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East Central / Space Coast: Building on Strength

East Central/ Space Coast of Florida
Demographics for the East Central/ Space Coast Region can be found at Business Florida's interactive map of Florida.
East Central/ Space Coast Resources:

• Beacon College
• Bethune-Cookman College
• Brevard Community College
• Daytona State College
• DeVry University
• Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
• Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences
• Florida Institute of Technology
• Florida Technical University
• Full Sail University
• Lake Sumter Community College
• Rollins College
• Seminole Community College
• Stetson University
• University of Central Florida
• Valencia Community College

• Daytona Beach International Airport
• Melbourne International Airport
• Orlando International Airport
• Orlando Sanford International Airport

• Port Canaveral

Florida’s East Central/Space Coast region continues to carve a niche for itself in technology. Known for the ingenuity that first launched space vehicles in the 1960s and built revolutionary theme park attractions in the 1970s, this area is today home to the nation’s largest cluster of modeling, simulation and training companies and the National Center for Simulation.

Add to that a growing presence in life sciences and biotechnology, with plans for a “medical city” in the huge Lake Nona development near Orlando International Airport and an increased focus on “economic gardening” — fostering companies that can grow and create jobs.

Emerging Medical City

At the 7,000-acre Lake Nona development in southeast Orlando, a “medical city” is rapidly taking shape. Projects scheduled to open in the next several years include:

  • Burnham Institute for Medical Research — East Coast headquarters of the
    La Jolla, Calif.-based laboratory
  • The University of Central Florida (UCF) College of Medicine — opening in fall 2009 with an inaugural class of 40
  • Nemours Children’s Hospital — a 95-bed specialty pediatrics hospital and clinic
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center — includes a 134-bed hospital, nursing home and outpatient clinic
  • University of Florida Research Facility — a partnership with Burnham Institute to study diabetes, aging, genetics and cancer
  • MD Anderson Orlando Cancer Center Research Institute — sister facility to the Houston-based hospital ranked tops in the nation for cancer care

Healthcare Hub: Cutting-edge medical facilities already at home in Orlando/Orange County include:

Florida Hospital Orlando — ranked one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report for 10 consecutive years.

Global Robotics Institute — using robot-assisted laparoscopic technology for urological, gynecological, colorectal and cardiac procedures.

Nicholson Center for Surgical Advancement — providing long-distance training in intricate surgical procedures via teleconferencing.

Orlando/orange County

Simulation Story: Lockheed Martin’s Orlando-based Simulation, Training & Support business unit, with annual revenue of $1.5 billion and 1,500 employees in Central Florida, is the U.S. Department of Defense’s largest supplier of simulator training equipment.

The unit is gaining traction with sales in other parts of the world, too, including the United Kingdom, where in June 2008 it was awarded its largest contract ever, worth almost $12 billion over 25 years, to supply flight training equipment for the British military.

Being in Central Florida has been vitally important to Lockheed Martin’s success because of the partnerships the simulation unit has developed with other nearby technology-minded concerns, including the University of Central Florida, gaming giant Electronic Arts and the private digital media school Full Sail University. Lockheed Martin’s military clients are close by, too, including the U.S. Army’s Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO-STRI) and the Army’s Research Development and Engineering Command, Simulation, Training and Technology Center (RDECOM STTC).
“Florida is a great place for Lockheed Martin to continue to grow and thrive and be a major part of what’s going on,” says Chester Kennedy, vice president of engineering for the simulation unit.

Orlando Events Center
Opening in fall 2010, the Orlando Events Center — home to the Orlando Magic NBA team — is one of three new downtown entertainment venues.

Downtown Improvements

The city of Orlando, Orange County and private donors have teamed up to build three public downtown projects, which are expected to generate 10,800 jobs during the construction phase and employ 7,500 people after they’re built:

» A $480-million events center will replace the current Amway Arena, home to the Orlando Magic NBA basketball team and Orlando Predators indoor football franchise, in September 2010, with an expanded size designed to attract larger national entertainment acts.

