Central Florida Roundup
Uber, Mears work together
- The 2,270-room Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, jointly owned by hotel developer Tishman and the institutional investment arm of insurance giant MetLife, began construction of another 14-story tower that will add 349 rooms.
- Timber Resorts, a luxury hotel operator with more than a dozen properties, moved its headquarters from Aspen, Colo., to Winter Park. The company says it expects to add up to 80 employees as it expands along the U.S. East Coast, the Caribbean and Europe.
- Walt Disney World says its new Star Wars-themed land will include two rides — Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance — when it opens this fall in Disney Hollywood Studios.
- Private- equity giant Blackstone Group sold Grande Lakes Orlando Resort — site of Central Florida’s only Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels — to a group led by Trinity Real Estate Investments and Elliott Capital Management for nearly $900 million.
- For the first time, Orange County has an African-American mayor (former Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings) and an all-female board of county commissioners. Also, Demings named Byron Brooks, who had been Orlando’s chief administrative officer, the new county administrator, the most powerful appointed position in the region’s largest local government.
- Credit-card processing technology company Fatt-merchant expanded its headquarters in downtown Orlando, adding another floor and boosting its workforce to 85 employees from about 50 a year ago. The company says it expects to employ 100 by early this year.
- FoodFirst Global Restaurants, the parent company of Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo Cucina Italiana, moved its headquarters from Columbus, Ohio, to Orlando.
- Defense giant Lockheed Martin gave $1.5 million to the University of Central Florida to build a lab for students training for careers in cyber-security.
- The University of Central Florida took control of the building that once housed the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute’s Florida office and will convert the facility into a cancer-research center.
- Curaleaf opened a drive-through medical marijuana dispensary in Orlando.
- The state denied an appeal by Nemours Children’s Hospital to open a heart-transplant and pediatric heart-and-lung transplant program.
- Orlando Health Ventures, a year-old venture fund set up by the hospital operator, invested $1 million in Los Altos, Calif.-based Gauss Surgical, an A.I.-driven health-care technology company whose flagship product, Triton, monitors surgical blood loss in real time using digital imaging and machine learning on an iPad. The Orlando Health investment was part of $20 million in funding raised by the health care tech company. Meanwhile, Orlando Health reached an agreement to take control of South Lake Hospital in Clermont.
- Longtime Central Florida radio legend Jim Philips, host of the popular “Philips Phile,” retired.
Uber, Mears Work Together
Uber Technologies and Mears Transportation, which once spent hundreds of thousands of dollars battling each other in the Florida Legislature, have now joined forces — in what is believed to be a first-of-its-kind partnership between a ride-sharing company and a traditional taxi firm.
Under the agreement, the vehicles in Orlando-based Mears’ Central Florida fleet are now bookable through Uber under the banners UberBlack for Mears’ luxury vehicles and UberTaxi for its standard cabs.
The trips will cost the same for riders, whether a Mears or Uber vehicle picks them up.
“We are providing supply, and Uber is providing distribution,” Mears Chairman Trey White said at a news conference announcing the deal. The announcement comes eight months after Mears agreed to sell a majority stake to private-equity firm Palm Beach Capital. The company said it planned to use the money to improve its technology to better compete with ride-sharing competitors.
See more in the February issue.
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