December 4, 2023

2012 Florida Economic Yearbook

Economic Indicators for North Central Florida

Cynthia Barnett | 4/18/2012

A UF-city effort focuses on fostering innovation, and signs of growth are cropping up in Marion and Sumter. The rest of the region is struggling to gain its footing.

North Central Florida

Gainesville/Alachua County

Alachua County continues to post the lowest unemployment rate in the region, thanks in part to the high percentage of state government jobs at the University of Florida and Shands Hospital. Gainesville and UF officials are working together to try to grow private-sector jobs and industry. Since some of the most dynamic results have come from UF spinoff companies such as RTI Biologics, Xhale Innovations and Sinmat, the focus is tech.

A formal effort called Innovation Gainesville is working to match startups with investors and is shepherding other projects such as the annual Cade Prize for Innovation, which awards $50,000 in startup funding and a year's rent in the Gainesville Technology Enterprise Center. In January, UF opened a business incubator between campus and downtown called Innovation Hub. It's already home to 16 companies and nine service providers, from law firms to venture capital companies. Local leaders and UF officials hope the hub will attract interest in a 40-acre surrounding development called Innovation Square.

Businesses to Watch

Fracture was started by UF grads Alex Theodore (left) and Abhi Lokesh. [Photo: Fracture]

» Fracture: Founded by UF grads Abhi Lokesh and Alex Theodore, Fracture prints digital photos on glass. Last year, the 2½-year-old Gainesville company sold more than 28,000 "fractures," moved into a new facility downtown and hired its 10th employee.

Alachua Population: 254,470
Population Growth Rate (2008-12): 0.96%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
14.97% 7.97% 38.20% 27.49% 11.37%
Per Capita Income: $37,685

MSA Dec. 2011 Dec. 2010 % Change Jobless Rate
Gainesville 126,858 126,908 -.03% 7.7%
Ocala 116,023 115,166 +.7% 11.6%
Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation

Homes - Single-family, existing-home sales
MSA 2011 Sales 1-Year Change 2011 Price 1-Year Change
Gainesville 1,976 NC $148,500 -8%
Ocala 3,831 +7% $79,500 -10%
Source: Florida Realtors; year-end sales, median price

Alachua County Consumer Bankruptcies
2010 2011 Change
502 452 -10.0%
Source: National Bankruptcy Research Center

Ocala/Marion County

Innovation Hub, which opened in Gainesville in January, already houses 16 companies and nine service providers. [Photo: UF/Eric Zamora]

Marion County and Ocala are finally seeing job growth — after being hammered harder than the rest of the region in the economic downturn. Several of the largest private-sector companies are hiring, including Lockheed Martin, which employs nearly 1,000 at its Silver Springs Shores plant, and Signature Brands, which has hired more than 300 for its new dessert-decorating and popcorn plants in Ocala.

Local officials are determined to diversify the economy and to grow more local tech companies. In February, they opened the community's first business incubator, called The Power Plant because it's housed in a renovated 1916 electric generation plant downtown. The first two resident companies, and Digital Fury, have already moved in. The city hopes to create an "innovation campus" in the area and has begun work on a new park, downtown lighting and other features to spark that effort.

Businesses to Watch

» Country Meats: The 32-year-old, family-run smoked-meat business in Ocala has seen a surge in sales since offering its smoked meat snacks as a fundraiser for schools and other non-profits. School groups around the nation order the smoked "sticks," which come in 14 flavors. The company increased production from 18,000 sticks to more than 38,000 a day after moving into its new plant.

Marion Population: 343,370
Population Growth Rate (2008-12): 0.99%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
15.99% 5.48% 19.70% 32.09% 26.75%
Per Capita Income: $33,951

Tags: North Central

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