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Daytona Beach & Volusia County

Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach [Photo: iStock]

A sense of Volusia County’s personality depends on which part of it you happen to be in. Daytona Beach is a mix, in a small package, of go-go NASCAR and other motorsports along with high-octane beach tourism and an expanding dollop of upper-end arts and cultural offerings. A few miles up the coast, Ormond Beach, a former winter home to Rockefeller-types, is an old-style beach town that likes its leisure quiet and serene. Toward the west, Deltona is a classic Florida mega-subdivision, a haven for suburban families. Nearby DeLand is quaint, with shady streets and a historic, college-town feel. Elsewhere throughout the county are sprinkled a raft of small towns, each with its own identity, from Lake Helen and its spiritualist community of Cassadaga to business-friendly Port Orange. Volusia encompasses a host of state parks and natural areas, both on the beach and inland by the St. Johns River.

Halifax River
Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach Pier
Daytona Beach Pier
Traditionally, Volusia’s tourism-dominated economy has lagged other parts of the state in some economic measures, including wage rates and higher-skill employment. But the county’s economy is diversified, with a solid manufacturing base — more than 30% of the manufacturing workforce is involved in medical product manufacturing; other manufacturing businesses range from producers of automotive equipment to boat builders and defense contractors. Overall, nearly two in five workers are employed in health-related businesses or education (there are five universities in the county, including world-class aerospace school Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University). The agricultural sector is strong as well — the tiny town of Pierson bills itself as “Fern Capital of the World.” And the county is home to the Brown & Brown insurance brokerage firm, No. 48 on Florida Trend’s list of the 150 biggest publicly traded companies in Florida and the sixth-largest such firm in the U.S.

DeLand Fall Festival of the Arts
DeLand's fall arts festival attracts 50,000 people.
The county’s leadership, particularly in Daytona Beach, has shown determination in working to upgrade the tourism infrastructure and the county’s “creative class”-type amenities. The Ocean Walk Village complex, including hotels, shops and the Ocean Center convention and meeting center, has been a major improvement to the city’s oceanfront. Meanwhile, the Daytona Beach International Festival and Daytona State College have partnered to create a performing arts consortium to advance arts and cultural programs throughout the county. All of the major Daytona Beach performing arts venues will merge under one operating entity.

As it moves forward, the county faces major challenges, including maintaining economic progress while preserving the individual community identities that have given it its character.

A Community Portrait of Volusia County

Who Lives Here?

New Smyrna Beach
New Smyrna Beach

» Volusia County

Population: 498,036. The population grew by more than 12% between 2000-08, after growing by nearly 20% from 1990-2000.

White Non-Hispanic: 76.4%

Black: 10.5

Hispanic: 10.7

Other: 2.5

The average age of the population varies greatly depending on the municipality; overall the median age of 42 is slightly older than the statewide average.

» Demography

» The county is the 11th-most populous in Florida and the 11th-most densely populated.

» 88% of those 25 and older graduated from high school — a higher percentage than the state average; 22% have a bachelor’s degree or higher — a lower percentage than the state average.

» Only 12% speak a language other than English at home, compared to about 25% of the population statewide. Only 7% of the population is foreign-born, compared to nearly 20% statewide.

» Some 12.5% live below the poverty line.

» The age distribution of the county’s population is dumbbell-shaped, with residents evenly distributed between the two most populous age ranges of 25-34 and 60-69.

Downtown DeLand
Downtown DeLand [Photo:Jeffrey Camp]

» Politics

The county voted Democrat in the last two presidential elections, with Barack Obama getting 52% of the vote to John McCain’s 47%. In 2006, the county voted for Republican Charlie Crist for governor by a similar margin over Democrat Jim Davis.

» Incorporated Communities

Volusia County has 16 incorporated municipalities. The largest:

» Deltona (pop. 84,264) — Starting life in the 1960s as a Mackle brothers master-planned retirement community, Deltona has grown into the county’s largest town, with a young population — the median age is 32.4. Overwhelmingly suburban, Deltona is equidistant from Orlando and Daytona, and its residents work and play in both communities.

» Daytona Beach (65,208) — The center for tourism, educational and cultural activities in the region, Daytona Beach remains the county’s leading brand. You can drive on the beach, and you can listen to the London Symphony Orchestra, which has a longstanding relationship with the town and visits annually.

Historic DeLand
Historic neighborhood in DeLand
» Port Orange (56,732) — south of Daytona Beach, the community has grown rapidly since the 1980s, with a mix of residential and commercial. The city bills itself as a “community of neighborhoods.”

» Ormond Beach (40,832) — The community, once winter home to John D. Rockefeller, provides a less touristy, more peaceful beach experience than Daytona Beach. The Orlando Sentinel calls it a “local town with local flavor.”

