by Diane Sears
Updated 6 yearss ago
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.
Plenty to Offer
Touting its new marketing campaign that recruits young professionals and promising graduates, the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast was the only organization of its kind invited to present best practices in New York at the June 2007 conference of the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Among Brevard County’s selling points: It’s home to Kennedy Space Center and a growing number of jobs in tech, aerospace, manufacturing, finance, healthcare, education and construction; its coastline stretches for 72 miles; and it offers nine institutions of higher learning.
Staying in place
IAP Worldwide Services, which provides support services for the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies, looked at South Carolina and other areas as relocation possibilities before deciding to expand its Cape Canaveral headquarters. The private company is adding 124 new jobs with an average annual salary of $57,000 and an economic impact of $6.15 million for the area.
Land is still a hot commodity in this county known for its abundance of waterways and rolling green hills. Manufacturers are adding jobs to the local economy, spurring more business in areas such as construction, retail and healthcare.
Donuts bring jobs
When Dunkin’ Donuts was looking to relocate its Southeast distribution operations from Georgia into Florida, a region accounting for 65% of its business, the company found a food distribution warehouse in Groveland already equipped with freezer, refrigerator and dry food capabilities. Company officials recommended the move in March 2006 and started shipping from the facility the following August. “We were moving at a very fast pace,” says Ronnie Ransome, general manager and vice president of operations. Dunkin’ Donuts has since hired 40 drivers and 30 warehouse and administrative personnel, with plans to expand. The warehouse serves 475 shops and expects to double that number in the next five years, Ransome notes.
Joining the Influx - Welcome to the neighborhood
In addition to the new Dunkin’ Donuts distribution center, the Christopher C. Ford Commerce Park in Groveland added another tenant in 2006. QuietFlex Manufacturing Co., a leading supplier of flexible air ducts to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) industry, expanded from Texas to a 65,000-square-foot facility in its number 1 market (Florida), bringing 40 to 50 new jobs.
Close to Home
Osceola County is seeing a boom in new companies and expansions, mostly in the manufacturing sector. Distributors like Osceola’s central location, plentiful water resources and workforce eager to land jobs near home instead of traveling to Orlando and Orange County to earn a living. Osceola is also becoming known as a place where people are thinking and building “green.” The planned office condo ?— The Conservatory at Celebration Place ?— is one of four in the world that has received the U.S. Building Council’s “environmentally responsible” certification. The city of Harmony was built as an environmentally intelligent community with energy-efficient homes.
By expanding existing operations or adding new ones, these companies are creating jobs in Osceola:
- Lowe’s Regional Distribution Center promised 600 new jobs for the area when it built its facility in 2003. Now, with recent upgrades to its trucking area, the center employs about 1,000.
- McLane Suneast is expanding its food and merchandise distribution center for the fifth time since moving to Kissimmee in 1985, bringing the facility to 600,000 square feet and adding 30 jobs with an average salary of $32,000.
- Kohl’s Department Stores Inc., based in Wisconsin with 834 retail outlets nationwide, has established a management division in Kissimmee, bringing about 100 high-wage jobs.
- U.S. Cold Storage, with headquarters in Cherry Hill, N.J., is planning a three-phase project in Kissimmee that will bring as many as 60 high-wage jobs with more to come.
Situated at the crossroads of several state and federal highways, Sumter County is an ideal location for companies looking to build manufacturing and distribution facilities. Sumter also has become known for its cement plants:
Expanded its operations and has turned a closed plant into a learning center for children’s science and math classes.
- American Cement
Invested $160 million into a new building in Sumterville, creating 125 jobs.
- Sumter Cement
Purchased more than 1,400 acres for a new facility and is expected to create 118 jobs.
Moved to town in the past year to produce colored tiles and is expected to employ 105.
Also opening in Sumter County is the new $17.5-million Florida Bass Conservation Center at Richloam State Fish Hatcheries, a combination research center and hatchery dedicated to Florida’s unique strain of largemouth bass.
Manufacturers are increasingly expanding their national operations into Volusia County, especially in three targeted industries:
- Auto components because of the area’s ties to NASCAR
- Marine recreational products because of its beaches and waterways
- Medical, food and beverage products because, as a state, Florida consumes the third-largest quantity of these products nationwide.
The cost of doing business in Volusia is lower than in the mid-Atlantic and New England states ?— 40% less for electricity and 20% less for labor — which makes it enticing for industrial projects coming from the northeast U.S. The county is looking to place projects with a combined need of 1.5 million square feet of manufacturing space; in return, 1,726 new jobs are possible.
Deltona/ Daytona Beach/ Ormond Beach
12th place among the nation's top 100 MSAs for five-year income growth rate. (Bizjournal study)
Banking on Success
Seminole is developing a reputation as one of a few global centers for financial technology jobs outside New York City. The county is home to several customer service call centers, banking software companies and firms that handle insurance, mortgages and back-office banking services. New construction includes a 130,000-square-foot headquarters for Central Florida Educators Credit Union.
Manufacturing companies also are moving in and expanding. Corrugated packing manufacturer Central Florida Box, for example, relocated in 2006 from Orlando to a 190,000-square-foot headquarters in Lake Mary, tripling its space.
When Bank of New York subsidiary Pershing LLC was looking to diversify its geographic holdings outside New Jersey, Lake Mary seemed the ideal place. Its parent company already had 675 associates there and in neighboring Orange County. The company transferred about 45 workers to Lake Mary and hired other former New York residents who had moved to Florida because of the quality of life, says Chief Administrative Officer Ron DeCicco. Pershing opened its new operation in early 2007 and sees the University of Central Florida as a good talent pool to feed its goal of employing 300 by the end of 2007 and another 200 in coming years.
Seminole Schools Shine
- District is rated “A,” and 94% of all schools are rated “A” or “B.”
- All 8 high schools are in Newsweek’s list of top 5% in the nation.
- Graduation rate of 83% in 2006.
- SAT scores have exceeded state and national averages for 30 years.
- More than 80% of high school graduates pursue higher education.
- More than 45% of teachers hold doctorate, specialist or master’s degrees.
• Beacon College
• Bethune-Cookman College
• Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
• Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences
• Florida Institute of Technology
• Full Sail Real World Education
• Rollins College
• Stetson University
• University of Central Florida
• Brevard Community College
• Daytona Beach Community College
• Lake Sumter Community College
• Seminole Community College
• Valencia Community College
• Daytona Beach International
• Melbourne International
• Orlando International
• Orlando Sanford International
• Port Canaveral