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--UPDATED--
FRIDAY  APRIL 16  8:11 a.m.  Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties


CF licensed to cultivate
hemp at its Vintage Farm Campus

CF First State College in Florida allowed to grow hemp  HardisonInk.com

Story and Photo Provided By
CF Marketing, Public and Community Relations
Published April 15, 2021 at 9:11 a.m.
     OCALA —
The College of Central Florida has been approved by the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Division of Plant Industry to produce industrial hemp at its Vintage Farm Campus in Ocala.
     It is the first license of its kind approved for a state college in Florida.

 

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CareerSource CLM 2021 State of Workforce Virtual Conference



     The cultivating of hemp will be utilized as an educational tool by the college’s Agribusiness program to complement its existing fruit and vegetable production, greenhouse and nursery production, as well as livestock production facilities. Hemp production will focus seed germination, soil, water, nutrient and light requirements, proper pruning techniques, pest management, harvesting and curing of the crop.
     Industrial hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa and has many uses, including food and feed intended for animal consumption, paper fiber, clothing, and many industrial applications. It contains very low trace amounts of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in the plant, and varying amounts of Cannabinoid compounds, most notably CBD and CBG, which may have therapeutic properties, according to federal regulations.
      “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, it was a natural fit to add to the curriculum of the Agribusiness program at CF,” said Tavis Douglass, Agribusiness program manager. “Because hemp is a relatively unknown crop in our climate, not much is known of how it will perform. Therefore, we will be testing and growing plants under various growing conditions. Additionally, our program will focus on hemp products that may have use in agricultural sectors such as our local livestock and equine industries.”

 


2021 State of the Workforce
virtual conference set for April 22

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
CareerSource CLM Communications Manager
Published Feb. 22, 2021 at 4:11 p.m.
Updated April 2, 2021 at 6:11 a.m.
     OCALA –
Registration is now open for CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion’s 2021 State of Workforce Conference: Recover, Redesign, Rework. The virtual conference is held in partnership with the Ocala Human Resource Management Association and takes place April 22 from 8 a.m. to noon.
     Bringing together businesses, community and public partners, education leaders and HR professionals, the conference identifies ways the region’s businesses may begin to recover from the impacts of the pandemic on the workforce, redesign how the workplace may function moving forward, and rework ways to build the talent pipeline to meet in-demand and emerging needs.
     In addition, the annual Bridging the Gap award will be presented to area businesses that have gone above and beyond to build the regional workforce by closing gaps in skills, training and opportunity.
     Individual tickets are $25 and available at bit.ly/2021SOTW.
     Limited sponsorship opportunities are also available. For information, call 352-840-5771 or 800-746-9950, ext. 2204.
     The first workforce conference took place in 2019 and focused on helping businesses overcome tough and complex challenges in cultivating their talent pipeline. Workforce retention was the vision for the 2020 conference which had to be sidelined due to the pandemic.
     Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource CLM, said that in working with OHRMA, it became clear that the conference should hone in on ways businesses can emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever.
      “In dealing with COVID-19, businesses were forced into a so-called new normal which today, for better or worse, requires companies of every size and every industry sector to rethink ‘business as usual.’” Skinner said. “Our goal with Recover, Redesign, Rework is to help the region meet our most pressing workforce development needs.”
     Donna Healy Strickland, OHRMA board president, added that “It is incredible how we can adapt and make things work (even) as Covid-19 threw us into a new dimension … forcing many to pivot and juggle, becoming parent, teacher and star coworker.
      “As we advance, we do need the tools to handle our current workforce best,” Strickland continued. “I am looking forward to learning everything I can to make our employees better at their job and their home life.”
     Conference speakers feature Matt Havens, nationally renowned generational and leadership expert; Adrienne Johnston, director of Workforce Services for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity; Dr. William Beach, commissioner of Labor Statistics for the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics; and Chad Sorenson, president and founder of Adaptive HR Solutions, president of the HR Florida State Council and two-time past president of the Jacksonville chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management.  
     In addition to an overview of the State of the Workforce in Florida moving into 2021, the conference will cover:
     ● Leveraging technology and new thinking to more efficiently conduct business;
     ● Insight into who is telecommuting and how Working from Home impacts productivity;
     ● How the economic collapse/recovery has affected different industry sectors unevenly and what that portends moving forward in the post-pandemic world;
     ● Recommended training to manage and support teams that continue to work remotely or in hybrid workplace; and
     ● Strategies to deal with emerging employee relations concerns.
     The conference culminates with the Bridging the Gap awards. The inaugural recipients were Capris Furniture, Raney’s Truck Center, R+L Global Logistics and the Marion County Board of County Commissioners Fleet Management Department. They were honored for helping drive the success of the region’s locally-based Commercial Driving Program offered by Marion Technical College.
     Presenting sponsors for the 2021 virtual conference are Benefit Advisors and the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership.
     As the region’s recognized workforce leader, CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion collaborates with local economic development, education and community partners to develop world-class education/training and employment services to meet regional workforce needs.
     CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion is a member of CareerSource Florida and a proud partner of the American Job Center network. CareerSource CLM is supported by the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and other agencies as part of awards totaling $8.7 million (revised annually). CareerSource CLM is an equal opportunity employer/program. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities and in Spanish. All voice telephone numbers listed above may be reached by persons using TTY/TDD equipment via the Florida Relay Service at 711. If you need accommodations, please call 800-434-5627, ext. 7878 or e-mail accommodations@careersourceclm.com.
     The Ocala Human Resource Management Association (OHRMA) is a nonprofit organization of human resource professional from the Marion County community affiliated with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), an international organization of more than 180,000.

