Marion County

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Over the next several months, you are going to be frequently seeing and hearing Vote Yes! from the CEP. Our Board has formally endorsed the renewal of the 1 Mil School Referendum. This renewal is incredibly significant to the continued growth of our community. It is important to me that our community understands why you should Vote Yes!

First, this is neither a new tax or a tax increase. It simply maintains the status quo. The revenue collected from the 1 Mil are dedicated to several key areas: classroom size reduction, art, music, PE, library, and Career/Technical Education. Additionally, the renewal will allow the School System to continue to fund vital safety measures such as school resource officers. All expenditures are carefully reviewed by an Independent Oversight Committee. All of these are important initiatives but I want to highlight Career/Technical Education and Safety. Continue reading

I recently hosted a meeting with several equine industry leaders to discuss the state of the industry and what comes next. In short, the industry is strong and the future is bring.

In 2015 the CEP commissioned an economic impact study of what it means, dollars and cents-wise, to be the Horse Capital. The data was both surprising and impactful. Equine contributes $2.6 billion annually to the local economy. That reflects not only the direct spin of the horse farms, shows, and support industries but also the thousands of tourists and guest who visit our community whether for a horse show, thoroughbred auction, or just to view the beautiful farms.

The CEP had planned to repeat the study in 2020 but put it on pause for two important reasons: 1) COVID and, more importantly, 2) the pending arrival of the World Equestrian Center. Today, this billion-dollar complex is remaking not only equine competition but our local tourism. With the second on-site hotel now under construction along with an events center, urgent care facility, and a number of additional restaurants and stores, the economic impact just of this facility easily reaches into the tens of millions of dollars annually. Continue reading

Here at the CEP we are big believers in Manufacturing. We believe that we you make stuff, you make wealth.

Manufacturing is a key component to our local economy. We have a strong, diverse manufacturing sector locally. Companies in the metro make everything from fire engines to missile control systems, cake sprinkles to hurricane impact windows and everything in between. With more than 12,000 employees, the Ocala Metro manufacturing sector is one of the largest in Florida.

AdvisorSmith, a business consultancy, ranked the Ocala Metro as a top mid-sized metro (250,000 to 750,000) for manufacturing. The area ranked in the Top 20 of ALL metros for manufacturing output growth and for manufacturing employment growth. Additionally, the Ocala Metro has consistently been ranked near the top in the growth of our manufacturing employment throughout 2021 and 2022

The strength of our manufacturing sector was very much highlighted during the pandemic when our companies not only kept employment strong but grew it throughout 2020.   Continue reading

At the CEP’s Annual Luncheon on 2 February, the new 5-year Strategic Plan, Forward Momentum, was unveiled to a crowd of nearly 1,100 business leaders. The plan had been developed over eight months in 2021 and involved consultations with a number of experts and economists.

The plan is a continuation of its two successors (Moving Forward and Moving Forward – Phase II) but also broadens the engagement of the CEP in a few key areas. All of the plans 19 goals are aligned with the CEP’s mission “to be the catalyst for a prosperous community.” The following are highlights of a few of the goals. The complete can be found at OcalaCEP.com/the-CEP/strategic-plan/

Business Advocacy – the top goal in Business Advocacy is the Renewal of the Local Option Sales Tax. This 1% tax was first approved by voters in 2016 and then overwhelmingly renewed in 2020. The tax is the best way to fund important and needed transportation and first responder needs. The revenues can only be spent on capital needs and approximately 1/3 of the revenue is collected by tourists and commuters who are using our roads and depending on our first responders but not otherwise contributing to their support. Continue reading

At the CEP’s Annual Luncheon on 2 February, the new 5-year Strategic Plan, Forward Momentum, was unveiled to a crowd of nearly 1,100 business leaders. The plan had been developed over eight months in 2021 and involved consultations with a number of experts and economists.

The plan is a continuation of its two successors (Moving Forward and Moving Forward – Phase II) but also broadens the engagement of the CEP in a few key areas. All of the plans 19 goals are aligned with the CEP’s mission “to be the catalyst for a prosperous community.” The following are highlights of a few of the goals. The complete can be found at OcalaCEP.com/the-CEP/strategic-plan/

Business Advocacy – the top goal in Business Advocacy is the Renewal of the Local Option Sales Tax. This 1% tax was first approved by voters in 2016 and then overwhelmingly renewed in 2020. The tax is the best way to fund important and needed transportation and first responder needs. The revenues can only be spent on capital needs and approximately 1/3 of the revenue is collected by tourists and commuters who are using our roads and depending on our first responders but not otherwise contributing to their support.

Business Attraction – the #1 goal in the plan is to secure a commitment for commercial passenger air service. As a community of nearly 400,000 the time is right for the return on local air service. Continue reading

The CEP recently completed its second 5-Year Strategic Plan, Moving Forward- Phase II, on 31 December 2021. This aggressive planned followed up on the original Moving Forward plan and outlined a series of strategic initiatives to advance the CEP’s goal of “being the catalyst for a prosperous community.”

