The Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership (CEP) detailed some of the initiatives that have helped the organization impact the announcement of 7,500 jobs and over $900 million in capital investments in the Ocala/Marion County area during a presentation to chamber members this past Thursday.

The impressive growth figures, which were presented during the CEP’s annual presentation encore, are a product of the group’s efforts to build, strengthen, and diversify Ocala’s growing economy during a multi-phased plan currently in its second phase and seventh year.

“[Ocala] was a place where nothing ever happened, so much so that it earned the moniker ‘NOcala,'” said CEP President Kevin Sheilley, during his opening remarks at the College of Central Florida’s Dassance Fine Arts Center.

Sheilley explained that although the chamber’s aggressive economic goals and growth once seemed impossible, the efforts of hundreds of business leaders, government officials, and chamber members had proved otherwise.

“People always want to know how we’re coming along on our three big goals. Those goals [in Phase II] are that we would impact the announcement of 4,500 new jobs, that those jobs would on average pay at least 15 percent above the county’s average wage,” and that the total capital investment would exceed $400 million, according to Sheilley.

In only three years, the chamber has already surpassed two of its five-year goals, including $547 million in capital investment and the creation of over 4,000 jobs with wages that are 16 percent above the county average. The 4,000 jobs represent over 90 percent of the chamber’s current five-year goal of creating 4,500 jobs, which is Phase II of the overall plan.

When coupled with the first Phase of the plan, which started seven years ago, the total span of the initiative has directly impacted the announcement of 7,500 jobs in the community and has resulted in nearly $1 billion in capital investment.

“The capital investment is $900 million. To give you perspective, seven years ago, the assessed value of property in Marion County was $14 billion. We’ve added almost $1 billion in worth” said Sheilley of the accomplishment.

Sheilley went on to elaborate on how the capital investment in the community has steadied tax rates, citing a recent tax rate increase in Sumter County that came as shock to residents.

“That capital investment, that’s money [residents and visitors] are spending in our community. That’s money that’s going to our local governments to help keep our tax rates much lower than they might be. If you’re unaware, our friends just to the south this year had to do a (25 percent) increase in their property taxes. Are they getting anything new and different for that? No,” said Sheilley of the 25 percent tax rate increase approved last September by Sumter County Commissioners.

“In the Ocala Metro it’s possible to keep our taxes lower because we are growing investments and growing opportunity” added Sheilley.