The mission of the CEP is to be the catalyst for a prosperous community and one of the primary ways we seek to deliver on this mission is by actively working to recruit new primary employers. The Ocala Metro recently reported an unemployment rate of 3.4% which is lower than the national average. More importantly, our job growth rate has been averaging 3% which is nearly double the national average. Our wage growth has also been greater than the national average. In other words, our unemployment rate is decreasing, our workforce is increasing, we are creating more jobs and they are paying higher wages.
This growth can be directly tied to the CEP’s current five-year goals. These goals include impacting the announced creation of 4,500 new jobs which pay an average wage which is 15% above the current County average and will result in a direct capital investment in our community of $400 million. Through the first two years (17 & 18) of this current strategic plan, we have announced 2837 new jobs paying an average wage 17% above the County average with a capital investment of $318.6 million. While this is a great start, we believe year 3 is going to end as one of the best for these measures.
Green Thumb Industries
In mid-November we were very excited to announce that Green Thumb Industries (GTI) was redeveloping the former Mark III property along the interstate. The company will start construction early in 2020 on the first phase of their new manufacturing and processing facility. This first phase will result in a minimum capital investment of $20 million and the creation of more than 100 new jobs.
GTI is a publicly traded company based in Chicago. The company has a market cap of $2 billion and is a leading player in the medical cannabis industry. The company has a license to grow, process, and distribute medical cannabis products through a network of retail locations which they also own. This retail network, called Rise, is licensed for 36 stores throughout the state. The new Ocala facility will place GTI as a major player in the Florida market especially with our community’s central location.
In late November the County and City approved incentives for the location of BioSysco. This is a life-sciences technology company currently based in Chicago. Utilizing a patented muscle activation technology, Sigma Q (ΣQ®), Biosysco “helps individuals become stronger, move better and recover faster than ever thought possible.” BioSysco has more recently developed an equine application for their technology and has worked with a respected Ocala-area equine rehabilitation center on a clinical study.
Pending the approval of incentives by the state, BioSysco is excited about the prospect of hiring new 10 positions at an average annual wage of $65,500 in the Ocala area. Their initial presence would be at the Power Plant Business Incubator, where a new program has just been designed to support equine innovation.
We certainly saved the biggest for last. At the end of the year we were able to announce that Dollar Tree would be the first tenant in the new Florida Crossroad Commerce Park. The company, a perennial member of the Fortune 200, will be investing approximately $211 million and building a 1.7 million sq. ft. distribution center. This facility will be the 2nd largest building in the area and one of the largest in Central Florida. The facility will eventually employ nearly 700 people.
The location of this project will enable a tremendous amount of infrastructure development in this area. Hwy 484 will be further four-laned, the next leg of SW 49th Ave will be built through the park, a new interior road will be built, and water and sewer capabilities will be significantly expanded. These improvements will positively impact everyone who lives in the area not just the businesses locating in this park.
2019 has certainly been a memorable one and we look forward to seeing all that 2020 has to deliver as we all work to keep this community Moving Forward.