Ocala Marion Chamber
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
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.
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
Hopefully, at some point you have heard someone discuss or read about “The CEP.” While we sometimes assume everyone knows who we are and what we do, we are reminded 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 five years ago with the merger of the former Chamber and Economic Development Council. While this version is only five years old, our roots go back 130 years to the founding of the Ocala Board of Trade in 1887. Continue reading
One of the things I enjoy most about my job is getting to speak to different groups. Big groups or small, business people or social groups, it really does not matter. I love talking about our community and the role of the CEP. Regardless of the size of the group, the nature of the questions is often the same – “What is the new building going up . . .” and “When will get a . . .” Usually, I know the answer or at least can proffer an educated guess. In this issue, I would like to highlight some of the most frequently asked new building questions.
What are those building going up near FedEx?
If you have not taken a moment and driven down NW 35th Ave into the Ocala-Marion County Commerce Park, I would encourage you to do so. Just past the new FedEx Ground Hub one can see two large buildings under construction. The building to the east is the new AutoZone Distribution Center. This facility is covers more than 440,000 sq. ft. and will serve AutoZone stores in Florida and Puerto Rico. The facility to the north or just past FedEx is the new Chewy.com Fulfillment Center. This building will encompass 620,000 sq. ft. Combined both facilities represent nearly 1.1 MILLION sq. ft. of new space. Eventually these three companies will employ approximately 1,500 workers. Continue reading
At the CEP, things are always changing. We are looking for ways to provide an ever greater return on investment for our partners and for the community. We are excited to announce a new program to encourage entrepreneurs and two new team members who have recently join us.
1 Million Cups-Ocala
Ocala soon will be the newest home of a national program to engage, educate and connect local entrepreneurs. 1 Million Cups — based on the notion that entrepreneurs network and discover solutions over a million cups of coffee — is a free, weekly gathering that helps to build startup communities on a grassroots level.
Beginning Wednesday, September 20, 2017, entrepreneurs, innovators, funders and other interested community members are invited to attend each Wednesday from 9:30am to 10:30 a.m. at the CEP’s Power Plant Business Incubator – 2nd Floor, located at 405 SE Osceola Ave. Ocala. Continue reading
We are #1 (or at least a finalist)! I am very excited to share that the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP) has been named a finalist for the 2017 Chamber of the Year award, presented by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. The CEP along with the other three finalists for the award will be celebrated at a special event on Tuesday, July 18, in Nashville, Tenn., with the winner to be announced that evening.
This is an incredible testament to the success of our partners and leadership in implementing their vision with our Moving Forward campaign. We are excited for this recognition and to shine a light on the great work being done in this community.
Chamber of the Year is the nation’s only award recognizing the leadership role chambers have in their communities. Those honored with the Chamber of the Year designation have demonstrated organizational strength and made an impact on key community priorities, such as education, transportation, business development and quality of life.
Chambers of commerce interested in competing for the award must first qualify by participating in a vigorous, multi-stage process. Organizations entering the Chamber of the Year competition must meet minimum thresholds in at least three of five key performance areas, including net revenue, net assets, membership account retention, and membership dollar retention. Continue reading
One of the two primary goals of the CEP is to create and retain jobs in our community. Four of our five core areas are organized around this goal. You will often see our five-year goal of impacting the announced creation of 4500 new jobs if you attend a CEP event or browse our website. However, job creation is more than just the projects that we directly impact. In fact, if we are doing our jobs then the community should see greater economic impact and job creation.
One way many people track the status of the job market is through the unemployment rate. While there are some real challenges with this approach, it does provide a good barometer of what is happening in our community. Using the latest numbers available (March 2017), the current unemployment rate in the Ocala MSA (Marion County) is 5.1 percent. This is a tremendous improvement from just a few years ago when it surpassed 14 percent. Additionally, when you look at the three-county workforce the numbers remain very positive. Marion County is the center of a regional workforce shed so these numbers are important. The unemployment in this region was 5.2 percent with nearly 5,900 more people employed than a year ago. Continue reading
There are so many incredible things happening in our community. The coming months will see the announcement of new primary employers and major expansions by existing primary employers. The Power Plant Business Incubator continues to help innovative and scalable startups primarily in the areas of technology, health care, and communications. The downtown area continues to generate enthusiasm with the new midtown plan, an ever-growing line up of restaurants and stores, and the long awaited hotel project set to break ground by the end of summer. 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 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