Photo:I-4 in downtown Orlando
Economic Yearbook 2016
Central Florida: $2 billion in projects
Work on I-4 — including through downtown Orlando — will continue for at least the next decade.
$2 Billion in Projects
The biggest city in a region is not always where the most is happening, but in central Florida the largest city, Orlando, is by far the most active, with more than $2 billion in public and private investment in infrastructure and new facilities under way.
The widening of I-4 through downtown will keep construction crews busy for at least the next decade, and numerous other big projects in the city are going up fast or about to start. The historically African-American sections downtown on the city's west side are hot spots, with construction under way on a $155-million stadium for the city's Major League Soccer team not far from the recently refurbished Citrus Bowl. The club is paying for the new stadium with its own money and bought the site from the city for $18 million, with a signed commitment to play in Orlando for at least a decade. A new non-profit called Lift Orlando is also working to improve the Parramore district. Lift recently demolished the Washington Shores Village apartments complex, which the city acquired in bankruptcy. A modern, mixed-income housing project, the Villages at West Lake, will be built on the site. The city's free downtown shuttle bus service, called Lymmo, was also recently extended into Parramore, and a sports and entertainment district is planned for an 8.43-acre site adjacent to the new Amway Center. The University of Central Florida continues to raise money to build a downtown campus.
KISSIMMEE, ST. CLOUD
Rail and Water
Kissimmee and St. Cloud, the only incorporated cities in the county, are close neighbors and growing closer with development all along U.S. 192. Downtown Kissimmee is undergoing major development with the pending arrival of the SunRail commuter train from Orlando next year. A new multimodal transportation hub to serve the commuter train as well as Amtrak and buses is nearing completion, and the city's nearby waterfront district has been renovated and upgraded. St. Cloud, smaller than Kissimmee, has its own waterfront park, and the historic downtown area has found a successful niche by attracting boutique shops and antique sellers in many of the renovated older homes and storefronts.
Downtown Melbourne's historic district, which dates to the 1800s, got a head start on local revitalization with the creation of a community redevelopment district in 1982. The CRA was expanded in 2006, and now the old downtown is one of Brevard County's new and expanding destinations, with art galleries, pubs, restaurants and locally owned shops. Streetscape improvements are under way, and Riverview Park, which the city acquired from the county, is slated for enhancements as part of a master plan. The historic downtown is home to the Henegar Center for the Arts, which itself is an example of the community's commitment to preserving its heritage. The center, featuring a 493-seat theater, was created in the 1990s by volunteers who worked to renovate two historic old schools that had fallen into disrepair.
MOUNT DORA, EUSTIS, TAVARES
The cities of Mount Dora, Eustis and Tavares have been known collectively as the Golden Triangle for decades. But marketing of the tri-city region as a destination has soared in recent years as the communities have profited from downtown renovations and innovations. Tavares, for example, has attracted attention as "America's Seaplane City" with its FAA-certified Seaplane Base and Marina on Lake Dora. The marina is part of Wooten Park, where the city added a children's splash park a few years ago. Downtown Mount Dora continues to thrive as a bed and breakfast destination, and Eustis is catching up with the creation of its own downtown waterfront entertainment district, which includes dining, shops, the Lake Eustis Museum of Art, the Eustis Historical Museum & Preservation Society and live entertainment at Bay Street Players, a historic, renovated 1922 thea
$14 Million for Downtown
One of the fastest-growing cities in metro Orlando, Ocoee has been overshadowed lately by neighboring Winter Garden, where a downtown revival has been under way for the past decade. Now Ocoee is launching its own initiative. City officials are planning a $14-million bond issue to implement a comprehensive master plan. In addition to infrastructure and streetscape work to enhance the long-neglected historic district near Starke Lake, the plan will integrate the downtown core with the SR 429-Franklin Street area, which has its own new master plan developed in conjunction with Winter Garden. The largely undeveloped area where the two cities meet is envisioned as a prominent gateway to both downtowns.
3 Town Centers
The boomtown retirement development called The Villages has three thriving retail centers where new shops, dining and entertainment venues seem to arrive every week. Brownwood Paddock Square, Spanish Springs Town Square and Lake Sumter Landing Market Square have all the amenities of a downtown, including a multi-screen theater in each center and live entertainment every night. More than a dozen new businesses are planned or about to open, including two wealth advisement firms, two cosmetic surgery centers, a credit union and a spice and tea exchange.
