Marion County

The Ocala Metro is Moving Forward. That means we are working steadily toward creating 4,500 new jobs in the next five years. Those jobs on average will pay 15 percent more than the county’s average wage and result in a capital investment of $400 million. We are accomplishing these goals through the strength of our partnerships. The College of Central Florida plays a vital role in helping meet our business attraction and retention goals by providing a competent, high-skilled workforce ready to meet the needs of current and future employers in high-demand jobs.

From certificates to associates and bachelor’s degrees in agribusiness, engineering technology, health information, computer information technology, equine studies, and logistics and supply chain management, CF has heard the demand of our targeted sectors. The college remains relevant and responsive, connecting workforce development to economic development by matching its programs to the needs of businesses and delivering educational opportunities to train new workers and up-skill current employees. CF looks to the future to develop programs that embrace technology as labor markets transition to a technology-driven economy. CF also looks to the future to nurture a college-going culture that encourages individuals to reach beyond a high school diploma and invest in attaining a higher level education that yields positive returns. Continue reading

Christy Jergens, APR

There has been an outbreak of hepatitis A in our state, and Marion County has now seen 54 cases of the virus just this year. This makes us fifth in the state for the number of hepatitis A cases that we have seen.

Vaccination is the best form of prevention for this virus, so to help fight the spread of hepatitis A, we are encouraging people who are at risk and anyone who would want to be protected from hepatitis A to get the hepatitis A vaccination. Attached please find several promotional materials for the free hepatitis A vaccination event we are holding on Saturday, April 27, along with a general social media graphic promoting hepatitis A vaccination. I’ve also included a press release we sent out on April 1 for reference/background.

We are asking our community and media partners to share some of this content if possible in hopes to increase the overall vaccination rate of people in our community to ultimately help turn the tide in the local number of hepatitis A cases. Please let me know if you are able to share any of this content with your staff, clients/audiences, or social media followers. You can find additional information about hepatitis A in Florida by visiting

Christy Jergens, APR

Public Information Officer

Florida Department of Health in Marion County

 MARION COUNTY, Florida (April 9, 2019)- Detectives from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and the Ocala Police Department (OPD) conducted a two-day operation on April 4th and 5th targeting suspects involved in retail theft crimes. With the cooperation of Walmart and their loss prevention personnel, MCSO and OPD all worked together to help reduce retail theft in Marion County.  After being observed committing retail theft crimes by loss prevention personnel and undercover detectives, 39 people were arrested with a combined total of 39 felony charges and 46 misdemeanor charges. 

During the operation, as individuals were apprehended for theft, detectives conducted interviews with the suspects to determine if they were involved with any additional crime in Marion County.   Numerous individuals that were arrested also received charges for drug possession or had warrants for other crimes previously committed.  Continue reading

Recently, I was asked how the CEP communicates with our partners and with the public. This led to an interesting discussion and I want to share it with you.

The goal of CEP communications is to effectively communicate the initiatives, positions, programs and accomplishments of the CEP to its partners, stakeholders, the media, and the community. Staff works to ensure consistent branding and messaging. The messaging is focused on the partners and is evaluated through surveys to ensure partner needs are met.

The following is a description of some of our communication tools: Continue reading

It’s hard to believe another CEP Annual Luncheon has come and gone. We put a tremendous amount of time and energy into this event to provide our partners with an incredibly experience that leaves them excited about our community, the CEP, and how their business is investing in “Doorways to Opportunity.” Thanks to everyone who attended this year and a special thanks to our sponsors: CareerSource CLM, Chase Bank, Duke Energy, On Top of the World Communities, and Zone Health & Fitness.

Once again, we sold out our 600 seats in just 10 days.  We added a second presentation to provide an additional opportunity for more partners to attend and participate. Encore presented by CenterState Bank was a cocktail reception and presentation held on the following evening at the Marion Theater. I am so glad we were able to add this second presentation and hope that we can grow this event in the future. 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 revisions to the County’s Comprehensive Plan.

Over the last several months, the Marion County Board of County Commissioners held workshops and public hearings on potential revisions to the Comp Plan. Among the groups who were active in participating in this process were supporters of our area’s equine industry as well as builders, developers, environmentalists, and others. Two of the clear desires of both the participants and the Commission was to strengthen our Farmland Preservation Area (FPA) and to incorporate language into the plan regarding the development of future transportation corridors especially in the FPA.

The FPA encompasses an area in northwest Marion County which is home to many of our iconic horse farms. While the FPA has existed for a number of years, it really did not have the structure to do as its name suggests—preserve farms. The CEP has been a proponent for quite a while of strengthening the FPA. Supporting the basics of the finalized language was an easy step. Continue reading

MARION COUNTY, Florida (December 10, 2018) – Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Major Crimes detectives have positively identified the remains of husband and wife, Robert Lee Cooper (DOB: 01/22/1981) and Ariel Vanessa Prim (DOB: 04/16/1989), whose remains were found inside their home after it had caught fire on July 28, 2018. Detectives are now asking for the public’s help in revealing any information that may bring some clarity to the suspicious circumstances surrounding their deaths.

On Saturday, July 28, Marion County Fire Rescue firefighters responded to 4030 SE 84th Lane

Road in Ocala in reference to a structure fire. When they arrived on scene, firefighters discovered the burnt remains of a mobile home. While searching the remnants of the residence, they discovered human remains inside the house and immediately requested the assistance of the MCSO. In the months following the incident, MCSO Major Crimes detectives conducted a thorough investigation into the deaths and finally received the DNA results confirming the remains to be Cooper’s and Prim’s on Wednesday, December 5, 2018. Continue reading

During this holiday season, I am often asked at parties “Where do you work?” While many people are aware of the CEP, I find a number of people are confused by our initials and who we are. It is easy to assume everyone knows who we are and what we do, but that is not always the case. The CEP is an acronym for the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership (now you know why we use CEP!). We are the community’s chamber of commerce as well as its official economic development organization. The CEP was formed just over six years ago with the merger of the former Chamber and Economic Development Council. While this version is only six years old, our roots go back 130 years to the founding of the Ocala Board of Trade in 1887.

The driving factor behind the merger of the two organizations was to create a unified, single voice for the business community. One entity that could assist businesses locating to our community, growing in our community, starting in our community, and thriving in our community. In fact, the basic structure of the CEP is with teams dedicated to Business Attraction, Business Retention, Business Creation, Business Advocacy, and Business Services. It was this approach in part which lead to the CEP being named Florida’s Chamber of the Year 2018 and a finalist last year for National Chamber of the Year. Continue reading

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

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