E.L. Foster, Jr. Volunteer Program named at Hospice of Marion County

Jo Foster, left, and her daughter-in-law, Pam Foster, unveil the bronze plaque commemorating the dedication of the E. L. Foster, Jr. Volunteer Services Program at a celebration at Hospice of Marion County on December 5, 2017.

The Volunteer Services Program at Hospice of Marion County (HMC) has been aptly named for a former mayor and staunch supporter of philanthropic efforts in Ocala. E. L. Foster, Jr. who served as mayor from 1995-2002 was also on the HMC Board of Directors from 2003-2005. A longtime financial supporter of HMC, Foster’s legacy as a volunteer will live on among HMC’s 700 volunteers, who provide patient support, fundraising and administrative assistance to the area’s only non-profit hospice. [Read more…]

Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership

Hopefully, at some point you have heard someone discuss or read about “The CEP.” While we sometimes assume everyone knows who we are and what we do, we are reminded that is not always the case. The CEP is an acronym for the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership (now you know why we use CEP!). We are the community’s chamber of commerce as well as its official economic development organization. The CEP was formed just over five years ago with the merger of the former Chamber and Economic Development Council. While this version is only five years old, our roots go back 130 years to the founding of the Ocala Board of Trade in 1887. [Read more…]

Equine Engagement Initiative

A year ago, the CEP kicked of our Equine Engagement Initiative. As the Horse Capital of the World, we knew we needed a focused and directed effort to engage our incredible equine community with both the broader business community and with fellow equine businesses. Our economic impact analysis of Marion County’s Equine Industry had found that equine contributed $2.6 Billion a year to the local economy!

Thanks to the underwriting support of New Millennium Realty, we were able to kick off this initiative late last year. Louisa Barton joined our team as our Director of Equine Engagement and has done a masterful job at reaching out and engaging equine businesses and educating the rest of us. Our monthly Equine Engagement meetings have out-grown the CEP conference room and must now be held at our Power Plant Business Incubator Training Room so we can accommodate the more the 60 participants who now attend. [Read more…]


MARION COUNTY, Florida (November 6, 2017)- At approximately 8:30 a.m., on Monday, November 6, 2017, Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) deputies responded to assist with a vehicle accident at SE 92nd Place Road and Baseline Road in Ocala. Responding deputies observed a male subject exit one of the vehicles with a firearm. The subject fled from deputies, and multiple K9 Units, Patrol Units and MCSO’s Air One responded to search the area for him.

After several hours of searching, MCSO SWAT Team members located the subject hiding in the exterior bushes of a home in Golf Park Estates, and he was armed and refusing to cooperate with SWAT team members. During this encounter, the subject was injured by an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound and was immediately transported to a local hospital. He is currently receiving medical care and is listed in critical condition. [Read more…]


In an effort to comfort victims of violent or sensitive crimes, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) has obtained a therapy dog to assist deputies and detectives during criminal investigations. Lily, a five year old female Beagle/Corgi mix, was rescued from a euthanasia shelter and enrolled in the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office’s “Paws & Stripes College.” During this 8-week course, the dogs learn basic obedience skills, and selected graduates move into the advanced training program to serve as PTSD dogs, therapy dogs and child victim advocate dogs. Lily graduated from the program’s Law Enforcement Investigative Therapy Dog Course and she was given to the MCSO at no cost. Since she came to the MCSO in May 2017, Lily has received full certification as a therapy dog and is out working in our community.

Lily’s handler is MCSO’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) Investigative Liaison, Detective Janeen Henley-Freeman. Detective Henley-Freeman and Lily will focus on adult and children DCF investigations, missing persons, sex crimes, child abductions and child exploitation internet crimes assisting the victims of these crimes. Our goal is for Lily to help victims feel more at ease while speaking about their situation(s).

CEP Focus

Three of the key areas on which the CEP focuses to drive our mission is Business Attraction, Business Retention, and Business Creation. Each of these areas is equally important as we seek to be the catalyst for a more prosperous community by serving as the voice of the business community and working to create and retain jobs and provide a return on investment for our partners. Not only are they equally important, but each has had recent successes.

Business Attraction

The CEP was able to officially announce recently that Mestizo Foods had purchased the former Golden Flake facility and would be establishing their headquarters and manufacturing operations here. Mestizo is a private label and third party snack food manufacturer. In other words, you will never see their brand on the store aisle, but you may very well purchase their products when you buy store-label potato chips or other snacks. The company will be adding 200 employees over the next year and looks forward to being an active corporate citizen. [Read more…]


The Lady Lake Police Department cannot function effectively without the assistance of concerned, responsible residents.  We are depending on YOU to call and tell us whenever you see suspicious persons or activity.

Some residents fail to call the police simply because they are not aware of what seemingly innocent activities should be considered suspicious. Others may recognize suspicious activity and be hesitant to call for fear of being thought of as the neighborhood “busy-body.”  Yet others simply assume that someone else has already called the police. [Read more…]


MARION COUNTY, Florida (October 27, 2017) – An Ocala man who was arrested two weeks ago for a violent armed home invasion robbery of two elderly females has now been charged with an additional case. Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Major Crimes detectives received forensic evidence tying defendant Gabriel Bowen (DOB: 03/20/1999) to another armed home invasion robbery that occurred in Marion County on July 17, 2017.

At approximately 12:30 p.m., on Monday, July 17th, MCSO deputies responded to a call for service regarding an armed home invasion robbery that had just occurred off of SE 80th Place in Ocala. [Read more…]

MCSO Will Be Participating In DEA Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative

MARION COUNTY, FL (October 16, 2017)

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) will be participating in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative on Saturday, October 28, 2017, from 10:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.

According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.4 million Americans abused controlled prescription drugs. The study shows that a majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet. The National Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative is a safe, convenient and anonymous way of disposing of prescription drugs and preventing them from falling into the hands of those who might abuse them. This is a one-day event where Marion County citizens can bring in their unused or unwanted prescription medications to three MCSO locations. [Read more…]

My Job

One of the things I enjoy most about my job is getting to speak to different groups. Big groups or small, business people or social groups, it really does not matter. I love talking about our community and the role of the CEP. Regardless of the size of the group, the nature of the questions is often the same – “What is the new building going up . . .” and “When will get a  . . .” Usually, I know the answer or at least can proffer an educated guess. In this issue, I would like to highlight some of the most frequently asked new building questions.

What are those building going up near FedEx?

If you have not taken a moment and driven down NW 35th Ave into the Ocala-Marion County Commerce Park, I would encourage you to do so. Just past the new FedEx Ground Hub one can see two large buildings under construction. The building to the east is the new AutoZone Distribution Center. This facility is covers more than 440,000 sq. ft. and will serve AutoZone stores in Florida and Puerto Rico. The facility to the north or just past FedEx is the new Chewy.com Fulfillment Center. This building will encompass 620,000 sq. ft. Combined both facilities represent nearly 1.1 MILLION sq. ft. of new space. Eventually these three companies will employ approximately 1,500 workers. [Read more…]