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In 2018, Central Florida was ranked first in the nation for job growth, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Additionally, Forbes magazine ranked the metro Orlando region No. 1 to invest in a home with an estimated 84,000 building permits issued in Orange County valued at $2.3 billion. Orange County also earned the highest AAA credit rating from Moody's Investors Service, recognizing its fiscal reliability and continued quality-of-life enhancements.
In June 2013, the Orange County Domestic Violence Commission issued a comprehensive report, including specific strategies and recommendations to help victims of domestic violence move toward recovery, particularly during the high-risk time period immediately following a domestic violence incident.
Mayor Jacobs reconvened the Domestic Violence Commission in January of 2013 in response to a sudden spike in domestic violence cases within our region. Circuit Judge Alice Blackwell and Community Leader Dick Batchelor co-chaired the Commission, which also included Chief Judge Belvin Perry, the late Orange County Clerk of Court Lydia Gardner, and a host of other prominent judicial, law enforcement, and civic leaders in the Orange County area.
With disheartening frequency, our nation has been shocked by the recurring loss of innocent lives at the hands of individuals struggling with untreated or uncontrolled issues, frequently caused by mental health conditions and illnesses. Sadly, Orange County is not immune from such violence. As part of a much larger responsibility to provide for the health and well-being of our community, Mayor Jacobs convened a 20-member Youth Mental Health Commission in August 2013, comprised of elected officials, law enforcement, and community leaders to develop new strategies and initiatives to address the system of care issues in Orange County’s children.
Mayor Jacobs’ Youth Mental Health Commission is charged with assessing our current resources, hearing expert testimony about our current state of affairs, including gaps or duplications, as well as first-hand testimony from young people and families who have dealt with these challenges. Once these tasks are complete, the Commission will present inclusive recommendations to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners.
Our goal is to create a plan based upon the Commission findings (and using our innovative “Wraparound Orange” program as a template) for counties throughout Florida, and possibly the nation, to use and further cultivate the concept of integrated care.
Also in 2013, Orange County celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Central Receiving Center (CRC) at Lakeside Behavioral Healthcare, Inc. CRC is a critically important part of our integrated care model, and provides resources and care during a mental health or substance abuse crisis, while providing intensive case management for those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse disorders. CRC also administers a transitional housing program for the chronically homeless. The CRC model, in partnership with local hospitals, came as a recommendation of Orange County's Jail Oversight Commission. Over the past decade, CRC's concept of crisis intervention has grown and evolved into a recognized best practice in the State of Florida.
By diverting citizens in crisis to the CRC, we save local hospitals and our jails millions of dollars. In terms of public safety, the resources and precious time of law enforcement are diverted back to where they are most needed. Our community partners, including the Florida Department of Children and Families, Lakeside Behavioral Healthcare, Inc. and the Center for Drug Free Living, have pledged to continue working with us to serve one of our most vulnerable populations in a system of care that truly makes a difference in our community.
In February 2013, Orange County celebrated the grand opening of a redeveloped affordable housing community in Pine Hills during a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by members of the Board of County Commissioners and community leaders.
Emerald Villas, formerly known as Seville Place, is a new housing development which was transformed from a blighted neighborhood into an attractive community with improved living conditions. Orange County Government, along with partners Related Urban Development Group and the Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corporation, bought the land through funds available from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). Orange County contributed $7 million from the NSP to help fund the project, while another $1.6 million came from a state-funded affordable housing program.
The Pine Hills Local Government Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) is also actively implementing the recommendations of the 2010 Pine Hills Business Redevelopment Task Force. The NID’s mission is to bring businesses, citizens, and government together to solve the challenges of the community and create a place where our citizens can live, work, play, and learn in a safe, family-oriented, pro-business environment.
As a part of caring for some of our most precious citizens, Orange County came together as a family to help our neighbors in need in Mayor Jacobs’ 2013 Holiday Heroes Toy Drive. Our third annual toy drive brought employees and the community together to donate new, unwrapped toys for infants, children, and teens at several Orange County administrative sites. The 2013 toy drive exceeded expectations, with 3,850 toy donations benefitting the Orange County's Neighborhood Centers for Families, the Community Food and Outreach Center, Wraparound Orange, and the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation in Orlando.
Industry Leader – This year marked the celebration of 30 years of successful operations for the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC). As the second largest convention center in the U.S., the OCCC began upgrading some of its spaces as part of a five-year, $187 million capital improvements project this year. The OCCC is a key driver of our economy, attracting more than 200 events and roughly 1.4 million attendees annually to the Central Florida area. For the second consecutive year, the OCCC was the No.1 venue of choice for Trade Show News Network Top 250 shows. In addition, Cvent, the leader in cloud-based event management solutions, announced that Orlando finished in the No. 1 spot among the top 50 cities for nationwide meetings and events.
