A Look At Why Orlando is Attracting New Businesses: Part 2 – Focus on Technology10.25.2016
By: JP Josephson, Director of Florida Acquisitions
In my previous entry looking at why Orlando is becoming a mecca for new businesses and real estate investments, I focused on downtown. I examined how the continued growth in the population of Florida, as well as the recent investments and expansions in the tourism sector of the Orlando submarket, has solidified it as one of the most active and exciting markets in the country. That, however is only part of the story.
Orlando’s Technology Roots
According to the Orlando Economic Development Commission, technology is Orlando’s second-largest industry behind tourism, but it has actually been one of Orlando’s primary industries from the get go, even before Disney came to town. Lockheed Martin launched operations in Orlando in the 1950’s, during the space race, which led to the creation of the Florida Technological University, now, University of Central Florida, the second-largest university in the nation, and now considered one of the nation’s most innovative universities.
Orlando is home to over 2,600 companies in the technology industry, employing over 42,000 people. Of these tech companies, the top sectors include film & digital media, modeling and simulation, aviation/aerospace and information technology.
Aviation and Aerospace Continue Their Evolution
Orlando, and the central Florida region, is experiencing the start of significant growth with the privatization of the space industry. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has started launching from Cape Canaveral and has been awarded contracts with the U.S. Government. Jeff Bezos’ backed Blue Origin is currently developing a $200 million, 750,000sf manufacturing facility to build ‘New Glenn’ rockets, the first of which should launch before the end of the decade. OneWeb, has established itself here as well, already having secured $500mm in funding, with plans to collaborate with Virgin Galactic to launch hundreds of satellites. This is only the beginning for the commercial aerospace industry, and it is obvious that its growth, and the ancillary businesses around it, will solidify Orlando’s place in the technology and aerospace industries.
Leading the Way in Modeling, Training and Simulation
Thanks to years of collaboration in Orlando, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have made Orlando the largest computer modeling, training and simulation destination in the world. According to recent report from The Orlando Business Journal, together, they bring on average, $3.8 billion to $4.8 billion in contracting authority to the area. This has resulted in the development of breakthrough technologies that have benefited our nation’s military. Because of this, Orlando is also home to the largest trade show for training and simulation, the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC). With the advancement of Virtual and Augmented Reality, the simulation and modeling sector is gaining even more prominence. Electronic Arts-Tiburon is one of the largest video game studios in the world, and the largest within Electronic Arts (EA), is based in Orlando. It is the leading developer of many of its sports titles. EA and companies like it, create a fully immersive experiences for training and education, bringing with it lots of investment.
Elevating Healthcare Practices and Procedures
It doesn’t stop there. According to Florida High Tech, Florida Hospital has a state-of-the-art medical learning facility in Celebration, FL dedicated to training physicians. Having trained more than 50,000 surgeons over the last decade, the Florida Hospital Nicholson Center offers settings ranging from a robotics training lab to mock operating rooms. Part of its curriculum has a first-of-its-kind device that simulates robotic surgery, as well as a virtual reality game, which uses avatars and a 3-D environment to teach surgeons how to efficiently manage their team during surgery.
Sparking Innovation and Supporting Entrepreneurship
University of Central Florida (UCF) has established itself as an incubator to help stoke innovation and entrepreneurship, and help diversify the region’s economy. It has a program that helps domestic and international companies expand into the central Florida region. Additionally, it is a direct participant in the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR) and the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center. This summer, ICAMR broke ground on a 109,000-square-foot, $71.4 million facility in Kissimmee with plans to build the region’s influence in the sensor industry. Belgium’s Imec, which conducts research on sensors that can help more quickly detect problems such as cancer or water pollution, announced in July that it would locate more than 100 employees there, according to The Orlando Sentinel. ICAMR is a cooperation between UCF, Osceola County, the High Tech Corridor and other universities.
With improvements come challenges. With growth comes traffic. Orlando has been undergoing a massive infrastructure improvement program to accommodate the growth in the foreseeable future. In the next post in my Orlando submarket series, I will examine the improvements being made to Orlando’s infrastructure and the positive effects on the economy, which will follow.