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Orlando airport prepares for rail connection

TRANSPORTATION: Planes, Meet Train 

Orlando International Airport, the nation’s 13th busiest, has started work on a $1.1-billion expansion and renovation to prepare for growth that includes passenger train service from south Florida.

Greater Orlando Aviation Authority board members approved the plan even though passenger air traffic at the airport has been flat or has declined for the past several years. Growth will resume, airport officials predict, and a new rail service, All Aboard Florida, which will link Orlando to Miami, adds to the urgency.

“We can’t wait, or else customer service would suffer,” says GOAA Executive Director Phil Brown.

The expansion includes $470 million for an automated peoplemover and tram-rail station on the airport’s south side to connect to the new passenger train. To accommodate international flights — the one sector that has continued growing in recent years — four new gates will be added at a cost of $114 million. And to improve service at the existing north terminal, the airport is renovating ticket lobbies, baggage claim areas and making other improvements.

All of the work is expected to be completed by 2017, in time for the opening of Walt Disney World’s new “Avatar” themed attraction at Animal Kingdom and the additional tourist traffic it is expected to generate.

The new tram-train depot area and 2,400-capacity garage will be adjacent to the site of a future south terminal. Airport directors say final design work for the new terminal will not begin until total passenger traffic at the airport rises to 40 million, from about 35 million in the past year.

The expansion and improvements will be paid for by a combination of government grants, an existing airline passenger fee, bonds to be floated in 2014 and two open lines of credit for interim financing.

“Our goal is to phase in the work and limit the impact on the traveling public as much as possible,” Brown says. 


Veteran Missouri newspaper executive Rod Dixon was hired as publisher of the Daily Commercial in Leesburg and the South Lake Press in Clermont shortly after the papers were acquired by Halifax Media Group of Daytona Beach. >> Volusia County fern grower a, of DeLeon Springs, was unanimously reelected president of the Florida Farm Bureau for another twoyear term, a position he has held since 2006.


BREVARD COUNTY — Port Canaveral will get $9.7 million from the state to improve its cargo capacity under a plan proposed by Gov. Rick Scott, who spoke during the American Association of Port Authorities’ annual convention in October. Port Everglades and the Port of Tampa would split another $25 million for cargo development. The newly christened Norwegian Breakaway, which sails from New York to the Bahamas, is making regular stops at Port Canaveral as part of its winter itinerary, carrying up to 4,000 passengers and a crew of 1,500. >> The Canaveral Port Authority celebrated the harbor’s 60th anniversary with the opening of a $23-million Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral, a seven-story structure with an observation deck, exhibits, event space, auditorium, gift shop and cafe.

LAKE COUNTY — The county government, city of Clermont, local businesses and property owners are working to coordinate plans for eventual development of an estimated 16,000 acres in the southeast corner of Lake County. Proponents of what is being called the Wellness Way Sector say the area could be promoted as a hub for high-tech, health care development and residential communities targeting active lifestyles, with extensive amenities for bicycling, walking and outdoor activities.

MELBOURNE — The Florida Institute of Technology has established the Indian River Lagoon Research Institute to bring together university scientists, engineers, coastal resource managers, educators and community organizations to improve the health of the Indian River Lagoon.

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Photon-X, a 3-D imaging company, is moving to Osceola County and has pledged to generate 110 jobs paying an average of $62,000 a year in return for state and local incentives. The Huntsville, Ala., company develops imaging technologies for the entertainment, health care, military simulation and other industries. >> A 399-acre Twin Oaks Conservation Area, on the north side of Goblet’s Cove on Lake Tohopekaliga, opened to the public in October, offering fishing, hiking, horse trails and birding opportunities. The land once was part of the historic Heart Bar Ranch founded by the Osceola pioneer Partin family.

ORANGE COUNTY — The Orange County Children’s Advocacy Center has been awarded a grant of nearly $1 million to develop prevention, education, advocacy and treatment services for child victims of sexual assault. The CAC, which is part of the Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families, will receive $992,255 over three years from the Office on Violence Against Women. >> Garmor, a graphene oxide manufacturing startup using licensed technology from UCF, moved to a 10,000-sq.-ft. facility near Orlando International Airport. McCraney Property is acquiring the 39-acre Bent Oak Industrial Park, with more than 1,200 feet of turnpike frontage, scheduled for a third-quarter 2014 buildout of warehouse space. University of Central Florida physics professor Daniel Britt won a $6-million grant to start a Center for Lunar and Asteroid Science for NASA. The center at UCF will help identify key robotic and human missions in the solar system.

SEMINOLE COUNTY — Central Florida Regional Hospital opened an 11,000-sq.-ft. freestanding emergency room in Oviedo. 

PROFILE: CompDesigns Mobile/UCF 

Former Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Preisler was one of the first participants in a University of Central Florida program that helps military veterans become entrepreneurs. Preisler says the FastTrac New Venture for the Veteran Entrepreneur course gave him more confidence to start an entertainment gaming company, CompDesigns Mobile, in 2013. “It gave me insight on how to market a business, my competition, finances, legal requirements and other aspects that we’re normally not exposed to in the military,” Preisler says. The UCF program is helping veterans at a reduced rate of $100, thanks to sponsors and donors. Licensed through the Kauffman Foundation, the 30-hour workshop will run this year from Jan. 13 through March 24.