 

 


Exploring Finances
Help Protect Your Family's Inheritance
Published April 12, 2021 at 4:11 p.m.
     NEWBERRY --
You might contribute to your IRA for decades to help pay for your retirement.
     But if you don’t need all the money, you may want to leave what’s left to your children or grandchildren. However, if you want to ensure they get the most from this inheritance, you’ll need to do some planning.
     Here’s a little background. Up until a couple of years ago, when you left the proceeds of your IRA to your beneficiaries, they could choose to “stretch” required withdrawals over a long period, based on their life expectancies. These required withdrawals were generally taxable, so this “stretch IRA” allowed your beneficiaries to greatly reduce the annual taxes due, while benefiting from longer tax-deferred growth potential. And the younger the beneficiary, the longer the life expectancy and the lower the withdrawals, so this technique would have been especially valuable for your grandchildren or even great-grandchildren.
     Changes in laws affecting retirement accounts have significantly limited the stretch IRA strategy. Now, most non-spouse beneficiaries must withdraw all assets from the IRA within 10 years of the IRA owner’s death. The beneficiary generally does not have to take out any money during that 10-year period, but at the end of it, the entire balance must be withdrawn – and that could result in a pretty big tax bill.
     The stretch IRA strategy can still be used for surviving spouses, beneficiaries who are no more than 10 years younger than the deceased IRA owner, and beneficiaries who are chronically ill or disabled. Minor children of the original account owner are also eligible for a stretch IRA – but only until they reach the age of majority, at which time the 10-year rule applies.
     So, if you want to leave your IRA to family members who don’t meet any of the above exceptions, what can you do?
     One possibility is a Roth IRA conversion. You could convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA over your lifetime, so your heirs would receive the Roth IRA. They would still be required to withdraw the assets within 10 years, but unlike with a traditional IRA, Roth IRA withdrawals are generally tax-free. These conversions are taxable, so you'll want to consult your tax professional in addition to your financial advisor, to determine if this strategy can help you achieve your legacy goals. 
     Another option is to purchase life insurance, which can provide a specific dollar amount to your heirs or be used to help cover additional taxes. This may be especially advantageous if you are 72 or older, in good health, and taking withdrawals – technically called required minimum distributions – from your retirement accounts, such as your traditional IRA and your 401(k). If you don’t really need the money, you can use these withdrawals to pay for some or all of the insurance premiums. Life insurance can’t replace an IRA as a means to save for retirement, though, so you should consult with your financial advisor to make sure you are working toward all your goals.
     In any case, if you have a sizable IRA or you don’t need the funds that you’re required to take from your retirement accounts, you may want to start thinking about what you want to do with the money. The more thorough your legacy planning, the better your chances of meeting your legacy goals.
    PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This article was written by Edward Jones for use by Edward Jones Financial Advisor - Sheila K. Smith, 25349 W. Newberry Road, in Newberry. Phone 352-472-2776.

