Visionary goals for major cities began with desire to get off farm, get education
By KEN MURRAY Jacksonville Business Journal August 18, 1986 (See end of article for current note by Henry Luke)
Henry Luke knows the best way to get from Point A to Point B. Plantec Corp., the management consulting firm of which he is president, is responsible for creating visionary plans for government, industry, the private sector and individual clients.
“We help people think about the future,” said Luke, an optimistic and contemplative man. “Too many people make ad hoc decisions on a daily basis, based upon how they feel or what the pressures of the moment are. Most people don’t think about the future.”
Luke’s organized outlook on life began during his formative years in Union, Miss. “I’ve been setting goals for 30 years,” said Luke, 49. “I grew up in Mississippi plowing a mule. My Life Vision was to get off the farm and get an education.”
Plantec, a subsidiary of Reynolds, Smith and Hills Architects, Engineers, Planners, Inc., has helped cities such as Atlanta, Orlando and Fort Wayne, Ind., plan for the future and set attainable goals.
Luke’s volunteer work with the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce has provided much the same assistance for Florida’s First Coast. As chairman of the 2005 Task Force, Luke helped assemble an operable plan of economic and population growth. Visions include: a hub for national and international air and ground traffic, a nationally recognized medical center, a 24-hour downtown, improved commercial and economic development of Jacksonville’s northwest quadrant, a nationally recognized high technology and research park, a high quality of living and a region that believes in itself. Click for a copy: Jacksonville 2005 A Regional Vision
“We needed to decide what we as a city wanted to be,” Luke said, from his office in Jacksonville’s Southpoint. “In 1983, there were a lot of negative feelings about Jacksonville. We needed to develop leadership in the city and a region that believes in itself. Now the national developers, like the Rouse Co. and The Paragon Group are coming in.”
The theme, Florida’s First Coast, came from the task force and has been used as a way to market the region instead of just Jacksonville.
It makes us a ‘bigger’ market: Sawgrass, Amelia Island and Ponte Vedra are here and they’re not in Duval County, Luke said, emphasizing Northeast Florida’s growing reputation as a place for tourists and vacationers to visit.
Luke, who earned his undergraduate degree at Mississippi State University, moved to Jacksonville in 1965, “two minutes after I received my graduate degree from the University of Tennessee,” he said. He chose Jacksonville over Birmingham and Lakeland, where he also had job offers, because he liked the city.
Luke’s career has followed the same orderly path that he prescribes for his clients. Now, his time is spent working with clients as well as promoting and marketing the company. “I just can’t get away from servicing people,” he said.
It is clear that Luke is in love with Jacksonville. His civic involvement is endless. His Chamber of Commerce duties have included being chairman of the Legislative Policy Task Force and the Strategic Planning Task Force, vice president of Community Development, co-chairman of the Jacksonville 2005 Arts Task Force, vice president of International Development and a member of the High Technology Council.
Outside of the Chamber, Luke has headed the Duval County Research and Development Authority and has been a member of the Mayor’s High Technology Commission.
He has served as chairman of Gov. Bob Graham’s Economic Advisory Committee, was chairman of The Florida Companies, which merged with Fairfield Communities Inc. in 1983, is a board member of Reynolds, Smith and Hills and is chairman of Plantec Realty Corp., a sister company to Plantec Corp.
He also is very involved with the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville and affirms that the underlying theme for his success is his belief in God.
Luke lends his Mississippi drawl and talent to share ideas with others. He has spoken a number of times on plans for Florida’s growth, but also has keynoted meetings on port development in the Southeast and diversification and upgrading of minority businesses. “Before last year the Chamber made two trips overseas,” he said. “Last year, we made three to Canada, Europe and Japan. Part of the process of growing is to get more international thought in the area. We ought to give Japanese visitors physicals at the Mayo Clinic, let them play golf at Sawgrass and have them attend seminars at the University of North Florida. This will lead to more Japanese investments in the area.”
Luke, who helped create the Chamber’s Defense Industry Council, said high technology firms, especially those that are defense related, should be encouraged to locate in Jacksonville. Attracting these companies will depend on establishing a high technology base, he said, adding that the four major military installations in the area are a strong incentive.
Teamwork, family, faith and order are the strong themes in Luke’s philosophy. From the decisions that will change Atlanta and its suburbs to decisions he makes with his wife, Barbara, and children David and Linda, Luke is straight to the core. “The truth of the matter is, I just have fun,” he said. “I enjoy doing what I do.
“Jacksonville’s port was No. 1 in the Southeast in 1970,” he said. “Due to various reasons, by 1980 we were a poor third to Charleston and Savannah. It’s simply a matter of marketing and having enough capital to spend. By 2005, Jacksonville can again become the No. I port in the Southeast. We need to do that or they will go to Charleston and Savannah.’
When asked what activity he enjoys most, or which project he is most fond Luke will say they are all important and that he enjoys “hepping” people. “That’s the Mississippi in me,” he said, laughing.
Herbert Peyton, president of Petroleum Co., says Luke “has a better feel for what’s going on in Duval County than anybody.” “Henry makes it his business to know what’s going on,” said Peyton, who has worked with Luke on several of Gate’s acquisitions. “Henry is very intelligent. I don’t know of anybody who could fill his shoes.”
Arthur (Chick) Sherrer, the Chamber’s executive vice president, described Luke as “the most committed person to well-managed growth in Jacksonville. “He’s a Christian gentleman in every sense of the word. Henry is a visionary. He is one of a handful of people in the city who seem to be on top of everything. Everyone has tremendous respect for him,” Sherrer said.
The success of the projects with which Luke has been involved speaks for itself.
“We needed to decide what we as a city wanted to be. . . We needed to develop leadership in the city and a region that believes in itself.”
Jacksonville has made great strides in achieving its goals set with the 2005 Task Force. It has improved its air transportation, and attracted the Mayo Clinic-Jacksonville. “The best thing that has come into Jacksonville,” Luke said of the world-famous medical group.
But there are things in the city that need continuing work, he said. Improving education remains the key to maintaining the rate of success in attaining the city’s goals. Luke has assisted the University of North Florida in establishing a school of engineering, which he said is vital to attracting national high technology firms. Improving trade with foreign countries also is important in making Jacksonville an internationally known city.
My first “Life Vision” in 1950 was to “get off the farm”. In 1986 I developed my second “Life Vision”. A link to the third vision is here . In “tags” below in the post you can click on “Life Vision” and all my related posts will come up.
Henry Luke July 14, 2015, revised 8/30/2017