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May 24, 2018

Economic Yearbook 2005 - North Central Florida

Economic Diversity

North Central Florida is diversifying its job base.

John M. Dunn | 4/1/2005
3. Alachua
4. Dixie
5. Levy
6. Marion
7. Sumter

Construction jobs reign in North Central, with big developers such as The Villages and relative newcomers like Pulte Homes spearheading a building boom. "We're anticipating 325 new houses and 200 new jobs in 2005 for Circle Square Ranch, the newest development for On Top of the World in Marion County," says Jo Salyers, On Top of the World's marketing director. Pulte is planning about 1,000 homes in Marion County this year, generating between 200 and 300 jobs.

But growth is also spurring job diversity. In Sumter County, for instance, many growers are switching from agriculture to horticulture, including ornamental trees and shrubs for housing, commercial development and theme parks, notes Sumter County Administrator Bernard Dew.

Extra help is on hand in Alachua County, where the private sector seems to be catching up with the University of Florida in job creation. In fact, a recent UF study reveals that companies spawned by the university's research created a total economic impact of $456.2 million on Florida's economy in 2003. They also spawned directly and indirectly 1,925 jobs in the state.

"It's likely that this level of job growth will continue and would likely accelerate as the young companies grow older and expand their operations," says Rhonda Phillips, director of the Center for Building Better Communities in UF's College of Design, Construction and Planning.

NEW COMPANIESA long-awaited Super Wal-Mart expects to open this September in Starke in Bradford County. Estimates for new jobs range from 150 to 230.
Cheney Bros., a food products distributor in Riviera Beach, is spending $10 million to $12 million to renovate an old True Value building in Marion County. It will eventually employ 350.
Eclipse Aviation, headquartered in New Mexico, is building a $5-million Gainesville service center for corporate jets, adding 16 jobs with an average salary of $49,000.
The city of Alachua expects a spring groundbreaking for a new Wal-Mart Distribution Center and between 600 and 1,000 jobs.
Hills Imports, a large importer of floral pottery headquartered in Quakertown, Pa., is expanding into Ocala by overhauling an old building and adding 12 to 20 jobs.
EcoArray is a small startup spawned three years ago at the Sid Martin Biotechnology Development Incubator in Alachua's Progress Corporate Development Park Technology. Recently, EcoArray got a big boost when the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was collaborating with the genomics company to produce "gene chips" that read genetic information from fish tissue extractions to monitor the impact of pollutants on the genes of living organisms.

EXPANSIONSIn Levy County, Monterey Boats has expanded its facility by 110,000 square feet and is adding 70 to 80 jobs.
Custom Window Systems will build a 215,000-sq.-ft. facility in the Ocala area. Executives expect to break ground this year and hire 25 to 30 this year and possibly many more in the next three to five years.
Pro Built, a manufacturer of storage sheds, is relocating its operations from Gainesville to Ocala and adding 50 to 60 jobs. The company is currently in the permitting stage.
The state plans to build a $6.8-million prison work camp at the Reception and Medical Center in Union County that will house 262 minimum security inmates and employ 50 to 60 correctional officers.
Quartz Solutions, a maker of natural stone and quartz countertops, left Gainesville two years ago for Bradford County but has now returned with 25 employees and is building a $4-million, computerized manufacturing facility.

GAINESVILLE & Alachua County
Gainesville Regional Utility says it needs to produce more electricity to keep up with increased power demand, but many locals don't like the utility's idea of using more solid fuels, such as coal...

UF President Bernie Machen wants to raise $150 million for teacher salary increases and research; plus he's calling on local community leaders to join him in a crusade to crack down on binge drinking in the area...

Gainesville's Regional Airport is losing 43 good-paying federal jobs because of an FAA decision to farm out work to Lockheed Martin...

Many in Gainesville's business community are hoping the Legislature reauthorizes a 10-square-mile hunk of the city as an enterprise zone to keep economic development healthy.

Notable Names: Female leadership has come of age in Alachua County: Katherine "Kathy" Pierce, CEO of a local environmental consulting firm, is the new chairwoman of the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce...

Bonnie Mott heads the Gainesville Alachua County Association of Realtors...

Local builder Lori McGriff is president of the Builders Association of North Central Florida...

Pegeen Hanrahan is Gainesville's mayor...

Former state Rep. Cynthia Chestnut now chairs the Alachua County Commission.

OCALA & Marion County
Home prices rose 27% for the year as of the second quarter of 2004...

Many locals and state officials fear that proposed developments near Silver River State Park and nearby Indian Lake could harm Silver Springs by degrading water quality...

Pete Tesch, president and CEO of the local economic development commission, worries that growth is stressing the infrastructure. "That could drive up the cost of doing business," he says...

Anticipating future water wars, the Marion County Commission is launching a $1.25-million study of water needs for the next 50 years...

Currently, the city is negotiating the details of Gainesville developer Ken McGurn's $84-million proposal for downtown renovation in Ocala.

Notable Names: As Custom Windows expands, many in Ocala expect CEO John Cwik to elevate the homegrown company from a Florida-oriented company to one that competes on the national level...

Despite past failed attempts to market Ocala and Gainesville as a combo, Charles Dassance, president of Central Florida Community College in Ocala, and his counterpart, Jackson Sasser of Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, hope to brand their towns together as "The Heart of Florida."...

Chemist Lisa Saupp will chair the technical committee of Marion County's 50 Year Water Study. "She knows our water issues inside and out," says Jaye Baillie, president of the Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce.

Sumter County
Notable Names: As The Villages expands, so do opportunities for local businesses like Sumter-based T&D Concrete, a homegrown enterprise that grew from a dozen employees into four separate businesses that employ 460...

Guided by CEO James Duncan, Sumter Electric Co-operative recently expanded into The Villages and generated a $28-million loan from the USDA, giving the co-op a big boost.

Dixie/Levy Counties
Though hurricane cleanup, road repair and park restoration are still under way in coastal Dixie County, new condo developments are popping up along Horseshoe Beach and the Suwannee and Steinhatchee rivers...

Neighboring Levy is also still reeling from hurricane damage. Peanut growers and timber companies were especially hurt. So was the area's clam industry. "Some of the clam growers are two years from the next paycheck," says Lannie Cardona, executive director of the Nature Coast Business Development Council...

Central Florida Community College plans to expand in Levy with a 30,000-sq.-ft. facility in Chiefland and perhaps offer more nursing programs, if local officials can succeed in attracting more hospital beds to the county.

Bradford/Union Counties
Modest growth is occurring in Bradford County, where Whispering Oaks, a 120-unit apartment complex, recently opened. Planning for that growth makes finding a new county manager more urgent than ever...

Low unemployment (2.6%) is making it tougher to recruit businesses to the area, says North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Ron Lilly...

The Lake Butler City Council in Union County awaits state approval of its move from at-large to district representation...

How to upgrade the county library to state standards and implement a universal Pre-K school program continue to vex local officials.

2.4% or
higher1.1% -
2.3%1% or
lessPOPULATION TOTALSCounty???2005Average Annual Growth

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