 


Chamber speaker endorses diversity
Citrus Cpounty Chamber of Commerce  HardisonInk.com
Pastor Doug Alexander speaks to the members and guests at the April luncheon meeting of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce on Friday afternoon (April 9). The luncheon was held in the banquet facility of the Citrus Hills Golf and Country Club. There are many door prizes near him, and they were awarded after the speech.
~
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © April 9, 2021 at
     CITRUS HILLS –
Twenty years ago (in 2001), Pastor Doug Alexander, with his wife, Teresa “Lady T” Alexander, and their four children, started the New Church Without Walls.

 


Citrus Cpounty Chamber of Commerce  HardisonInk.com
Eric Sokolsky, an ambassador with the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, was among the many people whom Chamber President and CEO Josh Wooten called upon to stand up as the Chamber's chief executive officer went through the various groups of people who support the Chamber even beyond being active members. Wooten then told the people who were not standing at that point, they could be standing next year if they volunteered for any of several ways to help the Chamber. Sokolsky is vice president of sales at EASI – Employee Administrative Services Inc. EASI handles payroll duties, benefits like insurance and other human resources matters for companies. The phone number for the Homosassa office is 352-419-4030. Call him to learn how EASI can make personnel matters easy.

Citrus Cpounty Chamber of Commerce  HardisonInk.com
Tony Sanchez of the Trusted Solutions Insurance Agency Inc. was among the many people at the luncheon. Sanchez said he has many clients in the Tri-County Area of Levy County, Dixie County and Gilchrist County, as well as his clients in Citrus County. He intends to have a booth at the Chiefland Watermelon Festival on June 5.

Citrus Cpounty Chamber of Commerce  HardisonInk.com

Citrus Cpounty Chamber of Commerce  HardisonInk.com
People socialize before the keynote address.

Citrus Cpounty Chamber of Commerce  HardisonInk.com

Citrus County Chamber of Commerce  HardisonInk.com
The lunch included salad, a roll, a Swiss chicken entrée with gravy, green beans and dessert and a drink. The food was brought to each diner by a member of the wait staff at the country club. They delivered the meals relatively well, but with so many people some of the diners did not get their food as soon as others.


     Since then, the church as grown to become a significant contributor to missions of mercy and goodness.
     On Friday (April 9), the lead pastor at this non-denominational church was the keynote speaker at the monthly luncheon of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.
     Before he began his speech, people mingled and networked with each other. The room was relatively full, and few people wore facemasks.
     While his focus was on diversity and economic empowerment, he had other strong thoughts to impart to the audience on Friday afternoon.
     Among the messages he shared was one from Jesus, “Love one another.”
     Another reminder the pastor gave was that every man and woman is equal in the eyes of God, and so each person should see each other person with that same vision of equality.
     In addition to endorsing every private business and government entity to look at its diversity, not just in the rank and file, but in middle management and upper administration, Pastor Alexander addressed economic empowerment. He also spoke about the many ways his ministry work, through the New Church Without Walls, is helping to feed and house people.
     The church has been involved in providing vaccinations against COVID-19. Before this pandemic, the church also has served people by responding to disasters – like Hurricane Katrina.
     The extent of this church’s reach into humans’ lives to help them is extensive – including helping people spiritually, economically, with their quality of life and even with insurance and legal matters.
     He had a distinguished life even before starting the church 20 years ago. He served as Unit Chaplain and Company Chaplain in the 82nd Airborne Corps during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
     The preacher retired from the United States Army.
     He then served retired from the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, where he was a School Resource Officer.
     Pastor Alexander is a Citrus County native who graduated from Citrus High School.
     He and his church have given away more than 28 million pounds of food; and have assisted homeless families in getting tents, bicycles, and other supplies.
     For families in need, he has given away numerous cars, and continues to host an annual back to school backpack and school supply give away. He is a man who believes in using his networks and resources to serve those who are in need.
     During the luncheon, he let listeners know there are mothers and children in Citrus County right now who are literally living in their cars. It is difficult for most people to imagine living in a car, especially when the heat of summer arrives.
     He urged everyone to get involved however they can to help the homeless and the hungry to overcome their plight in Citrus County.

