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Wages rising for some as more tech workers, other high-earners move to Jacksonville – The Florida Times-Union

The new $145 million FIS headquarters complex on Jacksonville's Riverside Avenue is being built with the involvement of city incentives that envisioned the addition of 500 employees by 2029.

Salaries of people moving into Jacksonville have been rising substantially faster than incomes of people already living here, new data from the Internal Revenue Service shows.

Over 10 years, the average adjusted gross income of households moving into Duval County rose 49.4 percent, reaching $58,124 on tax forms filed for 2019, according to information the IRS released last month.

Growth of technology jobs could have a lot to do with that, say development watchers who’ve seen a string of reports crediting Jacksonville with one of the country’s highest growth rates in the number of tech workers.

“Particularly as we grow in areas of IT and innovation, finance and biomedical companies … we are seeing high-wage jobs more readily available,” said Aundra Wallace, president of JAXUSA Partnership, the JAX Chamber’s economic development arm.

Existing households have been making more money too, and the average adjusted gross income on their tax forms — $71,190 for 2019 — remained well above the people just moving in.

But the gap has been closing, with newcomers’ income rising about one-third faster than locals.

The higher earnings could also be tied to another trend affecting Jacksonville’s growth: more people moving between Duval County and large Sunbelt cities with reputations as significant business hubs.

“The city has always wanted to be part of that network,” said Ray Oldakowski, a Jacksonville University geography professor who spotted the surge in wages as he tracked changes in a list of counties where people have been moving to Duval County.

Jacksonville has "a strong and growing reputation as a leader in fintech," Mayor Lenny Curry said during a ceremony this month marking progress in construction of the new FIS headquarters on Riverside Avenue. FIS is among the businesses that have drawn a wave of tech workers to the city.

“We’ve broadened that network to include these business centers in the South like Houston, like Charlotte, like Phoenix,” Oldakowski said. Tax returns for 2019 reflected about 700 people in Duval County who lived the year before in the counties containing those three cities, and more than 800 people from Duval County who had moved there.

The flow of transplants gets noticed in job interviews too.

“A lot of people I talk with are interested in Jacksonville because of the job opportunities,” said Ryan Drake, president of NetTech Consultants, a Southside IT support firm that focuses on small and medium-sized companies who don’t have in-house tech staff.

Drake, who moved from the Charlotte, N.C. area about 10 years ago and joined NetTech in 2013, said he’s met newcomers on the job market as his company has grown from just a couple of employees to about 30.

Talking to prospective hires from other areas, they “see Jacksonville as a place they can advance their careers,” he said.

Jacksonville hoping to bank on tech workers for its future

The city has been banking on workers like that advancing its future too.

“Our city has a strong and growing reputation as a leader in fintech, due in large part to the presence of FIS,” Mayor Lenny Curry said this month at a topping-off ceremony marking progress building the Fortune 500 financial service company’s new $145 million headquarters.

“That reputation is what’s bringing Dun & Bradstreet to town,” Curry said later, referencing the business data titan’s planned relocation here. “And I’m confident that this is only the beginning. More and more companies will relocate to Florida — and Jacksonville in particular … And we welcome them here with open arms.”

The city has spent years negotiating incentives for companies that can grow the area’s economy, often with firms that depend on tech workers. Homegrown health care tech firm Forcura’s deal last year to add 115 jobs was a recent example, but agreements in 2019 with FIS involving 500 new jobs, SoFi (300 jobs) and SS&C Technologies (close to 200) were notable for the of the firms making deals in Jacksonville.

Companies adding jobs here are often paying skilled workers a little less than in many cities.

San Francisco-based finance company SoFi, which opened this office on Gate Parkway, agreed in 2019 to hire 300 workers as part of its Jacksonville operation.

A low-level network administrator might earn about $60,000 in Jacksonville compared to a national median around $63,300, according to  But landing that job could lead eventually to becoming a senior network administrator, which the salary-tracking website said last month carried a median pay in Jacksonville — half earned more, half less — around $94,200.

In a city where the median household income has been around $54,700, even discounted pay from jobs like that can deliver a decent living.

“Salaries go a lot further in Jacksonville versus other large cities,” Wallace said by email.

As companies have moved jobs to Jacksonville, people have apparently been moving too.

Multiple news organizations this month reported that data provided by LinkedIn indicated Jacksonville could have the country’s fourth-highest migration rate among tech company employees during 12 months that ended in April. That estimate, which ranked Austin, Nashville and Charlotte as Nos. 1 through 3, was based on changes in the home cities reported by LinkedIn members who worked for tech companies.

A separate LinkedIn report in March estimated Jacksonville’s five-county metro area may have had the country’s second-highest overall gain in migration between April 2020 and February.

Whether that’s right or not, the volume of people moving to Duval County has risen faster than the number leaving, IRS data shows. Where the county actually lost households because of people moving in 2009, it gained 2,209 households in 2019, a year when 28,149 households arrived and 25,940 left, the data shows.