Florida's Central/Space Coast region grows new business on solid roots in aviation and tourism.
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When the time came to build an employee training facility, JetBlue Airways considered locations in Florida, California and its home base of New York. In the end, however, the company chose Orlando International Airport for its JetBlue University Orlando Support Campus, plus an installation hangar for in-flight television systems and a facility to house employees who are undergoing training.
Area leaders say this is just the kind of development the Central/Space Coast region of Florida is seeking to attract as it builds its reputation as the world capital of modeling, simulation and training technology, or MS&T.
"We just fit right in," says Robert Land, JetBlue vice president.
The large MS&T sector in Central/Space Coast Florida includes more than 140 companies, close to 17,000 workers and a gross regional product of $2.5 billion, according to the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission.
Among the companies represented are contractors and subcontractors that support the military, including Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, General Dynamics, L3 Communications, SAIC, Boeing and Harris Corp.
The area is also home to the National Center for Simulation in Orlando and the Florida Institute for Simulation and Training, at the nearby University of Central Florida, one of only three places in the world that confers a Ph.D. in MS&T. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Day-tona Beach offers aviation simulation programs, and Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne has an aerospace engineering program.
|Facts & Figures|
Source: U.S. Census Bureau; Demographics USA 2005, TradeDimensions International Inc.; Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation. EBI = effective buying/disposable income.
In Volusia County, virtual reality training company Raydon Corp. has expanded from 180 employees to 230 in the past year. The company produces simulators for military vehicles such as Humvees and Bradley tanks. In 2005, Raydon created a new division for a product that trains student drivers.
Raydon has five facilities in Daytona Beach and, according to Rick Michael, director of Volusia County's Department of Economic Development, is looking to consolidate its operations under one roof or on a single campus. In summer 2006, JetBlue broke ground on its $24.5 million JetBlue Crew Lodge, a 292-room, all-suites private facility that will house trainees and their families. Completion is expected by late 2007.
For JetBlue, the decision to build in Central Florida came after a good deal of deliberation.
"As we grew as an airline, it made sense for us to have our own place," JetBlue's Robert Land says. "We looked at the numbers, and Florida really started standing out for a number of reasons." And Orlando, he adds, was the most suitable match.
Orlando International, which has hosted JetBlue flights for six years, served more than 34 million passengers in 2005 and is the fourth-largest in the nation for domestic flights. In terms of traffic, it ranks as the busiest airport in Florida, 12th-busiest nationwide and 21st busiest in the world.
The area also has a host of smaller airports, including Orlando Sanford International in Seminole County, Daytona Beach International in Volusia County and Melbourne International in south Brevard County, as well as many facilities catering to individual pilots and charter aircraft, such as Kissimmee Gateway, Leesburg Regional, Orlando Executive and Space Coast Regional.