 


Elections office
starts list maintenance activities

By Levy County Assistant Supervisor of Elections
Jordan Lindsey
Published April 7, 2021 at 10:11 a.m.

     BRONSON -- The Office of Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones began its biennial list maintenance activities this week as required by Florida election law.
     Address confirmation requests were sent to 4,681 voters who have not had any activity with the elections office over the past two years -- including voting, requesting a Vote by Mail ballot, or updating their voter registration.
     Voters who receive an address confirmation request are not required to respond to the notice. If a voter has an address change, then they will need to complete the required sections and mail in the prepaid postage envelope to the Levy County Supervisor of Elections office.
     Voters who have undeliverable mail will be sent an address confirmation final notice to the address provided by the United States Postal Service.
     For more information, please contact the Levy County Supervisor of Elections Office at 352-486-5163 or tammy@votelevy.com.

 

Daily news website adds
‘Go To Next Page’ option

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 27, 2021 at 4:11 p.m.
     JEMLANDS –
With the 11-year-old daily news website HardisonInk.com making itself more cellphone and tablet friendly, people who view the pages on a computer noticed some changes.
     One change was the lack of “buttons” at the bottom of pages to go to the other pages. Cell phone and tablet viewers will see a menu at the top of their device to select pages.
     Computer viewers don’t have that constant menu visible. It is only at the top of web pages for computer viewers.
     A new icon at the bottom of every page now can be clicked by computer viewers to go to the next page. If the computer viewer clicks on the “Click Here To Go To The Next Page” icon at the bottom of the Police Page, for instance, then the screen will go to the Community Page.
     Even if that is not the page the person wanted to visit, since every page has the seven buttons at the top, he or she can click on the button of the page they want to see next.
     “We gave up some relatively small things to make the website more mobile friendly,” publisher and owner Jeff M. Hardison said. “I prefer to use a computer screen, however I own a cellphone that can view websites and it is therefore easy for me to see HardisonInk.com when I am not in The Code Orange Office or on a laptop somewhere, or in a library, etc.”
     The publisher said his wife Sharon Hardison created the graphic and suggested the idea to help computer viewers.
     The next page order of pages is the following order -- Home Page, Police Page, Calendar Page, Business Page, Community Page, Life Page and Leisure Page. Clicking on the icon on the bottom of the Leisure Page will take the computer viewer to the Home Page.

 


