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Orange County continued its economic ascent in 2014, with property values rising and unemployment plummeting in the region. Since November 2010, Orange County's unemployment rate has fallen from 11.3 percent to 5.2 percent in November 2014 — a figure that represents an increase of more than 90,567 jobs from January 2011 to November 2014.

Also in the past year, the County's estimated taxable property increased 7.49 percent — from $84.1 billion in 2013 to $90.4 billion in 2014. And, according to the Orlando Regional Realtor Association, the median home price in Orange County in November 2014 stood at $175,000, an 8 percent increase over the $161,000 median price during the previous year.


As the most visited destination in the country, the Orange County-Orlando region attracted nearly 60 million visitors in 2013 – another record-breaking figure – which helped drive continued strong sales tax and tourist tax collections. While revenue sources such as property taxes and impact fees are still below their pre-recession levels, our prudent fiscal policies and balanced approach to spending tax dollars wisely and conservatively provides a solid platform for continued recovery, and Orange County's improving economic conditions.

Visit Orlando President and CEO George Aguel announced the record-breaking figure at the U.S. Travel Associations conference in Orange County in April, crediting the draw of the region’s internationally renowned theme parks. Significant expansion projects at Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World Resort wrapped up in 2014 and more will continue with the ongoing construction site of the I-Drive 360 project, which will be home to The Orlando Eye observation wheel, Madame Tussauds Orlando Wax Museum and the Sea Life Orlando Aquarium.


Celebrating more than 30 years of success, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) is the second largest convention facility in America, attracting more than 200 events to the Central Florida area annually.

Central Florida’s meeting, convention and hospitality industry employs more than 392,500 workers and more than 25,000 additional workers are employed either directly or indirectly by the activity generated by the OCCC. As a result, roughly 1.4 million attendees of the center contribute approximately $2.1 billion to the area's economy each year. Additionally, more than 1,000 businesses are impacted by OCCC activity. Convention activity yields a tax savings of $177.80 per Orange County household.

The OCCC hosts many annual events with approximately 73 percent of events as repeat business. Those include the modeling and simulation industry’s Interservice/Industry Training Simulation & Education Conference (I/ITSEC). During the 2013 show, I/ITSEC hosted approximately 14,000 attendees and featured 526 exhibiting companies in 395 exhibits. Approximately 50 percent of the registrants were from government and more than 1,900 international registrants came from 70 countries.

OCCC hosts some of the largest conventions in the world, including the PGA Merchandise Show, IAAPA: International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions and HIMSS: Healthcare Information Management Systems Society.


Mayor Jacobs hosted the 2014 Orange County Economic Summit last January with more than 500 attendees at the Orange County Convention Center. From CEOs to start-up collaborators, the 2014 Economic Summit provided an opportunity to hear from business experts in topics ranging from demographics to industry trends, as well as information about resources available within Orange County.

A highlight of the event was an annual economic update by Sean Snaith, Ph.D., director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Economic Competitiveness. Snaith is a nationally recognized economist in the field of business and economic forecasting.

During the 2014 Summit, Orange County’s new branding initiative, "Orlando. You don't know the half of it." was revealed by the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission. The initiative is the culmination of a branding summit held by Mayor Jacobs in 2012 and subsequent efforts of the Regional Branding Committee. The branding theme is designed to highlight the many corporate assets Central Florida has to offer. Last November, Metro Orlando EDC hosted a sneak peek of the branding campaign “creative content” at The Mall at Millenia, including the presentation of our new branding commercial. Watch for the full campaign rollout in 2015, including print, digital, billboard and TV ads!


The Amway Center hosted the second- and third-round of games in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament last year, the first time in a decade. The tournament games were hosted locally by Stetson University, the Central Florida Sports Commission and Orlando Venues, in partnership with Orange County and the City of Orlando. The championship attracted thousands of fans from across the United States, generating more than 14,000 room nights and nearly $10 million of economic impact for the region. Extensive live television coverage brought national and international exposure to Orange County and Orlando. What a treat to see Orlando showcased to millions of fans and viewers worldwide, on countless news, sports and entertainment broadcasts and digital platforms!


