The year 2014 was filled with historic community celebrations that marked Orange County’s extraordinary “Year of Transformation.” Our work together has moved Central Florida to the national and international stage for arts, sports, recreation and culture and I am so proud to see our goal of creating a richer future for our children and future generations come to life.
We shared front-row seats to some of Florida’s most historic and monumental accomplishments this year. Please allow me to thank all of you — our citizens, elected officials, community partners, and our business community and hospitality champions — for joining this path of transformation. Thank you for believing in our vision and for joining us on this incredible journey.
“The Year of Transformation” is certainly a bold title, but let’s take a moment and reflect on the transformative changes of 2014. Our breathtaking, new state-of-the-art Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts opened; the remarkable commuter train system SunRail launched; the extraordinary re-built Orlando Citrus Bowl opened; a new MLS soccer team was born and the construction of a new soccer stadium for the team and our community is currently underway.
Orange County also welcomed a record-breaking 59 million visitors and guests to our beloved home, and our successful economic development strategies have led to a full six percent drop in unemployment since 2011. Orange County Government’s fiscal budget is again balanced with no tax increases. In fact, the countywide millage rate has not increased in 25 years.
Entrepreneurs and start-up companies are flourishing with grants, funding, resources and sage advice from our partners at small business agencies and incubators. Recognizing our transformation, Forbes ranked the Metro Orlando area as 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 to watch in the United States.
We’ve built upon our historic roots as a global leader of agriculture, citrus and tourism, transforming to a mecca for global innovation, gaming, digital media, simulation and modeling technologies, bio-medical excellence and more. And, we’ve launched a branding campaign, “Orlando. You don’t know the half of it.” to transform the way the world sees us.
We are changing the way we respond to the challenges faced by our most vulnerable citizens with the support and guidance of our Youth Mental Health Commission, our Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Commission, and the region’s Commission on Homelessness.
We have changed the way citizens engage and experience local government, through programs like our annual Youth Leadership Conference and the Orange County Experience, and also through innovative apps which provide real-time emergency alerts and offer a digital “311 platform” for connecting with the county.
Our dedicated staff members proudly give life to the core values I introduced when I first came to office in 2011, including fairness, integrity and character, excellence and innovation, professionalism and accountability, and a strong work ethic.
Together, we continue to make Orange County the best place in the world to live, learn, work and raise a family. Let’s keep the momentum going for a fantastic 2015!
Orange County Mayor