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Voted Chamber of the Year by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives

FALL 2021

In This Issue:





Your local business connection.

They’re goofy and lovable... and possibly just what your workplace needs!


Tips To Help Your

Worker Shortage Planner New Partners Beyond Networking


Great health awaits you.

Adjustments make you stronger. Your discipline makes you healthier.

Join us for these

FREE HEALTH SEMINARS: Space is limited, so please call to reserve your seat.

Dr. Renny Edelson and his

entire team welcome you to come by and see all of the new, exciting changes happening at each location.

9/8 @ 6:30pm—

Energy Recovery for Daily Life 9/22 @ 12:30pm— End Headaches Now 10/13 @ 6:30PM— Mood Management: The Focus Factor (ADD/ADHD) 10/27 @12:30PM— Sugar/Sweeteners: The Truth About Sweeteners

Ocala East

Ocala West

Buffalo Ridge

(Next to railroad tracks) 942 SE 17th Street Ocala FL 34471

(Jasmine South) 7668 SW 60th Ave.,#500 Ocala, FL 34476

(in The Villages) 3614 Wedgewood Ln The Villages, FL 32162







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H2 Advisors was founded by David Hoffman, Jay Hoffman and Rebecca Gavidia who have over 80 years of combined experience in the fields of accounting, tax & valuation. In 2020, driven by the commitment to best serve the needs of their growing client base, H2 brought on Jim McCarthy as Partner to lead their new M&A division. H2 is proud to now offer a full suite of strategic services and advisory functions for small to mid-size companies at every phase of their life cycle, from start-up to exit.

H2 HIGHLIGHTS H2 HIGHLIGHTS Jim McCarthy joins H2 with over 20 years ofLL global Throughout hisIS career, has 5 FFUU -S-S EE RM&A V IV Cexperience. ECB UBSU INS EIN SSEA D V OVRIS YJim FIRR Mrecieved L L R I E S S A D O Y F I R M global M&A awards and has been involved in over 100 transactions in the US, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland, H2 Advisors provides a full suite of specialized business services, designed

IN the Netherlands. H2 Australia, OFFICES Brazil, and extensive leadership experience, successfully guiding companies Advisors provides a lower full suite of specialized business services, toWith lead organizations in the to middle markets through every phase ofdesigned IN& acquisitions, strategic JACKSONVILLE throughOFFICES mergers planning, start-ups, sales growth, management, and turn around to lead organizations in the lower to middle markets through every phase of the business life cycle. With a partnership approach and seamless JACKSONVILLE AND OCALA services, Jim brings a diverse skill set to the H2 team. coordination between able to efficiently and effectively the business life departments, cycle. WithH2a is partnership approach and seamless AND OCALA deliver the guidance, oversight and support to achieve bothand short coordination between departments, H2necessary is able to efficiently effectively and long the termguidance, success. oversight and support M&A necessary TRANSACTIONS deliver to achieve both short and long at term Q4 - 2020 “It’s truly a pleasure to lead the M&A practice H2success. Advisors.



ACTIVE CLIENTS MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS Having a full suite of financial services under one roof brings ACTIVE CLIENTS


an incredible level of efficiency and


TEAMdelivering MEMBERS awesome It’s all about

for our clients.” TEAM MEMBERS


- Jim

GLOBAL M&A AWARDS McCarthy SINCE 2014* *by current H2 Partner / M&A Leader

GLOBAL M&A AWARDS SINCE 2014* *by current H2 Partner / M&A Leader















• Business Valuations VALUATIONS • Eminent Domain • Outsourced CFO

• Business Valuations • Business Damage • Calculations Eminent Domain

H2 Advisors served as the exclusive advisor to Print Reach

H2 Advisors served as the exclusive advisor to Surgical Specialists of Ocala

Fraud & Forensic Consulting &• SPECIALIZED SERVICES • Litigation Support

• Go To Market Consulting • Fraud & Forensic Consulting • Financial Modeling

• Litigation Support

• Go To Market Consulting H2 PARTNERS ACCOUNTING



Acquired By & Strategic Exit Was Acquired By • Was Financial Planning • Value Enhancement


• Outsourced CFO




• Financial & Strategic Exit Planning • Joint Ventures & Management Buyouts • Value Enhancement

• Strategic M&A

• Buyer Seller service and &reducing costs • Consulting Sales & Divestitures

• Buyer & Seller Consulting



MERGERS• & ACQUISITIONS Joint Ventures & Management Buyouts

• Strategic M&A synergy toDivestitures our processes. • Sales &





• Business Damage Calculations

• Financial Modeling

• QuickBooks setup and Training

• Financial Statement Analysis QuickBooks setup and •• Forecasting/Budgeting

• Back Office Support • Benchmarking & Dashboard ACCOUNTING Reports • Key Performance Indicators

• Back Office Support Training • Benchmarking & Dashboard TAX SERVICES Reports • Financial Statement Analysis • Key Performance Indicators •• Planning & Preparation • Partnerships Forecasting/Budgeting • Individual

• Corporate

Jay Hoffman

• Estates & Trust

• Gift TAX SERVICES Rebecca Gavidia Jim McCarthy

• Planning & Preparation • Partnerships • Individual • Estates & Trust OCALA OFFICE JACKSONVILLE • Corporate Gift EXPERTISE INLEARN ALL MORE ABOUT OUR SERVICE OFFERINGOFFICE AT• H2ADV.COM 101 NE 1st Avenue 13500 Sutton Park Drive S. Unit 703 STAGES OF BUSINESS Ocala, Florida 34470 Jacksonville, FL 32224







Silver Springs Blvd, B2 zoning


SW College Rd • B4 zoning, 14,000 sq. ft.

6,300 sq.ft., B2 zoning



B2 zoning, fully leased

5,000 sq. ft., M2 Warehouse near the airport

Lance & Pat Schenker



e are agents that provide solutions to owners, occupiers and investors in local, national and international markets. People don’t talk about it a lot, but finding the right Commercial Real Estate Agents can make all the difference. First, you'll want agents ready and able to make a full-time commitment to you. We can and will do that.

Second, you'll want agents with the experience needed to know the local market conditions, ordinances, etc. With our years of experience in the market, we have the expertise and track record for the results you want. Third, you'll want agents who embrace the convenience of technology without losing the personal touch. You'll love the resources available to you through us and

Lance & Pat Schenker Toll Free (800) 351-3630 Ocala (352) 351-3630 COMMERCIAL Real Estate




our web sites. These will never replace the time we spend with you, and your prospective buyers, or tenants. Fourth, you'll want agents that have experience in working with International customers. Agents that know the minute differences in dealing with different cultures and are sensitive to the needs and desires of those buyers, sellers and tenants. “We promise, we will treat every transaction as if it were our own.”

“ Peaceful, prestigious, & private treatment for those suffering from trauma and underlying self-defeating behaviors.

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Table Of Contents Fall 2021



Your local business connection.

Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership 310 SE 3rd Street, Ocala, FL 34471 (352) 629-8051 •


Kevin’s Corner More awards and recognitions. By Kevin T. Sheilley


Fast Forward Quick looks at area business. Compiled By JoAnn Guidry

12 Networking Business After Hours at the Paddock Mall. By Steve Floethe 14 Networking Skating, ‘80s style. By Olana McDonald 16 Networking Business After Hours at the Paddock Mall. By Kelly McAtee 17 Ribbon Cuttings You know chambers love these, right? By Joe Reichel 18 New Partners Who joined the CEP? Now you know. By Tamara Fleischhaker 20 Beyond Networking Going outside the 9 to 5. By Tom James 22 Partner Profile A Q&A with Jared Konstanty 34 Planner 11 ways to network. By Cynthia Brown 36 Expert Advice Reach out to CF! By Bonnie Hays

Published by:





28 How To Beat The Workforce Woes

A panel of local business owners and HR managers recently convened at the downtown office of the Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership to discuss how they’re dealing with current workforce challenges. Despite a difficult and unprecedented year, they still believe they can find the local talent to get the job done. The conclusion? To do it right, you’re going to have to work harder than ever. BY DEAN BLINKHORN


24 Canine Co-Workers

The “shop pets” project came from my love of visiting different stores around town because I wanted to see the pets who went to work with their owners. It made sense to me to create a book for everyone to enjoy about the shop pets in Ocala, sell it, and then donate the money to the Humane Society of Marion County so that they can continue their work of finding loving homes for pets. PHOTOS & TEXT BY JULIANA HENNINGSEN COVER ILLUSTRATION BY ELENA BARENBAUM

Publisher/Editor Dean Blinkhorn Publisher/Designer Trevor Byrne Project Manager Cynthia Brown

Editorial Support Richard Anguiano Tamara Fleischhaker JoAnn Guidry Tom James Kevin Sheilley Danielle Veenstra

Photography Trevor Byrne Steve Floethe John Jernigan Olana McDonald Advertising

©2021 Good Life Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. CEP Network is published quarterly for the partners of the Ocala Metro CEP. No part may be reprinted in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. Neither the publisher nor the Ocala Metro CEP is responsible for advertisers’ claims or content of advertisements. The publisher and CEP assume no responsibility for errors or omissions.Publisher’s website:

7 Your local business connection.




Recognitions For Ocala & The CEP


Photo: Olana McDonald

hile summer is often a slower time for many businesses with people taking vacations and kids out of school, that is not the case at the CEP. If anything, the already crazy speed of this unforgettable year has gotten even faster. I would like to update you on a few recent awards and recognitions.


