Photo: SunRailSunRail (open for a preview) is helping to spur development in central Florida.
Florida's 2014 Economic Yearbook
Central Florida gets a boost from SunRail
In Depth: Central Florida by the numbers
Orlando / Orange County
The arrival of SunRail commuter service is the story of the year in Orlando and Orange County, with potential impact throughout central Florida. The new option in urban transit for more than 2 million area residents is redefining local transportation and spurring development along the northsouth corridor parallel to I-4.
Downtown, multifamily and commercial projects prompted partly by SunRail's arrival are hot, particularly along Orange Avenue, where the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is nearing completion. The city-owned Citrus Bowl is getting a major renovation / expansion, and a pro soccer stadium is going up. Home building, sales and property values Are rebounding, particularly in the Lake Nona Medical City area.
The leading sector for metro Orlando job growth is construction, with an average annual rate of 10. 3%, according to the 2014 forecast by the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida. Overall job growth is projected to average 2. 6% annually, second-fastest among the 12 metro areas studied.
Darden Restaurants: The Orlando-based Fortune 500 casual dining giant may spin off its flagship Red Lobster chain as activist investors urge the company to take more risks to boost profits.
Lockheed Martin: The firm's missiles and fire control unit won contracts totaling $449 million for advanced stealth-cruise missiles, work that should keep 135 high tech employees busy in Orlando.
Theme Parks: Disney is transforming its Downtown Disney complex, expanding Animal Kingdom and completing a new Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom.Universal Orlando debuts the Wizarding World of Harry Potter's Diagon Alley this summer with a Hogwarts Express train ride between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Meanwhile, SeaWorld Orlando is rolling out more rides and events as part of its "Sea of Surprises" anniversary promotional campaign.
Orlando / Orange County
AVT Simulation: The modeling and simulation company at UCF Research Park is filling a $40-million contract order to upgrade Army helicopter trainers for use at 25 sites in the U.S. and abroad.
Therigy: Founded in 2006 in Maitland to serve the expanding specialty-pharmaceutical market, Therigy more Than doubled its staff in 2013 from 10 to 24.
Envy Labs: The downtown Orlando firm focuses on web design, gaming and online products with a staff of 27 computercode writers and tech workers. It boasts an "open hierarchy," where employees "work as equals, celebrate as a team and make fun of each other face to face."
Lake Mary / Sanford / Seminole County
Seminole residents take pride in the county's tree-shaded real estate, the Wekiva River and numerous parks and wildlife corridors that link nearby state and national forests.The county expects to invest more in conservation and recreation this year, even at the expense of development where conflicts might occur.
County commissioners overturned a board of adjustments approval of the Lake Jesup Nature Center, a proposed project that sounded environmentally friendly — rental cabins and pontoonboat ride business — partly because it would add noise and traffic in the rural Black Hammock area.
But in a different part of the county, near the Sanford-Orlando International Airport, the county is planning to invest in a youth sports complex to serve locals as well as visitors. Plans call for 14 to 18 baseball and softball fields in a 100-acre facility funded by up to $20 million in tourist-tax dollars. The complex could host competitions from throughout the nation, bolstering the county's reputation for youth sports.
Central Florida Regional Hospital: The Sanford facility, owned by Hospital Corporation of America, has asked for state permission to build an acutecare hospital in Oviedo, to serve east Seminole County, on land where it recently opened a freestanding ER.
Kissimmee / Osceola County
Work has begun in Osceola County on the long-awaited Poinciana Parkway, a key artery from Cypress Parkway to U. S. 17-92. The 10-mile highway, a joint project of the Osceola County Expressway Authority, Osceola County, Polk County and A / V Homes, Poinciana's developer, is scheduled for a 2016 completion. The county lost a longtime attraction with the closing of Arabian Nights dinner theater in Kissimmee and failed to lure a national rodeo away from Las Vegas.Those setbacks were offset by word from Colt, a firearms manufacturer, that it will fulfill a pledge made in 2011 and open a plant in a renovated 16,000-sq.-ft. facility. Meanwhile, imaging technology leader Photon-X, a recent arrival to the county, expects to hire 110 high wage employees within three years.
Lake County's economy benefits from natural resources that include more than 1,000 lakes and streams.Robert Chandler, director of economic development and tourism, is highlighting opportunities for attracting more anglers from around the nation. The Harris chain of lakes — nine altogether, spanning 76,000 acres — is regaining its reputation for trophy bass, crappie and other sport fish as water quality and aquatic habitat have improved in the past decade. Chandler says Lake County also is diversifying economically.CaptiveAire Systems, for example, a major producer of commercial kitchenventilation equipment, selected Groveland for its sixth manufacturing site. The company spent $6.3 million renovating an existing building, where it employs more than 40.