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Central Florida


The area's simulation industry and apartment construction

Heavy load of foreclosures

Orlando/Orange County

» Despite federal budget cuts and uncertainty over military spending, the defense industry’s growing reliance on combat simulators, battlefield electronics and high-tech warfare has kept Orlando’s simulation sector strong.

» Apartment construction is also holding steady. Multi-housing specialists with Collier’s International Central Florida project that the metro area will add about 2,500 units by the end of this year. Using job growth estimates from the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness, Collier’s forecasts that the region will absorb 2,700 units, enough to handle the new rentals and still tighten the vacancy rate from 5.8% to about 5%. Among individual markets, the new urban Baldwin Park community in east Orlando is posting strong price increases. Research firm Zillow predicts that Baldwin Park will be among the leading resale markets in Orlando this year, with prices projected to rise 8%. Other areas near downtown, such as College Park, also are forecast to do well.

»  One sign of lingering weakness: Foreclosures. Metro Orlando had one of the sharpest increases in foreclosure filings in 2012, up more than 60%, according to RealtyTrac real estate research. The metro area ranked in the top 10 in home foreclosures nationally, although local resale prices finally edged up during the year. Many potential move-up buyers remain stuck with homes worth less than their mortgages.

Businesses to Watch

» SeaWorld Entertainment: The Orlando-based owner of SeaWorld, Busch Gardens in Tampa and other parks has filed for a $100-million initial public offering to become a publicly traded company. Potential buyers have shown interest in acquiring the company before it can become publicly traded.

» Siemens Energy: The Orlando company will invest $7 million to build a national training center near Orlando International Airport, where employees will be able to host and train safety inspectors for the growing number of wind-turbine generators throughout the country.

» Prime Therapeutics: Winner of a 2012 Governor’s Innovators in Business Award in the newcomer category, the pharmacy benefit management company opened a 55,000-sq.-ft. specialty pharmacy in Orlando, with 122 employees and plans to add 213 jobs during the next three years.

» Orlando Sentinel: The Tribune Co. newspaper is expected to be sold now that the parent company has reorganized and exited bankruptcy court.

» Lockheed Martin: The defense contractor leads the field of more than 100 companies in the Orlando area working in the simulation field, which accounts for more than 12,500 direct jobs in the metro region.

People to Watch





» George Aguel: The veteran Disney executive was selected by Visit Orlando’s board to succeed the late Gary Sain as president and CEO of the state’s largest travel promotion agency, formerly known as the Orlando-Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

» Jacob Stuart: The longtime leader of the Central Florida Partnership, who expanded its reach in recent years by creating layers of business lines, has retaken the lead in chamber-related groups following the departure of several top executives.

» George Kalogridis: The new president of Walt Disney World is a Disney veteran, starting as a busboy at the Contemporary Resort Hotel in the 1970s and working his way up to president of Disneyland in California.

» Jose Baez: The Orlando defense lawyer, who won an acquittal in the murder trial of Casey Anthony, merged his firm with Trial Pro, headed by attorney Piercy Stakelum.

Rail Advances

» A privately financed passenger train could be up and running from south Florida to Orlando International Airport by 2015. This year will be critical for the Florida East Coast Railway project, called All Aboard Florida, as it works to line up rights of way along the state-owned Beach Line Expressway from Brevard County to Orlando. FEC Railway already owns tracks from south Florida, and the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, which owns land along the Beach Line, has expressed support.

Orange Population: 1,212,701
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.75%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
19.21% 6.87% 32.13% 31.36% 10.43%
Per Capita Income: $37,914

MSA Dec. 2012 Dec. 2011 % Change Jobless Rate
Orlando/Kissimmee/Sanford 1,048,361 1,015,096 +3.3% 7.6%
Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation

Homes - Single-family, existing-home sales
MSA 2013 Sales 1-Year Change 2013 Price 1-Year Change
Orlando 25,746 +6.6% $137,500 +6.6%
Source: Florida Realtors

Lake Mary/Sanford/Seminole County

» As Seminole County celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, the improving economy has brought fresh battles between developers and residents over where to build homes and how many to build. With only a 308-square-mile footprint, smaller than its larger metro Orlando neighboring counties, Seminole County in recent years has been considered essentially built out. Most remaining open land is near the protected, environmentally sensitive Wekiva River and its drainage basin. But subdivision developers recently have signaled renewed interest in projects on what they consider transitional land.

» Most of Seminole County’s seven cities are working on their downtowns, or town centers, restorations or developments, including Altamonte Springs, Casselberry, Longwood, Sanford and Winter Springs. Lake Mary and Oviedo are benefiting from the growth of nearby University of Central Florida and the new Medical City project at Lake Nona.

Business to Watch

» American Automobile Association: With 676 employees at its national headquarters in Heathrow near Lake Mary, AAA shows no signs of slowing. Ranked among Seminole County’s top employers, AAA has posted steady growth since it moved to Heathrow from Falls Church, Va., in 1989 and continues to expand its services for more than 53 million customers nationwide.

Seminole Population: 439,890
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.37%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
17.73% 6.51% 27.51% 35.00% 13.25%
Per Capita Income: $44,750


Kissimmee/Osceola County

» A rebound in tourism brought Osceola County out of the recession, and tourism prospects continue to brighten. The convention and visitors bureau, rebranded as Experience Kissimmee, reported a double-digit increase in tourist tax revenue for 2012, about $36 million, $1 million more than expected.

» Significant health and transportation development is under way, including the $65-million Poinciana Medical Center, opening this summer, with newly appointed CEO Joanna Conley.

» The Lynx multimodal transportation hub in downtown Kissimmee is expected to be completed by fall.

» Valencia College opened a $35-million, 150,000-sq.-ft. addition to its Kissimmee campus, and the home-building market is showing signs of revival at ChampionsGate and other upscale Osceola communities.

Osceola Population: 295,910
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 2.77%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
20.90% 7.52% 27.68% 32.16% 11.73%
Per Capita Income: $28,306


Lake County

» As the state and nation regained economic strength slowly in 2012, Lake County’s service-based economy has revived steadily and should continue to grow moderately in 2013.

» South Lake was on a home-building boom before the recession, and thousands of newer residents commute to jobs in Orange and Osceola counties, putting pressure on main commuter routes, particularly State Road 50, where road widening continues. The revival of economies in those neighboring counties has helped Lake as well, and home construction has begun to rebound slowly. In north Lake, the sprawling, tri-county Villages retirement community is setting national growth records.

Lake Population: 317,879
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.84%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
16.95% 5.39% 20.21% 32.03% 25.42%
Per Capita Income: $35,809