US News & World Reports Best Places List The venerable US News & World Reports Annual “Best Places to Live” list was just released, and the Ocala Metro again placed very well. The list ranks the 150 largest metros in the nation on a series of data points and then provides ranking in several categories. For 2022, the Ocala Metro ranked: • #4 Safest Metro • #6 Fastest-Growing Metro • #6 Best Place To Retire • #16 Best Small Metro • #58 Overall These great rankings reinforce what so many of us already know—the Ocala Metro is an exceptional place to live, work, and play.

National Association of Workforce Boards Award CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion and the CEP have been recognized by the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) for significant partnership to advance the region’s workforce and economic development.  The 2021 Laurie Moran Partnership Award, given jointly to a workforce development board and chamber of commerce, was presented recently at NAWB’s annual Forum in Washington, D.C. It is one of NAWB’s three most prestigious awards, along with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Trailblazer and W.O. Lawton awards. The CEP has collaborated with CareerSource CLM on numerous initiatives to establish a talented and trained workforce, including its annual involvement with the Marion County Youth Career Expos. A big thank-you to Rusty Skinner and Cory Weaver for making an incredible partnership look amazingly easy.

The already crazy speed of this unforgettable year has gotten even faster.

CEP Team Members Recognized I strongly believe that the CEP team is the best in the country. Recently, two of our members have received significant recognitions, which I think are worth sharing. Dean Blinkhorn, vice president of operations and publisher of CEP Network, received the Walter Clausen Award from the Florida Association for Career and


Technical Educators recognizing his “contributions to the improvement, promotion, development, and progress of career and technical education” in Florida. This award recognized Dean’s outstanding work leading the CEP’s NextWorks initiative focused on school-business engagement. The CEP’s Director of the IMPACT Initiative Cherrietta Prince was selected as one of 21 chamber leaders from across the country to participate in the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives’ Inclusive Economic Growth Fellowship. The fellowship is designed “to help chambers refine their inclusive economic recovery goals” and assist chambers to “build replicable programs and processes.” Congratulations to Dean and Cherrietta for these much-deserved recognitions! l Kevin T. Sheilley is the President/CEO of the Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership and has spoken across the country on issues relating to economic and community development. Organizations he’s led have won numerous accolades, including the most recent and biggest yet: ACCE National Chamber of the Year. Prior to relocating to Ocala, Kevin had worked in economic development in Kentucky and Tennessee. The CEP represents the fourth time he has successfully assisted communities in merging/creating new economic development entities.

In honor of our cover story this issue, I wanted to share some interesting tidbits about the best dog in the world...

Scrappy! • Scrappy is a 7-year-old Maltipoo. Much like my first and third children (and myself), he is very much an extrovert! I have only found one person he just did not like; however, there is no doubt who his favorite person is—me—much to my wife’s chagrin and consternation! • Scrappy weighs about 12 pounds, but when he looks in the mirror, he sees a 120-pound Great Dane. • He can swim, but usually prefers to just get on the first step of the pool. More than once, we have found him floating in the pool when a float has been left in the water.

Left to right: Chris Langley, Citizens First Bank; and Josh Hart, CEO, Burnyzz.

We’re Ready to Help


Your Business!

Switch to Citizens to see how we can help your business grow! Find CFB Business The Villages® in your app store!


Cash Management


Connect with us on Facebook! | 352-751-2020 Committed to our communities for 30 years and counting!

9 Your local business connection.




AeroAggregates To Open Production Facility


unnellon will be home to a new AeroAggregates production facility slated to begin operations in October. The plant will turn post-consumer recycled glass into ultralightweight foamed glass aggregate material that can be used in infrastructure and commercial construction projects throughout the southeastern United States. In its first year, the facility expects to recycle the equivalent of 140 million glass bottles. “AeroAggregates’ ability to manufacture and distribute for the area,” says CEP President/CEO Kevin Sheilley, “is further testament to the logistical advantage of the Ocala Metro.”


An annual record-breaking increase in Tourist Development Tax revenue, according to the Tourist Development Council. “Our proactive approach to recovery,” says Loretta Shaffer, Tourist Development Director for the Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau, “is proving a success.”

Ocala Health Embarks On $65 Million Expansion Project

Ocala Health is investing $65 million to add more than 49,091 square feet of new space and renovate 9,976 square feet of existing space at its Ocala Regional Medical Center campus. This latest project will include an addition of 36 inpatient beds, which will create a new dedicated Neuro ICU scheduled to open in the third quarter of 2022. There will also be an addition of five cardiovascular suites, as well as renovation of current dining space and laboratory department. Its latest $65 million investment brings its five-year capital investment to a total of nearly $365 million.

CEP’s Blinkhorn Receives Statewide Award


he Florida Association for Career and Technical Educators honored Dean Blinkhorn, CEP vice president of operations and former director of Talent Development, with the Walter Clausen Award. The award recognizes a person in business or industry for the highest meritorious contribution to the improvement, promotion, development, and progress of career and technical education in the state of Florida. “Dean’s work,” says Kathy Otte, Career Technical Education Program Specialist at Marion County Schools, “has been integral in connecting our local business and industry with CTE students.” Blinkhorn accepted the award at the Association for Career and Technical Education Conference in Orlando on August 3. “I humbly accept this award,” says Blinkhorn, “and I’m looking forward to being part of the local CTE conversation for many more years to come.”


CEP’s Cherrietta Prince Tabbed For Fellowship

The Ocala Metro CEP’s Director of IMPACT Initiative Cherrietta Prince has been selected by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives for the next 2021 Cohort for Inclusive Economic Growth Fellowship. “It is such an honor,” says Prince. “This unique opportunity allows me to join an exclusive network of chamber leaders to engage in discussions about how to support our communities in these unprecedented times.”

2021 Manufacturing Wage And Benefits Survey Available

Conducted by CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion in partnership with Mid-FL Regional Manufacturers Association (MRMA) and the Ocala Human Resource Management Association (OHRMA), it provides a comprehensive look at the state of manufacturing/ distribution/logistics and supply chain employment in Citrus, Levy, Marion, and Sumter counties. Companies that participated in the survey receive complimentary copies of the report. It is also available for purchase. For more information, contact MRMA Executive Director Kathleen Betz at 840-5764 or



The annual growth rate of the Ocala MSA nonagricultural employment, an increase of 3,800 jobs over the year. The Ocala MSA also had the fastest annual job growth rate compared to all the metro areas in the state in manufacturing at 8.6 percent.

The CEP Hires Beth McCall “I am excited to join the CEP as Director Of Talent Development,” she says. “I am passionate about our community, children, and education and look forward to continuing to strengthen the partnership with the schools and our businesses.”

L-R: Rusty Skinner and Cory Weaver (CareerSource CLM); Kevin T. Sheilley and Dean Blinkhorn (CEP)

CareerSource CLM & CEP Share Laurie Moran Partnership Award

The 2021 Laurie Moran Partnership Award, one of only three given annually by the National Association of Workforce Boards, was garnered by CareerSource CLM and the Ocala Metro CEP at the recent annual conference in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes the two entities for focused collaboration on numerous initiatives involving workforce and education.

WEC Acquires Ocala Jockey Club Property

The World Equestrian Center (WEC) has purchased the 1,000-acre Ocala Jockey Club (OJC) in northwest Marion County. Renovations are also being planned to ready the facility for hosting weddings, equestrian, and special events under the WEC brand of hospitality management. Moving forward, the facility will be known as the World Equestrian Jockey Club.

11 Your local business connection.


Rendering: Wannemacher Jensen Architects

Photo: Trevor Byrne


An Olympic Touch For FAST

T New Alignment For ChiropracticUSA

After three decades of building chiropractic teams, Ocala’s Dr. Renny Edelson has a new project. Edelson’s latest venture is a strategic partnership with AlignLife to offer more services to clients. “I was the co-founder and opened the first franchise in Ocala of ChiropraticUSA,” says Edelson. “Over the years, we have grown to five offices providing the best in corrective chiropractic care. Now we’re going to add metabolic and nutrition profiling to our care model by joining with Jacksonville-based AlignLife, which was founded by Dr. Joe Esposito. The new partnership will operate under the AlignLife name. “Joe and I have been longtime friends and this is a great partnership for both of us,” Edelson adds. “The name transition will take six months to a year. The long-range plan is to have 17 more offices in Florida, with our main headquarters remaining right here in Ocala. We’re also planning to have 100 offices total nationwide.” The main Ocala East office (942 SE 17th Street) next to the railroad tracks is easy to find. Just look for the 18-foot skeleton. “We think that skeleton is a perfect landmark for a chiropractic office,” says Edelson. “We got it to get people’s attention. It definitely does that.”


he Circle Square Foundation purchased the Myrtha Pools warmup pool following the completion of the 2021 U.S. Olympics Swimming Trials last June in Omaha, Nebraska. The pool was shipped from Omaha to Ocala, where it will become the outdoor competition pool at the Florida Aquatics Swimming and Training (FAST) facility. Scheduled to open in March 2022, FAST will feature indoor and outdoor pools to maximize space and allow for warm-up and cooldown swims during meets. The natatorium will include an indoor 10lane 50-meter/25-yard Olympic competition pool, deck space for up to 800 swimmers and more than 2,000 spectator seats.

