2020 Economic Outlook
Central Florida - Transportation, affordable housing, health
Mark Wiese, Manager
NASA’s Gateway Logistics Element, Kennedy Space Center
Lunar Focus: “Our whole Artemis campaign is to return to the moon, this time to stay — land the first woman/man on the moon by 2024. To do that, we’re really leveraging commercial industry. That’s the biggest piece for Central Florida. Kennedy Space Center is looked at across the entire NASA agency as the center for excellence for partnering with commercial industry, and we’re doing it better than anyone else.”
Research and Technology: “If we want to go to Mars, it’s a three-year trip, so going to the moon, our closest neighbor, is the way to help. We have to figure out how do we build something on the surface? How do we use the soil from the surface to build things so that we can lower the cost ultimately and drive industry? So much has happened with 3-D printing technology, miniaturization of electronics. So in 2020, we’ve got instruments we’re working on that will launch on robotic pre-cursor missions to help us understand what happens when we’re sending crews out there in 2024.”
Supply Chains: “Right in the middle of all this is the part that I’m leading: The Gateway Logistics Element. We have the biggest contract to date for the Artemis campaign — a 15-year performance contract with a $7-billion cap. In 2020, we look to see those companies start to design systems for the supply chain in space. That’s what helps us continually move and transport things out there in deep space, and as the R&T (research and technology) figures out how to utilize resources in space, that supply chain is what will help move it just as a railroad would here and help really enable a spaceport. We’re hoping that will bring multiple companies to Central Florida.”
Frank DiBello, President / CEO
Space Florida, Cape Canaveral
“One of the big things that you’ll see in 2020 are the first launches of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft and SpaceX Crew Dragon to begin the era of returning astronauts to the international space station on U.S. spacecraft. This is a result of NASA’s partnership with industry in what they call their Commercial Crew Program. They’ve been successfully delivering cargo to the space station, but this will be the first return of humans to space on U.S. spacecraft since the shuttle retired. So it’s very significant. It marks the beginning of a new era, and we should all be very excited about it.”
Chuck Whittall, President
Unicorp National Developments, Orlando
“Central Florida is just such a great place to live. The hurricanes just don’t hit often — we get a lot of threat, but very little hit. Miami is full, so Central Florida is feeling the effects of South Florida being full. With $5 billion of road construction going on, it’s only going to make development here get better, especially as our transit improves. I think the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, the Amway Center, the soccer stadium, Creative Village, the UCF expansion, Medical City — all those things are making Central Florida more desirable. There’s so much critical mass here now that I believe we’ll continue to boom for a very long time. The economy overall, with interest rates coming down, it’s been very stimulating for development. I think it’s going to be awhile before the interest rates go up, as long as Democrats and Republicans keep fighting with each other, which will be forever. I think interest rates are going to stay down. I’m fearful in the next election that if someone is elected who wants to add a bunch of crazy policies that tax the wealthy and Medicare for all and things like that, there could be a bump in the economy, but based on today’s environment, I think it’s going to remain strong at least for another year.”
Pamela Nabors, President / CEO
CareerSource, Central Florida
“We’re outpacing the state and the country in terms of continuing low unemployment and continuing jobs creation. It’s been eight-plus years of growth, and as I look into 2020, I don’t see this region slowing down. I think there’s been a lot of discussion that sometime in 2020 the economy and the country will slow — but here in Central Florida, on any given day, we have thousands of jobs and all of our growth sectors here are being advertised through Employ Florida and other means. I think 2020 is going to be continued growth in not just our hospitality sector but also construction. Residential, transportation and commercial (construction) will continue to need labor. We have a number of different initiatives for skilled labor, for superintendents, for middle management that we’re working with all our education partners. Construction will certainly grow, as well as trade and logistics, and there is good focus and growth in our simulation, technology and advanced manufacturing sectors.”
Forecast: MODELING & SIMULATION
Angela Alban, President / CEO
SIMETRI, Winter Park
“Assuming that (defense funding) is not an issue and we have the budget, there will always continue to be a need for what we do, what we provide, and the need is actually increasing. It’s continuing to be a need that’s critical to our national defense and to our readiness. It’s a critical part of who we are as a nation, so it’s not something that’s going to go away — and in some cases, what we do and what we provide in terms of training is potentially more efficient. It’s certainly more accessible than the alternative, which in my case, the medical field, would be actually doing a procedure on an actual human being. If you are not in a clinic where that particular case is presented to you, you’re never going to see it, yet we can provide the experience to train that person several times before they see it.”
Melbourne / Brevard County
- Parking: A building boom in downtown Melbourne and the closure of some surface lots is creating parking headaches, but relief should be coming. Highline, an eight-story apartment building with 171 units that could open as early as May, is including 175 public parking spaces. The 154-room Hilton hotel currently under construction will include a garage with 30 public parking spaces and possibly more, depending on occupancy. “It is like any urban area when structures are under construction. It creates some frustration with road closures, impacts on downtown parking, etc.,” Cindy Dittmer, community development director for the city of Melbourne, wrote in an e-mail.