In October, Mayor Jacobs joined the community in celebrating the historic groundbreaking of Orlando City Soccer’s new stadium in downtown Orlando, which was followed by a construction start in November. The “March to the Match” celebration marked a monumental milestone in the continued transformation of Orange County into a mecca of economic, cultural and sports opportunities, which are essential to supporting our increasingly diverse and creative population. The stadium is part of Orange County’s approved use of tourism tax dollars for a $94.5 million venues package, marking the transformational era of sports, creativity and arts-driven economic development and innovation for the region.

The Orlando City Lions Major League Soccer team will play there beginning in the 2016 season. Global soccer icon Ricardo Kaka’ joined the Orlando City Soccer Club in 2014, boosting the club’s transformation into the 21st franchise of Major League Soccer. Kaka’ has played for some of the biggest clubs in the world and carries a stellar soccer resume. Mayor Jacobs, Kaka’, Orlando Health executives, Orlando City’s leadership, elected officials and supporters shared in the exciting announcement of his signing. Orange County’s approval of a new, multi-use, soccer-centric stadium played a key role in the creation of the new MLS team, with the stadium set to open for the 2016 season. In the meantime, the Orlando City Soccer Club Lions will play its first season in the newly renovated Florida Citrus Bowl.

Orange County residents also will soon enjoy 19 other new, multi-purpose gridiron sports fields, perfect for soccer, lacrosse and other sports.


A completely renovated Orlando Citrus Bowl opened this past November with Mayor Jacobs, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and numerous Central Florida community leaders cutting the ribbon. The Citrus Bowl will not only serve as a great venue for NFL preseason matchups, but also as host of historic signature events, such as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, the historic Florida Blue Florida Classic and the beloved Russell Athletic Bowl.

The reconstruction began in 2013 when the BCC voted in favor of using Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funds for the Citrus Bowl reconstruction as part of a $94.5 million venues package. Renovations began in January 2014, just as our region entered the Year of Transformation, and in less than a year the Citrus Bowl was transformed. This new, state-of-the-art facility includes a 65,000-plus seating capacity, a newly constructed lower bowl, multiple LED digital video boards, an open-air exterior façade, a 10,000-square-foot party deck, and expanded elevator and escalator service throughout.

At a summer ceremony to celebrate reaching the midway point on reconstruction, Mayor Jacobs, Orange County District 1 Commissioner Scott Boyd and other officials signed their names on a large concrete beam before it was installed at the 50-yard line.

At the Florida Blue Florida Classic in November, the BCC awarded the Florida Classic Consortium with $137,500 to help fund scholarships for Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman University. The consortium receives the funds annually and consists of several members from both institutions including the presidents and athletics directors.

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts Celebrates Grand Opening

In November, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs provided the opening remarks at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts’ highly anticipated grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony in the heart of downtown Orlando. The new state-of-the-art facility will be a mecca for creativity and discovery, where artists, audiences and students will gather to experience, learn and explore the performing arts, fulfilling the vision of the Dr. Phillips Center, Arts for Every Life.

The two-block community space features the 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater, the 300-seat Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater, the expansive Seneff Arts Plaza, the new School of Arts, the DeVos Family Room, and many other spaces to host theater, dance, music and entertainment performances. Future expansion plans include the third and final hall, a 1,700-seat acoustic theater, rehearsal room and commercial development spaces, which will serve as the performance home for our local philharmonic, ballet and opera.

To celebrate its grand opening, the Dr. Phillips Center is hosted a Community Open House in November and offered a one-time performance of Broadway & Beyond at the grand premier of the Walt Disney Theater, directed by acclaimed director and producer Richard Jay-Alexander with musical direction by Broadway’s beloved Mary-Mitchell Campbell. The Dr. Phillips Center celebrated the opening of The Seneff Arts Plaza – an inviting, outdoor gathering space – with a free concert featuring renowned recording and performance artist Sheryl Crow. Make sure to add a visit to the Dr. Phillips Center to your 2015 calendar!


