Business Florida 2020 - The Regions
Brevard • Lake • Orange • Osceola • Seminole • Sumter • Volusia
Since 2010 the three utilities that serve this region have worked to provide solar energy options for East Central residents.
Florida Power & Light got the ball rolling with its Space Coast Next Generation Energy Center on the grounds of Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County generating 10MW of clean solar power. In 2016, FPL built a Solar Circuit at Daytona International Speedway to not only power the track but to also serve as a “live” laboratory for solar energy research. Subsequently, FPL added two 74.5-MW facilities in East Central Florida — the Barefoot Bay Solar Energy Center in Brevard County in 2018 and Volusia County-based Pioneer Trail Solar Energy Center, which came on line in mid-2019.
In 2011, the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) partnered with Duke Energy to complete the first solar farm in Orange County at its Curtis H. Stanton Energy Center. Duke went on to add a 5-MW solar power plant serving the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and in 2016, opened Osceola County’s first universal solar plant. Currently under construction: the 74.5-MW DeBary Solar Power Plant on 445 acres in Volusia County, expected to begin delivering power to customers in March 2020.
KEY PLAYERS: Duke Energy Florida, St. Petersburg; Florida Power & Light, Juno Beach; Orlando Utilities Commission, Orlando
With top 40 rankings in seven specialties on U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals 2019-20” list, AdventHealth Orlando is Florida’s No. 1 hospital. Formerly known as Florida Hospital Orlando, the 1,368-bed acute care facility ranked No. 12 nationwide in diabetes and endocrinology; No. 18 in gastroenterology and GI surgery; No. 19 in nephrology; No. 20 in urology; No. 26 in gynecology; and No. 39 each in geriatrics and neurology/neurosurgery.
Two pediatric health care facilities in Orlando also earned accolades in U.S. News & World Report “Best Children’s Hospitals 2019-20”: AdventHealth for Children was ranked No. 31 nationwide in neonatology, while Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children ranked No. 38 in cardiology and heart surgery; No. 40 in orthopedics; and No. 47 in nephrology.
Boasting an undergraduate enrollment of 58,913 in 2018, the Orlando-based University of Central Florida offers 189 bachelor’s and master’s degrees and 32 doctoral programs. In 2018, UCF received a record $183 million in research funding, up 23% from the previous year, and was ranked 34th among U.S. public institutions for patent production, earning a total of 32 U.S. utility patents for the year. UCF’s new downtown Orlando campus — called “Creative Village” and shared with Valencia College — opened in fall 2019 with two buildings and 7,600 students.
Elsewhere in East Central, Melbourne’s Florida Institute of Technology is one of the “best and most interesting institutions in the nation,” according to the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2020, and in Daytona Beach, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has welcomed its largest freshman class ever — 1,950 students.
On the secondary level, four East Central high schools were among the top 500 nationwide on U.S. News & World Report’s “2019 Best High Schools” list; two of them — Westshore in Melbourne and Edgewood in Merritt Island — earned spots on the top 100 list.
Life & Leisure
Slowing population growth is a national phenomenon, according to the financial news and opinion website 24/7, but some American cities seem determined to buck the trend. One of them is The Villages in Sumter County. Year after year, it’s the fastest growing MSA in America. Initially conceived as a planned retirement community for Northerners looking to winter in a warmer climate, it has morphed into a year-round “paradise” for active 55+ adults, boasting more than 50 golf courses, 70 swimming pools and 2,500 clubs and activities. Not for everyone to be sure, but the population just keeps growing — up 36.6% since 2010.
Struggling to Make Ends Meet?
Maybe it’s time to relocate … and we don’t mean out of state. On its list of the “6 Most Affordable Cities in Florida,” the website Liviability.com ranks Kissimmee No. 1. Located in Osceola County just 22 miles south of Walt Disney World, Kissimmee is close enough to enjoy all the things you love about Orlando but at a less frenetic pace and a lower cost of living. The median home price here is $217,500, and Kissimmee has some interesting assets … like plenty of those plastic containers you love for leftovers. The manufacturer — Tupperware — is headquartered here. And twice a year, in February and June, the cowboys (and girls) come to town for the Silver Spurs, the largest rodeo east of the Mississippi. Should you decide after all that Orlando is really more your style, no problem. It’s No. 5 on Livability’s list of most affordable Florida cities.
Hurray for Nature!
East Central’s theme parks are the best to be sure, but with 118 miles of Atlantic coastline, including Canaveral National Seashore and the nearly 1,000 inland bodies of water that give Lake County its name, there’s plenty of natural beauty to enjoy here too. Like the lemurs and rare albino alligators at Wild Florida in Kenansville. And the bald eagles, armadillos and otters residing at Merritt Island National Refuge who are so laid-back, they barely notice the ground-shaking lift-offs at the Kennedy Space Center next door. Plan accordingly and it’s possible you could walk on the beach at sunrise, paddle down the tongue-twisting Withlacoochee River at noon and join a sanctioned turtle-hatching expedition after dark. No fast pass required.