Jacksonville Mayor Travels with NFL Team to Woo Business

When the Jaguars played in London last year, the Florida city's mayor tagged along and used the trip to convince a top financial investment firm to open a new office in Jacksonville.

Mayor Alvin Brown with some of the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.
Mayor Alvin Brown with some of the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.
Sure, cities that are home to a major league sports franchise can claim a natural tourism attraction in the sports experience they offer. But why stop there?

Jacksonville, Fla., Mayor Alvin Brown attributes his recent economic development win – luring a top financial investment firm in Deutsche Bank – to his city’s NFL asset. During the most recent National Football League season, the Jaguars played the San Francisco 49ers in London (a city that’s becoming an annual international feature of the NFL schedule). Brown, who has a degree in business administration, went with the team and used the trip for business development.

“It was a very, very good move for us,” Brown recently told his colleagues at the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington, D.C. And, he added, Jaguars owner Shad Khan was in every major meeting, including the one with Deutsche Bank, to show his support (as were other local business executives).

“It’s an opportunity for mayors to leverage your asset with your NFL owner,” Brown said, adding “The way you market this is totally different today than it was five or ten years ago.”

According to media reports based on business filings, the new Deutsche Bank office would create 200 jobs and allowing it to solicit business for its corporate banking and securities division from Jacksonville. The jobs will pay an average of $62,000 a year; median household income in Jacksonville is about $48,000.

Brown’s comments came during a discussion between major league sports representatives and pro sports cities. As some cities, Jacksonville included, have struggled in the years following the recession to fill out their stadiums, some city mayors voiced their concerns about the game day experience becoming too expensive and inconvenient. In 2012, a total of 15 NFL games were blacked out in their local market because the stadiums failed to sell out. Last year, just two games were blacked out partly because of better attendance and partly because of loosened rules on what constitutes a “full’’ stadium.

Still, said Rory Verrett, the NFL’s vice president of public affairs, that’s not enough.

“We want to get to a point where there are no blackouts and you believe as fan, your team has chance to win every game,” he said. “A stadium that is not at capacity is simply proof that the fan needs more to show up.” 

Liz Farmer is a former GOVERNING fiscal policy writer.