The transformation of a large section of International Drive into I-Drive 360 has transformed Central Florida’s skyline with the beautifully constructed 400-foot observation wheel that complements Orange County’s internationally renowned tourism district. Mayor Jacobs provided the opening remarks at an event hosted by Merlin Entertainments Group, PLC, that gave citizens an early look at the $200 million -Drive 360 project. The entertainment complex, targeted to open in the spring, will be home to three attractions: the Orlando Eye observation wheel, Madame Tussauds Orlando Wax museum and the Sea Life Orlando Aquarium.

In November, the developers of The Skyscraper™ — the world’s tallest roller coaster and the anchor attraction for the $250 million SKYPLEX™ indoor entertainment complex — revealed the track design for the mega-thrill ride, set to open in 2017 at International Drive and Sand Lake Road in Orlando. Additionally, the new 420-foot-tall spinning attraction, the StarFlyer, will be part of Vue at 360 off International Drive, the new name for the former Gooding's Plaza.

In addition to the incredible economic and job creation impact of these attractions, the new entertainment complexes featuring restaurants, shops and other entertainment will provide visitors and residents with world-class entertainment and dining amenities. The presence of these projects will help Orlando maintain its status as a premier global destination.


Lake Nona is the new site for a tennis center and headquarters for the United States Tennis Association (USTA). Officials welcomed the facility as a way to create jobs and attract more than $60 million in economic investment while enhancing Central Florida’s world profile. Mayor Jacobs joined Gov. Rick Scott and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer for the announcement by the USTA that its new state-of-the-art training facility will be located in south Orange County. The planned 100-plus court, 63-acre tennis center scheduled for completion in late 2016 will house the USTA’s Community Tennis and Player Development divisions and will be accessible to youth and recreational players, as well as collegiate and professional-tour level athletes. The USTA sees the new facility as a hotbed for tennis in the nation’s top destination city. What a great match for Central Florida’s sunshine and sports climate!


This past October, Tavistock Development Co., broke ground on the GuideWell Innovation Center at Lake Nona Medical City. The Innovation Center is a 92,000-square-foot facility that is the first multi-tenant building in Central Florida designed specifically for life sciences, health innovation and technology companies. The facility will offer a mix of wet lab, clean room and office space and will house a 15,000-square-foot incubator for emerging life science and technology companies. The incubator will be jointly managed by the University of Central Florida, which brings the experience of a nationally recognized incubation system and the University of Florida, which has reached unparalleled success in the life-science incubation space.

GuideWell, the parent company of Florida Blue, will occupy the first floor of the three-story building. This is first of four buildings planned that will focus on health and life sciences commercialization in the region.


Hispanic retailers in Central Florida can now receive more than 200 items from Titán Products of Puerto Rico through a new distribution center that opened in Orange County in 2014. Mayor Jacobs cut the ribbon on the 40,000-square-foot facility that houses frozen foods, grains and non-perishable goods for direct delivery. The facility reflects the focus of the Summit on Puerto Rican Affairs that Mayor Jacobs participates in annually, which for the last five years has brought leaders, entrepreneurs and corporate executives together to discuss economic opportunities; social and political empowerment; and highlight strong cultural and commercial ties between Central Florida and Puerto Rico.


Central Florida is widely recognized as the center of the nation's Modeling, Simulation and Training (MS&T) economy, leading the country in support of America’s military with training, simulation, test and evaluation/instrumentation products and services. Our MS&T industry contributes more than $4.8 billion to Florida's gross state product and directly employs more than 27,000 Floridians, with an average annual salary of almost $70,000. Protecting, nourishing and growing this capital-intensive and innovation-driven sector are vital for all future generations of Floridians.

In June 2013, Mayor Jacobs founded the MS&T Blue Ribbon Commission to bring together a coalition of community leaders and industry stakeholders to generate awareness regarding the highly synergistic nature of MS&T to other key sectors of Orange County’s economy, including medical, gaming, education, aviation/aerospace, animation/theme park, emergency management and public safety.

