Central Florida Roundup
Butting heads: Orange County's property appraiser clashes with big business
It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that Rick Singh, the elected property appraiser in Orange County, came out of nowhere.
Singh, whose family emigrated from Guyana when he was 10, had been living in Orlando since 1986. He’d repaired and sold used cars with his brother, appraised property for the county and run an appraisal business and Century 21 franchise. But he wasn’t involved in local politics, and he knew little about elections. “I actually Googled ‘how to run a political campaign,’ ” Singh says.
That search led him in early 2011 to the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, where Singh enrolled in the fourday Candidate Training Program, a kind of boot camp for people who want to be politicians. Singh was “quite a good” student, recalls the institute’s former executive director. He believes Singh was the first person from outside Virginia to go through the program.
Singh, a Democrat, then spent most of the next two years campaigning for office. He was elected in November 2012, defeating a well-known Republican incumbent on the crest of a Democratic wave for President Obama.
Since then, Singh has proven to be a relentless self-promoter — office vehicles now bear his name in as many as 10 different places — and a pugnacious appraiser, particularly with the county’s biggest landowners.
Under Singh, the property appraiser’s office has sued Darden Restaurants and Sea- World Entertainment and has been sued by Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, among many others.
“I firmly believe that if the single mother in Parramore who is struggling to make ends meet has to pay her fair share, then everybody should be held to the same standard,” Singh says.
During Singh’s reelection last fall, against a relatively unknown GOP challenger, mysterious political committees emerged to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on sometimes racially charged attacks against Singh. The groups took steps to mask their donors, but known contributors included the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Singh won re-election with ease. But he believes the attacks were meant to “tarnish” him ahead of what is widely expected to be his next campaign: The 2018 race for Orange County mayor.
As part of its role in facilitating economic growth, the Orlando Utilities Commission, Orlando’s municipally owned electric and water utility, has launched a website meant to help expanding and relocating businesses find sites with reliable, affordable energy and water. The website includes an interactive map that enables business owners to search available land and properties for sale and lease in Orlando and St. Cloud. Users can search within various submarkets and by square footage and building type. Learn more at OUCpowersgrowth.com.
CLERMONT — SolarCity, the solar-system installation company owned by Elon Musk, expects to add between 200 and 300 jobs in Florida.
KISSIMMEE — Fun Spot America will add a $6-million wooden roller coaster to its Kissimmee theme park. The nearby Old Town entertainment complex is also undergoing a $20-million renovation.
LAKE BUENA VISTA — Disney is planning a major renovation at Epcot. Disney also began offering for rent $700-a-day cabanas within the Magic Kingdom park.
MAITLAND — Daily-fantasy-sports operator FanDuel laid off an unspecified number of employees, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
ORANGE COUNTY — Sea- World cut more than 300 jobs through a combination of layoffs and elimination of open positions, the second large layoff since 2014.
ORLANDO — Orlando International Airport says its $1.8-billion south terminal will open in 2020, a year later than initially expected, because of a tight steel market. Experience-design firm IDEAS was selected by the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee to design a virtual-reality ride for the fan festival that will accompany the 2017 game. » A Mario Andretti-branded indoor go-kart track and gaming center will open in July. » Charlotte-based Crescent Communities plans to build a six-story, mixed-use project south of downtown. The project on former hospital-owned land will be called Crescent Lucerne and include 375 apartments and an Earth Fare grocery store, among other retailers. » Buddy Dyer became Orlando’s longest-serving mayor in December.
SANFORD — World Housing Solutions won a U.S. military contract to build two latrine structures at a base in Agadez, Niger, which the company says will include a sustainable water and sewer treatment system that will reduce energy costs at the base.
THE VILLAGES — The median sales price for single-family homes in The Villages jumped 33. 9% in the year ended in October to $225,000, according to the Florida Realtors, the highest increase in the state.
WINTER GARDEN — Longtime local plant grower Knox Nursery began delivery of medical marijuana in central Florida. The company eventually plans to open a dispensary storefront near downtown Orlando.
Flossing Made Easy
Like many people, the patients of Tavares dentist Tim Pruett rarely flossed. Flossing was painful, inconvenient, awkward and messy, they told him. So Pruett, founder of a company called Flossolution, invented a product that combines both sonic power-flossing and tooth-brushing on a single brush. “Our non-negotiables were that we needed to design a system that made flossing one-handed, eliminated the need to stick your hands in your mouth, controlled the movement of the floss both laterally and vertically, and couldn’t be stored away in a drawer and forgotten,” Pruett says. One version of his product, called Max, recently won bronze in the Best in Biz Awards’ Most Innovative Product of the Year in the health care category.