» DeLand (27,123) — County seat and home to Stetson University, the town boasts a quaint, busy downtown and oak-shaded residential neighborhoods with a mixture of older and newer homes. The entire west Volusia area is rich in nature-related recreational opportunities.

» New Smyrna Beach (23,449) — The low-key tourist town is a famous surfing destination and has an active arts community. It’s also a big second-home market for many Orlando residents.

» Edgewater (21,394) — South of New Smyrna Beach, the town lies along the Indian River and is home to a boat builder and honey producer.

» DeBary (18,741) — Striving to retain a small-town identity, the southwestern Volusia town stretches from the St. Johns River to Deltona suburbia to the east.

Surfers at New Smyrna Beach
New Smyrna Beach

Economic Life

» Average Wage (all industries)

Volusia County: $32,924

Florida: $40,579

» Taxes and Cost of Living

Volusia County’s cost of living ranks below the state’s average. The county ranks 32nd among 67 Florida counties in total county taxes levied.

» Economic Engines

Daytona Speedway
The Daytona 500 draws close to 200,000 fans. [Photo: John Harrelson - Getty]

» Tourism: The county’s 10 million-annual-visitor tourism industry starts with its 47 miles of beach, which attract legions of surfers, vacationers and spring breakers. From the days early last century when autos raced on the sand, Volusia’s history is intertwined with that of motorsports. NASCAR’s headquarters is at Daytona International Speedway, and New Smyrna Speedway and Volusia Speedway Park also host races. Daytona Beach’s Bike Week is a local institution. There are more than 20 golf courses in the county, including the LPGA headquarters course. Inland, Skydive DeLand is a favorite for parachuters, and the county’s natural areas and waterways — whether springs like Blue Spring, rivers like St. Johns, Indian or Halifax, or the Atlantic Ocean — draw campers, watersport enthusiasts and fishermen.

» Manufacturing: A higher-than-state-average portion of the county’s workforce is employed at the more than 400 manufacturing firms in the county, which produce everything from military products to boats, medical equipment, aerospace products, sensors, automotive equipment and suntan products.

Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center
Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center near I-95 has expanded its presence.

» Healthcare: More than a million square feet of new hospital space — nearly half a billion dollars’ worth — opened in 2009, as both Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center and Halifax Health Medical Center opened new facilities in Daytona Beach. Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center expanded, replacing an older facility in Ormond Beach with a new, 277-bed facility near I-95. Florida Hospital also plans a cancer institute. Halifax Health opened a 10-story, 180-bed tower on its existing campus with a state-of-the-art emergency department, one of the largest in Florida. Another hospital, the non-profit, 112-bed Bert Fish Medical Center, is operated by the Southeast Volusia Hospital District.

Stetson University's 175-acre DeLand campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
» Education

Together, education and healthcare services account for almost 20% of total employment in Volusia. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Stetson University, Bethune-Cookman, the University of Central Florida, Daytona Beach State College and for-profit Keiser College all operate in the county. Embry-Riddle, one of Volusia County’s largest employers, is internationally regarded for its aerospace programs, serving more than 34,000 students worldwide at campuses in Daytona Beach, Arizona and virtually on the internet. The county is also home to several vocational and technical schools, including the American Motorcycle Institute and Florida Technical College.

» Agriculture

Farming and other agriculture accounts for around 8,000 jobs in Volusia, producing products with a total market value of more than $100 million. Greenhouses and nurseries — the northern part of the county is famous for production of ferns — account for nearly a third of the around 1,100 farms.

» Largest Employers

» Volusia County School Board, 8,998 employees

» Halifax Staffing, 6,330

» Publix Super Markets, 2,798

» Wal-Mart, 2,206

» Vision HR (management services), 1,667

Embry-Riddle is a leader in aerospace education.

» Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, 1,513

» Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center, 1,403

» Daytona Beach State College, 1,334

» Winn Dixie Stores, 1,290

» Notable Firms

» NASCAR, International Speedway Corp., Daytona International Speedway

» Brown & Brown (insurance and brokerage)

» Boston Whaler (fiberglass outboard motor boats)

» Germfree Laboratories (hospital and pharmacy equipment)

» Hudson Technologies (metal products for medical, automotive and aerospace use)

» Native Tan Sun Fun Products (suntan products)

» Naarden (motorcycle performance products)

» Pierson Fern and Greens (horticulture)

» Tropical Blossom Honey Co.

» Ladies Professional Golf Association (headquarters)

» Raydon Corp. (military simulation training technology)

Don Ariel
Don Ariel, CEO of Raydon Corp.

