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Central - Yearbook

Orlando and Orange County are forecast to lead the state's recovery in many ways, but deep cuts in government spending and ongoing real estate woes are weighing on the four-county metro area.

Central Florida


> Lead a regional effort to develop commuter rail.

> Foster job growth countywide in specific industries such as trade, tourism, healthcare and "clean technology."

> Boost government accountability by improving the county's ethics laws and implementing whistle-blower protection.

MSA DEC. 2010 DEC 2009 % Change Jobless Rate
Orlando/ Kissimmee/ Sanford 996,660
984,199 +1.3% 11.3%
Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation

Homes Single-family, existing-home sales by Realtors
MSA Jan. 2011 Sales 1-Year Change Jan. 2011 Price 1-Year Change
+5% $119,700 -3%
Source: Florida Realtors

Orange Population: 1,116,679
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.17%
Population by Age:
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
6.7% 27.1% 29.3% 15.9%
Per Capita Income: $35,738

Roger Oxendale
Roger Oxendale, CEO of Nemours Children's Hospital (above) at the $1.3-billion "Medical City" mega-project under construction at Lake Nona in southeast Orlando. It is "one of the most important developments" in the state in 2011, says Sean Snaith, director of the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida. With the UCF medical school, VA hospital, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Nemours Children's Hospital and science and technology businesses under way or planned, the local cluster's job creation and pay scale benefits will ripple through the region and along the Space Coast. [Photo: Brook Pifer]


batterStepping up to the Plate

> ROOKIE PLAYER: Grace Medical Home — The Orlando non-profit with nine full-time staffers was founded last year and offers primary care to children and adults who are part of the "working poor" — ineligible for Medicaid but unable to afford health insurance. Grace has enrolled 930 patients, nearly a third of whom had been to a hospital ER in the prior year because they did not have a doctor or insurance. Representatives from Florida Hospital and Orlando Health serve on Grace Medical's board.

> EMERGING STAR: Randall Mechanical — CEO Jeffrey S. Condello in the past year snapped up central Florida's leading ductwork and fabricating company, South Seminole Sheet Metal, which makes precision-crafted ductwork for high-tech labs and clean rooms from a 90,000-sq.-ft. facility in Apopka. Condello moved Randall's headquarters from Orlando to the larger facilities in Apopka and expanded his 25-year-old mechanical contracting company's piping business group to keep pace with a growing workload in biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, energy, food and beverage, and higher education. Randall handles landmark projects such as the $63.4-million UCF School of Medicine at Lake Nona in Orlando.

> HEAVY HITTER: Universal Orlando — Harry Potter's popularity worked magic for Universal Orlando in 2010, and all signs point to another potent year ahead for the theme park. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened to long lines and TV crews from around the world. The result: A record year for Universal, the only one of Orlando's major theme parks to post attendance gains, according to industry estimates. Universal's sorcery during an otherwise lackluster tourism year boosted heads in beds for the region's hotels and Orange County's tourist tax collections. Analysts say the magic should continue through the first half of this year, though Universal will face increasing competition as SeaWorld Orlando debuts a new killer whale show and other additions, and Walt Disney World unveils an immersive tour in Animal Kingdom called Wild Africa Trek. Universal employs more than 14,000 in Orlando.

playersImpact Players

> Robert Owens, president/CEO, Owens, Renz & Lee Facility Services — Robert Owens has grown a company that cleans buildings as well as builds, manages and sells them. The firm's stand-alone janitorial contract service sets it apart from most real estate outfits and helped it during the downturn. Last year, it snagged a $2-million-a-year contract to clean the new Amway Center and other Orlando venues. Bottom line: $2 billion in property under management, 450 employees in the Orlando area and annual revenue of about $20 million, which has more than doubled over the past five years.

> Jefre Futch, president/CEO, Alinean Inc. — Jefre Futch is looking for a breakout year for Alinean, as the business-to-business software development and analysis company settles into new, more spacious digs in a downtown Orlando tower. Futch, who was promoted to president and CEO last year by founder and Chairman Tom Pisello, is adding to the staff of 35 to meet growth goals for getting state and local targeted tax refunds.

> Paul and Laurie Koren, founders, Impact Lighting — Laurie Koren left her job as a lighting installer in 2006 when she had her first child, opting to work from her Winter Park home designing home theater lighting. The company now employs 15 and tackles splashy commercial specialty lighting projects for hotels, nightclubs and other businesses. In 2010, the company — in larger digs near downtown Orlando — launched an international division and was named by GrowFL to the inaugural list of 50 Florida "companies to watch."

Rick Weddle
Rick Weddle

Rick Weddle takes over as president and CEO of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission. Weddle previously led the Research Triangle Foundation in North Carolina.

Lake Mary/Sanford/ Seminole County

Wekiva River in Seminole County
One of only two rivers in Florida to carry the national wild and scenic designation, the spring-fed Wekiva (above) flows through Seminole County and serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between the environment and economic development in a metro area with more than 2 million residents. [Photo: John Moran]

Seminole Population: 425,408
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.03%
Population by Age:
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
6.7% 28.0% 34.9% 12.2%
Per Capita Income: $42,722


> Increase the pace of buying and refurbishing foreclosed homes with grant money and continue to lead metro Orlando in home sales recovery.