CF First State College Licensed To Cultivate Hemp

The College of Central Florida has garnered the distinction of being approved by the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Division of Plant Industry to produce industrial hemp at its Vintage Farm Campus in south Ocala. It is the first license of its kind approved for a state college in Florida. “Due to statewide and local interest in the burgeoning hemp industry in Florida, and the uniqueness of the college’s Vintage Farm Campus facilities and areas of study,” says Tavis Douglass, Agribusiness program manager, “it was a natural fit.”

Your Source for Targeted Workforce Training Businesses that provide their employees with ongoing professional development see greater productivity and increased employee satisfaction. CF Corporate College can help identify training gaps and deliver customized, affordable training to your employees at the college site or yours.


WANT TO ATTRACT HIGH-ACHIEVING EMPLOYEES? Consider adding employee tuition assistance to your benefits.

Supporting an employee in their higher education journey reaps significant rewards for your company. The practice has a high return on investment, retains employees longer and improves employee performance. CF will help you design a plan that works for you and your team. For more information, contact Dr. Jennifer Fryns at or 352-873-5800, ext. 1728.

Top 15% of colleges in the U.S. for quality

-Aspen Institute

Top 1%

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day, evening, online, hybrid classes

2 million



in scholarships available

–an equal opportunity college–

13 Your local business connection.


5Karen Cobbs, Natalie McComb, Sara Russell

5John Barlett, Daniel Gray

Business After Hours at the Paddock Mall

5Krista Ingrilli, Esmirna Caraballo, Abdul Okabs

5Stacey Ansley, Renee Arnett

The CEP’s signature monthly networking event had a great turnout at the center court area of the Paddock Mall. Hundreds came out to learn more about all their latest offerings and to exchange business cards with the attendees. Photos By Steve Floethe

5Bailey Boardman, Nick McGowans

5Floyd Hershberger, Ryan Lilly, Michael Cariglio

5Margie Kluess, Brett Goldin

5Savannah Anderson, Ladesa Santos


5Laurie Zink, Jaye Baillie, Tammy Hoff


5Keith Meredith, David Tillman, Jonny Heath

FIERCELY COMMITTED TO OCALA Ameris Bank isn’t your average bank and our approach might surprise you. We don’t cut corners, but we do cut red tape, long lines and cumbersome processes so you get what you need, when you need it. We are fiercely committed to getting things done for our neighbors in Ocala. Let’s talk. Ocala Team 352.620.8576 •





• Tree Trimming • Tree Pruning • Tree Removal • Hauling • Stump Grinding • Storm Recovery

50 Years o NG

With roots planted in Florida since 1971, Conrad Tree Service meets the unique tree-care needs of residents and organizations throughout Marion County. Unlike those less experienced tree-service providers, we employ a team of licensed and insured arborists with workers’ compensation coverage. Our team looks forward to assisting you with certified arborist advisory, tree trimming, debris removal, land clearing, storm recovery, tree preservation, and related landscape services.


Licensed & In

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

(352) 867-1123

Thomas Conrad, Certified Arborist

15 Your local business connection.



5Vianca Lorena Torres Pescador, Jenny Marie

5Brandon Richter, Krystal Dale, Austin Markham

YPO 80’s Skate Night The Young Professionals Ocala group held their annual gala at Skate A Way South in June. Members dressed up in their best 80’s themed attire for a night of skating and networking with business professionals. Photos By Olana McDonald

5Andrew Hinkle, Lauren Debick

5Kelly McAtee, Brandy Maynard

5Krystal Dale


5Clay & Rhoda Walkup, Abbey Slavin

5Vinessa Chevalier


Visit the Appleton and Artspace for free on the first Saturday of each month. Appleton Museum, Artspace and Store COLLEGE OF CENTRAL FLORIDA

Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd. | 352-291-4455

Marion County’s One-Stop Medical Home Pediatrics Medical & Dental Adult Medical & Dental

-an equal opportunity college-

Pharmacy NOW OPEN at Belleview Location

COME SEE YOUR NEW MEDICAL HOME! 5051 SE 110th St. • Belleview, FL 34420

Maternity Behavioral Health Low-Cost In-House Pharmacy 7 Health Centers, 2 In-House Pharmacies, and 1 Drive-Thru Pharmacy throughout the County to Better Serve You.

Call to schedule an appointment: 352.732.6599

My Family, My Healthcare, My Center

NEW DRIVE-THRU PHARMACY IN OCALA NOW OPEN! 1536 South Pine Ave. • Ocala, FL 34471

17 Your local business connection.



5Bart & Kristy Rowland, Tara & John Thorman

5Brittanie & Josh Hart, Owners of Burnyzz

Business After Hours at Burnyzz

5Chris & Nina Schweers

Another month, another Business After Hours! This one was held at Burnyzz, a classic car restoration showplace on Baseline Road. Dozens of classic cars were on display as CEP partners mingled and exchanged business cards.

5Fran Romeo, Mary Soares

Photos By Kelly McAtee

5Tom Duffy, Brandy Maynard, Paul Kestenbaum

5Daniel Grey, Gus Blanco


5Jamie Blankenship, Colin Barret, Gabriel Castano, Angela Sistarelli-Temple

5Jamie & Joe Tardif, Robert Bisbee, David Lugo, Julia Pagh, Chelsea Siver



7/15/2021—Burnyzz (


6/28/2021—Real Truck (

6/18/2021—The Equus Inn (

6/7/2021—Burn Boot Camp (

7/14/2021—Biznct (

7/9/2021—Sensational Selfies (

6/29/2021—Ocala Regional Medical Center (

7/28/2021—Marion Fence (

Has your business had a ribbon cutting yet? Email Jess Schultz at to schedule yours!

19 Your local business connection.




New partners (as of 09/02/21) who are ready to network!


352 Preview Magazine, LLC

Kathy Johnson 352-817-3636

5th Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program Florida Metal Building Services

Mandy Deuel 5445 S. Pine Ave Ocala, FL 34480 352-789-6009


Diana Gisonni 34 NW 1st Ave Ocala, FL 34475 352-812-6971

Acadia Acres

Sandy Welsh 7655 NW 21st St Ocala, FL 34482 (207) 343-0249

Ag - Pro, Ocala Red Rock Developments

John Barker P O Box 11747 Columbus, SC 29211 (980) 288-6222


Stephen Wilson 1695 NW 63rd Street Ocala, FL 34475 352-351-2383

Arthur Murray Dance Studio

Mike Martin 4750 S Pine Ave Ocala, FL 34480 352-547-8552

FM Meat Products, L.P.

Rebecca Matthews rebecca.matthews@ 19798 NE HWY 315 Ft. McCoy, FL 32134 352-546-3000

Stephanie Martin stephanie.martin@ 2201 SE 30th Ave Suite 201 Ocala, FL 34471 (352) 671-5310

Southern Waters Capital

Ray Mazzie 831 NE 20th Avenue Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304 (321) 368-0103


CarePatrol of North Central Florida

Jack Horner 16907 SE 160th Avenue Rd Weirsdale, FL 32195 (352) 615-4251

Carousel Early Learning Center, Inc.

Josh Wilson 405 SE Osceola Avenue Ocala, FL 34471 352-274-4500

Chairman Distributing LLC

Josh Liske 2040 NE 95th St Anthony, FL 32617 866-876-6005

Chariot Eagle, a Cavco Company

Kelly Black 2955 Brownwood Blvd, Suite 100 The Villages, FL 32163 (352) 488-2848

Chestnuthill Arabians

Be Well Holistic Massage Wellness Center, P.A.

Amy Harden 931 NW 37th Ave Ocala, FL 34475 352-629-7007 Joe Alberti 6455 SW 73rd St Ocala, FL 34476 610-972-9628

Com-Ind Properties Enterprise Inc.

Brittney Jewell Marlene Staley 1111 NE 25th Ave Ste.504 7747 NW 176 Lane Ocala, Florida, FL 34470 Reddick, FL 32686 (352) 547-8644 (352) 895-0740 Complete Office Big Lee’s - Serious About Barbecue Richard Acuna Rashad Jones 144 Hickory Course Ocala, FL Ocala, FL 34472 352-304-9105 352-664-2021 Brick City Flowers LLC

Brenda Carroll 1749 E Silver Springs Blvd Ocala, FL 34470 (352) 629-1180

Bridgewater Park Independent Financial Partners/ Raymond James Financial Services, Inc.

