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

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.

Business Creation – the creation of a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) is imperative to implementing our mission of a prosperous community for all. This non-bank lender would work in partnership with local lenders to increase access to capital in our three majority-minority communities of West Ocala, Silver Springs Shores, and Marion Oaks.

Business Retention – work has begun on a Workforce Participation Study to better understand the more than 50% of working age adults who are not currently in the workforce. This study, financially underwritten by CareerSource CLM and Duke Energy, will seek to identify these various group, barriers to their entering the workforce, and how those barriers can be addressed. Results from the study are expected in late summer/early fall.

Business Services – this is the area of the CEP dedicated to some of our most popular programs – Leadership, business education series, equine engagement, and networking. If we are to serve the entire Metro, then the CEP needs offices that make it easy for all businesses to access services and programs. The goal is to open at least one satellite office during this time.

Business Support – the CEP is a not-for-profit but created a Foundation in late 2019 to easier access grants and tax deductible contributions. The Foundation has had a fairly high degree of success without intentional focus. The goal in this plan is to hire a Director to focus on securing grants and corporate donations to support the CEP’s entrepreneurship, talent development, and leadership programming.

Finally, the three BIG goals of the plan are to 1) impact the announced creation of 5,000 new primary jobs with 2) wages which are 15% above the County average wage and 3) result in a direct capital investment in our community of $1 billion.

These are all lofty goals but they are ones which we can and must attain if we are to fulfill the mission of creating a truly prosperous community.

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