Logistics. It is a word that has become a common part of the Ocala vernacular in the last few years but what does it mean? Why are logistics important to the local economy and how does it impact the community?
It is common to equate logistics and distribution but they are not equivalent. Logistics involves distribution but it is more than that. Logistics is the coordination and supply of raw materials, the management of production materials and finished goods, and the distribution of these goods to end users. Logistics is distribution but also manufacturing, marketing, warehousing, service, finance, and technology.
Ocala has become and is becoming more of a Logistics Hub for all of the reasons listed. Yes, the Ocala market has seen an explosion of distribution and fulfillment centers in the last few years. One needs to only drive around the community to see this impact with the new massive Amazon, AutoZone, Chewy, McLane, and Dollar Tree facilities. But one can also see the manufacturing role in logistics and the growth of companies and facilities like Signature Brands, Custom Window a Pella Company, and Cardinal LG. The FedEx Ground Hub, R&L Trucking facility, ABCO, and Swift Transportation are examples of the important delivery component in this sector.
Because of the diverse aspects of Logistics, it can be difficult to determine the total number of people employed in this sector. However, more than 7,000 work in the distribution facilities alone. In fact, the four existing facilities in the Ocala/Marion County Commerce Park employ more than 4,100. More importantly, these facilities pay millions of dollars in local property taxes. Not only does logistics employ thousands of Ocala Metro residents, but they generate significant revenue to local governments and schools which benefits all of us.
So why has logistics become so important? Like the famous real estate axiom, the three most important factors are location, location, location. Ocala’s position in the center of the state along I-75 near the intersections of both the Florida Turnpike and 301 further supports this role. The nation’s premier site selection consultant told us in 2014 that when Florida’s population tipped over the 20 million mark that the logistics equation would change. No longer would it be more cost effective to serve Florida from Atlanta but now Florida would need to be served from Florida. Ocala’s ability to serve not only all of Florida with the crucial day’s drive and back but an Ocala location today reaches more than 34 million people.
Lastly, we are seeing Logistics coming into play when it comes to a growing new area for our community – office projects. We have begun getting more and more requests from companies looking to open offices in Ocala because of logistics. Despite the economic headwinds and the decline in office projects in major metros, we think this will be a growing part of our economy in the future.