Jobless rate drops to 4.5 percent
as region continues recovery

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published March 26, 2021 at 4:11 p.m.
     OCALA –
One year ago, the region’s unemployment rate for February was 4.2 percent and manufacturing in the Ocala metro area posted the second fastest annual job growth rate in the state.
     At the time, Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion, said that while all three counties would “undoubtedly see those numbers turn downward” as layoffs related to COVID-19 began to be felt, “it is significant that our region is starting off from a position of economic strength.”
     The hope, Skinner had said, is that such strength would “help our region rebound when we hit the other side of COVID-19.”
     Before that could begin to happen, the region’s jobless rate topped out at 12.9 percent in April 2020 with 24,342 out of work, 164,812 people employed and a labor force that had shrunk to 189,154.
     According to preliminary employment numbers for February 2021, released today by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the unemployment rate in the CareerSource CLM region was 4.5 percent, a drop of 0.4 percentage point over the month and just 0.3 percentage point higher than the region’s year ago rate. There were 9,351 unemployed in the region.
     February’s labor force was 206,130 – up 377 over the year, but 41,318 more than when the region was most affected by COVID impacts. The number of employed in the region was 196,779, an increase of 2,730 over the month and 31,967 more than at the height of the pandemic’s impact.
     Skinner said “the February report indicates that our area is continuing its recovery from the disruption of the pandemic.
      “All three counties show growth in their labor force numbers and the number of persons employed,” he continued. “Correspondingly, both the number of unemployed and the rate of unemployment have declined.”
     Levy County continues to hold the lowest jobless rate in the region at 3.8 percent, down 0.4 percent point over the month; Marion County followed with a rate of 4.4 percent, a drop of 0.3 percent point; and Citrus County’s rate was 5.1 percent, a decrease of half a percent. Florida’s not seasonally adjusted jobless rate – a measure that matches the way local rates are calculated – was 5.0 percent, down 0.3 percentage point over the month and 1.9 percent higher than February 2020.
     Skinner said a trend he is seeing in all three counties is “an increase in the number of job openings listed with us (CareerSource CLM) and a slight uptick in the number of visitors to our Career Centers that are seeking assistance in finding employment compared to the number of persons seeking help in their re-employment assistance claims (unemployment compensation).”
     Here are how the February jobs numbers break down for each county:
     Citrus County’s labor force in February expanded by 825 to 47,238, the number of employed increased by 1,003 to 44,824 and the number of unemployed fell by 178 to 2,414. That is little changed compared to February 2020 when the unemployment rate was also 5.1 percent: the labor force contracted by 223, there were 218 fewer employed and 5 fewer unemployed.
     Levy County’s labor force increased over the month by 222 to 17,175, the number of those with jobs rose by 283 to 16,523 and the number of jobless dropped by 61 to 652. Over the year, those numbers represent 25 more in the labor force, an increase of 191 employed and an increase of 216 unemployed when the unemployment rate was 3.7 percent.
     Marion County’s labor force grew by 1,057 to 141,717, the number of those with jobs increased by 1,444 to 135,432, and the number of unemployed decreased by 387 to 6,285. Compared to the same time last year, when the jobless rate was 3.9 percent, the labor force expanded by 384, the number of dropped by 401 and the number of jobless rose by 785.
     Nonfarm employment in the Ocala metropolitan statistical area, which covers all of Marion County, was 108,100, a decrease of 1,700 jobs (-1.5 percent) over the year but an increase of 700 compared to January’s preliminary report.
     The Ocala MSA posted the fastest annual job growth rate compared to all the metro areas in the state in manufacturing at 3.2 percent and the second highest annual job growth in manufacturing with 300 new jobs.
     Additionally, the Ocala metro had the second fastest annual job growth rate compared to all the metro areas in the state in trade, transportation, and utilities (+4.2 percent) in February 2021 as well as the second highest annual job growth with 1,100 new jobs.
     Other industries gaining jobs over the year were mining, logging, and construction (+100 jobs); and professional and business services (+100 jobs).
     Industries that lost jobs over the year were leisure and hospitality (-1,600 jobs); education and health services (-700 jobs); government (-600 jobs); other services (-200 jobs); information (-100 jobs); and financial activities (-100 jobs) industries lost jobs over the year.
     In February, nonfarm employment in the Homosassa Springs MSA, which includes all of Citrus County, was 32,600, a decrease of 600 jobs (-1.8 percent) over the year.
     Statewide, 66 counties saw unemployment rates drop over the month, the exception was Osceola County where the jobless rate rose from 8.4 percent to 8.8 percent.
     Citrus County dropped from the 5th to 8th highest jobless rate, tying with Highlands and Lake counties; Marion County moved from 15th to 19th highest rate, tying with Indian River, Seminole and Taylor counties; and Levy County inched up in the rankings from 35th to 34th highest, tying with Jackson and Leon counties.
     Among the states metro areas, the Homosassa Springs MSA dropped from 2nd to 5th highest, tying again with the Sebring MSA; and the Ocala MSA slipped from the 7th highest rate to 10th, tying with the Sebastian-Vero Beach MSA. With an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent, the Villages MSA, which includes a portion of Marion County, held the 8th highest rate.
     The region’s preliminary employment summary for March is scheduled to be released on Friday, April 16.