People to Watch
» Chester Kennedy: When Kennedy retired after a career with Lockheed Martin last year, it didn't take him long to find a new challenge. Kennedy was hired as CEO of the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research, heading the group's ambitious plan to develop an advanced manufacturing research center in Osceola County focused on smart sensor technology. Kennedy says his initial challenge heading the consortium, while the 100,000-sq.-ft. center is being built, is to get the word out and attract more big companies, such as Harris, which signed on as the first private sector participant. The University of Central Florida, with its strong research and development capability in laser and optics, leads the research side. Kennedy says entrepreneurs and small firms will find resources under one roof to turn ideas into marketable products, working alongside major companies and researchers.
» David Siegel: Siegel and his Westgate Resorts have weathered ups and downs through the decades. But since one of his daughters, Victoria, died of a drug overdose last year at 18, Siegel has devoted more of his time to the fight against drug addiction. Siegel, 81, remains CEO of parent company Central Florida Investments, which he founded in the 1970s, but has turned over more of the workload to his top executives at a crucial time for the business. Westgate has made a number of acquisitions in recent years, including the former Las Vegas Hilton, Orlando Predators arena football team and the Cocoa Beach Pier in Brevard County. Westgate is also picking up the pace on expanding its Osceola County property, with plans to build another 1,700 timeshare units and restaurants.
» William T. Dymond Jr.: As chairman of the Space Florida board of directors, the veteran Orlando lawyer oversees the shift to private sector space launches. Construction and servicing has Brevard County and state supporters running a full court press to maintain momentum. Dymond and Space Florida are pursuing a "major aerospace" manufacturing project that could bring another 250 jobs and an $80-million investment to the Space Coast.
» Laura Kelley: Kelley was promoted to executive director of the reorganized Central Florida Expressway Authority in 2015 after serving as deputy director of its predecessor agency, the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, since 2006. She is the first woman to head the regional toll-road agency, which is working to restore public confidence following the ouster of several board members cited for various ethics violations in recent years. Kelley previously headed the Florida Transportation Commission.
» Eddy Moratin: Moratin is executive director of Lift Orlando, the non-profit revitalizing downtown Orlando's historically African-American west side. Moratin is directing a major business-backed effort to help the Parramore neighborhood overcome problems of crime, drugs and high unemployment. Moratin, who previously headed the Greater Orlando Leadership Foundation, is an entrepreneur who combines decades of experience with a faith-based commitment to improving lives through jobs, housing and education.
» Belinda Ortiz Kirkegard: When Kissimmee created an economic development director's post, the city tapped Kirkegard to kick-start the program. Her ability to speak two languages and a background in tourism, government and politics have paid dividends in the past six years. Working closely with the city manager, staff and commission, she helped set the stage for higher wage job growth and development coming to fruition in the community, particularly in the health and medical fields. Kissimmee has more economic development initiatives in the pipeline, downtown and along U.S. 192.
» Jim Zboril: When it comes to high-profile projects in Florida, few can rival Tavistock Group's thriving Lake Nona mixed-use development and its Medical City component in southeast Orlando. As president of Lake Nona Property Holdings and Tavistock Development, Zboril oversees all aspects of Tavistock Development, including the 7,000-acre Lake Nona community, one of the fastestgrowing planned use residential projects in the nation. He also oversees all of Tavistock's domestic and international real estate projects.
» Kathie Canning: The executive director of the Orange County Convention Center oversees the nation's second-largest convention center, where rapid expansion of major hotels, retail shopping and entertainment along International Drive is now providing more amenities for convention attendees. The convention center is in the final phases of a major renovation to halls and meeting rooms in the west concourse, with a new ballroom, outdoor terrace and other upgrades.
» Erik Jacobsen: Jacobsen, vice president and general manager of Deseret Ranches of Florida, is the top executive in Florida overseeing the sprawling Deseret Ranches, a cattle ranching operation spanning nearly 300,000 acres in Osceola, Orange and Brevard counties. The ranch, owned by the Mormon Church, is planning for major development of about a third of its property. The first section in line for mixed-use development is a 19,000- acre tract five miles from the Lake Nona's Medical City and 10 miles from Orlando International Airport.
