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.

With a theme of Building for the Future, we shared with our partners many of the successes of the past year, objectives reached through the first two-years of our 5-year Moving Forward-Phase II action plan, and related new initiatives we would be starting in 2019. The following are two of highlights from this year’s presentation:

Millennials

I have previously shared in this space that the Ocala Metro (Marion County) is growing on net by 120 residents a week. When new updates are released later this spring, I fully expect this number to increase. Many have commented to me that while they are excited about the growth, they assume most of those new residents are retirees. While we gladly welcome our retirees and the impact they have on the local economy, we need to see our workforce continue to grow and expand. Recent Census data sheds a different light on these numbers.

From 2012-2017, the Ocala Metro ranks in the Top 15 of all Metros with 500,000 or fewer residents (2/3 of all metros) in the percentage growth of Millennials (25-34). The Ocala growth rate for this important demographic is more than double the national average during this time (15.8% vs 7.2%).

Goals

The Moving Forward-Phase II plan has goals for every area of the CEP but also includes three big goals: to impact the announced creation of 4500 new jobs; that those jobs will pay 15% above the County average wage; and result in a capital investment of our community of $400 million. We are through the first two-years of this five-year effort and can report that we have announced 2837 new jobs (63% of goal); they pay on average 17% above the County average wage; and will result in a capital investment in our community of more than $318.6 million (80% of goal)! This is great progress on this important effort and we are excited about the opportunities we are already working on for 2019.

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