Gainesville has good bones. That’s what comes to mind when I think of this city and the reason for deciding to make it my home. Good bones grow stronger, support growth and sustain movement. Our community has the skeletal structure in place for continuing to develop into a vibrant and economically diverse city where there’s opportunity for everyone.
It’s ironic that I can even call Gainesville home. My wife, Jill, and I first arrived here after I made the decision to leave Ernst & Young in order to complete my MBA at the University of Florida. We recognized very early that Gainesville was a special place. However, we also accepted that our stay here would be short, as my career plans did not align with health care and education, Gainesville’s two principal industries for professionals at the time. Sure enough, a job offer took us away from Gainesville after graduation.
A few years after acquiring the holdings of Georgia Pacific, Plum Creek decided to expand its local Florida presence. As a result, I was hired to assist with the long-term real estate strategy for our Florida holdings. Additionally, I was also tasked with opening a new Florida headquarters for Plum Creek. To my good fortune, Gainesville was on the short list of potential office locations.
My decision to locate the office here was based on more than my experiences as a UF grad student. I had once lived in another college town that had strong bones, Palo Alto, California, home of Stanford University and birthplace of the U.S. tech industry. I don’t think I would have ever recognized Gainesville’s potential had I not spent time in Palo Alto and witnessed a modern-day gold rush of entrepreneurism there.
My view of Gainesville as a city brimming with breakout potential became more personal when Jill was pregnant with our second child. Doctors at UF Health Shands hospital made an early diagnosis of a very rare condition and ultimately saved the life of my youngest child. That experience underscored the scope of quality-of-life benefits that makes Gainesville wonderfully unique, with state-of-the-art health care, a nationally renowned research university and a variety of recreational and entertainment amenities.
On the flip side, however, Gainesville has a legacy of income disparity that concerns me greatly as a business leader and father of two boys. We need to create a tide that lifts all boats, with higher paying job opportunities for the GED as well as the Ph.D. I am involved in several exciting efforts that seek to lure industries that could create a more vibrant employment base, giving disadvantaged residents in Alachua County a chance to better their lives.
Almost 10 years ago, I was given the chance to live almost anywhere in Florida. I saw Gainesville as a city with a great future — the good bones I mentioned earlier — and have never looked back.