Moving Forward

One of the goals and primary focuses of the CEP from its inception has been to raise the wage level in our community. From our initial 5-year strategic plan (Moving Forward), one of the three BIG goals has been to not only attract new jobs but jobs which pay an average wage which is 15% higher than the county average. We evaluate every project we are working against this measure and we ask local government to only incent those businesses and jobs which will meet this standard.

The Census Bureau and various other economic entities provide a variety of ways for us to track this growth. The primary metric we use is the Average Weekly Wage as reported in the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. Today, the average wage which is required for us to incent a project is over $42,000/year. This is a 27% increase over the initial target wage. Our AVW has grown nearly 9% in the last two years which is nearly triple the state average. [Read more…]

New Hearing-Impaired Driver Program


MARION COUNTY, Florida (August 24, 2018) – The Marion County Sheriff’s Office

(MCSO) has just introduced a new program designed to assist hearing-impaired drivers interact with our deputies. Statistics show that nearly 3 million Floridians have some form of hearing loss. Realizing the potential for miscommunication during a traffic stop between the deputy and the driver, MCSO has designed a communication card to assist with this.

The program works as follows: MCSO provides the hearing-impaired driver with a special sticker to place on the rear of their vehicle which alerts the deputy to the fact that the driver is hearing-impaired. A visor card is also provided for the driver to keep in the car with them to present to the deputy during a traffic stop. This visor card uses pictures and phrases that both the deputy and the driver may point to in order to better communicate with each other. This will help ensure that the driver knows the reason for the traffic stop and will ensure that the deputy knows how best to help the driver. [Read more…]

Chamber & Economic Partnership

Over the last few weeks, you have probably heard and read a lot from the Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP) on the topic of workforce or Talent Development as we call it. When the CEP Board adopted our new 5-year strategic plan, Moving Forward-Phase II, in late 2016 it highlighted Talent Development as one of the two signature new project areas for the CEP. This new emphasis has really come into focus over the last year.  I want to discuss why this is such an important emphasis for the CEP and then explain what we are doing.

As communities across the country have been rebounding and growing post-Great Recession, one of the area’s that it became apparent had suffered was talent development. As companies, communities, and schools struggled to just remain viable, the importance of investing in workforce often went to the side. When this is coupled with the pending retirement of millions of Baby Boomers, a talent deficit becomes a clear reality. It is our belief that talent development is incredibly significant to the continued growth of our community. In fact, we believe the communities which figure out talent, will be the communities that win the next half century. [Read more…]

Renewal of the 1 Mil School Referendum

Over the next several weeks, you are going to be frequently seeing and hearing Vote Yes! from the CEP. Our Board has formally endorsed the renewal of the 1 Mil School Referendum. This renewal is incredibly significant to the continued growth of our community. It is important to me that our community understands why you should Vote Yes!

The revenue collected from the 1 Mil are dedicated to several key areas: classroom size reduction, art, music, PE, library, and Career/Technical Education. Additionally, the renewal will allow the School System to fund vital safety measures such as school resource officers. All expenditures are carefully reviewed by an independent Oversight Committee. All of these are important initiatives but I want to highlight Career/Technical Education and Safety. [Read more…]

Coastal Connector

The CEP appreciates the efforts of the Florida Department of Transportation to ensure safe, viable, and efficient transportation corridors for our state. We have discussed the Coastal Connector with the Department, state and local officials, the equine community, and our business community. As a result, the Board requests the Department abandon the proposed Coastal Connector routes but continue to work with all of these partners.

The above statement is the CEP’s official stance on the proposed routes for the Coastal Connector. Over the last few weeks, several of our partners and community members have asked us our position on this issue. While we were able to provide commentary and background information, we could not take an official stance until it had gone all the way through our process for issues which ends with approval by the Board of Directors of a position. Because we work with a volunteer Board composed of 30+ executives, this process usually takes 6-8 weeks. [Read more…]

Leadership Ocala Marion

There are so many incredible things happening in our community. Significant new facilities are under construction for the McLane Company and Cardinal LG.  The Power Plant Business Incubator continues to help innovative and scalable startups primarily in the areas of technology, health care, and communications. The downtown continues to generate enthusiasm with the new Hilton Garden Inn under construction, an ever growing line up of restaurants and stores, and more residential options in the works. All of this excitement and growth is in large part the result of our partners. Thank you for your engagement and investment in moving Ocala and Marion County forward. [Read more…]

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO)

MARION COUNTY, Florida (May 7, 2018) – The Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) are seeking information on the location of Curleasha Harris (B/F, DOB: 12/04/1984) and her four children. DCF has child custody pick-up orders for Samson Robinson (B/M, DOB: 01/28/2005), Shan’nya Montgomery (B/F, DOB: 01/18/2008), Dorian Leach (B/M, DOB: 09/11/2014) and Andre Harris (B/M, DOB: 02/12/2016). Deputies and DCF investigators believe these children are in danger while in their mother’s care and Harris has continually evaded DCF.

Harris was last seen occupying a white Mercury 4-door vehicle and might be staying in Deer Run, located in the City of Ocala. Harris’ last known address is 2912 NE 4th Court in Ocala. If you have any information on the whereabouts of Harris and/or the four children, please call 911 immediately.


(April 27, 2018)- On October 9, 2013, former Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Detective Eric Meyers, acting in his capacity as a member of the FBI Regional Task Force, responded to Osceola Middle School to investigate concerning comments that Sky Bouche had made on the internet which had been brought to the attention of the FBI.

Bouche watched a YouTube video on the Columbine school shooting and posted comments on the video about doing a shooting at his school and that he had the weapons and ammunition to do so. Detective Meyers spoke with Bouche, along with an Ocala Police Department School Resource Officer, where he admitted to making the comments.

Bouche denied owning weapons and stated that he was just trying to gain attention because he felt hopeless. Also during the interview, Bouche made several comments to Detective Meyers that made him concerned for Bouche’s well-being. On the same day, Detective Meyers along with MCSO Deputy Tiffany Warren then responded to Bouche’s residence and obtained consent to check the house for firearms. Meyers stated that numerous replica firearms were found (airsoft, BB guns or pellet guns) but no real firearms were discovered. [Read more…]

Safety Tips from Ocala Electric Utility

Ocala Electric Utility would like to provide a few simple tips to keep your family safe and prevent injuries from happening this spring.

OCALA, Fla. (May 3, 2018) – Ocala Electric Utility would like to provide a few simple tips to keep your family safe and prevent injuries from happening this spring.

  • Call 8-1-1 at least 48 hours before you begin any project that involves digging. Power lines may be above you or buried in the ground.
  • Do not trim tree branches that are close to, or touching, power lines.
  • Ladders that come into contact with power lines can be fatal. Keep ladders at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines.
  • Unplug all power tools when not in use.
  • Remember, water and electricity do not mix. Avoid standing in water while using any electrical tools or devices.
  • Inspect power cords for fraying and look for broken plugs and cracked or broken housing. If these items are damaged, they should be replaced immediately.

For more information, please contact Ocala Electric Utility at 352-629-2489 or visit

Dunnellon Boomtown Days

Dunnellon used to be a Boomtown back in the old days. They were mining Dolomite, a land sweetener sorts. It was used as a fertilizer to make things grow better and faster. As the mining slowed down the population shrunk. They also use the river to transport Dolomite and goods. The Town of Dunnellon celebrates its Boomtown days once a year. Now Dunnellon is Booming again. I had a great Italian sausage Hoagy at a food truck call Ely’s Cuisine.  As you can see a great time was had by all.

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Photo credit info:

Stacey Anjanette Photography | 352-220-3256 | [email protected]