The following is a review of just some of the ways the CEP is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic:

Get. Gather. Go.

The CEP ran a marketing campaign around the Paycheck Protection Program called Get. Gather. Go. We were seeking to GET our businesses informed on the program; encouraging them to GATHER the needed documents; and to GO apply. And apply they did! After the first round of funding, we determined that 1 in 8 Marion County businesses received a PPP loan. That compares extremely favorably to the state (1 in 25) and national (1 in 19) rates. All told, approximately 2800 businesses received nearly $300 million in funding in the first round.

The second round of funding is still live but antidotally it appears that most eligible businesses are finding success. We have been in regular communication with our lenders who have done a phenomenal job literally working around the clock to meet the needs of the local business community. We anticipate that when this round is finished, something approaching 25% of all local businesses (not just eligible businesses but all businesses) will have received a PPP loan.

We are pivoting to focus on helping businesses plan now to ensure that as much of their PPP loan is forgiven as possible. We have already hosted an informative webinar on maximizing loan forgiveness and will continue to push out the message.

Microenterprise Loan Fund

The CEP and Marion County are partnering on offering a new Microenterprise Loan Fund. We have long been fans of microenterprise lending at the CEP and are excited to partner with the County on this initiative. The County has received federal grant dollars to fund the loan pool and the CEP’s Business Creation staff will be providing business counseling free to each applicant. Each successful loan applicant will receive at least 3 hours of pre-loan assistance and 7 hours of post-loan assistance. The loans are available to businesses with fewer than 5 employees and located outside of the Ocala city limits. For more information, check out Microenterprise Loan at

Now Hiring

While much of the news continues to be about business closings and layoffs, we think it is important that the community know we have many businesses hiring today. We have a page at with a listing from more than 40 businesses all of whom are currently hiring. Additionally, the new Dollar Tree Distribution Center continue to move forward and they will begin hiring their first 240 (of 700) employees this month.

Chamber of the Year

The CEP was very excited to learn recently that we have again been named a finalist for national Chamber of the Year by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), our national association. This represents the third time in four years the CEP has been a finalist for our industry’s most prestigious recognition.

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