FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business


East Central Florida

Lake Eola, downtown Orlando
Amid towering office buildings, shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, Lake Eola remains a peaceful respite in busy downtown Orlando. [Photo: VISIT FLORIDA]

Visitors from around the world know East Central Florida for its theme parks, NASCAR races, golf courses, water skiing and surfing. But look beyond the tourist attractions and you'll find a region rich with technological advancements — and the people who made them possible. Across these seven counties, a highly skilled workforce launches rockets, designs theme park rides and video games, builds simulators for military training, creates faster auto engines, trains surgeons in robotic techniques and seeks cures for obesity and diabetes.

The region is home to top-notch higher education, too: University of Central Florida (UCF), second-largest university in the country and recognized for its research and patent portfolio; Rollins College, offering an MBA program ranked No. 1 in Florida by Forbes magazine; Florida Institute of Technology, taking the lead in commercial spaceflight; and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, generating more pilots for major airlines than any other flight school.

East Central Florida: At A Glance
East Central Florida
Demographics for the East Central region can be found at Business Florida's interactive map of Florida.
Regional Assets

Universities/Colleges
• Beacon College
• Bethune-Cookman University
• Brevard Community College
• Daytona State College
• Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
• Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences
• Florida Institute of Technology
• Full Sail University
• Lake-Sumter Community College
• Rollins College
• Seminole State College
• Stetson University
• University of Central Florida
• Valencia College

Airports
• Daytona Beach International Airport
• Melbourne International Airport
• Orlando International Airport
• Orlando Sanford International Airport

Seaports
• Port Canaveral

Spaceports
• Kennedy Space Center Spaceport

Transportation into and out of East Central Florida is easy thanks to Port Canaveral, numerous airports and the intersection of three Interstate highways (I-95, I-75 and I-4), Florida's Turnpike and a toll road system that wraps around the Orlando core. And soon, SunRail — a commuter rail system currently under development.

Who Lives Here

Multiplicity: One in six residents of East Central Florida was born outside the U.S., an advantage for employers competing in global commerce. The Hispanic population continues to grow, most notably in Osceola County, where people with Latin origins numbered 42% in 2010, compared with 24% in metro Orlando.

Engineers: Brevard County, ground zero for Florida's space industry, counts 48 engineers per 1,000 residents, more than in any other Florida metro area. This county boasts the most concentrated high-tech economy in the state and the 16th most concentrated in the nation.

Celebrities and Newsmakers:

» Sports stars: Golfers Arnold Palmer and Annika Sorenstam; basketball's Shaquille O'Neal and Vince Carter; pro football's Reggie Williams; pro baseball's Ken Griffey Jr., Johnny Damon and Barry Larkin; tennis player Gigi Fernandez; surfer Kelly Slater; Olympic softball pitcher Dot Richardson; and legendary college football coach Lou Holtz.

» Actors and comedians: "Larry the Cable Guy" Daniel Whitney, Carrot Top and Mandy Moore

» Musicians: Roger McGuinn (The Byrds) and Joey Fatone ('N Sync)

» Flight explorers: Astronaut Story Musgrave and pilot-balloonist Joe Kittinger

Economic Life

Modeling, Simulation & Training (MST)

» Orlando and surrounding Orange County have become a hub for the fast-growing MST industry, spurred in part by the presence here of the simulation procurement agency for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. University of Central Florida has the nation's first master's and doctorate degree programs in the field.

Biotechnology

» A burgeoning cluster of medical and biotech businesses has formed east of Orlando at Lake Nona's "medical city," which includes Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando and UCF's newly opened College of Medicine. Other facilities set to open soon: Nemours Children's Hospital, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a University of Florida research center.

Emerging Industries

» A cluster of software businesses and companies specializing in "fi-tech," which supports banks and related businesses, is growing in Seminole County. Other industries continuing to emerge and grow here: digital media in Orlando and Lake Mary; amateur sports in Osceola and Lake counties; agritechnology in rural Orange and Lake counties.

Next page: East Central Florida's quality of life and notable employers

Port Canaveral
Above: Port Canaveral was homeport to six multi-day cruise vessels in 2010. Total revenue passengers: 2.7 million-plus, up 10% over 2009. Also up: cargo tonnage by 23%.

Quality of Life

Entertainment options: Amway Center, billed as the nation's most technologically advanced events arena, opened in downtown Orlando in late 2010. In addition to being home court for the Orlando Magic, the center hosts top-name musical talent and events such as the 2012 NBA All-Star Game. Nearby, ground was broken in June 2011 on the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, a three-theater venue that will host Broadway-style shows and other stage productions.

Diverse terrain: From the beaches of Brevard and Volusia to the hills of Lake and Sumter counties, East Central Florida caters to an active lifestyle. Walkers, joggers and bikers especially enjoy the paved trails built along former railway paths.

Big-city, small-town: Orlando's urban core has a big-city feel, and numerous smaller downtowns throughout the region offer residents the chance to really know their neighbors. Around these parts, people say you can move into East Central Florida and "fit right in right away."

Notable Employers

Aviation/Aerospace/ Defense

  • Boeing Company, Titusville
  • General Electric Company, Melbourne
  • Harris Corporation, Melbourne
  • Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation, Orlando
  • L3 Communications, Melbourne and Cape Canaveral
  • Northrop Grumman Corporation, Orlando and Melbourne
  • Raytheon Company, Orlando and Melbourne
  • Rockwell Collins Inc., Melbourne
  • Siemens, Orlando and Melbourne

Tourism/Hospitality

  • American Automobile Association, Heathrow
  • Darden Restaurants, Orlando
  • Mears Transportation Group, Orlando
  • Ruth's Hospitality Group Inc., Heathrow
  • SeaWorld, Orlando
  • Universal Studios Florida, Orlando
  • Walt Disney World, Orlando

Financial Services

  • CNL Financial Group Inc., Orlando
  • AT&T, Lake Mary
  • Convergys Corporation, Lake Mary
  • FiServ Inc., Lake Mary
UCF College of Medicine
Opened in fall 2010, UCF's College of Medicine is already making history as the first medical school ever to provide full four-year scholarships to its entire charter class. [Photo: UCF College of Medicine]