January 21, 2020

Community Portrait

Orlando & Orange County

More than just gathering data, we're trying to capture elements that make each community distinctive.

» Strengths

» Travel: Orlando may be the most convenient place to get to and from in Florida. Orlando International Airport is the busiest airport in the state, carrying some 35 million passengers a year. Its largest carrier is Southwest, followed by AirTran, whose headquarters is in Orlando. If you’re driving, Orlando is halfway between Miami, 250 miles southeast, and Tallahassee, 230 miles northwest.

Orlando International Airport
» Higher education: More than 26% of the population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 22% statewide. The University of Central Florida is now the fifth-largest in the nation, with more than $122 million in research funding, more than 50,000 students and an international reputation for lasers/optics and hospitality. Its first med school class started school this fall. Rollins College is the oldest college in the state and consistently ranked one of the best regional private campuses in the South. Forbes ranked its MBA program the best in Florida. Full Sail University is emerging as a top school for film, entertainment and digital media, with a 60-studio multimedia complex and direct links to the burgeoning private industry sector.

» Communities: Orlando has some of the most charming, genuine communities in Florida, a well-kept secret from the millions of tourists who flock to the theme parks. Among the best is Winter Park, a tree-shaded, 1880s hamlet anchored by Rollins College on one side and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art on the other, with sidewalk cafes and shops in between. Other established communities in Orlando include College Park, Thornton Park, Delaney Park and downtown, a vibrant, young place to live with good restaurants and bars, art shows and a weekend farmers market.

» Orlando was named one of top 15 best cities for singles and top 50 for families by Worldwide ERC and Primacy Relocation.

» Weaknesses

» Lack of Fortune 500 companies: Only two Orlando companies are on the Fortune 500, and one of them, International Assets Holding Corp. (Nasdaq-IAAC), an Altamonte Springs-based brokerage company with revenue of more than $18.3 billion, employs only 195. Darden Restaurants (NYSE-DRI), the restaurant operator with annual revenue of more than $6.7 billion, employs 179,000, many in low-wage jobs at its restaurants around the nation. The lack of major headquarters makes Orlando a rung rather than a long-term destination for many executives on their way up the corporate ladder.

Plans for SunRail have stalled in the Legislature.
» Commuters lose more than two days of their lives — about 53 hours a year — stuck in traffic jams, according to the Texas Transportation Institute, which reports that Orlando ties for sixth-worst in the nation for traffic gridlock. The commuter rail transit project SunRail, which would run along a 61-mile stretch of existing rail freight tracks in the four-county area, is tied up in the Florida Legislature. SunRail backers’ latest strategy is to link up their proposal to a high-speed train.

» Between 2007-08, both the number of auto crashes and the county’s crash rate fell. The traffic fatality rate fell by 7.3% during that period.

Tags: North Central

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Tibetan monks create a colorful sand mandala
Tibetan monks create a colorful sand mandala

The Sacred Arts Tour of Tibetan Monks brought seven monks to St. Petersburg where they spent a week creating a colorful sand mandala featuring a medicine Buddha and an overall theme of wellbeing and healing.

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