Chris Marshall 11105 W Hwy 326 Ocala, FL 34482 573-330-2054

Aubrey Watkins 304 SW Broadway Street Ocala, FL 34471 (352) 570-0360

Aviv Clinics

Central Florida Steel Buildings & Supply

Capital M Investments LLC

Dennis Ott 9174 SW 81st Ct Ocala, FL 34481 (765) 664-5400

Bridlewood Farm

George Isaacs 8318 NW 90th Terrace Ocala, FL 34482 352-622-5319

Busch Realty

Lori Busch 3300 SE 3rd Avenue Ocala, FL 34471 (352) 690-1909

Comprehensive Women’s Health

Kelly Thompson 4600 SW 46th Ct. Suite 330 Ocala, FL 34474 (352) 359-0826

Covert Appraisal Services, Inc.

Constance Covert 10575 NW 76th Terrace Ocala, FL 34482 (352) 362-0655

Culver’s of Ocala

ECM Companies

Evan Pitts 2775 NW 49th Ave, Ste 205-130 Ocala, FL 34482 (352) 562-5988

EquusCeptional Media

Louisa Barton 13867 NE Jacksonville Road Citra, FL 32113 (352) 304-1408

Eufloria Flower Cart

Krista Ingrilli Ocala, FL 352-209-0588

F&J Specialty Products Inc.

405 SE Osceola Avenue, Suite 110 Ocala, FL 34471 (334) 787-8397

Impact Island Cafe, LLC

Narissa Saint-Fleur 1750 SE 58th Ave Ocala, FL 34480 352-462-0122

J.A. Standridge Construction, Inc.

Brian Kilgore 200 SE 35th St Ocala, FL 34471 352-475-1530

Frank Gavila 404 Cypress Rd Ocala, FL 34472 (352) 680-1177

Landmark Mortgage Planners

Dottie Rathel 118 SW Fort King Street Ocala, FL 34471 352-622-9946

Lion Heart Floors LLC

Kristi Aiello 4800 Deerwood Campus Parkway Jacksonville, FL 32246 (904) 905-3766

LTC Technology Systems, Inc.


Marion Baptist Association

Face the Day Salon Spa

Florida Blue

Forever Young Academy Freight X LLC

Aaron Parr 3809 NW 11th Street Ocala, FL 34482 (352) 629-2042

Grace Christian School

Thomas Gerds 4410 SE 3rd Ave Ocala, FL 34480 (352) 387-3090

Graston Technique LLC

Dominic Merlina 7801 E. 88th St. Indianapolis, IN 46256 317-407-7777

Guaranteed Rate Mortgage

Mike Zysek 44 SE 1st Ave Suite 209 Ocala, FL 34471 352-554-2271

Joshua Clark 4836 SW College Rd. Ocala, FL 34470 (715) 499-2181

H & S Transport, LLC

Lonnie K. Edwards 20090 SE 33rd St Morriston, FL 32668 (352) 262-4834

Horsesdaily Inc.

Diversified Land and Timber Co.

How Did We Serve You?, Inc.

Steve Young 603 E. Fort King Street Suite 1013 Ocala, FL 34471 757-900-9872 Mary Phelps 12555 NW 198th Street Rd Micanopy, FL 0 (859) 940-8517

Rob Ziebart 415 SE 17th Place Ocala, FL 34471 (352) 304-5700 Kyle Caracciolo-Clayton 128 Marion Oaks Blvd, Suite 107 Ocala, FL 34473 352-203-4985 Alexis Bryan 1512 SW 5th Avenue Ocala, FL 34471 (855) 582-7875 Jackie DeMari 1520 NE 14th St. Ocala, FL 34470 352-622-6245

McCall Service Inc.

Jason Provo 2861 College Street Jacksonville, FL 32205 (904) 389-5561

Monarch Security Group

Nicolas Moy 405 SE Osceola Avenue, Suite 111 Ocala, FL 34471 352-857-6486

Mortgage Financial Group, Inc.

Tamara Hutto 1100 E. Alfred Street Tavares, FL 32778 352-742-7900

NAMI Marion County

Summer Gill 352-368-2405

National Employment Screening

Christopher Holt 800-459-3034

NextHome Vision Realty

Breanna (Bre) Stehr 217 SE 1st Ave Suite 200 Ocala, FL 34471 (352) 685-5005

NOMA Gallery

Purvis Gray and Company

The Horse Talk Show

VPF Removal Logistic

NOMA Records

Q4 Quest

The Juniper General Store

Wells Fargo

Lisa Midgett 939 N Magnolia Ave. Ocala, FL 34475 352-657-1212 Lisa Midgett 939 N. Magnolia Ave Ocala, FL 34475 352-657-1212

Ocala Car Audio

Erin Buss 2347 SE 17th Street Ocala, FL 34471 (352) 732-3872

Chris Cahill 603 E. Fort King Street Ocala, FL 34471 352-829-2057

Parish Tanner 12 S. Pine Ave Ocala, FL 34471 352-512-9897

Quicksilver Recycling

Bill Foote 500 SW 10th St Ocala, FL 34471 352-732-9779

Retirement Plan Man

Ocala Dive

Ocala Horse Properties

Robert Desino 6998 N US-27 Unit 114 Ocala, FL 34482 (352) 615-9743

Ocala Industrial Properties - Managed by Heritage Management Corp.

Jim Day 2605 SW 33rd St, #200 Ocala, FL 34471 (352) 482-0777

Ocala Star Banner

Jim Ross 2121 SW 19th Avenue Road Ocala, FL 34471 (352) 867-4080


Matthew Lamperski 405 SE Osceola Avenue Suite 109 Ocala, FL 34471

Orkin Pest Control

Jeremiah Laster 811 NE 16th Ave Unit 101 Ocala, FL 34470 352-229-2823

P.E.T.S. of Marion County

Russell Forsy 1102 N. Rome Ave Tampa, FL 33607 813-886-1494 Eric Grabe 520 E. Fort King Street Suite B-4 Ocala, FL 34470 352-619-9090

Robinson Baseball Academy

Bennie Robinson 3990 SE 44th Ave Rd Ocala, FL 34480 352-421-5953

Sensational Selfies Ocala, LLC

Debra Palmire 3100 SW College Rd Suite 472B Ocala, FL 34480 (352) 427-8722

Southern Aviation Transport Inc

Joshua DeMonte 8444 SW 103rd St Rd Ocala, FL 34481 888-756-6951

Dina Anderson 5320 S Pine Avenue Ocala, FL 34480 (352) 629-1475

Straight Line Construction

Wendy Gervais 10121 SW 71st Ct Ocala, FL 34476 (352) 260-8223

Strive! Health & Rehabilitation

Daniel Gray 44 SE 1st Avenue Suite 102 Ocala, FL 34471 352-250-8208

Synchrony Chiropractic

Polished Nail Academy

Melissa Goodson 500 SW 10th Street, #305 Ocala, FL 34471 (352) 236-2099

Carlos Figueroa 8600 SW 16th Ave Ocala, FL 34476 352-454-6300

Travis Arenburg 6998 N US Highway 27, Suite 112 Ocala, FL 34482 (352) 425-0031

The Smoked Biscuit Company

Brandon Bedard 310 SE Third Street Ocala, FL 34471 352-286-1074

Tidal Wave Auto Spa of Ocala

Jennifer Rogers 3209 SW College Rd Ocala, FL 34474 (706) 646-7753

Trinity Surfaces

Ebbo Skadhauge 115 SW 49th Ave Suite 105 Ocala, FL 34474 (352) 901-1242

U-Dump Trailers, LLC

Brian Ellington 2610 NW 10th St Ocala, FL 34475 352-351-8510

Geoff Moore 2001 SW 17th Street 2nd Floor Ocala, FL 34471 (352) 390-1047

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage 3200 SW 34th Ave Suite 102 Ocala, FL 34474 (352) 291-2840

Wells Fargo: Canopy Oaks

9488 SW 80th Avenue Canopy Oaks Center Ocala, FL 34481 (352) 237-7388

William Hassler, Chartered Financial Consultant

Bill Hassler 7808 NW 56th Pl Ocala, FL 34482 941-374-7212

ZT Polygel, LLC

Daniel York 500 NW 27th Ave Ocala, FL 33475 352-554-8009

Uniti Fiber

Jennifer Phelps 4651 Salisbury Rd, Suite 360 Jacksonville, FL 32256 (904) 874-4229

Specialty Fires

Robyne Fraize 5701 SE 66th St Ocala, FL 34480 352-598-3646


Louisa Barton 13867 NE Jacksonville Road Citra, FL 32113 (352) 304-1408

Amanda Kennedy 2620 SE Maricamp Road Ocala, FL 34471 (352) 351-8883

“OVER 88 YEARS OF SERVICE” Gasoline •Diesel • Heating Oil • Pumps & Tanks • Lube Equipment Alcohol-free Marine & Small Engine Gasoline Aviation Gasoline & Lubricants Automotive & Commercial Lubricants COMFUEL Fleet Fueling 606 N Magnolia Ave, Ocala 34478 • (352) 622-7161

Philip Rodger 9686 SW 53rd Ct Ocala, FL 34476 (352) 356-8665

TEK Virtuoso

Cris Llanos Ocala, FL 34472 352-329-9796

21 Your local business connection.




The CEP’s Director of Networking & Partner Services Tom James knows the partnership better than anyone. His conversations, stories, tall tales, and insight go well beyond the standard 9-5 fare. Since the last issue, here are a few of the best stories Tom’s heard about some of the CEP’s familiar faces.

