As we remember another historic year in Orange County, please join me in reflecting on the outstanding accomplishments our region has achieved by working together.
This annual “Year in Review” details our strong economy, continued job growth, record-breaking visitation numbers and transformative achievements, as well as incredible new milestones for our internationally renowned sports, arts and cultural venues.
In 2015, the Orlando region was named the No. 1 U.S. travel destination, with an astounding 62 million visitors in 2014, as well as being named the top United States location for business meetings and conventions.
Orange County also kicked off the historic INVEST in Our Home for Life initiative, one of the largest capital investment projects in the County’s history, dedicated to expanding and improving roads, parks, pedestrian safety, public and fire safety facilities, and affordable family housing developments throughout Orange County.
We also welcomed advances in transportation, including major progress on the I-4 Ultimate project, confirmed funding for the expansion of SunRail’s next phase, and the inauguration of Orange County's Pedestrian Safety Initiative, Walk-Ride-Thrive!
As a region, we celebrated the continued diversification and growth of our modeling, simulation and training (MS&T) industries, including strong support from Florida’s Legislature, and we hosted the inaugural Florida Simulation Summit focused on the commercialization of MS&T technologies and industry advancements. Our region also celebrated the long-awaited ribbon cutting and grand opening of the magnificent new Orlando Veterans Administration Medical Center. Medical City will also host the VHA's SimLEARN National Training Center, where our region's MS&T expertise will be employed to benefit veterans and wounded warriors across the nation.
Activity was also strong throughout our leisure, sports and recreation sectors, including the completion of Orange County’s International Drive Vision Plan, the announcement of “The Pride” franchise award – the newest Women’s Major League Soccer team in the nation — and the groundbreaking for the new $60 million U.S. Tennis Association headquarters in Lake Nona.
To propel and support these high-profile achievements, Orange County has continued to maintain superior fiscal management practices. As announced in time for the June 2015 State of the County address, Orange County’s credit ratings were elevated this year to historic levels by the nation’s big three credit agencies — Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s Financial Services — an extraordinary reflection of our resilient and flourishing economy.
Our community also united to make a difference on critical social issues, including domestic violence, child abuse, human trafficking and homelessness. And, in fulfillment of a historic pledge made in 2014 through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ “25 Cities Initiative” and the “Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness” by U.S. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to identify and house chronically homeless veterans in the metro Orlando area, the Central Florida region reported in late December that we achieved an effective zero rate for chronically homeless veterans.
As Orange County continues to invest in its children and families, citizens are also able to learn about opportunities to give back to the community by using the County’s newest smartphone application, OCFL Serves. This free app places a variety of Orange County service opportunities at the fingertips of citizens and brings volunteering into the digital age. (Android | Apple)
Thanks to your support and to the hard work of so many throughout the region, our shared vision of Central Florida as one of the best places in the world to live, work and raise a family is becoming a reality. I look forward to all that we will accomplish together in 2016.
Orange County Mayor