Marion County

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Logistics. It is a word that has become a common part of the Ocala vernacular in the last few years but what does it mean? Why are logistics important to the local economy and how does it impact the community?

It is common to equate logistics and distribution but they are not equivalent. Logistics involves distribution but it is more than that. Logistics is the coordination and supply of raw materials, the management of production materials and finished goods, and the distribution of these goods to end users. Logistics is distribution but also manufacturing, marketing, warehousing, service, finance, and technology.

Ocala has become and is becoming more of a Logistics Hub for all of the reasons listed. Yes, the Ocala market has seen an explosion of distribution and fulfillment centers in the last few years. One needs to only drive around the community to see this impact with the new massive Amazon, AutoZone, Chewy, McLane, and Dollar Tree facilities. But one can also see the manufacturing role in logistics and the growth of companies and facilities like Signature Brands, Custom Window a Pella Company, and Cardinal LG. The FedEx Ground Hub, R&L Trucking facility, ABCO, and Swift Transportation are examples of the important delivery component in this sector. Continue reading

The CEP has been working over the last year to partner with businesses and governments in Lake County to create the Lake Economic Area Development (LEAD) Partnership. This public/private organization has been created and designed to lead efforts in further growing, diversifying, and uniting the Lake County regional economy.  The organization will work closely with government, private businesses, chambers of commerce, educational and workforce organizations, and other related stakeholders to collectively drive economic growth in Lake County.

Lake County has experienced significant population growth over the last two decades. However, while the population has grown, the community has not seen a corresponding increase in the number of primary employers. For more than two years, business leaders from throughout Lake County have been meeting and discussing how to play more of a leadership role in the economic agenda for the community. This concept of leadership—leading on the diversification of the local economy, leading on better-paying jobs, leading to grow the tax base, leading to build a self-sustaining economic future—is the premise on which LEAD is built. Continue reading

The Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership, along with CareerSource and Duke Energy, partnered together to thoroughly examine the underlying reasons for a persistently low labor force participation rate (LFPR) in Marion County. The three components used to conduct the LFPR analysis consisted of an assessment of local, regional and national data related to workforce, demographics and employment trends; interviews with local employers to examine the actual recruiting and hiring experience; and a large-scale survey of the working-age population.

The CEP and our partners know that by understanding why individuals are not in the workforce, we can better prepare our workforce and increase the overall economic vitality throughout the Ocala Metro.  Continue reading

What does it mean to live in a great community? I think all of us could answer this question with some similarities but also with some differences. For many, access to good schools and institutions of higher learning would be paramount. For others, a broad and diverse economy that provides opportunities for job growth and competitive wages. No doubt for some recreational activities and entertainment would be the hallmark of a great community. Housing choices, restaurants, the arts, etc. would all be components of most lists of what makes a great community. One item that would surely make every list is innovative, comprehensive healthcare. While I would argue (who would be surprised) that Ocala meets the mark on all of these aforementioned items, it is perhaps on this last one on which it is excels.

We have an incredible healthcare community in the Ocala Metro. The continual investment by HCA Florida and AdventHealth in their hospitals here is truly amazing. HCA Florida has been investing something like $200,000 a day, every day for more than five years in growing and expanding their facilities and services at HCA Ocala and HCA West Marion. Continue reading

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

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