2019 Economic Outlook
Downtown redevelopment remains a priority in Northeast Florida
Ocala / Marion County
- Economic Development: In 2009, Ocala-based mortgage lender Taylor, Bean & Whitaker went out of business, eliminating about 2,000 local jobs. A year later, as homes fell into foreclosure and construction stalled, Marion County’s unemployment rate reached a high of 14.5%. Unemployment has since fallen below 5%, and the economy has diversified to include new distribution facilities for AutoZone, Chewy and FedEx, among others. This year, Marion aims to further diversify its economy through development of the Florida Crossroads Commerce Park, a nearly 1,000-acre site near I-75. Targeted tenants include food distributors and advanced manufacturers, says Kevin Sheilley, president and CEO of the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership. “It will be in position to take off starting in 2019,” Sheilley says of the new business park.
County Business Briefs
BAKER COUNTY — California-based furniture distributor Starsong & Co. purchased a 95,000-sq.-ft. facility that had been vacant since 2007. Starsong plans to use about 53,000 square feet for its own distribution operations and lease the rest to other tenants.
- The county received $2.3 million from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to build an access road at the Woodstock Industrial Park to attract advanced manufacturing and distribution projects.
- Construction of the Midpoint Parkway is to begin this year to provide access to a new business park.
BRADFORD COUNTY — The county granted a height variance to allow a four-story Holiday Inn Express to be built near Starke. The hotel will have 77 rooms.
CLAY COUNTY — The Florida Department of Transportation completed an initial portion of the First Coast Expressway, a 12-mile toll road that will connect I-10 with I-95. The segment runs from Blanding Boulevard through Clay north to I-10 in Duval County. A second section, due to begin construction this year, will run from Blanding south through Green Cove Springs.
COLUMBIA COUNTY — The county will use $3.1 million from the state’s job growth fund to build a rail spur to the North Florida Mega Industrial Park, a planned, 2,600-acre site owned by Weyerhaeuser.
- Florida Gateway College in Lake City received $860,000 from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to offer a training program for aviation and power plant mechanics and aviation airframe maintenance workers.
FLAGLER COUNTY — CP Performance, an online marine products retailer, plans to consolidate its operations from California to a new 20,000-sq.-ft. facility in Palm Coast’s Hargrove Grade Industrial Park.
- Marine canvas and upholstery manufacturer Gioia Sails South opened a 30,000-sq.-ft. facility with 75 employees in Palm Coast.
GILCHRIST COUNTY — Since its recessionary peak of 11.6% in January 2010, Gilchrist’s seasonally unadjusted jobless rate has fallen to 3% as of October. That’s still above its prerecessionary low of 2.5% in April 2006.
HAMILTON COUNTY — The town of White Springs received $50,000 from the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program. The money will be used to renovate a basketball court, baseball field and playground equipment at the Ogburn Recreational Facility.
- A federally funded widening of CR 152 has begun and is to continue until April.
LEVY COUNTY — The town of Inglis secured money for an engineering study to explore construction of a 65-acre whitewater kayaking venue.
- Duke Energy selected a 5,400-acre property near Inglis for its site readiness program, part of an effort to attract economic development prospects in targeted industries such as food processing and general manufacturing.
NASSAU COUNTY — University of Florida Health began building a medical outpost in Wildlight, a master-planned community east of I-95. The 40,000-sq.-ft. building will include space for primary and urgent care, imaging, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, mental health services and dentistry. UF Health also plans to build a 35,000-sq.-ft. wellness center with a YMCA branch in Wildlight.
PUTNAM COUNTY — The county received state funds to make road repairs in Palatka to prevent extreme flooding.
- St. Johns Recovery Place, an addiction treatment center, opened in Crescent City.
SUWANNEE COUNTY — Alvin Jackson resigned as the county’s economic development director to become the city manager in Bunnell. Jimmy Norris, executive director at the Suwannee County Chamber of Commerce, stepped in as interim economic development director.
UNION COUNTY —The county’s seasonally unadjusted jobless rate was 2.8% in October, down from a high of 9.1% in January 2010. Before the recession, in March 2006, unemployment hit a low of 2.2%.
Read more in our January issue.
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