Delaney Van Nest

On Tuesday, April 11, five local business leaders from different industries came together at CF’s Webber Center to discuss why they believe Florida is a competitive destination.

Rob Adamiak opened the panel as he discussed how Florida’s manufacturing industry affects the states competitive nature. Adamiak represented the Mid Florida Regional Manufactures Association at the panel.

“The fact is, the US is by far still the largest manufacturing country in the world,” Adamiak said. “To make Florida an attractive area, we certainly need to have the programs in place to properly train employees for these companies.”

Adamaik continued to discuss areas of the manufacturing industry that could use reform in order to make the local manufacturing industry more competitive.

The CEO of Ocala Health, Chad Christianson, followed Adamiak and discussed what projects Ocala Health has been working on to improve their hospitals. Christianson discussed the upgrades in the trauma department for both West Marion and Ocala Regional Hospitals.

“What we’re trying to do is really grow with this community to really be a destination healthcare community,” Christianson said. “With that, are we developing those services so that we are truly a destination center for all healthcare needs in this region.”

Christianson revealed that since 2012, Ocala Health has spent 126 million on both facilities in order to make them more beneficial for the community. Over the course of the last three years, Ocala Health has created 437 new jobs for the community, and Christianson has faith that this number will continue to grow.

After Christianson was Bill Paul, the site director at Lockheed Martin. He began by discussing Lockheed Martin’s company core values, which include respect and doing the right thing.

“We want to have a culture that has lots of positive energy,” Paul said. “We want people to understand the course of who we are and what we do.”

Paul briefly discussed Lockheed Martin’s goals as far as their part in helping build the community to become a competitive destination.

“The work we do is very important,” Paul said. “Quality is paramount, whatever we do has to work every time.”

Lonny Powell, the CEO of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, spoke about the thriving thoroughbred industry locally and how it has made us a competitive destination. As most are aware, Ocala is considered the horse capital of the world, and the equine breeding industry is of huge importance when it comes to our economic stability.

Florida is the second largest breeding jurisdiction of thoroughbreds in North America. Sales for 2-year-old horses in Ocala are number one in sales of 2-year-olds in the world.

“The importance of the whole thing is remaining competitive,” Powell said. “It’s a very competitive marketplace. We’re not doing anything that other places aren’t, we just have to focus on doing it the best and the smartest.”

The last speaker at the local panel was Kevin Sheilley who represented the Ocala/ Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership. He discussed how the CEP focuses on bringing businesses together to make the region more competitive globally.

“We’re looking at ways to make sure that our community is successful,” Sheilley said. “The most important thing for Marion County to be successful and competitive is that Marion County sets its own course. We can’t wait for someone else to do it. We have to take that upon ourselves.”

Our region has one of the fastest growing economies in the country because of all the things discussed at the panel. Florida truly is rising constantly as a competitive destination.

Story and photos by: Delaney Van Nest