Business Florida 2019 - The Regions
Extending over seven counties, East Central offers some of Florida’s natural best: 118 miles of Atlantic coastline on one side, green rolling hills and a chain of lakes on the other. And with a workforce of close to 1.9 million, four commercial airports and one seaport, this region is heavily business-minded.
East Central made its mark on the world with fantasy flights at theme parks and real rocket flights from Cape Canaveral. Today, a half-century since men first walked on the moon and Walt Disney envisioned EPCOT, tourism and technology remain primary economic drivers here.
While tourist hot spots like Las Vegas and New York City were logging visitor counts of 42 and 63 million respectively in 2017, Orlando was on its way to becoming the first U.S. city to break the 70 million mark. The very name “Orlando” is synonymous with theme park fun. Disney, Universal and SeaWorld have massive operations here, all of which are continuing to expand.
At SeaWorld’s Aquatica water park, the 60-foot-tall Ray Rush water slide/raft ride began operations in May, and Infinity Falls, said to be the world’s tallest river rapids ride, opened in October. Meanwhile, the new Toy Story Land is up and running at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Universal Orlando has opened its Fast & Furious: Supercharged ride as well as a sixth on-site hotel.
While the theme parks typically get the bulk of tourist attention, some uniquely Florida attractions along this region’s Atlantic coast pull in visitors too. In Brevard County, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex logs about 1.5 million tourists each year who come to see the Saturn V rocket that helped propel astronauts to the moon and the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Just up the coast in Daytona Beach, attractions include the iconic beach itself and Daytona International Speedway, famous for NASCAR’s Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 500 races and the “24 Hours of Daytona” endurance event.
Behind the most visible manifestations of Orlando’s booming tourist industry, companies with niche tourism interests are also hard at work.
In June 2018, the timeshare company Wyndham Destinations announced it will open its first global headquarters in Orlando and create 200 jobs. And Orlando-based Skyline Attractions, maker of a dueling, looping two-car coaster that is said to offer the speed and loops of a big roller coaster, but at a lower price and with a much smaller footprint, debuted its first Skywarp coaster in summer 2018 at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, Calif.