 


Huston Pullen named as regional director of Florida SBDC Network at UNF
Story Provided
By Amanda Ennis
Media Relations Coordinator
SBDC Marketing and Communications
Published March 25, 2021 at 4:11 p.m.
     PENSACOLA –
The Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, the state’s principal provider of small business assistance, and the University of North Florida (UNF) are pleased to announce the selection of Huston Pullen as the regional director of the Florida SBDC at UNF.
     As regional director, Pullen will provide strategic direction and oversight of the Florida SBDC at UNF’s consulting, training, and research activities to its 18-county service area in Northeast Florida.
     “We are very pleased to welcome Huston to the University of North Florida,” said Richard J. Buttimer, Ph.D., Dean of UNF’s Coggin College of Business. “He brings a wealth of experience in program management, economic and workforce development, and strategic communications.”

     Following an extensive search, Pullen was named regional director effective March 1. Pullen succeeds Janice Donaldson, who retired after 39 years of service with the Florida SBDC at UNF.
     Pullen previously served as the Chief of the Energy Workforce Division for the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity in the United States Department of Energy (DOE). In this role, he provided oversight of minority workforce development and entrepreneurial development programming. Pullen was instrumental in the development of comprehensive programming aimed at enhancing minority stakeholders in the energy sector and promoting opportunities with the DOE with minority business interests in mind.
     “I’m honored to be selected as the regional director of the Florida SBDC at UNF,” Pullen said. “I have always admired the Florida SBDC’s mission and its success in transforming the lives of small business owners across the state. I look forward to working with the Florida SBDC at UNF team, UNF, our partners, and the broader community as we continue our important work to help small businesses recover from the impacts of COVID-19.”
     The Florida SBDC at UNF is a member of the Florida SBDC Network, a statewide network of more than 40 offices and 250 employees that serves thousands of small business owners annually. Headquartered at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, the Florida SBDC Network partners with Florida’s state universities, colleges, and other economic development organizations to assist small and medium-sized businesses through all stages of business.
     “Huston is superbly equipped to lead the Florida SBDC at UNF in a way that honors Janice’s legacy while building upon it as the region looks ahead to its next chapter,” said Dr. Cheryl Kirby, interim CEO of the Florida SBDC Network. “He has tremendous energy and optimism and we’re excited to see the great things ahead for his team.”
     For more information about the Florida SBDC at UNF, please visit https://www.sbdc.unf.edu/.

 


Florida Agriculture Commissioner
Nikki Fried provides statement
on Vice President Kamala Harris’
visit to Jacksonville

By FDACS Office of Communications
Sent March 22, 2021 at 5:07 p.m.
Published March 23, 2021 at 8:11 a.m.
     TALLHASSEE –
On Monday (March 22), Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried joined Vice President Kamala Harris for a listening session on food insecurity at the Feeding Northeast Florida food distribution warehouse in Jacksonville.
     Commissioner Fried and Vice President Harris were joined by U.S. Representative Alfred “Al” Lawson Jr. (D-FL-05), Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools Dr. Diana Greene, Jacksonville City Councilmembers Joyce Morgan and Garrett Dennis, and Feeding Northeast Florida President and CEO Susan King.
     Commissioner Fried greeted Vice President Harris upon her arrival on Air Force Two at Jacksonville International Airport.
     Of the Vice President’s visit, Commissioner Fried offered the following statement:
     “On behalf of the State of Florida, it’s a privilege to welcome our Vice President to the Sunshine State. It’s been a hard year across America, with Florida being hit harder by COVID-19 than most states – so we’re grateful for her and President Biden’s leadership. Our hearts break for the families of the 33,000 Floridians who have perished in this pandemic. This public health crisis has had a hidden impact: worsening chronic hunger. 3.5 million Floridians – including one million children – are unsure from where their next meal will come. People of color are especially affected, with 40 percent of Black families and 39 percent of Hispanic families facing food insecurity. We’re working hard to address this at the state level, overseeing 246 million school meals served to children this year, as well as 149 million pounds of food distributed to families and seniors in need. We deeply appreciate the Biden Administration’s partnership on addressing this hunger crisis, with the American Rescue Plan including many nutrition requests we’ve made – like extended and increased SNAP benefits, continued Pandemic EBT, and investing in food assistance for women, families, and seniors. I look forward to welcoming the Vice President back to Florida many times in the years to come, and I thank her and the President for helping us keep Florida growing.”
     Commissioner Fried, an independently-elected member of the Florida Cabinet, in February released a state-federal partnership plan between the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Biden Administration.
     The 30-page plan outlines nearly 40 projects and initiatives on which Commissioner Fried’s agency and the State of Florida can partner with federal departments and agencies, including policies on agriculture and trade, food and nutrition, water and energy, cannabis, rural communities, and diversity, equity, and inclusion in government and society.
     Called “extensive” and “expansive,” Fried’s plan has been applauded by members of Congress, state legislators, national thinktanks, and agriculture and cannabis organizations.

