November 1, 2014

Around the State- Central- March 2001

Beth Dickey | 3/1/2001
The Economic Development Commission of Mid-Florida, Central Florida's primary economic development group, can make a good case that its region enjoys Florida's strongest economy. The area, encompassing Orange, Osceola, Lake and Seminole counties, is the second-fastest-growing U.S. employment and population market, one of the top five office markets in the country and the third-most prolific film and television production location in the U.S. It's also one of the fastest-growing high-tech centers in the world. Venture capitalists invested $283 million in the region -- 26% of the state's total -- in the first nine months of 2000.

But the EDC feels that for many outside the area, its image as a high-tech contender is still blurry. Tourism continues to dominate the region's image, and lower-paying service-sector jobs still rule the economy: Median family income has been flat for 10 years. In growth of earnings per worker, metro Orlando ranks 252nd in a recent Policom Corp. ranking of 315 metro areas nationwide.

The EDC, which complains it has been underfunded and competitively outspent for years, now thinks it's in a better position to take on its marketing challenges -- thanks to some new business backing that will enable it to spend big in selling the area as a high-tech center. Area companies have pledged to increase their support of the group by $3 million during the next four years. And for the first time in years, the EDC will be getting more financial support from businesses than from taxpayers.

"This gives us a level of stability and certainty that we haven't had in the past with respect to funding," says Darrell Kelley, who as president and chief executive has been leading the EDC's transition from a dues-based organization. "The idea being that if you invest in economic development, you expect a return on the investment," says Kelley, who plans to step down at the end of March.

The extra money will generate a budget of about $18 million -- 60% of it from the private sector -- for the next four years. That's nearly $4.5 million a year, compared with the agency's current annual budget of about $3.8 million. The EDC's three key goals are to create 18,452 primary jobs, $472 million in additional office and industrial investment and $400 million in additional international trade -- all by 2005. By then, the EDC expects the primary jobs will have generated 16,830 indirect jobs, nearly $1.4 billion in additional annual payroll and $709 million in annual personal expenditures. To document return, the EDC has contracted with an Atlanta firm for periodic investment analyses.

Proponents of Vision 20/20, the EDC's fund-raising effort, want to reduce the region's reliance on tourism and stem the tide of low-paying service jobs that water down per-capita income and dilute the economy. "Ten years from now our diversification in the central Florida economy will really have taken root strongly," says Vision 20/20 Chairman Tom Yochum, president of SunTrust Central Florida. "Will high tech dethrone tourism? Not on your best day. But I think it will be a significantly larger piece of the economic pie than it is today."


In the News

Orange County -- Park Development Corp. has announced two projects in MetroWest that will encompass more than half a million square feet and be worth some $150 million. Park will begin construction in the next few weeks on Esplanade Center of Park Place, a $50-million venture with 165,000 square feet of office space and 25,000 square feet apiece for retail and restaurants. The other venture, MetroWest Place, will have 250,000 square feet for retail and restaurants, 100,000 square feet of office space, 250 condos, a movie theater and an indoor skating rink. No tenants are lined up yet.

Hyatt will build what may become its largest hotel. The hotel, adjacent to the Orange County Convention Center, is to have about 1,500 rooms when it opens in 2004, but it may be expanded by 500 to 1,000 rooms within five or 10 years, making it larger than the 2,000-room flagship Hyatt in Chicago.

Orlando -- Southwest Airlines says it will open a crew base in Orlando for as many as 1,000 pilots and flight attendants at Orlando International Airport. The airline already has bases in Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Chicago, Oakland and Baltimore.

Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World have abandoned their attempts to change a state law barring alcohol manufacturers and distributors from marketing and advertising their products at the parks. Both parks were interested in having alcohol sponsorships of concerts or other special events at their entertainment venues, CityWalk and Pleasure Island.

Lockheed Martin Corp. spinoff L-3 Communications Holdings has paid $60 million for Orlando defense contractor Coleman Research Corp. Coleman makes ballistic missile targets, signal-processing communications equipment and simulation training systems. L-3 produces a variety of secure communications systems for space and defense applications.

After the company missed crucial debt payments, shareholders of Display Technologies (Nasdaq-DTEK) forced its CEO to retire, shook up the board of directors and induced the company to move from Orlando to Charlotte, N.C.

Triton Network Systems laid off 30 workers -- 10% of its workforce -- as customers scaled back their orders for the upstart company's wireless data networks.

The Navy has awarded Lockheed Martin Information Systems a contract add-on worth $63 million over the next three years to produce automated testing equipment. Lockheed originally won the contract
in 1991.

Orlando Sentinel Communications says it will suspend publication of Central Florida Family and Central Florida Black Family Today, two free-subscription magazines it purchased in 1995. The company says it was not able to make the magazines profitable.

Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park has apparently abandoned its plans for a ride based on the Dr. Seuss story of the star-bellied Sneetches. The park now says there is no opening date set for the ride, which was first promised in 2000, then 2001. Speculation is that the ride proved too complicated to be cost-
effective.

The Holy Land Experience, a 15-acre Bible-based theme park, opened amid controversy over the park's portrayal of Jews. The park was built by Zion's Hope of Orlando, a group whose primary goal is to convert Jews to Christianity.

Cushman & Wakefield has acquired The Apartment Group, an apartment brokerage operating in Orlando and Atlanta. Cushman & Wakefield plans to expand the company's brokerage efforts statewide, trying to capitalize on the recent growth of apartment properties in investor portfolios.

Universal Orlando opened the Hard Rock Hotel, a lower-cost alternative to the theme park company's tony Portofino Bay Hotel. The 650-room Hard Rock features $800,000 worth of rock 'n' roll memorabilia and a $1,500-a-night suite dedicated to Elvis Presley.

Hughes Supply (NYSE-HUG) has sold its pool-supply business to SCP Pool Corp. of Covington, La. The division last year contributed $120 million in sales to Hughes' $3 billion in sales. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Rockledge -- e-Security says it has received $13 million in investment capital from Fidelity Ventures in Boston, Updata Venture Partners in Reston, Va., and an individual investor. The money will be used to boost employment from 35 to 120 within the next few months, expand its technology center and put more effort into sales and marketing.

Sanford -- Pan American Airlines says it will begin direct flights from Sanford to San Juan, Puerto Rico, in May.

Winter Park -- DigitalOwl, a software company that allows online publishers to protect their copyrights, has landed $11.1 million in venture capital from Noro-Moseley Partners of Atlanta and two other venture companies. The money will allow
the company to grow from 38 to 55 employees and launch new sales efforts around the country. Current clients include Time Warner, McGraw-Hill Books and Kinkos.com.


Abortion Business
Verdict: Guilty

ORLANDO -- Well-known abortion doctor James Pendergraft ["The Specialist," June 1999] vows to keep his clinics open despite being convicted last month of trying to extort millions of dollars from Marion County by falsely accusing a county official of bomb threats and intimidation. He faces 30 years in prison. No sentencing date was set.

An attorney for Pendergraft, an Orlando gynecologist who operates clinics in Orlando, Ocala, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, promised a quick appeal.

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