» CartTech (shopping cart refurbishing)

» Crane Cams (racing and high-performance auto parts)

» Microflex (metal hose, vehicle exhaust components)

» Sparton Electronics Florida (electronics design and manufacturing)

Must-Know Contacts

» George Anderson, hotel developer, tourism industry leader

» Manuel Bornia, president and COO of Daytona Beach International Festival, summer home of the London Symphony Orchestra

» Deborah Boyd, CEO of the New Smyrna Beach Area Visitors Bureau

» Robin Braig, president of Daytona International Speedway

» J. Hyatt Brown, chairman, Brown & Brown, No. 48 on Florida Trend’s list of the 150 biggest publicly traded companies in Florida and the sixth-largest such firm in the U.S.

» Richard Brown, president and CEO of Hayward Brown, an insurance company

» Frank Bruno, chairman of the Volusia County Council

» Bob Coleman, Florida Power & Light’s external affairs manager

» Bob Davis, president and CEO of the Hotel/Motel Association of Volusia County

» Jim Dinneen, manager of Volusia County

» Ted Doran, attorney, Doran, Wolfe, Ansay & Kundid

» Phil Ehlinger, interim director of the Department of Economic Development


» Jeff Feasel, president and CEO of Halifax Health

» Jayne Fifer, president and CEO of Volusia Manufacturers Association

» Alex Ford Jr., attorney, Landis Graham French


» Larry Fornari, chairman of the Halifax Area Advertising Authority

» Brian France, chairman of NASCAR

» Maryam Ghyabi, president of Ghyabi & Associates, traffic engineers, planners


» Mike Helton, president of NASCAR

» Mori Hosseini, chairman and CEO of ICI Homes and former chairman of Halifax Health

» Dick Jaffe, president of the Jaffe Corp., builder and developer

» John P. Johnson, president of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

» J. Lester Kaney, attorney, Cobb Cole

» Lesa France Kennedy, CEO of International Speedway Corp.

» Mark LaRose, president and CEO of Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center

» Wendy B. Libby, president of Stetson University

» Charles Lichtigman, builder and developer

» State Sen. Evelyn Lynn

» Dennis McGee, director of the Daytona Beach International Airport

» Bill McMunn, president and CEO of Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co.

» Sharon Mock, president and CEO of the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

» Don Poor, director of the Ocean Center

» Rafael Ramirez, president and CEO of East Coast Community Bank


» Trudie Kibbe Reed, president of Bethune-Cookman University

» Jim Rose, attorney, Rice & Rose

» John Saunders, president of International Speedway Corp.

» Tom Staed, founding chairman of the Florida Tourism Commission

» Kent Sharples, president of Daytona State College

» Renee Tallevast, executive director of the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority

» Bishop Derek Triplett, community leader, Hope Fellowship Church

Quality of Life

Canaveral National Seashore
Canaveral National Seashore

» Transportation: Average time spent commuting is less than national and state averages. Daytona Beach International Airport serves more than half a million passengers.

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse
Ponce Inlet Lighthouse [Photo: iStock]

» History: In addition to various Indian shell mounds, the second-tallest lighthouse in the country is at Ponce DeLeon Inlet. The county also is home to the ruins of several sugar and indigo plantations. The Mary McLeod Bethune Home, built in 1914 and located on the campus of Bethune-Cookman, is also the gravesite of Bethune.

» Nature: Between the beaches, rivers, springs and various state parks, Volusia has one of the most diverse and extensive inventories of natural lands in the state. Blue Spring on the St. Johns River is a designated Manatee Refuge and one of the most beautiful springs in the state. The county also is home to Bulow Creek State Park, Canaveral National Seashore, DeLeon Springs State Park, Hontoon Island State Park, Lake George State Forest, Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, North Peninsula State Park, Tiger Bay State Forest and Tomoka State Park. In 2000, the citizens of Volusia County enacted a tax that created the Volusia Forever program, dedicated to acquiring and preserving recreational and environmentally sensitive lands and biodiversity. The program works with federal, state and local agencies and has acquired more than 32,000 acres.

Blue Spring
Manatees flock to Blue Spring [Photo: Kimberly Eisele - Florida DEP]

» Arts: The county has a notable arts presence, from the Daytona Beach Museum of Arts and Sciences and its collection of Cuban art, to the Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens, the African-American Museum of the Arts, the Museum of Florida Art, the Southeast Museum of Photography at Daytona State College and the Homer and Dolly Hand Art Center at Stetson University and its collection of art by Modernist painter Oscar Bluemner. Some 31 arts organizations funded by the Cultural Council of Volusia County have combined budgets of more than $10 million and serve more than 1.2 million — twice the county’s population.

London Symphony Orchestra
The London Symphony Orchestra performs during the Daytona Beach International Festival.