» The Dr. P. Phillips Performing Arts Center, a $425-million facility to open across from City Hall in 2012, will include three theaters for traveling shows such as Broadway musicals and comedy acts, as well as the Orlando Philharmonic, Orlando Ballet, Orlando Opera and Festival of Orchestras.

» About $175 million in renovations to the historic Citrus Bowl by late 2011 will ensure that this stadium remains a primary venue for college football championship games and outdoor concerts.

With more than half of Lockheed Martin’s statewide workforce of 12,000 located in the East Central/Space Coast region, this company is one of the area’s 10 largest employers. The simulation unit and its other Orlando presence, the Missiles and Fire Control unit, are part of the parent company —Lockheed Martin Corporation — based in Bethesda, Md., that employs 140,000 people worldwide and reported almost $42 million in sales in 2007.

Under One Roof: Orlando-based Darden Restaurants expects to open a new $100-million headquarters in Orlando in 2009 to replace the 11 separate buildings from which this Fortune 500 company currently operates. Among Darden’s 1,700 restaurants worldwide are such familiar names as Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, LongHorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille.

Other publicly traded companies based in the East Central/Space Coast region include: Harris Corporation with 16,000 employees and annual revenue of more than $5.3 billion, and HD Supply, AirTran Holdings, Tupperware and Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

Swimmers at Fanning Springs

In December 2007, business and civic leaders representing seven central Florida counties formed the Central Florida Partnership to support entrepreneurs and address the challenges of doing business in a global marketplace.

Other organizations committed to fostering entrepreneurship in the region include: the Disney Entrepreneur Center, which provides counseling and training for entrepreneurs at all levels; and the UCF Technology Incubator, which has served more than 70 companies that have created 450-plus new jobs and generated $150 million in revenue.

Brevard County

Transportation Rules: As home to Kennedy Space Center and Port Canaveral, Brevard boasts some of the world’s most unique transportation options. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has launched manned and unmanned vehicles from the north end of this county since the 1960s; today, the aerospace industry contributes some $4 billion annually to the Florida economy, according to the Space Foundation. Port Canaveral adds an estimated $2.6 billion each year to the state’s economy.

Flying High: Brazilian company Embraer, the world’s third-largest commercial aircraft manufacturer behind Airbus and Boeing, is investing close to $50 million to open its first U.S. assembly plant at Melbourne International Airport in early 2010. The facility will handle Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 executive jets and is expected to create 200 skilled positions with an average annual salary of $50,000 by 2011. The company, which received about $12 million in local and state incentives, is encouraging its manufacturing suppliers to move to the area as well, says the airport’s executive director Richard Ennis.

osceola County

Diverse and Growing: This county’s diversity of industries includes everything from tourism to technology to transportation. Osceola is piggybacking on the “medical city” development just to the north in Orange County by trying to attract research projects and clinical trials. It’s recruiting proposals for amateur sports facilities. And it’s still building on proven staples like manufacturing and distribution, especially among companies that want to keep their business in the United States instead of outsourcing.

Osceola County claims the first “green” industrial park in Florida: the Yeehaw Transportation & Distribution Center, a 430-acre site under development at State Road 60 and Florida’s Turnpike, where 700 trucks pass through daily.

Staying in Place: E-commerce software company Channel Intelligence, founded in 1999, has grown from fewer than 50 employees in 2004 to about 200 today, with plans to create 420 jobs within the next five years with average annual salaries of $55,400. The company provides technology for more than 6,800 retailers worldwide and has offices in Geneva and London. Osceola County officials say they’re thrilled CEO Rob Wight and his team chose to stay in Celebration, where the company is spending $33 million to expand its headquarters. “The creation of 420 high-wage jobs is exciting, especially during these challenging economic times,” says County Commissioner Paul Owen.


41.4% Osceola’s population growth between 2000 and 2006, making it the fastest growing county in the East Central/Space Coast region.

Seminole County

Robust Activity: Even in a tight economy, Seminole County is thriving with robust activity, including $79.2 million in capital investment, 757,000 square feet of space newly occupied and the lowest unemployment rate in central Florida. With a wealth of Class A office space, and more being created, the county prides itself on a workforce of high-wage professionals in the financial technology —“fi-tech” — industry.

