to help patients whose nerves were damaged following surgery to their teeth and mouth.
“It became the highest trending topic in the forum, so we explored it,” Zaderej told Business in Greater Gainesville magazine.
Moving into the oral and maxillofacial market was relatively seamless because the nerve scaffolding works the same in the mouth and face as it does in the arms, hands, legs and feet – with the graft providing a framework to remodel into the patient’s own nerves, she said.
Tech City: Alachua’s New Live-Work-Play Development
Mitch Glaeser and Rich Blaser aren’t millennials, but they have the enthusiasm of ones these days.
Glaeser, the CEO of Emory Group Companies, and Blaser, the CEO and co-founder of Infinite Energy, are excited about San Felasco Tech City – a visionary live-work-play community that they’re developing in Alachua.
Glaeser is tapping into his experience as a longtime Greater Gainesville business leader and the insight he’s gained by listening to millennials as the host of the “Startup Talks” podcasts.
Blaser, also a lifelong resident of Gainesville, has mentored several successful startups.
“San Felasco Tech City is about keeping talent here locally and providing jobs at every skill set in a live-work sustainable environment,” Blaser said.
Tech City will provide the minimalist and collaborative lifestyle that many millennials desire while keeping costs low. Affordability and success are key to the concept.
“Our lease rates will be about half the cost of other options around the Gainesville area,” Glaeser said.
The buildings are one story, making them considerably more affordable than multiple-story buildings.
Without the low rent and other attractions of Tech City, Greater Gainesville could have lost Fracture, a startup that has grown to 55 employees and now looks to double in size.
Fracture will occupy one of the two 30,000-square-foot commercial buildings on the campus of the new Tech City.
“With this move, we won’t have to think twice about doubling if we need to,” said co-founder and CEO Abhi Lokesh.
The company, which has developed a nationwide niche in printing photographs on glass, has outgrown its space near Innovation Square.
“We’re bursting at the seams,” Lokesh said. “It’s a good problem to have, and I’m grateful for it, but there comes a time when it limits your ceiling.
Emphasis on Environment, Health
On his podcasts, Glaeser consistently hears that millennials strongly value protecting the environment and being healthy. Tech City meets these needs.
Solar panels over pedestrian areas, solar roofs and even “solar trees” are expected to generate more than 1 megawatt of power, which should cover most of Tech City’s power needs.
The project is still evolving its residential component. Smaller and more sustainable homes are among the concepts that the founders and tenants are exploring.
Tech City is across the street from the San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, a 7,200-acre mecca for hiking and biking with over 30 miles of trails, and it will have a pedestrian overpass to the park.
Glaeser credits the City of Alachua with helping the project.
“The city has been phenomenal to work with to achieve the kind of performance that we need to keep these rapidly growing companies here,” he said.
He’s excited about this venture because it provides an opportunity for young people to stay in Greater Gainesville.
“What I get excited about is keeping our families together,” Glaeser said. “There’s no reason our youth can’t go to college, earn a world-class education and then stay in this community and produce life-changing companies.”
San Felasco Parkway
On February 6, 2018, the City of Alachua received some good news that could be a game-changer for the City and Progress Park.
Then Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that the City of Alachua had been awarded a $6.75 million grant through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund for the construction of the San Felasco Parkway and related utilities.
The portion of the San Felasco Parkway project that is being funded by the grant connects County Road 241 to Progress Boulevard (connecting at the southern-most end of Progress Park) through a 280-acre, vacant and unimproved site owned by the University of Florida Foundation. The Parkway is designed as a two-lane, divided roadway with bicycle lanes and sidewalks. The project will also provide for the construction of water and wastewater utility infrastructure along the new roadway.
“The announcement from the Governor exemplifies the strong reputation the City of Alachua has for promoting economic development and job growth,” Mayor Gib Coerper said. “It also demonstrates our continued commitment to create an environment in which businesses can thrive.”
The San Felasco Parkway project will provide a shovel-ready site of nearly 300 acres, establishing the connection to Progress Park. The project is poised to help create more than 1,100 new jobs in Alachua during the next decade.
On June 14, 2017, City officials cut the ribbon to unveil the new Legacy Park Multipurpose Center to the citizens of Alachua.
“Truly, an amazing day,” said former City Manager Traci Gresham during the celebration.
