September 18, 2021

Business Florida 2021 - The Regions

East Central

Brevard • Lake • Orange • Osceola • Seminole • Sumter • Volusia

| 10/30/2020

Renewable Energy

In summer 2020, the Orlando Utilities Commission, which provides water and electricity to Orlando residents, took the first steps toward making good on its promise to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 as it began drawing 108.5 megawatts of electricity from two new solar facilities.

Newly opened are Taylor Creek Solar Energy Center in east Orange County and Harmony Solar Energy Center in St. Cloud, which together generate enough electricity to power about 22,000 homes. Owned and operated by Florida Renewable Partners as part of the Florida Municipal Solar Project, the two solar fields encompass 1,500 acres and collectively house nearly 600,000 rotating solar panels. Three other sites are projected to be operational by 2023.

Elsewhere in the region, Duke Energy’s DeBary Solar Power Plant on 445 acres in Volusia County began delivering power to customers in May 2020. The 74.5-megawatt facility is part of Duke’s goal to add 700 megawatts of solar generation in Florida through 2022.

KEY PLAYERS: Duke Energy Florida, St. Petersburg; Orlando Utilities Commission, Orlando



Boasting an enrollment exceeding 69,000 in 2019, the Orlando-based University of Central Florida is ranked among the top 20 most innovative universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Its Rosen College of Hospitality is ranked the No. 4 hospitality school in the world by CEOWorld.

In September 2019, UCF opened a downtown campus in partnership with Orlando-based Valencia College. Located 13 miles west of UCF’s main campus in the city’s 68-acre Creative Village development, the new site is within walking distance of the courthouse, law firms, high-tech startups, health care providers, non-profits and is a potential source of internships and job opportunities. Valencia has moved its entire Culinary Arts and Hospitality program downtown while continuing to offer a full range of classes at eight other sites across the region — five in Orlando, two in Kissimmee and one in Winter Park as well as accelerated skill training programs.

Elsewhere in the region, three private universities earned accolades on U.S. News & World Report’s “2020 Best Regional Universities South”: Rollins College in Winter Park (No. 1); Stetson University in DeLand (No. 5); and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach (No. 11), which also earned the No. 4 spot among “Best Schools for Veterans.”


Life Sciences & Health Care

AdventHealth Orlando is Florida’s No. 3 hospital with top 40 rankings in four specialties on U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals 2020-21” list. Headquartered in Altamonte Springs, AdventHealth operates more than a dozen hospitals across Florida’s East Central region. Its Orlando-based pediatric hospital — Advent Health for Children — was also honored by U.S. & News World Report, ranking No. 32 nationwide in neonatology. In July 2020, AdventHealth Celebration opened a new, five-story patient tower and expanded cardiac and neurological services in anticipation of becoming the first comprehensive stroke center in the area in 2021.

Orlando Health’s Orlando Regional Medical Center was ranked the No. 9 hospital in Florida by U.S. News & World Report. On U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals 2020-21, Orlando Health’s Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children earned top 40 rankings in four pediatric specialties. In Brevard County, along Florida’s east coast, Health First has announced a $600-million restructuring plan that involves relocating Cape Canaveral Hospital and opening three wellness villages in Merritt Island, Melbourne and Palm Bay. The Merritt Island village will also include a new hospital. Construction is expected to begin in late 2020.

Life sciences research and innovation is alive and well in East Central too. Among recent developments:

• Four companies have indicated a desire to locate in the new UCF Nona Cancer Center scheduled to open in Orlando’s Lake Nona neighborhood in early 2021: Central Florida Health Services; Clinical Education Shared Services; Sarah Cannon Research Institute; and Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute.

• Dr. Jihe Zhao, a cancer researcher at the University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine, has been awarded $100,000 from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

• Drawing from her own experience as a breast cancer patient, Lisa Crites created the “Shower Shirt,” a water-resistant garment to protect patients. Her Cocoa Beach-based company was listed as a five-star seller on Amazon in 2019.

• PT Genie, a national provider of home-based physical therapy, has relocated its headquarters from Cleveland to Lake Nona Medical City in Orlando.

Tags: Space Coast, Business Florida


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