‘A Healthy Balance’


Taylor Michel

‘I Lose Myself In Music’


usic is something I don’t know how I’d live without,” offers Taylor Michel, who owns software company Synalgic Studios, and tries to envelop himself in music anytime he takes five from his usual duties. A multi-instrumentalist, Michel puts his 10 fingers to work on the fretboard of his guitar or hits the heavy artillery of his drums to find the perfect sound. “Throughout the years, I’ve learned to play a few different instruments, but drums and guitar are what I play the most,” says Michel. “I also play a bit of piano, but I wish I had more time to learn because the piano is my favorite instrument.” Watching his mom work a piano’s 88 keys growing up is what inspired Michel from the get-go. “My parents met playing in a symphony together, so music was always a big part of our family,” he recalls. “Growing up, I would watch my mom play piano and I fell in love with the instrument because one person could make it sound like an entire orchestra.” As it tends to be for many, music has a way of infecting the soul and becoming an all-encompassing presence in one’s life. Michel welcomes that sweet intrusion. “Whether I’m writing, performing, or singing in the shower, I lose myself in music. Being able to express who you are and how you feel through it creates a feeling that I can’t even describe. Almost everything around you slowly falls away and it’s just you and the music.” But Michel isn’t exclusively a solo act. In fact, he perceives music, at its best, to be a sharing experience. “Music has taught me that amazing things can be created when working with others,” he’s learned. “Working with musicians and combining styles and experiences in your music can often create the most pleasantly surprising music. This can be true in so many other areas of our lives as well.”


hakespeare wrote in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” Even though Donna Cress was born too late to have been the subject of that famous quote, she clearly resembles the remark. Cress, vice president of human resources with Signature Brands, may be short in stature, but not in ferocity. Competing regularly in 5Ks, 10Ks, and a few sprint triathlons, she always seems to find a new way to push herself. “Having a sport like running has helped me to have a healthy balance in my daily life,” says Cress. “There’s always some gas in the tank. Never give up! Never quit!” Cress stresses that the sport is important to her because it’s something she can do with the people she loves, like husband Patrick Cress, Deb Riedl, and the Turtle Running Group. Other very dedicated area competitors like Lori McBride and Nick Blaser also helped inspire her with their relentless dedication. “For me, running didn’t come easy,” she admits. “It is frankly quite a love-hate relationship.” However, when it comes down to it, she admits there’s another motivator that rises above all others. “It’s all about the bling! I truly run for the medals,” jokes Cress, who has a wall full of them from various events she’s either won or placed in. Memorable competitions through the years have also doubled as bonding opportunities with family. The Crystal River Sprint Triathlon was a chance for Cress to urge on husband Pat, her son Caden, and sister Bobbie Donaldson as they competed in their first triathlons with her. Then, there was a 5K in North Carolina with her daughter Christina. “I had no idea that North Carolina was so hilly,” she recalls. “[Events] bring people together and provide a sense of accomplishment. That’s a win for me, regardless of my time.” One other unusual experience, a duathlon at Silver River, drove Cress to break her personal speed record. “I ran across a family of rhesus monkeys,” she remembers. “I froze in my tracks and thought, ‘Do I run backwards, look away, or just stay frozen?’” Thankfully, the monkeys didn’t want to hang around with me too long and I was able to continue onward.” And onward is Cress’s direction no matter who joins her out on the trail.

Donna Cress (in pink below)

‘Shared Experiences & Priceless Memories’

Joe Johnson


mooth pavement, the relaxing open road, the wind in your hair... (Cue scratchy record sound effect.) Joe Johnson’s style of motorcycle adventure is altogether different. AdventHealth’s CEO “gets away from it all” by really getting away, participating in a style of riding called “Dual Sport” or “Adventure.” Buckle your helmet strap for this—it’s approximately 6,000 miles coast to coast, 70 percent of which is off-pavement. “Dirt roads, gravel roads, logging roads, farm roads,” Johnson makes clear.

“The point is not to get from Point A to Point B in the most efficient manner—it’s about seeing parts of the country you typically don’t see.” Called the Trans-American Trail, the route crosses the United States from North Carolina to Oregon, and a small-but-growing group of motorcyclists follow it coast to coast each year. “For me, the attraction is about seeing the country, participating with friends, and challenging myself to prepare for such a challenge,” says Johnson, who preps for the physical endurance and numerous modifications to the bike for the journey. One day, rising to the occasion took on a whole new meaning, as his crew rode over two Colorado Rocky Mountain passes at 13,000 feet of elevation each. “For those of us who live at sea level, merely walking and talking at that elevation was a big challenge,” he says about the trails that featured plenty of narrow roads and loose rocks. “It was slow going and easy to tip a bike on its side. Lifting a bike back upright and getting re-started was very taxing.” But then Mother Nature steps in to make it all worthwhile: “The scenery and vistas really took our breath away.” However, this type of trip isn’t one

Johnson would recommend doing alone. “Going through this experience with friends is not only a safety benefit,” says Johnson, “but you gain shared experiences and priceless memories.” And the sense of achievement is large. “You find you have more resilience than you thought you had. There is great satisfaction as you reach your destination.” l

The CEP’s Director of Networking & Partner Services Tom James is also a veteran sports broadcaster and journalist who frequently appears on air for ESPN throughout the state.

Do you know someone who should be featured in Tom’s “Beyond Networking” column? Send him a note at

23 Your local business connection.



Jared Konstanty

CEO, Signature Brands


ow has the CEP helped your business grow? The CEP has helped in many ways. Their staff provided early indications as to impending labor shortages and wage increases given such robust business growth in Marion County. We were able to make ourselves more competitive in advance of this labor inflation and retain our hourly workforce. As a result, we were able to sustain and support the unprecedented growth we’re driving at Signature Brands by keeping inventory ahead of surging demand. Signature Brands went through a very difficult period of decline from 2012 to 2018. Since the business was acquired by Traub late in 2018, we installed some new leadership and created a strategic blueprint for the way forward. After assessing the situation and developing our new, goforward strategy, we embarked on our current growth journey. I am happy and proud to report that we are in our third straight year of robust growth heading to our largest revenue mark in the company’s history this year!

Don’t assume you know what consumers want. Talk to them.

What do you like most about the Ocala Metro? I have lived in a few different places across the United States as well as Europe and have never felt more connected to and involved in a community as I do here. Business leaders in this community have created and fostered a welcoming culture of camaraderie, support, involvement, and generosity. It has a small-town feel that I love, but you can find whatever you need right here in Marion County. My family and I love to golf and have found a great fit at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Center. The facilities are top-notch and the club recently hosted an LPGA event. We also love to relax by the pool with a good book and go out to the many fine restaurants Marion County has to offer. What’s one thing people don’t know about you? I am the Cape Cod Idol Champion of 2003.


This was a live singing competition on the radio that lasted over seven weeks. The competition started with over 55 participants and listeners called in to vote for their favorite. In the end, it came down to two high school students and me. In the final round I sang “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed and “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’” by Billy Joel. Suffice to say, it’s an experience I’ll never forget and of course a credential I carry with pride. Are there any business lessons you wish you’d learned earlier? Of course! First, don’t assume you know what consumers want. Talk to them and dig for the truth, whether you like it or not.  Also, as a leader, your humility, humanity, listening, and inspiring are infinitely more powerful than putting yourself first, telling, and directing.  How have you managed unexpected expenses in your company? Our leadership team collaborates weekly on the internal and external variables that can potentially impact business, good or bad.  This helps us to be as proactive as possible when dealing with outside pressures and equips us to internally adjust to the needs of the business. We have an ongoing cost-cutting program we execute against annually. Given the unprecedented pressures of the moment, we have had to rely on price increases, product redesigns, supplier changes and incremental growth to help cover the relentless onslaught of inflation. l

Signature Brands 1930 Southwest 38 Avenue, Suite 300 Ocala, Florida 34474 (352) 867-2640


on a successful project. —From the Whitley Capital and Kelsey Construction Team C4 Architecture Adams-Engineers Moorhead Engineering

Special thanks to the partners that made this project possible!

