Air Rifle Range

Construction continues on the new Air Rifle Range at the Rio Grande Recreation Area.

The Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood already is having a positive impact on The Villages economy.

Eleven medical providers already have opened in the four-story, 240,000-square-foot building, and more is planned.

Those providers add to a boon in medical care for Villages residents, who’ve witnessed a 25% surge in the health care firms serving them, up to 260 total, during a four-year period that ended Dec. 31, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The facility also complements a larger plan to improve the health care landscape, Sumter County Commissioner Steve Printz said during a tour of the building. He cited the previously announced The Villages partnership with UF Health and its commitment to build a second acute-care hospital and medical research park in The Villages.

“To me, that’s the key,” Printz said. “The expansion of world-class health care with the University of Florida Health and facilities like this expanding within Sumter County does bring access to folks, who up until now, really had to drive long distances to get comparable care, if at all. So this starts to open up that access. It creates choice for residents who probably didn’t have that choice prior to this opening.”

In just the span of about eight months, UF Health has already expanded into The Villages with the acquisition of what is now UF Health The Villages Hospital, UF Health Leesburg Hospital and the UF Health The Villages Hospital Freestanding Emergency Room.

The facility and the expanding health care opportunities also dovetails with the county commission’s economic development strategy to expand the commercial tax base to lessen the tax burden on residential properties owners, Printz said. Commercial properties typically pay a much higher property tax than residential properties.

“It’s important we diversify our residential base to a broader tax base,” he said. “This helps facilitate that, and jumps-starts it. It creates excitement. It creates an opportunity for people to see what can be and what will be over the long-term of this county. I get really happy when I see things like this come out of the ground. To me, it’s exciting.”

Also: The vitality of The Villages economy is apparent in the longevity of businesses in the community. Twenty-nine businesses opened their doors for the first time more than 20 years ago. It’s a powerful indicator of the vibrancy and stability of The Villages market in Lake, Marion and Sumter counties, said Scott Renick, The Villages director of commercial development.

“We have them across all categories, from retail and restaurant to service and medical offices,” he said. “They are a trusted provider in their categories, and they make up a crucial part of the fabric of The Villages, oftentimes having connected with and served multiple generations of our residents.”

Also: More than 2,000 business establishments operated in The Villages metropolitan statistical area at the end of the fourth quarter 2019. That’s a 65.4% increase over the past decade in the MSA, which includes all of Sumter County but not The Villages in Lake or Marion counties. The increase in the MSA’s population to around 132,000 people as of April 2019 accounts not only for the increase in new business, but also total market value of residential and commercial property in the MSA. The Villages MSA ranked No. 1 in the state in the percentage gain of market value over the past decade, growing 107% to just a little more than $19 billion as of Dec. 31, 2019.

Also: Brownwood is one of the best examples in the community of have fast The Villages is growing, Renick said. It includes the recently opened Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood and the adjacent Brownwood Hotel & Spa. Several buildings as part of the Brownwood Phase III expansion have been completed. Residents are moving in beginning July 15 and preleasing is underway at The Lofts at Brownwood, a 265-unit age-restricted apartment community. Add to that new construction underway at the Technology Solutions Group building at Powell Professional Plaza at Brownwood, with work starting soon on the Citizens First Bank operations center.

Senior writer David R. Corder can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5241, or david.corder@thevillagesmedia.com.