County population: 1.28 million, „¼9.4% vs. 2011
Unemployment rate: 4.2%
Per capita income: $41,306
APOPKA — In 2014, public relations executive Joe Kilsheimer defeated John Land, the state's longest serving mayor, in what became a referendum on the future of Orange County's second-largest city. Kilsheimer tapped a vein of unhappiness about Apopka's lack of progress relative to neighboring towns such as Winter Garden. Now, Apopka is crafting strategies to improve downtown and other parts of the city. The centerpiece is a project to transform the busy intersection of SR 436 and U. S. 441 into a more appealing "city center." The town has acquired nearly 50 acres in the area, including the historic Townsend Plantation property surrounding a 14-acre pond. Other major projects to boost Apopka are well under way. Just south of downtown, Adventist Health Systems is building a $203-million Florida Hospital-Apopka, a seven story facility on a sprawling campus. And the $1.2-billion Wekiva Parkway now under construction is the fi nal leg of a beltway around Orlando and will serve Apopka by connecting the community to the entire metro region while also easing congestion on U. S. 441 and other local roadways in and around the town.
MAITLAND — The north Orange County community has long been a favorite of executives commuting to Orlando, but Maitland has attracted a significant commercial and professional base and is now working on one of the biggest corporate deals in central Florida. Payroll processing giant ADP is considering opening a regional headquarters in the city that could bring 2,400 jobs. Maitland is working with the county and the Orlando Economic Development Commission on a package of incentives totaling about $1.44 million in return for ADP's investment of $37.5 million.
ORANGE COUNTY — Orange County is in the midst of a historic building boom. Employment growth is forecast to average nearly 3% a year from 2016 through 2018 in metro Orlando, the strongest metro performer statewide, according to projections by UCF's Institute for Economic Competitiveness. Construction will average 6.6% annual growth to lead the way. Metro Orlando's annual wage growth is now projected to average 3. 2 %, outpacing inflation, and is closing in on $50,000 a year, with unemployment forecast to remain well below 5%. The Florida Economic Development Council says metro Orlando ranked first in the state in 2015 in economic strength indicators, and among the top 20 nationwide.
» Seminole County
County population:455,985, „¼+6.9% vs. 2011
Unemployment rate: 4.1%
Per capita income: $47,134
CASSELBERRY — The city broke ground this year on a $34-million apartment/restaurant/park project across from City Hall. The Lake concord Park project, which has been planned for more than a decade, covers 20 acres, with the first phase scheduled to be complete by mid-2017. The long awaited development is expected to give Casselberry a focus as the "entryway into Seminole County," just off U.S. 17- 92, and spur additional development. The area includes lakes, fountains, a playground and open space.
LAKE MARY — Located 18 miles north of Orlando just off I-4, Lake Mary has been one of metro Orlando's fastest growing towns in the past few years and a magnet for high-tech companies and corporate offices. Seminole is one of the wealthiest counties in central Florida, and Lake Mary is a big reason why, with a median family income of $76,037. That's well above the countywide average of $58,579 and far surpasses the statewide average of $47,309. Lake Mary is launching a marketing campaign this spring to highlight the community's assets, including two major corporate parks with more than 200 acres of undeveloped property zoned for Class A office space. A new SunRail commuter train stop in the city's downtown development district has added to the potential for multi-use and residential development.
SEMINOLE COUNTY — The county's success in attracting higher paying jobs is picking up speed and gets another boost this year and next when Oviedo Medical Center opens, comprising a nearly 200,000-sq.-ft. hospital and another 40,000 square feet of medical offices. The 64- bed acute care facility, with an expanded existing ER on site, is the city's fi rst hospital and will serve a growing region in east Seminole County. The HCA Healthcare facility, which is projected to see 35,000 patients in its first year, recently hired industry veteran Kenneth C. Donahey as its founding CEO.