 


Duke Energy Florida announces
solar sites in Citrus and Hardee counties

Story Provided
By Duke Energy News Center
Published March 15, 2021 at 9:11 p.m.
     ST. PETERSBURG –
Duke Energy Florida (DEF) today (Monday, March 15) announced the locations of its two newest solar power plants, which continue the expansion of its renewable generation portfolio.
     The solar plants are the latest milestones in the company’s strategy to deliver clean energy to customers. DEF currently has more than 900 MW of solar generation under construction or in operation, and will more than quadruple the amount of in-service solar on its system over the next four years.
     The Fort Green Power Plant will be built on approximately 500 acres in Hardee County. The 74.9-megawatt (MW) plant will consist of approximately 265,000 solar panels, utilizing a fixed-tilt racking system that will produce enough carbon-free energy to effectively power more than 20,000 average-sized homes at peak production.
      The Bay Trail Solar Power Plant will be built on 500 acres in Citrus County. Once operational, the 74.9-MW facility will consist of approximately 197,000 tracking bifacial solar panels. Its innovative double-sided panel design is highly efficient and tracks the movement of the sun. The plant will be capable of effectively producing enough electricity to power approximately 23,000 average-sized homes at peak production.
     “Citrus County welcomes the Duke Energy Bay Trail Solar Power Plant into our community,” said Citrus County Commission Chair Scott E. Carnahan. ”This investment promotes clean energy, brings jobs to our area and capital investment into our community. We believe this project will bring many benefits to our residents.”
     The Bay Trail facility is the site of a future mining location and the Fort Green site is a former phosphate mine.
     “These solar power plants are examples of how mining sites can be developed for renewable energy and benefit our communities and the environment,” said Melissa Seixas, Duke Energy Florida state president. “Duke Energy Florida is delivering on what our customers want – access to clean energy at a competitive price. We are providing environmentally friendly, cost-effective and innovative solar that benefits all of our Florida customers.”
     Duke Energy Florida remains a leader in advancing clean energy in the state.
     The company has now installed more than 1.9 million solar panels in Florida to date.
     Once both sites are finished, the Bay Trail and Fort Green solar power plants will help Duke Energy Florida complete the installation of its three-millionth solar panel in the state.
     In February 2020, DEF announced the installation of its one-millionth solar panel in Florida at the company’s Columbia Solar Power Plant in Fort White (Columbia County).

 


