CEP: County continues to see growth

Kevin Sheilley, the President/CEO of the Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership, speaks during the Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership exCEPtional Mornings breakfast at the Church of Hope on Southeast Maricamp Road in Ocala, Fla. on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted July 6, 2021 | By Joel Bronson, joel@ocalagazette.com

The Ocala metro area continued to grow over the past year, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Kevin Sheilley, president and CEO of the Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership during a presentation to the Marion County Board of County Commissioners on July 6.

[Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

Sheilley provided an update on population growth, home construction, and business development during the commission’s regular meeting.

Marion County’s population, estimated at 373,513 as of June 30, should reach 400,000 residents by 2024 and 500,000 by 2040, according to Census Bureau projections.

The area is now the 146th largest metro area in the country, gaining two spots from 2020.

“The Miami Metro only added 500 more residents than the Ocala Metro,” Sheilley said during his presentation, without citing specific numbers.

The growth is evident by the increased numbers of construction permits for new housing. So far this year, there were an average of 425 building permits issues per month for new single-family homes. That was an increase of 42% 2020 and a 130% increase from 2019, according to Sheilley.

The Ocala area is becoming a leading strategic location for shipping and commerce. Access to I-75 allows trucking and shipping to reach 34 million residents, which is a 39% greater reach than the I-4 corridor, he said.

Dollar Tree’s distribution center is entering its second phase which will give the facility a total footprint of 1.4 million square feet. It is anticipated that more than 5 million square feet of industrial space will begin construction during 2021. The boom in projects would add to Chewy, FedEx, AutoZone and Amazon in operating distribution and fulfilment centers in Ocala.

Sheilley also said the local median household income grew by 31.4% between 2016-2020, citing Environics Analytics data.

Even with the reported growth, Sheilley warned that the CEP cannot rest on its recent success.

“We have to be aggressive, keep our foot on the gas,” he said. For more information on CEP projects and initiatives, visit https://ocalacep.com.

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