Economists and distinguished panelists who spoke at Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ 2015 Orange County Economic Summit on Thursday are optimistic that the region’s economic ascent will continue in 2015.
The Summit, now in its third year, was held at the Orange County Convention Center and attended by more than 600 citizens.
Buoyed by rising property values, exceptional job growth and the region’s world class hospitality and tourism sector, Orange County’s unemployment has dropped from 11.3 percent in November 2010 to the current 5.2 percent.
“When I was first elected Mayor in 2010, our region was grappling with serious economic concerns, from challenges associated with the financial meltdown and global recession, to fears about balancing our Orange County budget without cutting crucial services,” Mayor Jacobs said during her remarks to the capacity crowd. “Thanks to an incredible amount of hard work from our workforce, education, and public and private-sector partners, we’ve rebuilt. Not just figuratively, but literally. From our brand new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, to SunRail, the newly reopened Citrus Bowl, and our new, under-construction MLS soccer stadium, we are the envy of the world.”
Nationally recognized economist Sean Snaith, Ph.D., director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness, provided his annual economic forecast at the Summit.
“It may not be morning in America as the U.S. economic recovery remains in a pre-dawn twilight, but the sun is shining on Florida's economy and it is shining even more brightly on Orange County,” Snaith said.
National Entrepreneur Center (NEC) President Jerry Ross presided as the event’s Master of Ceremonies. Guest speakers James Bacchus, global practice chair of the Greenberg Traurig law firm, and Manuel Mencia, senior vice president of international trade and business development with Enterprise Florida, Inc. discussed future trends in international trade.
“We have an enormous stake in international business. Seventeen percent of Florida’s economy depends on international business and more than 60,000 companies are engaged in international business in the state,” Mencia said.
In a Q & A following their speeches, Bacchus and Mencia discussed Central Florida’s efforts to enhance and increase international trade. Last year, the Central Florida International Trade Office (CFITO) opened at the NEC to streamline the process for foreign investors to connect with local partners. CFITO is located in the National Entrepreneur Center at Orlando Fashion Square Mall.
“The world’s economy is increasingly connected,” Bacchus said. “We need to add value to these connections and seize the opportunity to help our prosperity and promote economic diversity in Central Florida.”
In addition to panel discussions on the burgeoning opportunity for international trade, an update on the region’s branding initiative — “Orlando. You don’t know the half of it.” — was provided by the Orlando Economic Development Commission’s leadership team. Summit attendees also received branding tokens from the Orlando EDC to support the region’s new branding initiative.
“With this launch we are telling our story of economic opportunity and diversity to the world,” Mayor Jacobs said.
The Mayor’s annual Economic Summit was launched in 2013 following a series of nine economic and job summits designed to examine the area’s varied needs. Those meetings, held in 2011 and 2012, focused on key geographic regions and industries such as life sciences, clean technology and international trade.
A collection of photos from the Economic Summit are available for use by the media and are located on Flickr.