Jobs. Investment. Wages. Taxes.

The following column was originally published in the Florida Chamber of Commerce magazine to focus on the important role local chambers play in economic development.

Jobs. Investment. Wages. Taxes. Entrepreneurship. Incentives. Construction. All of these terms have been used to define economic development. Depending on where one lives, all could be right, some could be right, or none could be correct. Defining economic development is different for every one of Florida’s 67 counties. While defining economic development is hard, knowing who is responsible is pretty easy.

At its heart, economic development is the ultimate local issue. What is an appropriate and goal-worthy definition of economic development for Ocala (my home) will be very different than the definition in Miami which will be equally different from Pensacola’s definition. Even more important than the definition is the implementation. Whatever your definition, how are you going to practice economic development? Again, this is really a local issue but one in which the state and federal governments play a tremendous part. [Read more…]

Marion Target practice Law at your residents


I have been reading about the new Florida gun law which prohibits local governments from enacting laws regulating firearms. This makes gun regulations equal throughout the state. My county prohibits the discharge of of any firearm except at a range. Does this new law mean that I can now do some target shooting on my own property so long as I shoot safely?


Depends on county rules. In Marion County, you need a minimum of 10 acres and one really good backstop – then there are the distances to certain institutions like churches and schools, etc. The laws you are talking about were local gov’t can’t enact stiffer regs on buying and owning guns than what the state has.


CEP’s Business Creation Efforts

The Power Plant Business Incubator is Ground Zero in the CEP’s Business Creation efforts. The incubator, in existence since 2012, is a facility in downtown Ocala where entrepreneurs can temporarily locate their new businesses and receive a host of resources and connections. Resident companies must meet entrance criteria including being innovative, scalable, and open to coaching/mentorship.

The incubator currently has 14 companies in industries including software, mobile application development, biotech, virtual/ augmented reality, media, 3D printing, medical device and more.

Some of our new Residents:

Elistars – Bharat Patel, Founder
Convenience store business management and back office software that sets business on cruise control and makes managing a store a breeze. [Read more…]


MARION COUNTY, Florida (March 14, 2018) – Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Major Crimes detectives have announced that the suspect in this morning’s double homicide has committed suicide. Detectives’ investigation revealed that Gregory John Briseno (DOB: 06/01/1988) shot and killed Alexis Marie Waranka (DOB: 09/17/1991) and her boyfriend Ryan Anthony Young (DOB: 05/24/1987) early Wednesday morning in Waranka’s apartment located at 7417 Midway Terrace, Apartment E, in Silver Springs Shores. Briseno was Waranka’s exboyfriend.

During initial interviews with witnesses on scene and after a review of their prior history, Briseno was developed as the prime suspect in the murders. Detectives located Briseno’s Facebook page, where it appears he made a post around the time of the murders that contained incriminating statements and statements that made law enforcement concerned for his well-being. [Read more…]


MARION COUNTY, Florida (March 13, 2018)- Detectives with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Major Crimes Unit arrested Kevin Ismael Gonzalez (DOB: 01/15/1992) after he was found to be in possession of multiple files of illicit child pornography.

Gonzalez also possessed Marijuana and numerous items of drug paraphernalia, and he faces charges for those offenses as well. Detective Shannon Wiles with MCSO’s Internet Crimes against Children Division received information that Gonzalez was possessing files that contained child pornography. As a result of a thorough investigation, a search warrant was obtained and was served on Gonzalez’s place of residence on Monday, March 12, 2018. During that search warrant, detectives located his computer, which contained numerous lewd child pornography files. [Read more…]

CEP Recently Hosted its Annual Luncheon

It is hard to believe 2017 has come to an end and we are already in the second month of 2018. The CEP recently hosted its Annual Luncheon with a sold out crowd of more than 600. With a theme of Delivering on Success, we shared with our partners many of the successes of the past year and goals reached through the first year of our 5-year Action, Moving Forward-Phase II.


The major new initiative of this plan is actually a two-prong approach to grow and attraction talent. The CEP took several steps for this effort in 2017 with the hiring of a Director of Talent Development, Dean Blinkhorn, and the creation of two programs to focus on these efforts. [Read more…]

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…]