The 40,000-square-foot facility, completed for $7.5 million and located right across from the well-known Hal Brady Recreation Complex, is part of a long-standing plan to bring a sense of home and opportunity to all members of the Alachua community, no matter the age or circumstance.
Recreation, sports tourism and events that attract visitors are vital to the community, Mayor Gib Coerper said. And with that in mind, a wide variety of events take place in Alachua, including the Babe Ruth World Series tournaments and the “Largest Small-Town Fireworks Display in America,” the Fourth of July celebration that attracts approximately 30,000 people, all centered at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex. The Complex also offers a splash park, skate board ramps and soccer fields, to name but a few.
When property near the Hal Brady Recreation Complex went on the market in 2010, city officials saw an opportunity. The facilities were maxed out and although the new property had a development potential of 200 homes, officials had other ideas.
“We wanted to preserve this land and combine it with the Hal Brady Recreation Complex to create a beautiful park with rolling hills,” said Assistant City Manager Adam Boukari.
The City mounted a fundraising drive and purchased the property with funds from the Wild Spaces, Public Places sales tax and the Alachua County Tourist Development Tax, as well as private donations and City dollars.
City officials also reached out to the community for input to create a master plan for Legacy Park.
“We wanted ideas to provide diverse opportunities and amenities on this large swath of property,” Boukari said.
The consultant team, consisting of CHW Professional Consultants, Buford Davis and Associates Landscape Architect and Paul Stresing Associates, helped develop the master plan.
“We want to attract tournaments, increasing our sports tourism, but our first priority is to provide enough facilities, so our residents don’t have to drive an hour to play sports,” Boukari said.
The plan included a 40,000-square-foot multipurpose building to accommodate four courts for basketball or volleyball, locker rooms, meeting rooms, restrooms and administration offices.
“The Legacy Park Master Plan creates a welcoming, flexible park that provides a full spectrum of sports activities, open space and passive recreation for the residents of Alachua,” states the City’s website.
The park will be developed in phases that will address residents’ most immediate recreational and cultural needs, while staying true to the park’s design principles, which include:
- Increase passive and active recreation levels of service and cultural opportunities for City of Alachua residents
- Seek opportunities to integrate Legacy Park with the existing Hal Brady Recreation Complex in such a manner that both become ‘one park’
- Provide for continued event and tournament use, such as the Fourth of July festivities and Babe Ruth Softball World Series
- Design for the most flexible, multipurpose use
- Preserve the site’s natural character and neighborhood feel
The next phase at Legacy Park will be the addition of an outdoor amphitheater, a concession and restrooms building, two multipurpose fields and expanded parking.
From the President
By Bud Calderwood, current president, and Joe Hancock, past president of the City of Alachua Chamber of Commerce
On behalf of The City of Alachua Chamber of Commerce, we would like to invite you to visit the city and experience the welcoming and walkable atmosphere of our small town with the convenience and sophistication of a much larger city.
Alachua has a great history of being a very business-friendly community while still maintaining its small-town charm. This strategy has attracted businesses from all over the world to call Alachua home, providing a wide diversity of job opportunities and a laid-back, comfortable lifestyle. There is so much to enjoy within Alachua and its surrounding communities, from historical walks, crystal clear springs, and our beautiful downtown district, to sporting events, festivals, shopping and dining.
Since its inception, the City of Alachua Chamber of Commerce has been recognized and respected for its continued cooperation with the city and community. With its record of extraordinary economic and community development throughout the years, the Chamber has earned its position as an advocate for our community and local businesses.
We are an active chamber that looks to advance its members’ growth and prosperity and provide increased opportunities and value for its membership. The Chamber advocates for and unites the business community, conveys business interests to policy-makers and advances the region’s economic health. To carry out this mission, the Chamber serves as the voice of business and involves the public sector in community leadership.
In addition to vibrant committee work in Advocacy, Community Engagement, Services and Membership Development, the City of Alachua Chamber provides unique opportunities for its members. This includes our special events, such as the Annual Banquet, monthly membership meetings, the Sportsfest Golf Tournament, the Alachua Car Show, Scarecrow Row and the Christmas Parade.
This year, we have started a Farmers Market on the Chamber’s property. The Market is open every Thursday from 4 p.m. till 7 p.m., weather willing and crops available. We only have venders that grow local fresh products. Our other regular events include business after-hours, business before-hours, ribbon cuttings and luncheons.
Welcome from the City of Alachua Chamber of Commerce!