JLL, Kelsey Construction, Ocala CEP, Signature Brands Staff, and Whitley Capital

25 Your local business connection.


The “shop pets” project came from my love of visiting different stores around town because I wanted to see the pets who went to work with their owners.  Our family has rescued quite a few dogs, so I wanted to help animals who need a forever home. It made sense to me to create a book for everyone to enjoy about the shop pets in Ocala, sell it, and then donate the money to the Humane Society of Marion County so that they can continue their work of finding loving homes for pets. Here are some of my favorite...


Daisy & Ryder Ages: 12 & 1 Breeds: Pembroke Welsh Corgi & Red Tri Australian Shepherd Owner: Laurie Zink Shop: IHMC Jobs: Happiness Coordinator & Chief Security Officer “My mom calls me Daisy Mae and tells me I am the sweetest girl. I love to get belly rubs from anyone and everyone!” “I’m Ryder and I am more adorable than you could possibly imagine! If you come to the door, I will bark and do a thorough security check.”


Boots Age: 11 Breed: Goldendoodle Owner: Jennifer Murty Shop: Magnolia Media

(Ocala Style & Ocala Gazette)

Job: Head Security Official “My name is Boots and everything is about me! I bark at everyone that comes to the door and make sure they have proper identification.”

Rosie Age: 6 Breed: Australian Labradoodle Owner: Susan Brown Shop: Adobe East Job: Official Greeter “My mom picked me up when I was only eight weeks old and I’ve been going to work with her every day. My nickname is Nosy Rosie because I love to sniff everything!”

27 Your local business connection.


Cisco Age: 4 Breed: Canaan Owner: Brooke Pace Shop: Magnolia Media

(Ocala Style & Ocala Gazette)

Job: Chief Treat Officer “I’m Cisco and I’m a little shyer than my friend Boots. If you ask me to, I will find my favorite toy duck!”

Griffin Age: 4 Breed: Goldendoodle Owner: Jody & Stacie



Age: 4

Shop: Phillips Graphics

Breed: Catahoula Leopard Hound &

Job: Greeter & Supervisor “I love it when people come by the shop just to see me. It’s because I’m so sweet and handsome! When I’m not entertaining people, I play with my favorite toy, the ball.”

Border Collie

Owner: Jaye Baillie Shop: Brick City Center for the Arts Job: Chief Security Officer “I love to cuddle and get attention. My favorite toy is a big pink octopus, but I got too excited one day and chewed one of the legs off!”

About the Author: Juliana Henningsen is a dog lover, photography and art enthusiast and wants to make a difference in her community. She loves Star Wars, Harry Potter, reading, baking, and playing the piano. Juliana has participated in the FIRST Robotics Competition, Academic Team, and Fitness and Nutrition in Schools Club. Juliana graduated from Dr. N. H. Jones Elementary School and now attends Osceola Middle School. She is a member of the National Elementary and Junior Honors Societies. 

Want To Buy A Copy? Do you want to see the whole set? “Shop Pets Of Ocala” can be purchased at Phillips Graphics, Adobe East, and Brick City Center For The Arts for $25. All proceeds benefit the Humane Society of Marion County. Special thanks to Amy Mangan, Steve Codraro, Phillips Graphics, Red Fern Pet Lodge and Ocala Veterinary Hospital.


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How To Beat The

Workforce Woes

A panel of local business owners and HR managers recently convened at the downtown office of the Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership to discuss how they’re dealing with current workforce challenges. Despite a difficult and unprecedented year, they still believe they can find the local talent to get the job done. The conclusion? To do it right, you’re going to have to work harder than ever. BY DEAN BLINKHORN • PHOTOS BY STEVE FLOETHE What were some of the challenges that you all faced last year? Joel: Well, hiring for sure. We ended up shutting down the hiring process for a few months until our HR staff was comfortable figuring out what we were going to do, and we decided to only do Zoom virtual interviews. That took some getting used to because our hiring process is built on culture


and personality, so trying to pick up on that in Zoom meetings was difficult. Our interview process is already long—four interviews— so you do that with a smaller workforce, with people scared to come to work and not wanting to apply, and all the other issues that were presented, all while demand is through the roof, and it’s just a perfect storm.

You’re an online retailer, so you also saw a huge surge in sales on top of all of this, right? Joel: Yeah. We rarely have turnover, but we were fighting it for the first time ever because everything was so stressful and they didn’t see an end in sight. Our average hold time—we’d like to have it below five minutes—was over two hours last year because of how much our

business grew. We simply couldn’t get people fast enough. But we did figure it out, and now we’re doing a very good job with it. Amanda: We have about 1,600 employees at the county. One of our biggest challenges was adapting to having to do things differently and having the infrastructure to be able to do that. Do people work from home? Yes, but not everyone has a computer and not everyone has a cell phone. There were a lot of things that we had to sit down and really strategize on how we’re going to make this work. We bought a lot of products, computers, and VPN licenses, and we started having online meetings. We’ve never done those before. One of the other issues that we saw was with Marion County Fire Rescue. We really struggled with providing the proper PPE for that many people on a daily basis. So we got creative and found stuff. But the county remained open the whole time—we never closed to the public. And we were always

there and accessible for the public. I think that was a win for us. Jeromy, what were your challenges for this past year? Jeromy: Everything that they said. Your drive-thru just kicked out down the road and all the way down SR 200. [All laugh.] Jeromy: I think there were mental and emotional challenges to overcome and the reality of what you can actually do. There were some days when just opening and closing was a victory. Despite all the mistakes made and maybe the long wait times, the product not being where we wanted it, and the bathroom not as clean as we wanted, just the fact that we opened for the day was a victory. We’ve really had to retool emotionally, and I’ve got to lead that. Flexibility has to be a big piece of that, right? Some people have more of that in their DNA than others. I think 2020 was easier, in a lot of respects, than what this year is so far.

Joel: Why is that? Is it because of the supply chain? Jeromy: For sure, but it was more about the staff. We started losing veterans that started with us at 16 who just said, “I’m done.” The dayto-day dealing with it was, hands down, what drove all the joy away from the job. Joel: Yeah, it’s gotten better now, but when we didn’t have any product and were behind hundreds of orders in the warehouse and people were on hold for two hours, I mean, you can imagine how angry and upset people were. The veterans take all the weight, right? It’s got to be more difficult on your side, Jeromy, because it’s a job, like you said, that most people eventually move on from. If they know that they’re not going to be there long-term anyway, it probably makes their decision to leave early a little easier. Jeromy: And they had all these folks calling, saying, “We’re waiving all the requirements that we told you about, so, we’ll hire you now.”



Human Resources Manager, Dollar Tree/Family Dollar distribution center


CEO, Raney’s Inc.


Exec. Dir. of Administrative Services, Marion County Board of County Commissioners

JEROMY WILLIAMS Owner/Operator, Chick-fil-A on SR 200

31 Your local business connection.


Paul: It just became more competitive. People are desperate for young people. Jeromy: We didn’t have anyone leave us to go to another restaurant or for more money. We did have people leave us for a different type of job altogether, though, and we did have people leave us for $4 or $5 less an hour for a less-stressful position. Amanda: Well, I don’t necessarily disagree with the whole 2021 thing being harder. I mean, 2020 was hard, but now I feel that just everyone’s walking around with this heavy burden and that starts to reflect in people’s performance and attitudes and the way they treat one another.

I think the pandemic showed everyone how valuable your team is. —Joel Raney It’s just that emotional drain. Monday of last week, I was getting COVID calls at 6:30 in the morning and they did not stop till 11:30 at night when I was on the phone with the commissioners. I did nothing but talk about COVID, what we were going to do, who had to be out, who could come to work, and who couldn’t. I was done for! Paul, what were a few of your challenges last year? Paul: We had the team in place and the foundation established right before things really started shutting down. Where we got hurt is when schools shut down. Now people in our workforce that had kids were no longer able to take care of their kids and come to work. We had to find a way to become a lot more flexible than what you would think a distribution center can be in terms of suppliers or waiting on product for our stores. We saw a high spike in interest in wanting to be part time just to


qualify for benefits without working full-time hours. So we upended our whole strategy of staffing to change the whole narrative. Joel: I think the pandemic showed everyone how valuable your team is. I think a lot of companies had to step up and, like you said, be flexible, adapt benefits, and really cater to the employee. I think a lot of that will stick, and in the end will be a good thing for employees. Joel, you’re anticipating all my questions! [All laugh.] We’ll come back to that one in a minute, but there’s a reason why all of you are here. Your names came up because you each have a very proactive approach to acquiring talent. Can you describe it? Joel: Our approach has always been putting the employee first, and really, truly caring about creating a place where they can thrive and be happy. I think that helped us through this, because we were already where we needed to be as far as benefits go and a lot of places weren’t. So while those companies were trying to figure it out, we were already there. Jeromy: And, obviously, Raney’s Inc. was already in the online space. Joel: Yeah, for sure. Your place has such a vibrant culture and is such a cool space. I would imagine that your employees are not jumping to do a whole lot of work from home. They probably want to come in. Joel: That’s one reason 2021 has been so much better than 2020 for us. When we brought everybody back, the morale went up instantly. It was amazing—people laughing, hanging out again. When I would walk through the hallways, I saw all this activity, people smiling, and their voices were better on the phones. They were just so happy. Paul: I still remember when I first got here back in April 2020. I drove nine hours from Alabama to come meet with the CEP and the conversation was really just around the culture of Dollar Tree. If I’m work-