In addition, a new organization, the Volusia Performing Arts Consortium, will absorb the Daytona Beach International Festival and take over ticketing and coordination of performing arts events at all major venues in Daytona Beach, including the Peabody Auditorium, Ocean Center Daytona Beach, News-Journal Center at Daytona State College and Mary McLeod Bethune Performing Arts Center.

Southeast Museum of Photography
The Southeast Museum of Photography at Daytona State College

» Health: Reflecting the presence of strong medical organizations, the county ranks in the most favorable quartiles of most of the health indicators tracked by the state. The state notes positive trends in death and hospitalization rates for both heart attacks and strokes, along with positive trends in death rates for lung cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer. Negative trends were noted for diabetes and asthma hospitalization rates and reported cases of syphilis and chlamydia. The county has a higher percentage of births to unwed teenage mothers than the state average.

» Schools: The Volusia County School District received an “A” districtwide from the Florida Department of Education for the 2008-09 school year. Among the county’s high schools, there were 3 D’s, 3 C’s and 3 B’s.

LPGA Legends Course
The LPGA Legends course

» Sports: In addition to every kind of water sport and the massive motorsports presence created by NASCAR, Daytona International Speedway and other racetracks, Volusia also has a Chicago Cubs Class A minor league baseball team and is home to the LPGA headquarters and the Florida Tennis Center.

FL Tennis Center
The Florida Tennis Center hosts many junior and adult tournaments.
[Photo: Lynn Parfitt]

» Government: In 2008, Fitch Ratings gave the county’s sales tax revenue bonds an “A” and called the county’s financial position “stable” with sufficient coverage levels and reserves.

A 2007 consultant’s report said the county needed to evaluate its organizational structure and become “less bureaucratic and more ‘customer’ focused.”

» Crime: The rate of crime per 100,000 residents places Volusia County 22nd in the state.

Strength & Weaknesses

» Why I Live Here

When I was 2, in 1939, my father moved our family from Orlando to Daytona Beach. It was the beginning of a 70-year (so far) journey of growing up and being involved in and with the changing face of the Daytona Beach area. Over the years I have been asked why our family lives in Daytona Beach. The short answer is “because that’s where we live.”

Upon reflection and consideration of that question a montage of thoughts crossed my mind. Our area has a broad range of cultural, recreational, educational and climatic diversity, all of which create a great place to rear a family, to be in business and to enjoy life.

We have the advantage of cool northeast Florida winters that are suitable enough for sweaters and jackets and on-shore breezes during the warmer months
making the east coast of Volusia County quite pleasant.

Year-round water sports and aquatic wildlife are unequalled with the best bathing beach in the world and unlimited access to the Halifax River and its tributaries, including the Tomoka River and Spruce Creek. In addition to an excellent public school system, Volusia County is home to four outstanding universities: Stetson, Embry-Riddle, Bethune-Cookman, and Daytona State College. Events at these institutions, which are open to the public, create wonderful educational, cultural and athletic venues for all.

Event diversity has been a hallmark of our area. The London Symphony Orchestra selected Daytona Beach as its “official summer home” and has performed here biannually for many years. Motor sports, such as the world-renowned Daytona 500, attract enthusiasts from all over the world. Tourism, both summer and winter, continues to bring in new people and ideas thereby broadening the horizons for our citizens.

My family has been part of the same community for all of my young and adult life, which has been a great privilege. My wife of 44 years, Cici, and I have a multitude of fond memories of Daytona Beach, and the past is only prologue.

J. Hyatt Brown
Chairman and CEO,
Brown & Brown

» Why I Live Here

I moved to Volusia County from Hillsborough County for the small-town charm and slower pace of life. I fell in love with the Cape Cod-like charm of New Smyrna Beach. My daily commute takes me along Riverside Drive, where on any given day I’ll see dolphins, pelicans, manatees and wild bunnies along with the sailboats moored in the river. We don’t have to consider the “time of day” traffic as in big cities, but we do have to consider whether the drawbridge is up on the North Causeway to choose our route to and from the mainland. I miss the good Cuban food in Ybor City, but I’ll live longer without the stress of metro living.

Judi Carter
New Smyrna Beach

» Competitor’s View

Florida Trend asked an economic development professional in a market that competes with Volusia County to anonymously assess the city’s economic image:

“Volusia County appears to the outside world as the traditional Florida model of a city built on tourism and lacking diversity of business. It still maintains the spring break, sports car, unsophisticated image that is a deterrent to attracting progressive business opportunities. Most major Florida cities do not see Volusia as a competitor for prospects.

Location is a plus and minus. It anchors the east end of the I-4 corridor, is off I-95 and close to Cape Canaveral. It has an international airport and is not too far from Orlando’s major airport. But making the case as a serious business location is the greatest challenge.”