Our number one goal is to ensure that our community is vibrant and prosperous, and the key to that is to have a vibrant, prosperous business community. As a result, we have a program to meet nearly every business need.
Businesses do not have to be CEP Partners to apply. Funds are available to businesses in the following breakdown:
Bridge to Recovery Program – The Bridge to Recovery Program seeks to assist businesses with 25 or fewer employees who have been experiencing continuing negative impacts as a result of the
- The businesses will need to submit an online application demonstrating the negative impact of COVID-19 and will be able to receive up to $15,000.
Moving Forward Program – The Moving Forward Program seeks to assist businesses with 26-100 employees who have been experiencing continuing negative impacts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The businesses will need to submit an online application demonstrating the negative impact of COVID19 and will be able to borrow up to $40,000.
Testing Capacity Enhancement Grant – The Testing Capacity Enhancement Grant program seeks to assist private labs, clinics, and physician offices which are looking to increase their testing capacity. Business may apply one time for a reimbursement of up to $30,000 for expenses which demonstrate their intention to increase their testing capacity beyond what was previously available. Continue reading
In August, voters throughout our community will go to the polls to decide several local elections and, in some cases, select candidates for the November ballot. While these local raises are very important, I would like to mention an item for which you will start hearing more after Labor Day and heading towards November.
Safety. It is probably something we all take for granted until we need it. It is important to our families and to our businesses. We all want to know that in time of emergency, we can depend on the fire department, emergency services, and law enforcement to come to our aid. We also want to know that our roads will be safe to travel on.
In March 2016, Marion County voters approved a one-percent sales tax for public safety and transportation infrastructure. There are no salaries nor recurring costs paid by the sales tax revenues. Since January 2017, the tax has brought in $166M in estimated revenue that has funded 43 projects including:
- Building of Northwest 49th Avenue to improve traffic-carrying capacity and enhance the opportunity for economic development in the area.
- Rehabilitation of over 53 miles of roadways including: County Road 464B, County Road 326, County Road 316, County Road 42, and County Road 320
- Marion County Fire Rescue equipment including: 12 new ambulances, 5 new engines, 1 ladder truck, 300 self-contained breathing apparatus, and new fire station at Rolling Greens
- City of Ocala has completed 12 road improvement projects valued at over $1.9M
- City of Ocala also added two new fire stations and a police district office at the cost of $5.1M
Date: June 18, 2020
Florida Department of Health in Marion County Community Health Nurse Gina Rohr speaks to a resident about the testing process before being swabbed for COVID-19 on June 16 at the department’s drive-through test site. The department tests individuals for COVID-19 both at its facility and at off-site locations. Staff tested close to 400 individuals today at Stonecrest, a local 55+ community.
So far, 19,488 COVID-19 tests have been given in Marion County. Of those, 19,149 were negative. Individuals who tested positive for the virus have ranged in age from 6 months to 97 years old. Eight Marion County residents have died after becoming ill with COVID-19. Marion’s overall positive test rate is 1.7%; Florida’s positive test rate is 5.6%. For more detailed information on all Marion cases, view Florida’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard at https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/96dd742462124fa0b38ddedb9b25e429.
If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or if you are experiencing symptoms of the virus (such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing), DOH-Marion recommends that you get tested for the virus. The department offers free COVID-19 testing; call 352-644-2590 to schedule an appointment at the health department. You do not need to be experiencing symptoms to be tested. Testing is also available at other local medical providers; call before visiting a facility if you would like to be tested for COVID-19. Continue reading
The CEP continues to engage and work to ensure our community keeps moving forward. We are very excited about the two items I am highlighting this month.
I am sure most have heard the news by now, but the CEP was pleased to join the Ocala City Council and Marion County Board of County Commissioners in welcoming Amazon’s announcement that they will establish a distribution facility in the Ocala Metro.
The company has leased the 617,000 sq. ft. spec building being constructed by Red Rock Developments. This new facility will create approximately 300 jobs, all making at least $15.00 per hour from day one.
The CEP is pleased to welcome Amazon to our community. What an incredible addition to the Ocala Metro! We look forward to seeing their brand welcoming residents to the area.”
The new Amazon facility is located in the Ocala/Marion County Commerce Park along I-75. The company joins existing park tenants Chewy.com, AutoZone, and FedEx Ground which all operate logistic facilities in the park. Continue reading
Take precautions the COVID-19 is spiking in Marion County.
Photo provided by Department of Health in Marion County: Florida Department of Health in Marion County Community Health Nurse Gina Rohr speaks to a resident about the testing process before being swabbed for COVID-19 on June 16 at the department’s drive-through test site. The department tests individuals for COVID-19 both at its facility and at off-site locations. Staff tested close to 400 individuals today at Stonecrest, a local 55+ community.
OCALA, Fla.-The Department of Health in Marion County is reporting 331 cumulative cases of COVID-19 as of this afternoon. The most recent individuals confirmed to have the virus are:
- 22-year-old male from Belleview
- 22-year-old female from Ocala
- 30-year-old male from Ocala
- 33-year-old male from Ocala
- 53-year-old male from Belleview
- 60-year-old female from Ocala
The following is a review of just some of the ways the CEP is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic:
Get. Gather. Go.