The following is descriptions of several of the initiatives and programs outlined in the plan which were then implemented by the CEP:

  • Equine Engagement Initiative presented by Pyranha – just prior to the launch of this plan the CEP commissioned an economic impact analysis of the Marion County equine industry. We knew were Horse Capital of the World® but we did not know what that meant from an economic standpoint. The analysis revealed the equine industry contributes more than $2.6 Billion a year to the local economy. As a result, the CEP created the Equine Engagement Initiative to connect the horse community to the business community and vice versa.
  • NEXTWorks –is the CEP’s talent development initiative. This initiative seeks to partner the business community with our education providers. The goal is to develop and align training programs around skills needed by businesses in the Ocala Metro and that align with higher education providers such as the College of Central Florida (CF), Marion Technical College (MTC), local governments, the CEP, and CareerSource CLM. The CEP works closely with Marion County Public Schools, CF, and MTC on these initiatives with the recognition that while not every student needs to go to university, every student needs skills and career pathways that allow them to add skills throughout their lifetime.
  • Live Life Here presented by Professional Realty Ocala – as quickly as our community is growing, we cannot build all of the workforce we need today locally. We need to recruit talented individuals to discover why the Ocala Metro is a great place to live, work, and play. The Live Life Here initiative seeks to do that through targeted digital marketing.
  • Impact presented by Ausley Construction – is based on the belief that one of the best ways to impact communities is through entrepreneurship. Helping residents create their own jobs and wealth generators will have the most impact long-term and aligns with the CEP mission of creating a prosperous community. This initiative seeks to impact the communities of West Ocala, Marion Oaks, and Silver Springs Shores through onsite business assistance, a Certified Diverse Small Business Enterprise program, multi-language training events, and a supplier matching program.
  • Sphere presented by IHG – is the CEP’s effort around building a robust healthcare economy comprised not only of our growing and expanding hospital network but with enhanced R&D, healthcare manufacturing, healthcare logistics, biopharma, entrepreneurship, and workforce development.

Continue reading

Last month I highlighted several areas describing the economic growth our community has experienced throughout 2021. This month I am excited to highlight three more areas.

Healthcare

An item which can no longer be denied is the growth of Ocala as a regional healthcare hub. Continued investments and expansions by AdventHealth Ocala, Ocala Regional Medical Center, and West Marion Community Hospital have added beds, new service lines, and increased access to care throughout the community, all while continuing to provide amazing care through the pandemic. ORMC is adding a floor to finish its critical care tower while West Marion has begun work on a third tower with plans for an inpatient rehab and more beds. AdventHealth continues to expand services, especially with its refurbished and expanded NICU and its new, free-standing ER in Belleview. At the end of year, the Ocala City Council rezoned approximately 30 acres near US 27 and I-75 for a new hospital—the area’s fourth—being built by UF Health. Continue reading

Ocala, Fla.—Marion County’s number of new COVID-19 cases and new positivity rate both reached record highs last week, according to the most recent state report, released Friday.

Marion County reported 5,536 new cases for the week of Jan 7 to Jan. 13. That amount increased the county’s cumulative total of COVID-19 cases to 68,316. The positivity rate for the past week climbed to 31.3%. That was up from 24.6% for the previous week.

Those numbers repreent new weekly peaks for cases and the positivity rate since the onset of the pandemic.

Overall, the daily positivity rate for all new COVID-19 cases throughout Florida was 29.3%.

The state’s new report indicates 990 people in Marion County received vaccines between Jan. 7 and Jan. 13. That was a decrease of 52 vaccines from the previous week. The ratio of Marion County residents aged 5 or older who have been vaccinated remained at 62% during the latest reporting period.

“The increase we have seen this week is an indicator of how transmissible the virus is within our community,” said Department of Health in Marion County Administrator Mark Lander. “We encourage residents to consider a COVID vaccine if they have not received one, or a booster if they are eligible for that. Vaccines continue to be the most effective way to prevent serious illness or hospitalization from COVID-19 for people aged 5 or older.” Continue reading

Ocala, Fla. — Fort McCoy area residents will soon have opportunities to learn more about diabetes at a location close to them.

The Department of Health in Marion County, in partnership with the Marion County Hospital District, is holding free weekly classes on diabetes education and prevention at the Fort McCoy Public Library starting Jan. 19.

The Diabetes Empowerment and Education Program, or DEEP, is a series of classes that helps participants who have diabetes or are considered pre-diabetic better understand their condition and self-care.

Classes will cover topics such as understanding how diabetes affects the human body and how to monitor it. DEEP also includes instruction on the importance of a healthy, balanced diet, meal planning, and physical activity. Further, the classes will teach participants how to identify and prevent diabetic complications.

The six-week class begins on Jan. 19 and will occur each Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Feb. 23 at the public library in Fort McCoy (14660 NE County Road 315, Fort McCoy).        Continue reading

I am not sure how one could view 2021 as anything but an incredibly successful year for businesses in the Ocala Metro. The CEP is excited to review how our community continues to grow, diversify, and prosper. This month and next I am going to highlight of the same important areas of growth.

Economic Growth

The local economy continues to demonstrate very strong fundamentals. As of the time of this writing, the local unemployment rate was only 4.7%. The Ocala Metro has consistently led the state in the growth of manufacturing jobs throughout the year with a manufacturing workforce now exceeding 10,000.  Logistics, construction, hospitality, healthcare, and services all reported strong growth throughout the year. More importantly, the Ocala Metro is recording job growth while at the same time seeing wages report healthy gains.

Industrial Spec Development

One of the most significant changes in the local business community has been the planned investment by nearly a dozen companies in the area for industrial spec development projects that will add north of 7 million sq. ft. to the local market over the next 18 months. Why is this important? Not only will each of these facilities attract new companies and jobs, but just the investment in the facilities represents a capital investment of $700 million. As these facilities are added to the tax rolls in future years, that represents millions of dollars for local governments, our schools, and first responders. Millions of dollars in investment that benefit every citizen. Continue reading

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