This past December, Mayor Jacobs held a reception for the MS&T Commission at the Orange County Convention Center during the world’s largest exhibition of modeling and simulation technology. The global conference — Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC)— attracts more than 500 corporations, government agencies and research organizations from the United States and other countries around the globe. The conference coincided with Orange County’s STEM Week, which encourages awareness for the need for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-educated workers and the County’s deep commitment to supporting the development of STEM-driven industries and sectors.

Mayor Jacobs also was the featured speaker at Otronicon's opening reception in January 2014 at the Orlando Science Center. Otronicon is a four-day celebration of interactive technology that demonstrates how we will live, learn, work and play in the future. Since Orange County is one of the largest digital media and simulation clusters in the country, with more than 1,200 companies, the event is a chance to interact with creative professionals. Otronicon, which stands for Orlando Electronic Interactive Entertainment Convention, promotes the concept of “made in Orlando, played in Orlando.” This year, new partners like Microsoft and Sony joined Orange County, the Walt Disney World Resort, EA Sports, Florida Hospital for Children, Lockheed Martin, and the University of Central Florida to demonstrate Orlando's impact on the world of entertainment, simulation, education, training and health care.


The Orlando Rising documentary project and screening event brought together thought leaders from across the spectrum of Orlando's $14 billion creative technology sector to provide the public with an inside look at the city’s fastest-growing industry.

Public and private sector innovators across the region are facilitating the development of Orlando into a city recognized nationally and internationally as a creative center and a welcoming home for new tech businesses. Individuals and groups work daily to bring the digital community together by providing resources and support to startups, creating new educational opportunities, producing timely and relevant events, and developing spaces well-suited to the needs of today's technology professionals. The documentary serves to educate the community about where the industry is today, where it has come from, and where it is going, providing a timely examination of an industry poised for rapid growth.

In December, Mayor Jacobs welcomed technology entrepreneurs and innovators to the Digital Orlando conference at Full Sail University to discuss the future of Central Florida’s burgeoning high-tech industry.


Orange County became an easier place to do business with foreign entrepreneurs and international companies thanks to the March 2014 grand opening of the Central Florida International Trade Office (CFITO). Mayor Jacobs helped cut the ribbon on the pilot program, recognizing the need for local companies to expand export opportunities and to streamline the process for foreign investors to connect with local partners and establish operations. Orange County funded the initiative with a dollar-per-dollar matching grant from JPMorgan Chase.

During the first year of operations, the CFITO assisted the trade community by providing over 1,210 consultations through direct inquiries and educational events. The CFITO also hosted 8 education events with a total of 440 attendees and participated in more than 25 international trade promotion events, hosting four inbound international delegations from Cali, Colombia; Chengdu, China; Belo Horizonte, Brazil and Tekirdag, Turkey.

The CFITO is located in the National Entrepreneur Center at Orlando Fashion Square.


Three businesses were recognized in 2014 for their success due to assistance from the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund (HBIF), Florida’s leading Hispanic economic development organization. Mayor Jacobs provided the keynote speech at the 10th annual luncheon to recognize the economic growth, quality business development and training for entrepreneurs provided by the HBIF, supported by more than $123,000 from the BCC. One in five businesses in the Orlando area is Hispanic-owned, as of 2011, and 29 percent of Orange County’s population is of Hispanic heritage. Recognized this year were Orlando Montessori Bilingual Academy, Medical Services Corp. and Clippers Barber Shop.


Orange County’s commitment to minority entrepreneurs continued in 2014 through support of the Black Business Investment Fund (BBIF). Mayor Jacobs took part in an event in May that connected BBIF and representatives from the Small Business Administration (SBA) with Orange County executives, entrepreneurs, procurement officers and small business owners. The Florida Business Opportunity Symposium Series event focused on loan opportunities for underserved small businesses.

Mayor Jacobs introduced the featured speaker at the event, U.S. Small Business Administration Regional Administrator Cassius Butts. Butts, appointed by President Barrack Obama, is responsible for SBA programs in eight southern states and nearly $8 billion in SBA-backed loans given to small businesses in those states, including Florida. The BCC allocated $135,724 in 2013 to BBIF for loans to black, minority and underserved small businesses.