- Train Stop: As Virgin Trains, formerly Brightline, builds out its high-speed rail service between West Palm Beach and Orlando, Brevard County transportation leaders are hoping for a stop along the Space Coast. A Virgin Trains spokeswoman said it plans to establish two stations along its West Palm-to-Orlando route within five years of its completion in 2022 but that no decisions have been made on where. One potential stop is the Cocoa Curve near I-95 and the Beachline interchange where Virgin Trains already owns property. If a stop in Cocoa comes to fruition, it would be the first passenger rail to Brevard County since 1968.
When BRIDG, a non-profit manufacturing facility for smart sensors, made its debut in Osceola County two years ago, the idea was to get a jump on what BRIDG CEO Chester Kennedy calls the “fourth industrial revolution” — the “resurgence of new microelectronic devices in support of the internet of things and unlocking the imagination and creativity around the country to bring new products into the market.” A growing awareness of cybersecurity vulnerabilities — and the ability of bad actors to embed malicious capabilities into microelectronics — gave the facility an added focus: BRIDG can promise customers that their electronics will be built in a safe and secure environment. Business is starting to take off at the center. In late 2019, BRIDG landed a $20-million contract from the Defense Department to develop secure microelectronics for the Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment Program, which supports weapon research, design, development and delivery. Osceola County is hoping that BRIDG will help fuel the growth of its 500-acre NeoCity tech campus and transform the region into a bustling defense, manufacturing and technology hub.
Thad Seymour, Interim President
University of Central Florida, Orlando
“Innovation tends to happen around clusters, which include talent, places where ideas are generated, where capital is attracted — and that’s certainly what we did at Lake Nona. We built the strategy there on that principle. What we have been doing for many years is thinking in terms of our academia enterprise and anchoring geographically to the centers that they serve. We didn’t originally put our school of hospitality management on the main campus. We put that right in the heart of our hospitality and service industry, down by International Drive and the convention center. We didn’t put our medical school on campus. We put it in the heart of, at that time, the brand new but now the thriving Medical City at Lake Nona.
Downtown, we believe there are critical programs we have that can thrive in an urban setting. By doing that, moving those programs downtown, it first gives us great access to industry for our students and our faculty, so our students graduate with hands-on experience, being able to walk 15 minutes to an internship, for example, or research collaboration by a faculty member. By building strong programs downtown, it also creates a magnet campus for personal innovation to happen nearby. You saw a perfect case study of this: Within a couple of months of us opening a campus, EA Sports made the decision to relocate 700 employees, growing to 1,000 or more, adjacent to our campus in Creative Village.”
Forecast: HEALTH CARE
Daryl Tol, President / CEO
AdventHealth, Central Florida Division, Orlando
“We’re personalizing health care, and we’re leveraging technology to do it. One example is WholeMe, a study enrolling 10,000 Floridians in screening for a gene linked to high cholesterol. This is our first major step into genomics, which holds great promise in helping us target treatments to each individual’s genetic makeup. Our newly opened command center, known as Mission Control, uses artificial intelligence to quickly route patients around our system. It helps avert issues before they happen, even predicting staffing needs days in advance. This technology streamlines the patient experience and allows clinicians to focus on care rather than logistics. We’re deploying telemedicine, already in use in urgent care, to expand access to mental health services. And our app empowers consumers, offering features such as self-scheduling, cost estimates and 24/7 care advocates. New and emerging technology is having a sweeping impact, and I’m excited about what the future holds.”
Harris Rosen, President / COO
Rosen Hotels & Resorts, Orlando
“We have now close to 7,000 rooms here in Orlando. I think the convention business is strong. Of course, the economy continues to do well. It’s rather robust, and that helps, of course — and we’re really the beneficiaries of all that. I think the new space that they’re going to be adding to the convention center, which is now No. 2 in size, will move us closer to No. 1. It’s going to be about 3.5 million square feet of usable space and it should be done in late 2023, early 2024. So I think we’re going to see a tremendous surge once that happens because it will enable us to secure business we’re not able to accommodate right now. It will be good for everyone. In fact, I’m so confident that things are going to get much better that we’re in the early design stages of adding another 400 rooms to Rosen Center. That’s how confident I am that things are going to get better.”
Daytona Beach / Volusia County
- Blue Spring: Water quality in the Blue Spring Basin, a winter refuge for manatees and a water source for 180,000 residents and businesses in West Volusia, has been declining for several decades. The St. Johns River Water Management District and local governments are creating a nearby wetland and filtering system that will remove additional nutrients from reclaimed water from local utilities and stormwater that currently discharges into the St. Johns River.
