FlexCold celebrates Jax groundbreaking with donation to FNEFL

Originally appeared in Jacksonville Business Journal.

By Will Brown –  Reporter, Jacksonville Business Journal

Oct 26, 2021, 2:51pm EDT

FlexCold dared to be different.

The cold storage company will open a 151,000-square foot facility in the shadows of Jaxport next year. Instead of a massive grand opening celebration, the company paired Tuesday’s understated shovel ceremony with a $10,000 donation to Feeding Northeast Florida.

Jeff Manno, FlexCold’s co-founder and managing partner, said the Covid-climate where social distancing is still a social norm led to the company devising other ways to announce its entry into the Jacksonville market.

“We were looking at alternative ways to use some funds that would have gone to a larger in-person event,” Manno told the Business Journal. “We wanted to invest in the community. Given the industry we are in …we felt this was a great opportunity to use those funds in a very positive way to impact, directly, and positively people’s lives.”

The donation will provide 70,000 meals.

“For 1 in 7 individuals in our community, a daily meal isn’t a choice between different dishes. It’s a choice between food and other crucial needs — like medicine or electricity,” said Susan King, president and CEO of Feeding Northeast Florida in a statement. “We are grateful for FlexCold and its partner ARCO Design/Build’s generous donation and we look forward to welcoming FlexCold in Jacksonville next summer.”

To Manno, the donation is a statement of intent. This is the first cold storage facility FlexCold is developing from the ground up. Because the company moves food through the supply chain, specifically poultry exports and seafood imports, Feeding Northeast Florida appealed to their commitment to be active members of the community.

FlexCold’s parent company Flexspace Ventures is based in Charleston, South Carolina. Though the port nearest its headquarters processes more cargo than Jacksonville, Manno said ports the food service industry has relied on in Southern California, Philadelphia and, to a lesser extent, South Florida are facing various levels of congestion.

Jacksonville’s longstanding shipping relationship with Puerto Rico also appealed to FlexCold.

“Jacksonville was an attractive market due to a lot of the investments that have been made and are being made into the port directly,” Manno said. “There are significant investments in making the port available to larger ship and bigger carriers. Jacksonville as a region is very well-connected within the Southeast. We are a logistics company. Connectivity and efficiency, relative to transportation, as well as accessing product and sharing it with our customers, means Jacksonville is well-positioned to capture market share in the East Coast relative to eastern ports.”

FlexCold remains on track to open its facility in summer 2022. At full capacity, the facility will have 40-50 employees. Manno expects the company will start hiring for positions in the spring.

“Food is essential. It’s a space that is core to our society,” Manno said. “We are excited about our position in both Jacksonville and where we go from there.”