As previously noted, the Orange County Convention Center is now the largest convention center in the world to achieve LEED EBOM Gold certification, and only the third convention center in the world to achieve a new international sustainability standard: Level One certification with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard pertaining to the Evaluation and Selection of Venues for Environmentally Sustainable Meetings, Events, Trade Shows, and Conferences. This recognition helps event planners and suppliers produce events in a more sustainable manner.
Leadership Through Service - In addition to celebrating the Convention Center’s accolades, achievements, and awards, we also pause to fondly remember the many friends and leaders who have played a part in our success. This year, we joined local hotelier and philanthropist Harris Rosen and the International Drive community in remembering Gary Sain, with the unveiling and dedication of the Gary Sain Memorial Skybridge. Gary Sain, the late president of Visit Orlando, was a special man with a larger than life personality and contagious energy. He was a consummate professional and our region’s most enthusiastic cheerleader. Thanks to a decision by Harris Rosen to build the pedestrian skybridge between the Rosen Plaza and the Convention Center (crossing over International Drive) – Gary’s name will forever grace this unique pedestrian crossing. On a daily basis, his memory will be honored.
Giving Back through Service - While the Orange County Convention Center is known for its significant economic impact on the Central Florida community, the OCCC is also a major source of donations for local charitable organizations. In 2013, it is estimated that more than $2.1 million in goods and services were donated to local organizations by visiting conventions, tradeshows, exhibitors and attendees. Almost 50 visiting shows made donations that included nearly 300,000 pounds of food to local food banks, more than $200,000 in educational supplies and grants, and more than $100,000 in building supplies and products.
We sincerely appreciate the conventions and tradeshows that choose to make a donation to our local charities or go out in our community and assist with a social responsibility project. In 2013, more than $1.8 million in donations were made to local, charitable organizations through the events held at the Convention Center. We look forward to another record-setting year at the OCCC and to providing a positive economic impact to our community, not only by spending locally, but also by giving locally.
As one of the most culturally inclusive communities in the United States, Orange County continues to be a leader in advancing diversity through our direct hires, advisory board appointments, community outreach, sister region agreements, educational tradeshows, and seminars.
In 2013, we celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Hispanic Business and Consumer Expo with a celebratory ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Orange County Convention Center. Hosted by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, this annual event boasts more than 300 booths, over 12,000 attendees, and continues to be one of the largest Hispanic trade shows in the U.S.
Orange County staff remains committed to building and strengthening relationships with various organizations and leaders within the Hispanic community. Additionally, the Orange County Connect newsletter, translated in Spanish, is sent to hundreds of our Spanish-speaking constituents.
The Hispanic Heritage Committee of Greater Orange County, Inc. held a festive Hispanic Heritage Month Proclamation Reception in September, attended by Orange County Commissioners, constitutional officers, employees, and our citizens. The committee also coordinated the Orange Fiesta in the Park, featuring popular food trucks, musical performances, children's activities, and diverse exhibitors at Downey Park.
Celebrating our rich African American history and heritage remains a key focus. In February, we celebrated Black History Month, including the 24th Annual Zora! Festival, the inspiring Pappy Kennedy Prayer Breakfast, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Unity Parade. In July, for the first time in our history, we were honored to host the NAACP National Convention at our Orange County Convention Center (OCCC). More than 4,000 delegates participated in this legendary annual gathering, which was themed, “We Shall Not Be Moved.” In August, we were deeply proud to welcome the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters (IABPFF) to the OCCC, and in November, our Central Florida community hosted another wonderfully successful Florida Classic.
For the first time, Orange County joined in celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May 2013 with a proclamation and ceremony. In addition to Orange County’s international collaboration agreements, Mayor Jacobs signed an agreement with Vice Mayor Yuejin Zhao of China’s Taizhou City to establish our fourth sister region agreement. This agreement focuses on healthcare as Taizhou is recognized as China's Medical City. Orange County’s three other sister agreements include Las Heras region in Argentina, Quindio and the city of Medellin in Colombia, and the region of Hart van Brabant in the Netherlands.
Additionally, Orange County remains committed to supporting minority entrepreneurs through the Black Business Investment Fund (BBIF) and Hispanic Business Initiative Fund (HBIF). In 2013, the BCC allocated $135,724 to the BBIF, a Community Development Financial Institution and non-traditional lender that specializes in providing loans to black, minority, and underserved small businesses. HBIF, Florida’s leading Hispanic economic development organization, received $123,472 from the BCC.
Orange County’s Parks and Recreation Division received $470,000 from the County’s infrastructure projects funds to construct the splash playground at Bithlo Community Park, which opened in June with more than 200 residents in attendance.
The County remains committed to our Community Health Center location in Bithlo with the Primary Care Access Network (PCAN), which continues to improve the access, quality, and coordination of health care services to underinsured and uninsured residents.
The Bithlo Family Center, which offers affordable adult, pediatric, lab, and EKG services, served more than 1,349 uninsured patients in 2013.