- Homelessness: Some Daytona Beach city commissioners are concerned about how a proposed safe zone in front of the recently built First Step homeless shelter might affect the surrounding community and local businesses. There are also worries that other cities will divert their homeless people there.
Orlando / Orange, Seminole, Osceola Counties
- Transportation: Central Florida commuters spend an average of 57 hours each year stuck in traffic, and Orange County bears the brunt, with more than half of workers in neighboring Seminole and Osceola counties navigating the gridlock as they travel to work each day. To tackle the challenges, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings is asking voters to approve a penny sales tax in November. If it passes, it would generate an estimated $600 million. Getting voter approval may be a heavy lift: Voters in Osceola County and Volusia County rejected similar sales tax hikes last year. Demings says he’s optimistic, in part because of his “bottom-up approach” of seeking input from residents through a series of town hall meetings. Another selling point is the fact that tourists and visitors to the region would shoulder about 51% or more of the tax burden.
- Affordable Housing: The going rate for a two-bedroom apartment in Orlando is $1,190 and closer to $1,400 a month near downtown. At that level, a household needs an annual income of $47,600 ($22.88 an hour) to afford rent and utilities. The median renter income for the region, meanwhile, is just $35,500. Someone earning Florida’s minimum wage of $8.46 an hour would have to work 108 hours a week. The problem is significant enough that area lawmakers have proposed a repeal of the state’s pre-emption on rent control — but that’s unlikely to pass. Orange County’s housing task force has proposed relaxing zoning codes and creating incentives to induce developers to build a more diverse mix of housing.
- Health Needs: A lack of access to health care, mental health services and affordable, healthy food are among the top health issues impacting Central Florida, according to a 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment study. The survey is compiled every three years by local health departments, non-profit hospitals and community health centers to identify community health challenges and gaps in service. While more than 58% of those surveyed in the region said they were “hopeless” or “depressed,” the study found just one mental health care provider for every 809 residents in Orange, Lake, Osceola and Seminole counties.
- Deltona city commissioners voted to rezone a vacant, 85-acre industrial property off I-4 on the city’s north side to allow an undisclosed company to build a 1.4 million-sq.-ft. warehouse and distribution center. The company — which many believe is Amazon — will be the largest private employer in the region and will generate close to 2,596 trips per day on roads, 336 of which will be “heavy truck traffic,” according to city documents.
- The University of Central Florida is looking to expand its incubators by cultivating three innovation districts to foster leadership, connections and ultimately boost commercial success. The three districts are UCF downtown, which will focus on digital media, financial technology and tourism; the Lake Nona district, which will focus on health and life sciences; and the Central Florida Research Park district, which will focus on space, defense and the modeling and simulation industry.
- The onePULSE Foundation, a non-profit overseeing efforts to build a museum and memorial honoring the 49 victims of the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, announced the design team for its $45-million project. Coldefy & Associés with RDAI, Orlando-based HHCP Architects, Xavier Veilhan, Ducks Scéno, Agence TER, and professor Laila Farah of DePaul University have proposed a concept that features a reflecting pool encircling the Pulse building and a spiraling, open-air museum a half-mile away on West Kaley Street that would be visible from I-4. OnePULSE CEO Barbara Poma says the design is a starting point for the project, which may evolve with input from the community.
- Virginia-based Fore Golf Partner has purchased Daytona Beach’s LPGA International golf club for $3.45 million.
- The Orlando Magic is planning a $500-million, mixed-use development across from the Amway Center downtown. According to an updated plan, the proposed Orlando Sports + Entertainment District will include a pedestrian plaza, an 18-story apartment building, 166,000 square feet of retail, 420,000 square feet of office space, a hotel and a parking garage. It’s hoping to have the project completed by the end of 2022.
- The Central Florida Expressway Authority is moving forward with two projects — a three-mile expansion of the Poinciana Parkway in Osceola and Polk counties and a five-mile toll expressway linking Lake and Orange counties — that will cost close to $700 million combined.
SPACE & TECHNOLOGY
- Blue Origin — the private rocket company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos— is teaming up with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper to build a lunar lander called Blue Moon in support of NASA’s Artemis program.
- Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida, was appointed to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Investment Advisory Council, a 25-member board that provides advice to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on programs and policies that can attract and retain foreign direct investment in the U.S.
- Neal Finkelstein, former chief scientist of the Army Research Lab Simulation and Training Technology Center, has signed on as COO for the Orlando-based National Center for Simulation.
- Orange County commissioners approved a spending plan that will give Visit Orlando, the region’s local tourism marketing agency, a bigger chunk of bed-tax receipts. Visit Orlando’s take will rise from 23% in 2019 to 30% by 2024. The commission also bumped up tourist-tax funding for sports incentives and local arts groups by $2 million a year.
- The Alfond Inn in Winter Park is adding 73 rooms, a 12,000-sq.-ft. spa and more parking and meeting space.
Read more in Florida Trend's January issue.
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