The CEP has been working over the last year to partner with businesses and governments in Lake County to create the Lake Economic Area Development (LEAD) Partnership. This public/private organization has been created and designed to lead efforts in further growing, diversifying, and uniting the Lake County regional economy. The organization will work closely with government, private businesses, chambers of commerce, educational and workforce organizations, and other related stakeholders to collectively drive economic growth in Lake County.
Lake County has experienced significant population growth over the last two decades. However, while the population has grown, the community has not seen a corresponding increase in the number of primary employers. For more than two years, business leaders from throughout Lake County have been meeting and discussing how to play more of a leadership role in the economic agenda for the community. This concept of leadership—leading on the diversification of the local economy, leading on better-paying jobs, leading to grow the tax base, leading to build a self-sustaining economic future—is the premise on which LEAD is built.
LEAD is incorporated as a Florida non-profit and are in the process of securing their IRS designation as a 501(c)6 business organization. A Board of Directors is comprised of business, community, and government leaders. They will be responsible for setting the strategic plan and approving annual Plans of Works and the budgets necessary for their implementation. Additionally, the CEP will work closely with the LEAD Board of Directors and staff in the implementation of the plans through a management agreement.
CEP Chief Growth Officer Heather Shubirg will oversee the LEAD team which will be focused on Business Attraction, Business Retention, and Business Creation, with primary initial goals of 1) 3,500 new primary employment jobs; 2) those jobs will pay wages 15% above of County Average Wage; 3) Lake County Average Wage will increase 25%; and 4) Assist 250 entrepreneurs.
The CEP has hired two staff members to work exclusively in Lake County and is finalizing a third. It is important to note the Lake County staff and activities are 100% funded, supported, and dedicated to Lake County. The CEP will continue to drive growth and development for the Ocala Metro while providing this back office support for LEAD as funded by LEAD.
Economic development is not a zero-sum game. As one community wins, our entire region wins. We look forward to continued growth and development throughout the Ocala Metro while celebrating new opportunities in the region. Watch for some exciting new company locations in the Ocala Metro coming by the end of the year.