Job Growth Expected: In a $15-million project, the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) is moving its global headquarters to a new building in Lake Mary that is expected to open in mid-2009. IIA currently employs 160 and plans to add another 140 jobs over the next 10 years.

Sumter County

Strategically Located: One of the few places in Florida that still has abundant large tracts of land available, Sumter County sits at a strategic point between Tampa Bay, Gainesville and Orlando.

Trucking arteries Interstates 75 and 95, Florida’s Turnpike and U.S. Highway 27 all run through the rural county, along with U.S. Highway 301 and State Road 44, providing easy access and an opportunity to capitalize on the growth of the surrounding metropolitan areas. And with the high price of fuel these days, a location like this one is sure to draw the attention of economy-minded businesses serving central and south Florida. Economic development officials call Sumter “as good as you can get for distribution.”

Volusia County

Don Ariel
Could Central Florida be the next Silicon Valley? Maybe, says Raydon CEO Don Ariel. [Photo: Jeffrey Camp]

Racecars Mean Business: Although Volusia County’s coastal communities have long been popular tourist destinations, it’s the love of the racecar that is luring new businesses these days.

International Speedway Corporation is building a new headquarters near Daytona International Speedway that will house the entertainment destination “Daytona Live!” The 71-acre development will include a hotel, movie theater, retail shops and residential housing. Also, Intellitec Products and BBK Performance Products, both of which supply motor vehicle accessories, are moving into manufacturing facilities at the new DeLand Crossings Industrial Park. And New Jersey-based Mikronite Technologies has acquired specialty auto parts maker Crane Cams, vowing to keep the operation in Daytona Beach.

New Silicon Valley: Founded 20 years ago by three former employees of General Electric, which later became Martin Marietta and Lockheed Martin, the Daytona Beach simulation technology company Raydon made its mark focusing on customers with small budgets and big orders. “Our strategic belief system was if we could design equipment to satisfy that training need, it could transition to other services,” says Don Ariel, CEO and co-founder.

Raydon has grown to about 240 employees. Many, like the original co-founders, have come from larger companies; others are graduates of the technical schools that abound in this region: Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, University of Central Florida, Florida Institute of Technology, Daytona Beach State College and Florida Technical University. Today, Raydon vies for military training equipment contracts, but tries to think of others in the industry as collaborators rather than

“Our real hope,” Ariel says, “is that central Florida becomes the Silicon Valley of virtual reality.”

lake County

New Strategy: With a new strategic plan in place, Lake County is seeking to diversify an economy that has long been dependent on residential growth. Target industries include agritechnology, business services, health and wellness, arts and leisure and clean technology. Lake will continue to promote its central location as a draw for manufacturing and distribution firms, and will work with elected officials, schools and other organizations on “economic gardening” efforts aimed at growing small companies. The county is already getting a thumbs-up from the business community for its newly refined, rapid-response permitting system.

Looking to Expand: Blue Earth Solutions, formerly located in Delray Beach, has opened a processing plant in Clermont to recycle expanded polystyrene, better known by its brand name Styrofoam. The south Lake County site offers a central location in Florida for collecting the material in mass quantity and melting it down into pellets for recycling.

The company employs about 40 people at the site, including management, office staff, plant workers and truckers, says Jim Cohen Jr., vice president of sales. Blue Earth expects to outgrow its 12,000-square-foot building quickly and is buying the 2.5-acre property on which it sits for future expansion.

Hometown Charm: Billing itself as “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown,” The Villages is a planned, “golf cart” community of nearly 75,000 residents and 38,000 homes encompassing parts of Lake, Sumter and Marion counties. The self-contained development, which caters to retirees, is criss-crossed by trails connecting some 40 recreation centers, 20+ executive golf courses, eight championship golf courses with country clubs, three fitness centers, a polo field, community garden, archery range and two libraries. Better than half of the population here is over 65; less than 0.4% is under 18. And with two town centers, dozens of shops, theaters and year-round events, there’s no excuse for boredom.