Economic yearbook 2010
Rail. downtown projects and Lake Nona lead the way.
The city, county and region are starting to breathe sighs of relief, cautiously, as multiple projects come to fruition that should create jobs and pump money into the economy.
The nearly completed Met2 Financial Center (glass buildings, center) will add to the glut of office space Miami is already trying to fill. [Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty]
Most notably, two rail projects that secured green lights within six weeks of each other this winter promise to bring a bonanza of jobs in the design and construction phases this year and next. SunRail, a $1.2-billion commuter train system that will run through Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Osceola counties, is set to carry its first passengers in late 2012. A high-speed rail line between the Orlando area and Tampa, awarded $1.25 billion in federal stimulus money, is projected to start service in 2015.
Challenges loom ahead: Connecting the two rail lines and enticing companies that develop rail construction projects nationwide to set up a new industry in central Florida.
More jobs are on the way as the Amway Center, new home to the Orlando Magic as well as concerts and other major events, prepares to open in October — a move Orlando officials hope will revitalize the sagging Church Street Station area nearby. Meanwhile, the Dr. P. Phillips Orlando Performing Arts Center, set to break ground in late summer, will create 4,000 jobs.
Lake Nona, expected to bring 20,000 jobs in the next decade, continues to expand since last year’s opening of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, now named the Sanford-Burnham after a $50-million donation in January by philanthropist T. Denny Sanford. A Veterans Affairs hospital and a Nemours medical center for children are set to open in 2012, and a University of Central Florida medical school took in its first students last fall.
While it’s difficult to woo many large companies now, Orlando, Orange County and other areas in the region are focusing on growing handfuls of jobs by promoting entrepreneurship. The UCF Business Incubation Program is still active, eyeing new sites to add to its collection of eight incubators. The program’s sister effort, downtown’s Disney Entrepreneur Center, has seen an increase in traffic, and the city has launched the Entrepreneurial Zone, a drive to offer financial incentives to small businesses that move into downtown office space. Orlando has helped bolster pockets of commercial activity with its Main Street Program that targeted five neighborhoods, generating almost 500 jobs and 82 business openings.
Even tourism is starting to pick up, with Canadian visitors expected to replace U.K. tourists as the most prevalent international visitors. Industry watchers anticipate an influx of tourists when a new Harry Potter attraction opens this year at Universal Studios and Walt Disney World unveils new attractions at Magic Kingdom.
People to Watch
» As founder and president of CEO Nexus, Steve Quello has laid out plans this year to partner with several organizations — including the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Disney Entrepreneur Center, the University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program and others — to help second-stage companies find contracts, funding, mentoring and peer support. “Economic gardening,” which Quello has been promoting for years, is taking hold statewide.
» Entrepreneur, publisher and former rocket scientist Mary Spio is co-founder, president and director of Orlando-based Gen2Media, a video technology company that works on national advertising campaigns for Microsoft, Coca-Cola, the Black Eyed Peas, Mary J. Blige, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and others. She has been named to a panel of 1,000 business leaders nationwide that USA Today will tap for leadership advice this year. In addition to winning several patents for satellite communications technology at Boeing, which she joined in 2001 at age 26, she developed technology that allows films to be transmitted to theaters electronically and is working on a video game that will be tied to a television reality series. She also is publisher of a magazine for single professionals.
Businesses to Watch
» Voxeo, based in Orlando with offices in the U.K., Germany and China, has grown more than 100% a year since it was founded in 1999 and now employs 150, with plans to add 100 positions in the next two years. The company has more than $50 million in infrastructure, technology and programs, and it has signed more than 100,000 customers worldwide to its internet-based phone service and interactive voice response technology.
» Orlando-based Intelligent Global Pooling Systems, known as iGPS, is expected to add 85 jobs in the coming months. The company rents out plastic pallets that contain computer chips that can be used for tracking and managing inventory.