Marion County

Three of the key areas on which the CEP focuses to drive our mission is Business Attraction, Business Retention, and Business Creation. Each of these areas is equally important as we seek to be the catalyst for a more prosperous community by serving as the voice of the business community and working to create and retain jobs and provide a return on investment for our partners. Not only are they equally important, but each has had recent successes.

Business Attraction

The CEP was able to officially announce recently that Nice Snacks had purchased a facility in the Ocala International Commerce Park and would be establishing their headquarters and manufacturing operations here. Nice is a private company which bakes healthy snacks. Food manufacturing is one of our five target sectors and they will be a great addition to our community. The company will be adding 25 employees and looks forward to being an active corporate citizen. Continue reading

One of the goals and primary focuses of the CEP from its inception has been to raise the wage level in our community. From our initial 5-year strategic plan (Moving Forward), one of the three BIG goals has been to not only attract new jobs but jobs which pay an average wage which is 15% higher than the county average. We evaluate every project we are working against this measure and we ask local government to only incent those businesses and jobs which will meet this standard.

The Census Bureau and various other economic entities provide a variety of ways for us to track this growth. The primary metric we use is the Average Weekly Wage as reported in the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. Today, the average wage which is required for us to incent a project is over $42,000/year. This is a 27% increase over the initial target wage. Our AVW has grown nearly 9% in the last two years which is nearly triple the state average. Continue reading

MARION COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE INTRODUCES NEW PROGRAM FOR HEARING-IMPAIRED DRIVERS

MARION COUNTY, Florida (August 24, 2018) – The Marion County Sheriff’s Office

(MCSO) has just introduced a new program designed to assist hearing-impaired drivers interact with our deputies. Statistics show that nearly 3 million Floridians have some form of hearing loss. Realizing the potential for miscommunication during a traffic stop between the deputy and the driver, MCSO has designed a communication card to assist with this.

The program works as follows: MCSO provides the hearing-impaired driver with a special sticker to place on the rear of their vehicle which alerts the deputy to the fact that the driver is hearing-impaired. A visor card is also provided for the driver to keep in the car with them to present to the deputy during a traffic stop. This visor card uses pictures and phrases that both the deputy and the driver may point to in order to better communicate with each other. This will help ensure that the driver knows the reason for the traffic stop and will ensure that the deputy knows how best to help the driver. Continue reading

Over the next several weeks, 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!

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 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

There are so many incredible things happening in our community. Significant new facilities are under construction for the McLane Company and Cardinal LG.  The Power Plant Business Incubator continues to help innovative and scalable startups primarily in the areas of technology, health care, and communications. The downtown continues to generate enthusiasm with the new Hilton Garden Inn under construction, an ever growing line up of restaurants and stores, and more residential options in the works. All of this excitement and growth is in large part the result of our partners. Thank you for your engagement and investment in moving Ocala and Marion County forward.

Leadership Ocala Marion 

Spring brings warmer weather, high school proms and graduations, and the beginning of planning for the CEP’s amazing leadership programs. For more than 30 years, Leadership Ocala Marion (LOM) has been training and providing opportunities to train new generations of leaders on the needs of this community and how they can engage. Continue reading

The following column was originally published in the Florida Chamber of Commerce magazine to focus on the important role local chambers play in economic development.

Jobs. Investment. Wages. Taxes. Entrepreneurship. Incentives. Construction. All of these terms have been used to define economic development. Depending on where one lives, all could be right, some could be right, or none could be correct. Defining economic development is different for every one of Florida’s 67 counties. While defining economic development is hard, knowing who is responsible is pretty easy.

At its heart, economic development is the ultimate local issue. What is an appropriate and goal-worthy definition of economic development for Ocala (my home) will be very different than the definition in Miami which will be equally different from Pensacola’s definition. Even more important than the definition is the implementation. Whatever your definition, how are you going to practice economic development? Again, this is really a local issue but one in which the state and federal governments play a tremendous part. Continue reading

The Power Plant Business Incubator is Ground Zero in the CEP’s Business Creation efforts. The incubator, in existence since 2012, is a facility in downtown Ocala where entrepreneurs can temporarily locate their new businesses and receive a host of resources and connections. Resident companies must meet entrance criteria including being innovative, scalable, and open to coaching/mentorship.

The incubator currently has 14 companies in industries including software, mobile application development, biotech, virtual/ augmented reality, media, 3D printing, medical device and more.

Some of our new Residents:

Elistars – Bharat Patel, Founder
Convenience store business management and back office software that sets business on cruise control and makes managing a store a breeze. www.elistars.com Continue reading

MARION COUNTY, Florida (February 13, 2018) – Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Major Crimes detectives arrested Dunnellon resident David Romig (DOB: 10/07/1965) for reporting an alleged home invasion on Tuesday, January 30, 2018, in an effort to cover up the murder of his live-in girlfriend, Sally Kaufmann-Ruff (DOB 10/06/1953).

Romig told detectives at the time of the incident that an unknown armed subject entered his home located at 10499 SW 122nd Court in Dunnellon in the early morning hours on Tuesday, and that Kaufmann-Ruff had been shot during an altercation between Romig and the subject. During the investigation, evidence proved that David’s initial testimony was false and that he had staged the scene to support the presence of an intruder after he had shot Kaufmann-Ruff during an “out-of-body” experience. Continue reading

It is hard to believe 2017 has come to an end and we are already in the second month of 2018. The CEP recently hosted its Annual Luncheon with a sold out crowd of more than 600. With a theme of Delivering on Success, we shared with our partners many of the successes of the past year and goals reached through the first year of our 5-year Action, Moving Forward-Phase II.

Talent

The major new initiative of this plan is actually a two-prong approach to grow and attraction talent. The CEP took several steps for this effort in 2017 with the hiring of a Director of Talent Development, Dean Blinkhorn, and the creation of two programs to focus on these efforts.

Our Talent Development Initiative is presented by Townley Manufacturing who has made a significant commitment to this effort. The CEP will be partnering with our schools systems and higher education partners to ensure that teachers have the tools they need to provide relevancy to their lessons. This does not mean that we are going to tell teachers how to teach. Instead, we are going to provide them with resourced to help them prepare students for the realities of the workforce they will be entering. Continue reading

As part of the CEP’s mission to be the catalyst for a prosperous community, the organization partners closely with local governments (as well as state and Federal) to ensure that we are creating and maintaining a business climate which encourages growth and prosperity. A recent example of this can be found in the issue of transportation impact fees.

In December, the Marion County Board of County Commissioners held a public hearing on transportation impact fees. Among those who expressed their support in keeping these fees at their current rate was the Impact Fee Task Force coordinated by the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP).  The Task Force is composed of a broad range of professionals who are working on issues related to building and development every day.  This group partnered with the County to study the impact fees when first proposed in 2015 and looked at the issue again last fall. At the conclusion of this hearing, the Commission made the unanimous decision to keep these fees at their current level. Continue reading

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