With talented workforce and new industry sectors, the future looks A-OK for East Central/Space Coast.
Dr. Terry Oswalt shows off a rooftop telescope to astronomy students at the Florida Institute of Technology. [Photo: Florida Institute of Technology]
While it was theme parks, ocean beaches, race cars and rockets that first put this seven-county region on the map for tourists, today the East Central/Space Coast region is increasingly touted by business owners for its strategic location. A convergence of highways, rail lines, an increasingly more prominent Port Canaveral and one of the world’s largest and busiest commercial airports, Orlando International, ensures that manufacturers can readily get supplies in and finished products out.
This region’s current population of more than 3 million residents is expected to surpass 5 million by 2030 and reach San Francisco’s current count of 7 million by 2050, according to Myregion.org, a nonprofit group studying the area’s future. In an innovative effort to address the issues that accompany such rapid growth, the organization’s “How Shall We Grow?” campaign is asking residents for input on such topics as land development, conservation, transportation and air and water quality. Their findings may become the model for responsible growth in other regions, too.
Meanwhile, local leaders are making plans for commuter rail service, new entertainment venues, including a world-class performing arts center, and attainable housing alternatives for the growing workforce.
Orlando/ Orange County
Tech Sector Growing
At $30 billion, tourism remains Orlando’s number 1 industry, but it’s the technology industry that has propelled the East Central/Space Coast region to the 8th-largest technology market in the country. And today, the $15-billion industry is creating high-wage jobs; enough, in fact, to ensure that workers migrating from the traditional tech hub cities of San Francisco, Boston and Seattle will find multiple job choices here.
“Take any community of 2 or 3 million people in this country, and nobody’s seen the kind of development we’ve seen,” says John Fremstad, vice president of technology business development for the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission. “Central Florida has its foot on the gas, and we’re accelerating.”
Beverage importer Luctor International, which produces Van Gogh Vodka in the Netherlands, moved its U.S. headquarters from Reno, Nev., to Orlando in 2005, because, says President David van de Velde, the Eastern time zone made overseas communication more effective. He chose the company’s new facility for its proximity to Orlando International Airport, and has since expanded to accommodate the 32-employee company’s local workforce of 24. Van de Velde anticipates another expansion in three or four years.
Staffing for speedy growth
Radiation therapy product manufacturer .decimal Inc. (pronounced dot-decimal) moved to a 30,000-square-foot warehouse in Sanford after expanding from 10 employees to 50 in 15 months, says radiation physicist and Senior Vice President Chris Warner.
Founded by Seminole County native Richard Sweat, who serves as CEO, the company works with the Central Florida Manufacturers Association, Lyman High School, Valencia Community College, University of Central Florida and University of Florida to develop its talent pool.
Courting Life Sciences and Biotechnology
To foster continuing growth in the life sciences and biotech cluster, which has so far added $1.8 billion to the local economy, area leaders have formed bioOrlando, a group dedicated to making central Florida a major league biomedical hub. Among the activity:
- Several developments are in the works for Lake Nona, an area being touted as a future “medical city.”
- California-based Burnham Institute for Medical Research is opening an East Coast laboratory to focus on obesity and diabetes research and new drug development.
- University of Central Florida, expanding rapidly with $7 million in construction projects under way, is building a medical school.
- A Nemours specialty children’s hospital, a Veterans Administration hospital and several spinoff medical businesses are also planned.
- The Nicholson Center for Surgical Advancement at Florida Hospital’s Celebration Health near Walt Disney World is planning a significant expansion of its facilities, where surgeons worldwide train in minimally invasive techniques.
- A national umbilical cord blood bank has teamed up with Orlando Regional Healthcare System’s new Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies.
- Growing numbers of specialty pharmacy companies are making plans for expanding in or moving to the region.