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North Central - Yearbook

Gainesville and Alachua County have weathered the recession better than most Florida communities thanks in part to continued hiring and tech-related spinoffs from the University of Florida.

North Central Florida

ALACHUA COUNTY GOALS

> Develop and attract new seed and venture capital funds.

> Streamline business permitting processes.

> Market the community to companies in the health technology and green technology industries.

Jobs
MSA DEC. 2010 DEC 2009 % Change Jobless Rate
Gainesville 128,551
127,059
+1.2% 8.3%
Ocala 113,684 114,989 -1.1% 14.0%
Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation

Homes Single-family, existing-home sales by Realtors
MSA Jan. 2011 Sales 1-Year Change Jan. 2011 Price 1-Year Change
Gainesville 102
+23% $137,800 -19%
Ocala 253 +25% $71,500 -25%
Source: Florida Realtors

Alachua Population: 249,192
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 0.92%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
15.4%
8.5% 37.9% 27.0% 11.2%
Per Capita Income: $34,862

Bernie Machen
University of Florida President Bernie Machen stands at the site of the Florida Innovation Hub at UF, which is under construction between campus and downtown. The 45,000-sq.-ft. facility is hoped to be a catalyst for startup companies based on UF technologies. The hub is part of a larger effort called Innovation Square, a 10-year master plan that will bring residential and commercial development to the 40-acre research park. [Photo: Eric Zamora]

Gainesville/Alachua County

batterStepping up to the Plate

> ROOKIE PLAYER: Innovation Gainesville — The new collaboration among business, academic and government leaders was established to market the local economy for emerging fields including biotechnology, healthcare and green technologies.

> EMERGING STAR: Bren-Tronics Energy Systems — The maker of lithium-ion cells for rechargeable batteries took over an existing battery-manufacturing plant at the Phoenix Commercial Park in Alachua and is undergoing a $10-million upgrade that will help it expand and create 15 jobs.

> HEAVY HITTER: Grooveshark — Gainesville online music-sharing company Grooveshark is poised to grow again this year, after a new partnership with internet radio company Livio Radio that aims to get Grooveshark into cars and homes.

playersImpact Players

Craig T. Davenport
Craig T. Davenport
> Craig T. Davenport, CEO, Xhale Innovations — The longtime medical-device industry executive and private investment firm manager in Orange County, Calif., recently relocated to Gainesville to become CEO of Xhale Innovations, which has developed a hand-hygiene system for use in hospitals.

> Dorrie Hipschman, executive director, Cade Museum —

Dorrie Hipschman
Dorrie Hipschman
Dorrie Hipschman arrived in Gainesville last year to become executive director of the Cade Museum, after serving for nine years as executive director of The Building for Kids in Appleton, Wis. Hipschman previously was executive director of the Stockton Children's Museum in California and the Platte River Parkway Trust in Wyoming.

> John Fleming, president, Trimark Properties — Trimark has developed apartments in Gainesville for years but now is looking to develop office and research sites surrounding Innovation Square.

Ocala / Marion County

Marion Population: 342,825
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.50%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
16.5% 5.5%
20.5% 32.3% 25.2%
Per Capita Income: $31,130

MARION COUNTY GOALS

> Complete the community's first business incubator.

> Work to develop more than 1,200 acres for industrial development, including the Ocala Business Park at Ocala International Airport and the Ocala-Marion County Commerce Center.

> Redevelop two key downtown Ocala sites into mixed-use centers.

batterStepping up to the Plate

> ROOKIE PLAYER: Medtino — Medtino, relocating from south Florida to Ocala, assembles self-testing kits for diabetes and markets them to Hispanics. The company hopes to create 180 jobs over the next three years.

> EMERGING STAR: Pro Poly of America — Pro Poly engineers, manufactures, markets and sells custom thermoplastic products for the fire service and trucking industries. The company's products are seeing increasing international demand; Pro Poly attributes about a quarter of sales to export markets.

> HEAVY HITTER: Cone Distributing — The beer distributor is building a $16-million distribution center that will allow it to expand operations and create nearly 50 jobs.

playersImpact Players

> Stan McClain, chairman, Marion County Commission — Stan McClain has proposed that the county take over management of Silver Springs, which is owned by the state and leased to a private operator. McClain calls the theme park's business model "antiquated" and says it "must be refocused. Marion County's business community stands ready to create jobs and reap the resulting economic benefits for our residents."

> Frank Hennessey, Horse breeder — The retired executive moved to Ocala/Marion County to breed Arabians. He is helping lead the business incubator initiative and is also launching a community foundation.

> Andrew Copeland, architect — Andrew Copeland is part of the team leading an ongoing architectural renaissance downtown, including development of Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, a historic re-creation of a firehouse that will someday become a mix of lofts and commercial spaces.

rendering
Accelerate Ocala/Marion County, the community's first incubator, will be housed in the city's 1926 electric plant. The Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce is leading the public-private partnership. "Instead of generating electricity, we're generating ideas — and jobs," says Jaye Baillie, president and CEO of the Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce. [Rendering: Ocala/Marion County]

SUMTER County

Sumter Population: 81,946
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.62%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
10.9% 3.8%
21.8% 39.0% 24.5%
Per Capita Income: $28,639

Sumter County has the highest population growth rate in the region, along with a relatively low unemployment rate — around 9.5% — thanks in part to The Villages, one of the largest retirement communities in the nation. The county's location at the intersection of Interstate 75 and Florida's Turnpike also helps, giving Sumter a diversified industrial base. County officials are confident about continued growth in the coming years because of four Developments of Regional Impact on tap — the first a commercial project at the Villages.

The Villages
The Villages development accounts for much of Sumter's population growth. [Photo: The Villages]

Dixie / levy County

Dixie Population: 15,134
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 0.44%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
16.9% 5.3% 23.9% 33.8% 20.0%
Per Capita Income: $24,189

Levy Population: 40,486
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.05%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
17.7% 6.0% 21.5% 35.6% 19.2%
Per Capita Income: $26,721

These picturesque coastal counties continue to draw new residents and build nature-based tourism around the Gulf shore, rivers and springs. However, both counties' unemployment rates have topped 12%. And highly anticipated new projects, including Progress Energy's nuclear plant in southern Levy County and a new hospital in Chiefland, have been delayed. The nuclear plant's construction will not begin until Progress lands its federal license, which company executives expect in late 2012 or early 2013. Local economic developers have responded with a focus on "trying to help existing and small businesses survive," says Pat O'Neal, executive director of the Nature Coast Business Development Council.

Progress Energy
Progress has delayed a new nuclear facility planned for Levy. [Rendering: Progress Energy]

Bradford / union counties

Bradford Population: 30,409
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.20%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
16.8%
5.1% 31.6% 32.7% 13.8%
Per Capita Income: $26,924

Union Population: 14,808
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.50%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
16.2% 5.1% 34.8% 34.0% 9.9%
Per Capita Income: $20,014

Bradford and Union are focused on retaining jobs and diversifying industry, especially given Gov. Rick Scott's prison-reform plans that include shifting some inmates from state to private facilities. Five major correctional institutions are located in the two counties. The North Florida Regional Council for Economic Development has focused on bringing new companies and residents to the State Road 100 corridor that runs from Keystone Heights/Melrose in western Clay through Starke in Bradford and to Lake Butler and Worthington Springs in Union. The council plans to hire an economic-development specialist this year and hopes Bradford will be included in the foreign trade zone through the Jacksonville Port Authority, bringing port-related activity to the region. Another long hoped-for amenity, broadband, will be in place within 18 months.