Sheilley described how the COVID-19 pandemic upended the local economy. The group helped distribute federal money to local businesses affected by the pandemic by working with the Marion County government and local bankers to try and create a seamless process.
While the pandemic slowed things down, the group still worked with many Black-owned businesses to help them start and grow their projects. In 2021, the CEP hopes to conduct similar outreach to the Hispanic community.
Despite the economic issues, developers still flocked to build warehouses and logistic properties as the county continues to build its reputation as a logistics hub.
The process started several years ago with companies such as FedEx, Chewy and AutoZone building fulfillment and distribution centers. Then Dollar Tree announced its 1.7 million-square-foot distribution center. Soon after Red Rock Developments, a company from North Carolina, announced it would build a 617,000-square-foot warehouse facility on speculation. They leased it to Amazon even before construction was finished, Sheilley said.
The momentum continues with plans to build 5 million more square feet of warehouse space in the works, he said.
One of those is the nearly 725,000-square-foot airport logistics park planned for property adjacent to the Ocala International Airport. The project will be developed in two phases, with the first consisting of 325,000 square feet. That site broke ground on Wednesday, Sheilley said.
The CEP also hopes to open satellite offices around the county to complement its downtown headquarters.