February 22, 2024

Up Front - The Publisher's Column

Universal fun in Florida

| 1/28/2015

Orlando’s theme parks attract tens of millions of visitors from every corner of the United States and the world.

Disney can be credited with putting Orlando on the map by turning thousands of acres into an international destination. What was once a lure for children has turned into a n amazing family and business destination. In addition to traditional children’s amusements, Disney now boasts conferences, training sessions, sports events, shopping, luxury hotels and fine dining.

Disney’s four Orlando theme parks welcomed 36 million visitors in the past year. It is by far the industry leader with some 60,000 employees and a huge influence locally and statewide.

In the February 2015 issue of Florida Trend, we turn our focus to a competing theme park that is coming on strong — Universal Studios — and what might be labeled the “Universal decade.”

Under the auspices of owner Comcast, Universal has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in its Harry Potter “lands,” attractions based on popular shows like the Simpsons and multiple hotels. In fact, Universal now touts 4,200 hotel rooms with plans for another 1,000. Disney, of course, remains the leader, with 26,000 Orlando accommodations.

The heightened competition is good news for Florida. With nearly 100 million tourists expected this year, half of them will visit Orlando theme parks. But they will also add stays at beaches on both coasts, cruises, art shows, fishing, sports and eco-tourism.

Will Seccombe, president and CEO of Visit Florida, notes that every 85 visitors converts to one job for a Floridian, in all kinds of fields, from restaurants and hotels to bookkeepers, concierges, managers and marketers. Do the math — it’s more than a million jobs to support the millions of visitors in Florida every day.


Florida is a state of small businesses, with more than 2 million. But the term “small business” is antiquated. Now we talk about entrepreneurs and the innovation society.

Florida’s colleges and universities are doing their part to boost this surge. In this edition, Florida Trend explains how our schools of higher education have developed programs and majors to foster entrepreneurship.

Rather than joining an established organization, many young people are choosing to work for themselves on their own terms. Beginning at this article, "A surge in entrepreneurial thinking," (on page 54 of the February digital edition), learn how our schools are encouraging this trend with incubators, special dorms and programs that encourage entrepreneurial thinking.

Equally important is the emphasis on exporting fostered by groups such as the Florida Small Business Development Network and Enterprise Florida. The FSBDC Network has 45 offices throughout the state to provide consulting and technical assistance to growing businesses. They encourage clients to join the Enterprise Florida mission trips to foreign lands, meet potential buyers and put deals into motion.

With a peninsular location, plus abundant seaports and airports, Florida companies are well situated for export to Latin America. Europe and Africa are increasingly within reach. The largest market of all — Asia — will be a major trading partner in coming years.


Fitness update: With both sons home from college over the holidays, I did a good amount of running, though I didn’t join the lifting regimen at Gold’s Gym. I’m not that ambitious.

— Andy Corty

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