The CEP ran a marketing campaign around the Paycheck Protection Program called Get. Gather. Go. We were seeking to GET our businesses informed on the program; encouraging them to GATHER the needed documents; and to GO apply. And apply they did! After the first round of funding, we determined that 1 in 8 Marion County businesses received a PPP loan. That compares extremely favorably to the state (1 in 25) and national (1 in 19) rates. All told, approximately 2800 businesses received nearly $300 million in funding in the first round.
The second round of funding is still live but antidotally it appears that most eligible businesses are finding success. We have been in regular communication with our lenders who have done a phenomenal job literally working around the clock to meet the needs of the local business community. We anticipate that when this round is finished, something approaching 25% of all local businesses (not just eligible businesses but all businesses) will have received a PPP loan. Continue reading
The following is a review of just some of the ways the CEP is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic:
Get. Gather. Go.
Hopefully, you saw our efforts around the marketing blitz to GET businesses informed on the Paycheck Protection Program, have them GATHER the necessary information, and GO apply. We ran radio, billboards, social media, cable, and print. The social media campaign reached more than 50,000 people. We created a dedicated website (GetGatherGo.com) in addition to our COVID-19 response page. The goal was to get as many local businesses as possible to apply. We hosted a webinar on filling out the application and filled it to our 100-seat capacity. The webinar was recorded, posted on our website, and was viewed more than 1,000 times. Finally, actively engaged with all of our lending institutions to make sure businesses had the latest tips on applying.
Local Loan Fund
The City and County have both approved funding for a local loan fund. The Paycheck Protection Program has moved much faster than anyone anticipated and is much more attractive to borrowers than originally promoted (the loan is forgivable and any portion not forgiven carries a 1% interest rate). This is a much better option for our businesses and we are encouraging those who were interested to pursue this instead. However, the CEP finalized the agreement with both the City and County so that we can activate this program should we need to in the coming days. As a note – the CEP is taking no fees or admin on this program. Continue reading
The purpose of the CEP is to be the One-Stop Shop and Voice of the Business Community. We are the designated economic development organization for all of the Ocala Metro. While many focus on our Business Attraction successes (bringing in new major employers like McLane, Dollar Tree, and FedEx) or our Business Services programs (such as Business After Hours, TuesdayTalks, and Leadership Ocala Marion), it is our Business Retention and Business Creation efforts that really have the ability to impact the business community. This is especially true as we go through a difficult crisis such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Our Business Retention efforts are focused on assisting existing businesses throughout the community with a particular focus on primary employers (manufacturing, distribution, and large office). We work with approximately 200 businesses every year REGARDLESS of their partnership with the CEP. In other words, a business does not have to be a CEP partner to receive assistance. Much of this work is focused on removing barriers to their growth. Sometimes this means connecting them existing resources on the local, state, and federal level. Other times it means we are connecting them with other businesses to the benefit of both. Continue reading
The Ocala MSA ended the year with a run of national rankings which will frame the state of the local economy quite well. The area ranked #3 on U-Haul’s List of the Top 25 Cities for Growth. This ranking aligns well with previous analysis which showed the 25-34-year-old segment as the fastest growing demographic locally. Additionally, the area ranked among the top mid-sized metros in rankings for manufacturing (Advisor Smith) and entrepreneurship (Cloud Kitchen). All of these accolades reflect the area’s continued significant growth along with a diversifying economic base.
Two major primary employment announcements occurred during the year. Dollar Tree announced plans to construct a 1.7 million sq. ft. distribution center in the new Florida Crossroads Commerce Park which will result in a capital investment of more than $210 million and will create 700 new jobs. This will be the first facility in the new Florida Crossroads Commerce Park seeking to ignite growth in the southwest portion of the community. GTI, a publicly traded company in Canada, announced that an affiliate had purchased the former Mark III complex and would begin redevelopment efforts in the first quarter of 2020. The company is a major player in the medical cannabis industry and the complex will be a cultivation and processing facility. The first phase of the project will result in a $20 million investment and the creation of 100 new jobs. Continue reading
The mission of the CEP is to be the catalyst for a prosperous community and one of the primary ways we seek to deliver on this mission is by actively working to recruit new primary employers. The Ocala Metro recently reported an unemployment rate of 3.4% which is lower than the national average. More importantly, our job growth rate has been averaging 3% which is nearly double the national average. Our wage growth has also been greater than the national average. In other words, our unemployment rate is decreasing, our workforce is increasing, we are creating more jobs and they are paying higher wages.
This growth can be directly tied to the CEP’s current five-year goals. These goals include impacting the announced creation of 4,500 new jobs which pay an average wage which is 15% above the current County average and will result in a direct capital investment in our community of $400 million. Through the first two years (17 & 18) of this current strategic plan, we have announced 2837 new jobs paying an average wage 17% above the County average with a capital investment of $318.6 million. While this is a great start, we believe year 3 is going to end as one of the best for these measures. Continue reading