Around the State- Central- Dec. 2000
Orange County gets help from businesses to fund a successful after-school program.
By Ken Ibold
When Orange County started an after-care program to serve middle schoolers, County Chairman Mel Martinez turned to businesses for help -- and got it.
The After School Zone program gives middle schoolers -- the most at-risk group for behavior problems -- a supervised environment to do homework, get tutoring, learn drama, take karate classes or any of a number of other athletic, art or academic activities. It's free and designed to handle 120 students at each school. Since it was started, the program has served 10,000 middle school children.
Martinez gave the go-ahead to the pilot program in 1998, kicking in $4.5 million for two years, and expanded it to all 21 county middle schools a year ago. He challenged school officials to show it works in order to get the county to extend funding. The city of Orlando runs a similar program at its five middle schools.
The results have been dramatic. After one year, 80% of the students enrolled had a 2.0 grade point average or higher and had better school attendance. That was good enough for the county, which decided to extend the funding.
"We try to make the curriculum cool enough that the kids want to be there," says program administrator Tyra Witsell, director of the Orange County Citizen's Commission for Children. "Kids vote with their feet. If they're not there, it's because it wasn't very interesting or wasn't much fun. So far, it's working."
When Martinez asked businesses to get on board, Walt Disney World responded with a $50,000 donation in October -- 10% of the money the company contributed to 73 local community service organizations in 2000. Other companies have gone directly to the YMCA or the Boys and Girls Clubs, which provide the staff and organize the activities, to contribute money or in-kind donations.
Much of the additional funding will make more programs accessible to students with special needs, but some will go toward giving the students more flexibility to pick the activities that interest them.
That could mean another form of school overcrowding -- as more students are likely to vote with their feet.
In the News
Kissimmee -- Tupperware (NYSE-TUP) said it would lend 33 top executives money to buy 800,000 shares of company stock in an effort to show that management had a stake in the company's future. The executives will buy the shares at market rates, with the shares securing the loans. As of early November, Tupperware's stock was trading for about $18, near its 52-week low of just over $14.50.
Lake Buena Vista -- Dolly Parton's planned $20-million dinner theater, jilted by neighbors at its proposed location near Sand Lake Road and Turkey Lake Road, is back on track in a new location. Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede & Dinner Show has contracted to buy land in Lake Buena Vista, though the company won't reveal a development timetable.
Maitland -- Star Systems, which operates an electronic funds transfer system used by banks for ATM and credit-card transactions, has been sold to Memphis-based Concord EFS for stock worth an estimated $850 million. Neither company would reveal what will happen to Star's headquarters or the roughly 200 people who work there.
Orange County -- Correct Craft said it would move from the 10-acre south Orlando site that has been its home for 76 years to a 137-acre site in east Orange County. The expansion will allow Correct Craft to build lakes for testing its boats, expand its workforce from 300 to 400 and explore the potential of building bigger boats than its current line of Nautique ski boats.
The last remaining undeveloped tract in MetroWest has been sold to a Virginia Beach, Va., company and SouthStar Development Partners, its Miami subsidiary. Developers plan to build up to 3.9 million square feet of office and retail space on the 520-acre tract.
Orlando -- Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Orlando Missiles unit won a weapons contract worth $80 million immediately and possibly nearly $1 billion over the next 20 years. The company announced plans to hire 100 engineers, technicians and assemblers in Orlando by the end of the year and 325 by 2003. In addition, Lockheed Martin Information Systems has landed a flight simulation contract from the Navy worth $28 million initially with options that could mean $98 million.
World Commerce Online (Nasdaq-WCOL), an Internet-based distributor of cut flowers and perishable goods, has landed a commitment for another $20 million to $30 million from Miami venture capital firm Interprise Technology Partners. The same venture capital firm invested $28 million in World Commerce in 1999.
Transpo Electronics laid off 10% of its 900 employees because of slowdowns. The company, which makes components for automotive electrical systems, blamed foreign competition and an increase in auto leasing.
The Belz Factory Outlet Mall plans a $45-million expansion next year that will include provisions to have a light-rail station attached to its parking garage. Lynx, the city's public transportation system, intends to use the ground level of the parking garage as a transfer point for the buses it routes along International Drive. The Belz site was to have been the southern terminus of the proposed Orlando light-rail project that fell apart a year ago.
Internet service provider Cavu landed venture capital investments of $55 million from six investment companies, bringing its total venture capital investment to $74 million this year. The company will use the proceeds to expand its high-speed wireless Internet access to additional markets.
Advanced Consumer Services, a telemarketing operation, has been closed. Police say the operation was a "boiler-room" scam that involved persuading credit-card holders to approve charges of up to $349 for protection from fraudulent charges.
Osceola County -- Walt Disney World trade workers rejected a three-year contract that promised increases in both pay and pension. The 4,000 Craft Maintenance Council workers affected by the contract were seeking a better retirement package. Neither side expected the dispute to turn into a strike.
Developers of the 1,200-acre ChampionsGate resort project announced plans for more than $230 million in development, including a 732-room luxury hotel managed by Omni Hotels. The development will also include a 372-unit apartment building, 75,000-sq.-ft. retail center and a 50,000-sq.-ft. office building. Already completed are two 18-hole golf courses designed by Greg Norman and the David Leadbetter Golf Academy. A 35,000-sq.-ft. clubhouse is already under construction.
Palm Bay -- Varimetrix Corp. has launched a distribution channel in Asia and acquired its European distributor in an effort to broaden the global appeal of its manufacturing design software. The Asian distributor will be Shin Nippon Koki, which has invested $20 million in Varimetrix.
Winter Park -- Apartment developer Epoch Properties is branching out into timeshares, signing a deal with Prime Hospitality of Fairfield, N.J., to develop resorts under the name AmeriSuite Vacation Club. The first project under construction is Calypso Cay, a 115-unit Caribbean-themed resort in Osceola County.
ORLANDO -- An agreement between Orlando International Airport and its airline tenants will likely postpone the opening of the airport's new international terminal from early 2002 to mid-2005. The delay will increase the cost of the expansion by more than 20% to $692 million.