Marion County

I am not sure how one could view 2019 as anything but an incredibly successful year for the Ocala Metro. The CEP is excited to review how our community continues to grow, diversify, and prosper.

Economic Growth

The local economy continues to demonstrate very strong fundamentals. As of the time of this writing, the local unemployment rate was a record seasonal low of 3.5%. But more importantly, the area recorded a Job Growth Rate of 3.1%. This number is not only strong but it is higher than the state average and nearly double the national average! The Ocala Metro is recording job growth while at the same time seeing wages report health gains.

Our newest major employer opened in February when McLane Company opened their new 400,000 sq. ft. distribution facility at Ocala International Commerce Park. The company now employs more than 500 people at this facility. Red Rock Development began construction this summer on a new 620,000 sq. ft. spec building in the Ocala/Marion County Commerce Park along the interstate. This new facility is significant in a couple of ways: 1) it will result in a $43 million investment in our community and 2) it represents a major investment in the growth of Ocala as a distribution hub. That a major developer like Red Rock was willing to make this investment on spec (or speculation meaning they do not have a tenant already lined up for the building) has further enhanced the community’s reputation as a place to do business. 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. Our current five-year 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

Kevin Sheilley was guest speaker at OBL Breakfast club. He spoke on progress in the county, gave us statistics that were very telling on where the county is headed and the CEP / Marion County Chamber is helping make happen. Marion County residents should be proud of our Chamber and all it’s doing and has accomplished.

By Louisa Barton

The equine industry is a really big deal here in the Horse Capital of the World. In fact, it is worth over $2.6 billion a year in the Ocala Metro and our public and private leadership appreciates the importance of this industry to our community.

A few years ago, the CEP commissioned a study showing the incredible number of jobs and revenue created in the Ocala area by the horse world. With this study, came a new realization of a need to find ways to bring the horse world and the non-horse world together. The CEP began its Equine Engagement Initiative with this goal in mind.

A new project from this initiative is a partnership between the CEP and the City. Bronze plaques will be created and placed in the new or re-done sidewalks downtown to celebrate a variety of horse breeds. The plaques will name thoroughbreds or other breeds who were either born here or who had strong ties and connections to this area. Perhaps, they were trained here or spent some major part of their lives here on one of the farms. Any horse born, weaned, conditioned, competed, trained or who learned to be a racehorse here, could be eligible for a plaque or a brick. It was decided an App would play a major role in sharing the details with visitors, so that the famous horses’ names could be located on this App and interested parties could learn all about the equine history and how these horses were tied to the area. Over then next year or so, one should start to see this plaques around the square. Continue reading

No one is surprised today that social media is literally everywhere. If your business is not thinking about and tackling this issue, odds are you are struggling. While we can laugh at Millennials and GenZ about their obsession with their phones and social media, I don’t think any of the rest of us are any different. I am proudly GenX but on more than one occasion just this week I have chosen where to eat based on an Instagram post (that ramen bowl at Big Hammock was almost as good at the picture!

We get our news, current events, latest happenings, restaurant updates, etc. all from social media. More than likely, your business needs to have a specific and deliberate effort on how to make this incredibly medium work for you. The CEP recently hosted a forum on social media use and one of the three big takeaways – your social media communication needs to be purposeful. Just throwing a lot of posts up will not drive opportunity. In fact, it will probably drive away your audience. At the CEP, we are constantly refining our strategy to ensure that we are being very purposeful with our posts and tweets. Continue reading

Marion County, Florida [Monday, September 16, 2019] – Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) detectives have confirmed that they have located and identified the body of Casei Jones (DOB: 12/23/1986) near Brantley County, Georgia.

Casei Jones’ family reported her missing Saturday night, September 14th along with her four children, Cameron Bowers (DOB 9/12/2009), Preston Bowers (DOB 8/22/2014), Mercalli Jones (12/09/2016), Aiyana Jones (DOB 8/10/2018). Her family had not seen her for six weeks. Detectives are continuing their investigation regarding the missing children. Casei Jones’ husband, Michael Waye Jones Jr. (DOB: 5/1/1981), has also been located in Georgia and is currently being questioned in connection to Casei’s death. At this time, a warrant has been issued for his
arrest for 2nd Degree Homicide.

Public Information Office Director
Office: (352) 368-3527
Cell: (352) 299-7186

Over the last year, you have probably heard and read a lot from the Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP) on the topic of workforce and talent development or NEXT works as we call it. When the CEP Board adopted our new 5-year strategic plan, Moving Forward-Phase II, in late 2016 it highlighted Talent Development as one of the two signature new project areas for the CEP. This new emphasis has really come into focus over the last couple of years.  I want to discuss why this is such an important emphasis for the CEP and then explain what we are doing.

As communities across the country have been rebounding and growing post-Great Recession, one of the areas that it became apparent had suffered was talent development. As companies, communities, and schools struggled to just remain viable, the importance of investing in workforce often went to the side. When this is coupled with the pending retirement of millions of Baby Boomers, a talent deficit becomes a clear reality. It is our belief that talent development is incredibly significant to the continued growth of our community. In fact, we believe the communities which figure out talent, will be the communities that win the next half century. Continue reading

There are so many incredible things happening in our community. Significant new facilities are under construction for the Red Rock Development and at all three hospitals.  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 the Ocala Metro 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

By Kevin Sheilley

I went Over the Edge! While many have tried to push me over the edge through the years, it was the arts that sent me. To be more precise, it was the Marion Cultural Alliance and their recent fundraiser, Over the Edge – Taking the Arts to New Heights, which saw me and approximately 60 other volunteers help to raise nearly $70,000 by rappelling off of the new 7-story SpringHill Suites hotel. When my mom saw the Facebook post where I was soliciting funds for the event, she called. She was very concerned that “you are going to die.” I assured her that I was planning on “Staying Alive” and thus rappelled in my favorite 70’s disco attire! (Note—while fun, rappelling in Florida in a polyester suit is not recommended).

Why would CEO of the Chamber & Economic Partnership join the Mayor, County Commission Chair, County Administrator, and others in raising funds for the community’s central arts funding organization? It is a fair question and one that is hopefully addressed in this column. Continue reading

By Kevin Sheilly

The Ocala/ Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership has again been named a finalist for the 2019 Chamber of the Year award, presented by Alexandria, Va.-based Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

The award, sponsored by MemberClicks, is the most prestigious and competitive recognition presented annually by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE). ACCE is an association of more than 8,000 professionals from 1,300 chambers of commerce, including 93 of the top 100 U.S. metro areas.

The CEP is honored to again by a finalist for this recognition. It is a great testament to the incredible work of our team, leadership, and most significantly, our partners. We were a finalist in 2017 for this award. We were awarded the Florida Chamber of the Year by the Florida Association of Chamber Professionals in 2018. Continue reading

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