A glass half full

Published: Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 3:12 p.m.

So when does the glass go from being half empty to being half full? It's all a matter of perspective, of course, but after a half decade of the glass being decidedly half empty hereabouts — thanks to the housing collapse and the crushing recession that ensued — it appears that we may begin looking at the glass as half full.

There are signs everywhere the economy is improving. Housing sales and prices are up. The same goes for the horse industry. New construction is picking up, led by a number of new car dealerships. Unemployment is finally knocking on the door of single digits. And some new businesses are coming to town. (I know, they're call centers and other modest-paying employers, but they're jobs and are desperately needed.)

All in all, the glass suddenly appears more like one that's half full.

But for all we're seeing, it's what isn't necessarily visible that is encouraging. Potentially, big things. Potentially, game-changers. Look any direction, and things are happening, slowly but surely, if behind the scenes.

To the west, the Ocala/Marion County Commerce Park, aka Ocala 489, is under way. The new industrial park has no tenants yet, but it has the attention of trail giant CSX and Progress Energy, both of which have put the site on their short list of economic development hot spots. Not surprising, since both Wal-Mart and SYSCO, when they tried to build distribution centers here, identified the site as their No. 1 choice in North Central Florida. Keep an eye on this, things are happening, big employers are being courted.

To the east we have Silver Springs. The vision of County Commissioner Stan McClain, County Adminsitrator Lee Niblock and others of transforming the iconic attraction into a public park that would be a centerpiece of an emerging ecotourism industry, and provide a different economic spark for our community, is gaining more and more traction now that the Springs' owner, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and DEP Secretary Herchel Vinyard in particular, have joined the discussion and indicated that rescuing the springs from a slow death environmentally and economically is a priority. Again, things are happening, and all in the right direction.

Finally, in the middle we have downtown Ocala. City Manager Matt Brower and the City Council have a concrete plan for transforming the downtown into a 21st century hub of commerce, entertainment and festivities. And they have the downtown business community enthusiastic about it. Things are happening there, too, and they are visible. The linear park along the railroad tracks is under way, and the new Citizens' Circle is completed. Brower's plan is ambitious and exciting and will take years to come to fruition, but there is a clear vision and progress is being made.

So take heart, Ocala, Marion County, while an economic recovery can't come fast enough, it is coming. Indisputable signs are there. The trends are positive. Things are happening, and the right people are engaged.

The glass that has been half empty for so long appears to finally be half full.

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