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CEP head Kevin Sheilley sees silver lining for Marion County economy amid COVID-19

Most businesses surveyed in Marion County believe COVID-19 will have only temporary adverse effects on them.

Kevin Sheilley, president and CEO of the Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership, thinks the county has prepared itself to rebound.

He presented the County Commission with an April survey by the CEP, the College of Central Florida and the local tourism council.

Half of the businesses said sales declined by over 50 percent. But only 19 percent foresaw permanent damage.

Sheilley said Marion County’s focus on distribution centers and manufacturing is paying off. Among 230 of those companies, he said, only one has laid off workers while 40 are actively hiring.

“There was a very intentional desire to recruit what we believed were anti-cyclical or recession-proof industries,” Sheilley said. “And those are the companies right who are doing so very well. That is a strategy that is paying off so very well for our community.”

The new Dollar Tree Distribution Center hopes to have 220 workers in place by August first.

Sheilley told the commission 20 to 25 percent of local companies will receive Paycheck Protection loans.

When we go back through and look at the data, we’re going to find an incredible number of businesses who needed these revenues,” he said. “We think it’s going to bring back close to $400 million into our community.”

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