> Promote efforts to complete the Wekiva Parkway project as a final link in a beltway around Orlando to relieve traffic on SR 46, create jobs and boost economic development.

> Attract more airlines, frequency of service and business expansion at Orlando Sanford International Airport.

batterStepping up to the Plate

> ROOKIE PLAYER: BlueChip Energy — BlueChip Energy of Lake Mary has an ambitious utility-scale photovoltaic solar project under way and is working to attract more business internationally. Incorporated in 2009 with Advanced Solar Photonics as its manufacturing unit, BlueChip's headline project is a 10-megawatt "solar farm" under development and covering a portion of its 380,000-sq.-ft. headquarters in Seminole County. A local utility agreement to purchase the "green energy" is the key to making that project work. BlueChip's diversification — it manufactures solar modules as well as distributes and installs them — is the other key to its growth. Employment has more than doubled to 65 from 25, and another 50 jobs are expected to be created this year.

> EMERGING STAR: Brijot Imaging — Growing demand for less invasive full-body scanners has Lake Mary-based Brijot Imaging Systems emerging as a player in the field nationally and internationally. Brijot has been in full-scale production and distribution of its screening systems only since 2006 but has become an industry leader in "passive millimeter wave" security checkpoint technology. The high-tech screening system allow airports, government agencies and other users to conduct body scans for metal and objects such as weapons, explosives or drugs without being overly revealing. Privately held Brijot in 2010 inked a $3.6-million contract with the U.S. Air Force to develop a long-range imaging system prototype.

> HEAVY HITTER: Mitsubishi Power — Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas in Lake Mary is the type of economic driver that central Florida and other regions covet to diversify and boost wages. Mitsubishi has been hiring for its big south Orlando manufacturing plant, which makes parts for turbines worldwide. The facility doubled in size to more than 200,000 square feet in 2008. This year, the company is working on several major projects, including construction of a gas turbine manufacturing and assembly plant near Savannah, Ga., its first industrial frame plant outside of Japan. Mitsubishi Power also is installing an advanced combined heat and power system for the University of Central Florida, in service late this year. The natural gas system uses an absorption chiller to capture heat, making it more efficient and reducing the school's carbon footprint.

playersImpact Players

> Prasad Chittaluru, principal, Epic Engineering — Prasad Chittaluru's Oviedo-based Epic Engineering & Consulting Group tackles some of the toughest IT challenges with significant payoffs. One system developed by Epic helps healthcare providers aggregate critical information about patients, to save lives. A National Science Foundation grant is helping Chittaluru's 4-year-old company develop a system that wastewater companies can use to quickly analyze diverse data sets and prioritize repairs — before a breakdown. Chittaluru, a former engineer with PBS&J and researcher at the University of Miami, also is past-president of the American Society of Civil Engineers East Central Florida Branch, one of the largest in the state.

> Wendy Brandon, CEO, Central Florida Regional Hospital — Hospital Corp. of America selected Wendy Brandon in 2008 to head Central Florida Regional Hospital.

Wendy Brandon
Wendy Brandon
Since then, the 226-bed acute-care facility in Sanford has maintained high marks for quality care, surpassing national averages in key categories. She helped Central Florida Regional earn the Seminole County Regional Chamber of Commerce's Business of the Year award in 2010. A native of Tennessee, Brandon worked in HCA hospitals in Nashville and Englewood before being named CEO of the Seminole County hospital, which serves Seminole and Volusia counties.

> Michael Wright, president, Power Grid Engineering — Professional engineer Michael Wright founded Power Grid Engineering with two friends in 2007, and the Winter Springs-based electrical engineering firm has since grown to employ 33, developing complex protection and design packages that keep the electricity flowing at major utilities nationwide. A Florida native and resident of Sanford, Wright has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Florida and an MBA from Rollins College.

Kissimmee/ Osceola County

Osceola Population: 284,988
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 2.49%
Population by Age:
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
7.7% 27.4% 30.8% 11.9%
Per Capita Income: $25,268

Osceola County hopes to kick-start projects and create jobs this year. One strategy is a moratorium on transportation impact fees for commercial and industrial development that will reduce county revenue by up to $2.5 million. Meanwhile, a new business incubator in downtown Kissimmee run by the University of Central Florida looks to boost small-business development.

The Kissimmee/Osceola Chamber of Commerce promoted the impact fee moratorium as a way to compete with neighboring counties such as Polk and Lake. Osceola's entire development fee structure, one of the highest in central Florida, will get closer scrutiny.

Lake County

Lake Population: 328,478
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 2.11%
Population by Age:
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
5.0% 19.0% 29.7% 30.3%
Per Capita Income: $31,100

The success that Tavares has had positioning itself as "America's Seaplane City" is paying dividends that are expected to continue this year. The economic development initiative launched during the downturn brought a seaplane manufacturer and, thanks in part to a waiver of impact fees, dozens of new businesses to downtown.

Tavares now is leading an effort to position Lake County's Golden Triangle area — communities including Eustis and Mount Dora — as a hub for rail leading to Orlando. Upgrading more than 20 miles of old tracks is one of the first hurdles. But the project has the support of the Lake-Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization and more than $13 million in seed money from the Florida Department of Transportation.