ing somewhere and a GM or an HR manager asks me, “How are your kids doing?” that’s life-changing. You feel like a human and you feel valued. And then the next piece of it is strongly recruiting high school talent. We need those high school kids’ skill sets, so that’s what we’re chasing. When we tap into that workforce, we can continue to grow our workforce because we will have a whole different dynamic of flexibility that we can incorporate into our current teams. Joel: When COVID started, I was recruiting high school kids for parttime jobs. What a boost of energy! You get them in for a summer and their productivity is through the roof, and then they tell their friends and you create this flow. Paul: We had a few high school seniors that were working on a weekend shift—they were 18, but going to school during the week—so they would come in and work Saturday and Sunday. When you show them the value of what you can make at 18, 19 years old, it changes everything. There are a lot of good-paying jobs in the area, but they’re not hiring this talent. Our workforce has actually changed since we first got here. We were closer to an average age of 30 then and we’re more like 22, 23 now. Well, you know you’re singing my song with this sort of stuff, because the CEP has worked very closely with our schools to get some of these programs going. Jeromy, you’ve done a lot in this space, so I know you have a good take on young talent. What are you typically looking for at Chick-fil-A? Jeromy: We can teach anybody how to make a chicken sandwich [all laugh], but we talk constantly about aptitude versus attitude. It’s what’s in the server’s heart that gets to the core of what we do on a daily basis. You can accentuate it and you can try to influence it, but you’re not going to create it from scratch. That’s, for us, what we’re looking for in people, a natural inclination to hold the door open for

somebody or look for an opportunity to serve someone else. This focus on the employee is what I’ve been championing for 18 years of being with Chick-fil-A. You guys are realizing the power of the youth movement. For us, that’s just more competition into a market that was our niche for the longest time, so we’ve had to take it even younger. I haven’t hired a 14- or 15-year-old in probably eight years because the labor laws that surround them are ridiculous, but we hired 32 to get through the summer. Imagine running a youth group, which comes with its own set of challenges because they’re not fully baked yet [everyone laughs], but if we can keep that group engaged and developing and growing, who knows? Obviously, you all have done a ton of innovation this past year, but what do you think, innovation-wise, are the things that might stick around once things hopefully get back to normal? Jeromy: For us, two things—simplifying everything we can within our processes and then streamlining and getting as great as we can at training. Paul: Our onboarding process is seamless, but I think we learned along the way. We had to do probably 5 to 8 orientations a week just because of the constraints of socialdistancing, so we turned a break room into an orientation hub with multiple TVs instead. Joel: It’s amazing how businesses have adapted. Everything you guys are saying is about being adaptive, and those are the businesses that are going to excel and benefit from this in the end. The rest will fall behind. The advantage always goes to good companies, run by good leaders, that move ahead and separate themselves. Amanda: Yeah, and relating to what you’re saying about flexibility. Certainly government is not well known for that, right? Well, we weren’t gonna go there, Amanda! [All laugh.]

Amanda: We want to be the best county in the state, giving the best services. We’re looking for people that have that genuine dedication to serve others. For us, moving forward, it’s flexibility and being openminded. We started a couple of things this year. The building industry is going crazy right now, but we can’t find building inspectors to keep up with the permits that are being pulled, so one of the things that we implemented is being able to do some of the inspections via FaceTime. Rather than having someone physically drive out to your home to inspect all of these things, you’re able to make an appointment either on FaceTime or Zoom so they can approve your permit that way. We’re also looking at who we really need to have in the office and who can do the job from home. For government, that’s huge, by the way. Amanda: Yeah, it’s a big deal. CEP Network strives to give our CEP partners insightful tips for their business. If you could give advice to businesses right now that are struggling to find people to work or to retain the talent that they’ve nurtured over the years, what would that advice look like? Jeromy: Put your people above your sales. We closed for breakfast for six weeks, we didn’t open our doors until 10 in the morning, and

we closed at night at nine, heartwrenching decisions to have to make as somebody who spent a lifetime building a business. I can’t even begin to tell you the years that we spent specifically building the breakfast-day part of our business,

“It has to be about putting the employee ahead of sales and profits for the long term.” —Jeromy Williams but we looked at our staff and said, “What’s right for them?” So we cut out an awful lot of sales over a sixweek period until we could catch our breath. It has to be about putting the employee ahead of sales and profits for the long term. You can make the other decision for short term, but it’s not going to carry. Paul: One of the things we haven’t really hit on is how you keep people engaged. Especially with an everchanging workforce, I have to find a way to meet them where they’re at. When I think about our leaders at the distribution center, one of the hardest things about their job is that they have, in some cases, 16 different personalities on their team. If you meet your workforce where they’re at, they’ll work through the wall for you. But it

33 Your local business connection.


can’t be something that’s fake— people can read through the fake. If you’re not being genuine and truthful, they’ll see it. Paul, when you’re around high school students like you are in your side hustle as a basketball coach, they get it really fast. They see through fake in, like, two seconds. Paul: Sure, but I think it’s like that in any part of the workforce. With the high school kid, though, that’s the one who walks off the job and never comes back and never tells you the story because they didn’t feel the trust. You have to trust somebody to work for them. Jeromy, I bet it meant a lot to your staff knowing that you were so handson through all of this. Jeromy: I got to know my team intimately. As you know, as you grow a business, inevitably there’s more cushion between you and the average employee. I really don’t like that part. For me, it made a larger company more intimate, which was fantastic for me. Joel, I can totally see that at Raney’s, too. What would your advice be? Joel: They’ve said it. You’ve got to put your people first and it has to be genuine. You can come up with the core values and put them on a wall, but if you don’t actually live by them, then they’re meaningless. The companies that are strug-

What Every Boss Must Do Right Now Listen to your employees. Be flexible. Don’t beat yourself up. Be proactive. Embrace the change.


gling and having turnover, having people get burned out, they have to change the core of their business and figure out how to really take care of their people. They can flash bonuses and more pay, but as we’ve all learned, it’s much more than that. To keep somebody, you have to make them feel good and happy where they are and show that you care about them as a person. That other stuff might get people temporarily, but they’re going to just fall in the same circle over and over. They have to be in it for the right reason. Higher pay and sign-on bonuses might be where some business owners would go first, but should they put that investment into something else instead? Joel: They’re just going to leave. I’m seeing it happen. We’ve had a few people take that bonus and then they reach out to us and say, “The bonus looked awesome, but I’m working 80 hours a week and they don’t even know who I am.” It’s a short-term fix that will cost you long-term. Paul: I come from more of a coach mindset. If I have $100 to spend, how can I do more with less? How can I get that $100 to have value for 100 people? You have to be somewhat competitive, though, because if the starting wage on the piece of paper doesn’t look too appealing, they won’t apply for your job. Joel: That’s true. You do have to be with the market. Paul: But it’s also about what you do inside the business. We had a “Doctor Day” last week where we had some fun dressing up in the middle of the week on a work day. You also want to celebrate both the small wins and the big wins. We’re not the highest-paying distribution center in the area—I know that for a fact—but I do think we do the most for our employees. And we genuinely try to make sure that they’re happy. If they’re happy, I’m happy. Joel: That’s awesome. Amanda: In addition to all this stuff with your employees, don’t be

scared of changing what you do and trying something new. Sometimes your employees are the ones that have the best ideas of how to change that. Listen to your people when they talk to you and you just might find something that works even better moving forward. That new change might even give your employees a higher level of satisfaction coming to work, which usually does much more than what a short-term bonus is going to do for them. Jeromy: They do the work every day. They’re on the front lines. What do they see? What do they think we should do? Amanda: There were times when we had a lot of people out and we didn’t have anyone to work the front desk, so I’m like, “I can do that!” I get out there and I’m like, “What button do I push again?” “How do you transfer?” It’s easy to forget all of those things that they’re doing day in and day out. Joel: Yeah, I had to work in the warehouse for the first time ever during the summer. I had my kids out there helping me and my wife on the weekends, trying to pick and pack orders because we were so far behind. I bet that meant a lot to your team, though. Joel: Yeah, people did send some really nice messages, but we had to do it because they were struggling. Well, you all did not disappoint. Any final thoughts? Jeromy: It’s never as good as it seems, and it’s never as bad as it seems. Just keep getting up and attacking the day—don’t give up on it. And give yourself grace, an opportunity to fail and to learn, when you make mistakes. Amanda: And offer grace to those around you. It’s hard on all of us. It’s hard on the customers that are coming through your line, and it’s hard on the new kid that didn’t get trained properly. It’s hard on the CEO who’s doing the best they can to handle it and on the employee that doesn’t know who’s going to babysit the kids tomorrow. l

Greg Steen is a long-

standing Ocala business owner with a heart for public service. He aspires to affect positive change in the growing Ocala community, while striving to preserve the unique heart and character of the town we love.