Mayor Jacobs signed a Strategic Alliance Memorandum in November with the Small Business Administration (SBA), which extends vital assistance and training opportunities for local small businesses. The memorandum, signed by Mayor Jacobs and SBA’s North Florida District Director Wilfredo Gonzalez, extends and formalizes Orange County’s lasting relationship with SBA and solidifies the shared goal of nurturing and providing assistance to entrepreneurs and small businesses in the region.

SBA provides counseling and technical assistance to entrepreneurs through its vast network of resources and community partners, including Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, Veterans Business Centers, and SCORE chapters.

SBA recently funded two business accelerators in the Central Florida area, including Starter Studio, based out of Orlando, and Sunshine Labs, based out of Longwood. Each received $50,000 from SBA. The SBA guaranteed more than $80 million worth of loans to Orange County businesses during fiscal year 2014.


Surprised to see a little bit of home while watching the Seahawks battle the Broncos in last February’s Super Bowl XLVIII? The Budweiser commercial titled “Hero’s Welcome” was filmed in downtown Winter Park in January and celebrates Lt. Chuck Nadd on his return from military service in Afghanistan. The Metro Orlando Film Commission coordinated the one-day shoot with the city of Winter Park, Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission and Budweiser's production company. Budweiser used the 60-second commercial to launch a year-long campaign honoring the U.S. military.


Mayor Jacobs proudly celebrated the 15th anniversary of the University of Central Florida (UCF) Business Incubation Program last fall. Orange County was the first funding partner of UCF’s Incubation Program, which assists early stage companies with the tools and training to become financially stable, high-impact enterprises. By providing valuable resources to entrepreneurs, the program creates a positive business atmosphere, encouraging growth and business development.

Since its inception in 1999, the program has assisted more than 300 businesses in Central Florida, mostly in Orange County. Graduate companies from the program have produced more than 3,000 jobs in the community and contributed $2.48 billion to Central Florida’s economy.


Florida companies interested in trade, commerce and economic opportunities in Singapore benefited in 2014 from a new relationship launched through a meeting in July between Mayor Jacobs, the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Singapore Kirk Wagar and Orange County’s Office of Economic Development. Mayor Jacobs and Ambassador Wagar were joined by Commercial Attaché Darrel Ching, as well as Paul Mitchell and John Diep of Enterprise Florida, who led an export sales mission to Singapore and Malaysia in September.

Mayor Jacobs also welcomed the Consul General of Germany Juergen Borsch at Full Sail University on his first official visit to Orange County in March. She also hosted the Consul General of Japan Shinji Nagashima from Miami and Consul and Cultural Attaché Masao Takagi during their official visit in April.

Additionally, the Mayor hosted Natasja Mengede from the City of Tilburg in the Netherlands and Raymond Oude Groen and Pierre van Kleef from the Office of Trade, Tourism and Economic Development for the region of Brabant in November. Orange County has maintained a Sister Region agreement with North Brabrant since 2012, which has encouraged alliances between higher education institutions in Orange County and the city of Tilburg.


Orlando continues to be nationally recognized as a startup hub. Forbes, a trusted resource for the world’s business and investment leaders, recently wrote about the Orange County region’s burgeoning tech community, academic partners and economic development agencies, explaining how this $14 billion industry didn’t evolve by accident. Three reasons were mentioned: Orlando and Orange County are home to 35 post-secondary institutions, important sources for talent; entrepreneurs receive cultivation through many area opportunities; and small businesses can connect through several organizations like the National Entrepreneur Center – a collaboration for the last 11 years between Orange County, The Walt Disney Co. and the University of Central Florida to foster development.

Forbes also ranked Orange County’s City of Orlando the No. 1 region for job growth and No. 9 as one of the fastest growing cities in the nation.

Our region was also ranked the most promising technology hub in the United States.


The world’s leading organization advancing business and entrepreneurship announced last August that it will relocate its headquarters and establish a Global Training Center for Business Incubation and Innovation in Orange County. The National Business Incubation Association provides more than 2,100 members in 60 nations with information, education and networking resources to advance the business creation process and increase entrepreneurial success and individual opportunity.