Employee Administrative Services Inc.
makes payroll and human resources easy

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 14, 2021 at 11:11 a.m.
     CITRUS COUNTY –
Payroll and other human resource (HR) duties are vital to any business – large, medium or small.
     Employee Administrative Services Inc. (EASI) makes payroll and HR easy for business owners, by taking on those responsibilities.
     EASI exists to ensure that employee administration is “EASIer” for everyone; so, employers can focus on the business of their business.
     This team of professionals works to meet each client’s specific needs, while identifying their goals and helping to achieve them. EASI takes the stress out of back office administration and provides small- and medium-sized businesses with payroll, human resources and management solutions, tailored to fit the industry those business interests serve.
     A primary administrative function outsourced in any industry is payroll. Employees getting their paychecks is the backbone of good employee morale. Mistakes or delays can damage an employee’s trust in the employer.
     Payroll must be accurate and timely to avoid problems like penalties and lawsuits. EASI offers a comprehensive, simple, accurate, affordable and cloud-based payroll solution that eliminates this time-consuming task for any business.
     The trained experts at EASI are accustomed to handling every type of payroll, from a simple operation with one or two employees to a large corporation with hundreds of employees in multiple states.
     With EASI accepting payroll duties for a company, that includes the following services:
     • Payroll Check Processing
     • Web-Based Payroll Data Entry
     • W-2s (fee based)
     • Payroll Reports
     • Direct Deposit
     • Online Employee Self-Service Employer Tax Administration
     • Payment of Local, State and Federal Taxes
     • Preparation and Filing of all Required IRS Withholding Tax Returns
     Beyond that, EASI offers other add-on services that includes, but is not limited to:
Human Resources
     • Job Descriptions, Guides and More
     • On-Demand Live Consulting from HR
Professionals
     • Time and Attendance
Insurance Services
     • Pay-As-You-Go Workers' Comp
     • Business Insurance
Custom Employee Benefits
     • Dental/Vision/401(k)
     • Sales, Administration & Reconciliation
     • Supplemental Insurance
     EASI of Citrus County is led by Eric Sokolsky.
     Sokolsky is a Rotarian, as well as being an ambassador for the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce. While he is located in Citrus County, EASI and Sokolsky can serve clients anywhere in the United States. Most recently, he mentioned being very pleased to see business owners from the Tri-County Area of Levy County, Dixie County and Gilchrist County take advantage of any of the EASI offerings – from payroll, to HR, to various business insurance offerings and more.
     Sokolsky is an experienced client services professional with extensive sales and operations experience. For the past 15 years, he has concentrated his skills in the Payroll Service Industry.
     He has opened and serviced hundreds of accounts. Sokolsky is known for his professionalism and attentiveness to customers’ needs. He spent many years directly mentoring and supervising employees and streamlining customer service functions.
     Sokolsky enjoys project work and will volunteer to pitch in where there is a need or to help grow business in new areas. In addition to his professional achievements, as noted above, Sokolsky is active in the community and a member of several Chambers.
     In his spare time, he helps with his family or church. Sokolsky is a licensed Life/Health and Property/Casualty insurance agent as well.
     Sokolsky’ daughter had moved to Citrus County three years ago when her husband transferred here, he told HardisonInk.com.
     “I had a brief history with Florida,” Sokolsky said. “My mother lived in Clearwater (Pinellas County) for 24 years prior to her death five years ago. So I made one or two trips here per year during that time.”
     Sokolsky mentioned his method to get to Clearwater was by driving south on U.S. Highway 19, through every county from Taylor County south.
     EASI, is headquartered in a suburb of Jackson, Mississippi, and EASI leaders wanted to grow the company beyond the Mississippi market.
     “The company agreed to open an office in the Citrus County area,” Sokolsky said. “That allowed me to be close to my daughter and grandchildren. Over the years, my brother and sister migrated to the Clearwater area. So, all of my family is nearby too.”
     Individuals who want to send EASI a message via the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, click HERE.
     For readers interested in seeing more about EASI, visit the ad on all seven pages of HardisonInk.com, including the Home Page. Also, by clicking on any of those ads, the person will see the Home Page of EASI.
     Another way to reach Sokolsky is by phone at 352-419-4030.
     HardisonInk.com owner and publisher Jeff M. Hardison commented about Sokolsky and EASI.
     “This year, I opened my doors to invite advertisers from businesses that are part of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce,” Hardison said. “I looked at Alachua, Columbia and Marion counties as the metro markets touching the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties. I chose Citrus County for a variety of reasons – too long to list.
     “I was very pleasantly surprised to see members of that Chamber greet me and invite me to purchase their products and services,” Hardison said. “Eric Sokolsky is among the friendly professionals who I’ve met from Citrus County. I am anticipating another man from Citrus County to visit The Ink Pad at the end of March.”
     Hardison mentioned that Marion County was second in the running for his consideration for specifically inviting advertisers, in part because the College of Central Florida and CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion are both advertisers with his daily news website that have the three-county market of Citrus, Levy and Marion counties as their primary base.

 


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