Endorsed by:

IBEW Local 1205

things to know about Greg:

• Ocala native, born and raised • Owner, Family’s Choice Electrical • 5th circuit Guardian Ad Litem • Certified Life Coach • Member of the City of Ocala Utilities Advisory Board  • Chairman’s Circle partner with the Ocala Metro CEP • Active supporter of first responders • Experience in running a customer service based incorporation, while handling employee retention and human resources

Local 2135


Paid political ad by Greg Steen Campaign for City Council District 5




11 Ways To Network Each Month

The Ocala Metro CEP believes in networking. Here are some can’t-miss opportunities in the months to come. leads, and to promote business. Bring your own lunch. 11:30am-12:30pm. Power Plant Business Incubator, 405 SE Osceola Ave. First and third Tuesday each month. Upcoming Dates: September 7, 21, October 5, 19, November 2, 16

4 Tom James, Louisa Barton, Gail Rice


Business After Hours 5

Named Ocala’s “premier networking event,” Business After Hours is a signature event that hundreds of CEP partners enjoy every third Thursday of the month. Each month is hosted by a different partner at their place of business to showcase their products and services. This is a free event to partners that includes food, drinks, incredible networking, and a great return on investment. 5-7pm. Upcoming Dates: September 16, October 21, November 18


exCEPtional Mornings

Every morning is an exCEPtional Morning in the Ocala Metro! This monthly breakfast has become a can’t-miss opportunity for more than 300 partners to hear from a speaker of significance to the business community and to network with hundreds of local leaders. Held the third Wednesday morning of each month, the breakfast is hosted at Church of Hope, 3233 SE Maricamp Rd. These breakfasts tend to sell out fast, so reserve your spot today by calling 629-8051. 7:30am.

Upcoming Dates: September 15: Jared Konstanty, CEO of Signature Brands October 20: TBA November 17: Join us as we celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week!


Biz Promoters Networks Group

This group provides a forum for professionals of different industries to gather on a regular basis in order to network, exchange


1 Million Cups Ocala

Based on the idea that entrepreneurs network and discover solutions over a million cups of coffee, this program is a free weekly gathering that helps to build startup communities on a grassroots level. Each Wednesday, two early-stage startups present their companies to an audience of mentors, advisers, and other entrepreneurs. Each founder presents for six minutes, followed by a 20-minute Q&A session with the audience. 9:30-10:30am. The Power Plant Business Incubator, 405 SE Osceola Ave.

Upcoming Dates: September 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; October 6, 13, 20, 27; November 3, 10, 17, 24


Tuesday Talks

This CEP-sponsored series features a local speaker on a business-related topic and provides a great networking opportunity. Held the first and third Tuesday of each month at 8:15am in the CEP board room, this is a perfect opportunity for partners to learn the latest trends in the business community. A light breakfast is served. Sponsored by Rasmussen College. Upcoming Dates: September 7, 21, October 5, 19, November 2, 16


Equine Engagement Meeting

Whether you want to enjoy racehorses or world-famous Clydesdales, you will find we have it all right here in the Horse Capital of the World®. The CEP’s Equine Engagement initiative allows partners to get engaged in building the community’s farm relationships and support the equine industry. Third Thursday of each month. 2pm. Upcoming Dates: September 16, October 21, November 18


Friday Talks

Friday Talks, which are sponsored by the College of Central Florida, feature CF faculty and staff sharing their knowledge on a variety of business education topics. The sessions are held on Friday of each month

via Zoom and Facebook Live beginning at 8:30am.

Upcoming Dates: September 24, October 29, November 19


WinePO, YPO Social

“WinePO” monthly social series is for Young Professionals Ocala current members and future members! Get to know YPO members in a casual setting. The Keep Downtown serves wine, beer, cider, and mead as well as non-alcoholic drinks and food. YPO members and their guests will receive 10% off their bill! Every first Wednesday. 5:30-7:30pm. Upcoming Dates: September 1, October 6, November 3


CEP 101

Partner Orientation is a detailed session about CEP events, programs, and initiatives, and is a great opportunity to network with other partners and learn how to maximize your benefits to receive the best return on investment for your partnership. Held the last Wednesday of each month at 8:30am in the CEP board room, each session includes a light breakfast. Reserve your spot today! Upcoming Dates: September 29, October 27


Marion County Board of Commissioners Meeting

Various items of county concern. McPherson Governmental Complex Auditorium, 601 SE 25th Ave. First and third Tuesday. 9am-12pm.

Upcoming Dates: September 7, 21, October 5, 19, November 2, 16


Ocala City Council Meeting

Various items concerning city issues. Ocala City Hall, 110 SE Watula Ave. First and third Tuesday. 5pm. Upcoming Dates: September 7, 21, October 5, 19, November 2, 16 l

WANT TO KNOW MORE? (352) 629-8051

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Changing People’s Lives For Over 30 Years

NUMBERS MAY BE OUR LOVE LANGUAGE, but community and continual learning are close to our heart.

37 Your local business connection.




How CF Can Help Your Business


or any business, building an effective team is top priority, and finding the right talent is key to success. Identifying quality candidates creates challenges in any environment, but factor in unpredictable events (like a global pandemic, for instance) and business leaders face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. With that said, our community has proven to be resourceful, resilient, and full of opportunity. I’ve lived in the Ocala Metro for more than 20 years, and I am excited to see the recent economic growth our community deserves. For more than 60 years, the College of Central Florida has offered diverse educational resources, performing arts opportunities, and focused efforts to create economic mobility for all citizens. CF seeks to provide reliable resources for the business community. Whether it’s skills training and degree attainment, recruiting candidates for jobs and internships, or providing a place for community gatherings, CF is here to serve the residents in our district and support local growth. Serving the community motivates me every day. For the past 10 years, I’ve worked at CF to support student success, business partnerships, and ultimately, economic growth. Facilitating student internships is a big part of what I do; student interns can provide valuable project support and be part of an organization’s talent pipeline. In addition, I support workforce initiatives such as job promotion to students and graduates and coordinating career and networking events. As our business community faces evolving challenges, CF is adapting and responding with relevant resources. Through our unique partnership with CareerSource CLM, the Talent Center provides businesses, students, and graduates with state-of-the-art employment services—virtually and in-person—on our Ocala campus. Lately, we’re working collaboratively with employers more than ever before. For example, apprenticeship programs partner with local businesses to create a reliable talent pipeline, and CF Corpo-

CF is working collaboratively with employers more than ever before.

rate College continues to expand professional development offerings for companies and workers. In the Career Services area, there are three new initiatives that we are especially excited about: GradCast: The college recently invested in GradCast, a web-based platform that provides a direct connect between graduates and employers. Designed specifically for career and technical programs, alumni create an account, upload a resume, and reach out directly to employers in industries of interest. The product is pre-loaded with thousands of organizations nationwide. We’d love to add your company and facilitate your recruiting efforts! Soft Skills Training: Soft skills, essential skills, or transferrable skills—they go by many names—but we know they are critical to professional success. Our students already develop soft skills through academics, work-based learning, and extra-curriculars. However, college staff is teaming up with the Talent Center and CareerSource to develop formalized and focused training modules. With a learn-it, do-it, show-it strategy, the format incorporates academic learning, practical action, and real-world examples from the business community to develop verifiable skills among CF graduates. Handshake: Our most recent investment, Handshake, is a digital recruiting tool well-known to the business community, boasting over 500,000 registered employers and 9 million active student and alumni profiles. The user-friendly format creates multiple avenues for employers to connect with candidates by posting job opportunities, viewing student profiles, sending digital messages directly, and cultivating brand awareness among college students. Stay tuned for our official launch of Handshake. We look forward to growing these and other initiatives to support our business community, and we thank you for the support and interest in our students over the years. Please feel free to reach out to me, or any college staff, with your questions, thoughts and ideas. We are here to help! l About The Author: Bonnie is the business and technology coordinator at CF and can be reached at 854-2322, x1855.

Are You An Expert? Send your column idea to and you may be in the next issue!


39 Your local business connection.

Solutions for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re looking for a business loan or are ready to open a commercial checking account, our financial products and services can help you grow your business. Florida Credit Union has served North and Central Florida for over 65 years, and remains a trusted financial institution dedicated to serving Ocala. Our commercial team is ready to assist you! Learn more at (352) 237-8222

FCU’s Ocala Branches 9680 SW 114 St. | 2424 SW 17th Rd. 3504 E. Silver Springs Blvd | 10 Bahia Ave. FCUMKVS0175-0321

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CEP Network Fall 2021  

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