ALACHUA – The city of Alachua's number one export could be employment.

The population of Alachua is about 9,000 people, according to the 2010 census. After subtracting the people below 18 and above 62, the population sits at about 5,000. The city has over 5,000 jobs, said Adam Boukari, assistant city manager. That means Alachua has more jobs available than people to do them. This makes the city a job exporter, creating employment for people in surrounding communities.

From an economic standpoint, Boukari said having fewer working-eligible people than jobs can be a good thing.

“You want your community to be self-sustainable,” he said. “We want people who live in our community to have an opportunity to be employed in our community.”

Progress Corporate Park employs over 1,000 people alone, Boukari said. Then there are the distribution centers for Cisco, Walmart and Dollar General, which employ about 1,500 people combined. That’s in addition to all the small businesses, he added.    

“We're able to attract business here,” he said.

Representatives from any of these three companies were not available to comment on the exact number of people they employ or what makes Alachua an attractive place for them.

However, Boukari gave a couple of reasons why the city draws in businesses.

He pointed to the quality of life in the area as one reason.

“I think it's one of the biggest things that bring people to Alachua.” Everything else being equal, the quality of life in Alachua can be a clincher, he said said.

Another reason is the tax rate, he said. The millage rate, the amount per $1,000 that is used to calculate taxes on property, is 5.5 percent. It might not be the absolute lowest in the area, but it's still competitive, he said.

Location might be a driving factor, too, noted Gib Coerper, mayor of Alachua. The town is central to several towns in Florida and Georgia, making it a good place for a distribution center.

The city streamlines the process for businesses setting up shop, Coerper said. When a company comes in, Alachua helps them set up their infrastructure and hook up utilities such as sewage.

“The City tries to find a way to help them get here and be successful.”

The willingness of the community to accept these businesses also plays an important role, Coerper said.

“They wanted the businesses”he said.  

Alachua continues to attract jobs at a faster rate than it increases in population.

Last month, Governor Rick Scott announced that the biopharmaceutical company Nanotherapeutics, Inc. based in Alachua will open a new manufacturing plant being built with a contract from the Department of Defense.

The plant is expected to bring in about 150 jobs, Governor Scott said.

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