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North Central Florida

North Central

University spinoffs, tech startups and job growth

Effects of nuclear plant shutdown

Gainesville/Alachua County

» The Innovation Hub incubator in downtown Gainesville is flourishing more than a year after it opened; current tenants and “graduates” have created more than 200 jobs, says hub Director Jane M. Muir. “Gainesville has reached a critical mass where you would consider it a thriving downtown tech start-up scene,” says Tim Giuliani, president and CEO of the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce and Council of Economic Outreach. Investors are paying attention. They pumped more than $80 million into Gainesville firms last year. Information technology company Mindtree opened its first U.S. delivery center in Gainesville in November with 47 hires and the promise of 400 jobs within five years. Momentum 2015, the council's five-year economic initiative, has already created 810 of its projected 1,200 jobs two years into the plan.

Business to Watch

» SumTotal Systems: Human resources software company SumTotal Systems surprised Silicon Valley when it left there to move its headquarters to Gainesville in 2010. It already had a foothold in the area because of its 2006 purchase of Gainesville-based MindSolve Technologies. “It made the most business sense to relocate to Gainesville,” says SumTotal spokeswoman Kim Jamerson. “It had an attractive tax base and really good talent pool coming out of UF and Santa Fe College.” The company has hired more than 200 at its Gainesville office with plans to hire 100 more this year.

Alachua Population: 256,428
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.98%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
14.91% 8.69% 37.70% 26.74% 11.97%
Per Capita Income: $37,467

MSA Dec. 2012 Dec. 2011 % Change Jobless Rate
Gainesville 128,186 126,936 +0.9% 6.2%
Ocala 122,062 117,824 +3.6% 8.9%
Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation

Homes - Single-family, existing-home sales
MSA 2013 Sales 1-Year Change 2013 Price 1-Year Change
Gainesville 1,876 +15.6% $157,750 -2.6%
Ocala 4,235 +4.6 $90,000 +12.5%
Source: Florida Realtors

Ocala/Marion County

» Marion County's unemployment rate dropped from about 11.5% a year ago to just under 9%. Some of the job growth came from new call centers. Sitel opened a 500-person call center in May, and Ansafone is moving its California headquarters to Ocala and opening a 300-person call center.

» The Ocala Power Plant incubator, an initiative of the chamber, city of Ocala and county, is at 84% capacity with 91 employees working there, says Kevin Sheilley, CEO of the Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership.

Business to Watch

» DS MediaLabs: Ocala-based DS MediaLabs has been developing apps for phones since 2007. It has worked with Nike, Lionsgate Films and Progressive Insurance. CFO and Senior Vice President of Business Development Shane Wooten says the company has developed more than 70 mobile applications. Wooten says sales have grown from $100,000 in 2011 to $1.2 million last year. It employs 20 and rents space in Ocala's Power Plant incubator.

Marion Population: 344,613
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.02%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
15.87% 5.18% 19.99% 31.67% 27.30%
Per Capita Income: $34,645

 

Dixie/Levy Counties

» Despite its decision to shut down the nearby Crystal River nuclear plant because of costly repairs, Progress Energy says it is still moving forward with plans to build a nuclear plant in southern Levy County. The plant wouldn't come online until 2024, says Progress Energy spokeswoman Suzanne Grant.

» A long-stalled new hospital in Chiefland by Ameris Health Systems will open in 2014. The 50-bed hospital is expected to employ 300.

»  Efforts are under way to better promote Williston's municipal airport to businesses, says Dave Pieklik, executive director at Nature Coast Business Development Council. The former Army airfield has 40 hangars and two runways.

Dixie Population: 16,768
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.44%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
16.36% 4.71% 21.80% 35.54% 21.59%
Per Capita Income: $24,033

Levy Population: 42,149
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.77%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
17.37% 5.44% 20.72% 35.51% 20.96%
Per Capita Income: $28,601

Sumter County

» The Villages, the top-selling master planned community in the country, continues to dominate Sumter's economy. Construction in The Villages has increased 21%, with over 3,000 building permits issued last year.

» The new western-themed Brownwood Downtown Center in Wildwood broke ground last year and will be the third downtown district for The Villages.

» This year, at least two new assisted living facilities are slated for development, which will bring more than 300 beds and nearly 100 independent living units. The county is also working to develop a 2,000-acre site for industrial use.

Sumter Population: 106,089
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 4.01%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
6.89% 2.36% 12.79% 27.67% 50.29%
Per Capita Income: $26,237

 

Bradford/Union Counties

» The rural counties between Gainesville and Jacksonville lost more than 280 jobs last year when the state Department of Corrections closed the New River Correctional Institute. They have tried to recover by adding jobs in the service industry and emphasizing entrepreneurship. In the last year, Beall's Outlet has expanded, and Goody's department store and Dickey's Barbecue Pit opened new locations, adding nearly 50 jobs, says Pam Whittle, president and CEO of the North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce.

»  The counties also started a business incubation program that gives advice to those interested in starting their own businesses. “If you can't find a job, create a job — that's our motto,” Whittle says.

Bradford Population: 29,134
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.13%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
17.03% 4362% 28.27% 34.69% 15.39%
Per Capita Income: $31,541

Union Population: 15,608
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.43%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
15.74% 5.45% 30.00% 37.15% 11.94%
Per Capita Income: $20,365