» Brevard County
County population: 565,590, „¼+3.9% vs. 2011
Unemployment rate: 5.1%
Per capita income: $43,459
BREVARD COUNTY — The Space Coast's rebound from the recession continues, and employment growth in the Palm Bay/Melbourne/ Titusville metro area is projected to average 2.1% a year for the next three years. Education and health services will be one of the stronger job creation sectors for the county, at 2.9% a year, according to the latest forecast by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Economic Competitiveness. The Florida Institute of Technology, one of Brevard's top 10 employers, is continuing to expand and is opening a Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Innovative Design to help students and local businesses keep pace with the fast changing field. Rocket launches are on a record pace at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and the surge of private investment in space component manufacturing and services is giving the sector new life and a buzz unrivaled since the Apollo era.
TITUSVILLE — The county seat of Brevard County was one of the hardest hit communities after the space shuttle program ended, but is now rebounding with business expansion and economic development. Paragon Plastics, for example, which recently moved to Titusville from Cocoa, was named the 2016 Manufacturer of the Year by the Space Coast Economic Development Commission. The specialty plastics thermoforming company is investing $3 million in a new facility.
» Volusia County
County population: 513,156, „¼+3.8% vs. 2011
Unemployment rate: 5.0%
Per capita income: $37,948
DELTONA — Although it was only incorporated in 1995, Deltona has grown to become Volusia County's largest city, with more than 87,000 residents. The city is now focusing more sharply on economic development, with a new strategic plan developed in part through community visioning sessions coordinated by UCF's Florida Institute of Government. One goal is to focus on How land Boulevard as a gateway for commercial growth and eventually as a city center.
VOLUSIA COUNTY — Much of Volusia County's excitement this year stems from the recent expansion and renovation of the Daytona International Speedway, a $400-million project. But other parts of the county are also contributing to the economic recovery. In DeLand on the west side, for example, Frontier Communications, one of the county's top private employers, is expanding again, opening a second location and adding as many as 500 jobs to its existing local workforce of more than 1,000. The company this year celebrates the 10th anniversary of the opening of its DeLand customer call center, and a majority of the new positions are in technical support and software.
» Osceola County
County population: 319,446, „¼+15.0% vs. 2011
Unemployment rate: 4.9%
Per capita income: $30,111
OSCEOLA COUNTY — The county is tackling one of its toughest challenges by cracking down on deteriorating motels along west U.S. 192. The two-pronged approach calls for tougher code enforcement for the worst offenders, coupled with more help for low-income renters who must find housing. County officials say the effort is critical in order to foster greater economic development along the tourism corridor.
» Lake County
County population: 326,368, „¼+8.8% vs. 2011
Unemployment rate: 4.6%
Per capita income: $38,355
CLERMONT — Clermont's historic downtown, dating back to the city's incorporation in 1916, has blossomed in recent years. The district between State Road 50 and the south shore of Lake Minneola is thriving. The South Lake County Historical Society and city are working together to create and promote the "Clermont Historic Village," near downtown. The site includes two prominent homes from the late 1800s, open for public tours, and a 1920s-era depot that the city renovated as a community meeting place, with concessions, a covered picnic area and public restrooms. The Historic Village also has one of the few surviving large Quonset huts commonly used by the military during World War II, and plans are to restore it and convert it to a WWII museum.
LAKE COUNTY — With the continuing decline of the citrus industry, Lake County is working to attract more jobs to meet the needs of a growing population as homes replace orange trees. The county in 2015 created a new Economic Growth Department, combining the former departments of growth management and economic development and tourism. Lake County manager David Heath says businesses will find it easier to start, expand or relocate to Lake by dealing with a single, integrated department.
» Sumter County
County population: 115,781, „¼+17.8% vs. 2011
Unemployment rate: 6.3%
Per capita income: $40,896
SUMTER COUNTY — The influx of wealthier retirees in The Villages active-adult community continues to shape Sumter County's economy. Villagers boast a median household income of $92,000, almost double the countywide average. Sumter in large part presents two vastly different geographic regions, with a population density of 2,180 people per square mile in The Villages on the north side, 10 times the countywide average. Much of southern Sumter remains rural and agricultural, with only 79 residents per square mile. The county adopted a new strategic economic development initiative in 2015, highlighting the county's extensive road and rail access. And unlike most Florida counties where urban growth is crowding out agriculture, Sumter is touting available land for farming and ranching.