Forbes ranked Ocala fifth in the nation for job growth. Since December 2012, Ocala has led the state with the highest job growth rates. We agree with Forbes that Ocala has great things in its future. Visit our listings page to learn about our Ocala retail spaces and land parcels.
By Susan Latham Carr | The Gainesville Sun
Of the 200 largest cities by population, Ocala ranked fifth among Forbes magazine’s listing of the best American cities for job growth.
Behind the Ocala job numbers
Starting in December 2012, the Ocala metro area (which is all of Marion County) led all Florida metro areas for six consecutive months with the highest job growth rate.
• Seven major industries in the metro area posted job gains in June for a net of 2,300 new jobs.
• Ocala’s unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in June but there were 2,830 fewer people out of work than in June 2012, when the unemployment rate was 10.5 percent.
• The metro area had the nation’s second greatest unemployment rate drop between February 2012 (10.8 percent) and February 2013 (8.4 percent.)
Source: Workforce Connection
Forbes based its rankings, which were released this week, on a Moody’s Analytics study looking at job growth through 2015.
Austin, Texas, which placed first, was one of seven Texas cities Forbes ranked among the top 10 metros with the highest anticipated job growth.
Austin’s job growth is projected to reach 4.0 percent. Its median household income is $59,554 and its unemployment rate is 5.5 percent.
Ocala, the only Florida city to make it into the top 10, has a projected job growth of 3.4 percent. The city’s median household income is $39,630.
Ocala’s 8.0 percent unemployment rate is 2.5 percentage points higher than Austin’s.
Three other Texas cities — McAllen, Houston and Fort Worth-Arlington — followed Austin’s lead with projected job growth rates of 3.7 percent, 3.5 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.
The three other Texas cities — Dallas, Laredo and Brownsville — ranked 8th, 9th and 10th with projected growth rates of 3.4 percent, 3.3 percent and 3.1 percent respectively.
Holland, Mich. fell to the bottom of the rankings at 200 with a 0.5 percent projected job growth.
“From my perspective, I think it’s largely because of the concerted efforts of the city, county and Ocala-Marion County Chamber Economic Partnership and what we have done over the last five-six years to try to attract companies to the community,” said Marc Mondell, the city of Ocala’s executive director of community development. “Not only have we helped recruit and expand companies here, we will continue to do so with Federal Express.”
Mondell said the city is excited to be on the list.
“It’s never been our goal to be on this list but it has been our goal to stimulate private sector investment and new jobs,” he said. “We are clearly taking this ranking as an indication, or proof positive, that we are being successful, that we are heading in the right direction.”
CEP President and CEO Kevin Sheilley said any time a publication like Forbes mentions Ocala, and especially in conjunction with cities like Austin, Dallas and Houston, it is exciting.
He said he believes the reasons Ocala is being recognized is because of its location off Interstate 75 and being close to so many major cities, and also because Florida is a state that is leading the nation in job growth.
Sheilley said being mentioned in Forbes as a leader in job growth, and also in Money Magazine earlier this year as being in the top 15 market for real estate in the future, indicates things are happening in Ocala.
“Part of the trouble we have had in recent years is the real estate market and the lost jobs,” Sheilley said. “To have Money saying it’s a good place to build and buy and Forbes that its a good place for jobs, I think that’s really positive as we move forward.”
He recognizes that Ocala’s unemployment is still high but that has been the focus of the CEP, city and county.
“We are starting to see those things come to fruition,” Sheilley said. “We think that unemployment is going to tumble over the next several months.”
Although Florida may be leading the country in job growth, Ocala was the only Florida city listed in the top 10 of Forbes’ ranking.
Sheilley said that as much as he hated to admit it, Texas is a good model to look at in terms of economic development. But he said Florida’s tax structure is competitive with Texas.
“But Texas has been very aggressive,” Sheilley said.
He said he has been in meetings with Enterprise Florida to determine how Florida can be more aggressive.
That, he said, has been the CEP’s philosophy in Ocala.
“We are not waiting for companies in Ocala,” Sheilley said. “We are out aggressively looking.”
Contact Susan Latham Carr at 352-867-4156 firstname.lastname@example.org.