Central Florida Roundup
Lilium developing on-demand sky taxi service hub at Lake Nona
A German company is planning a U.S. hub at Lake Nona.
On a small airfield near Munich, Germany, a 5-year-old company called Lilium is developing what it believes will be the future of regional air travel — an on-demand, electric air taxi service — and the company is partnering with real estate developer Tavistock to build its first U.S. hub in Lake Nona.
If all goes as planned, by 2025, consumers will be able to book a Lilium flight from Orlando to nearly all of Florida’s major cities via an Uber-like, smartphone app. “I could see the sunrise in Daytona, eat lunch in West Palm, have a sunset dinner in Clearwater and be back with my family in Lake Nona that same night for not a lot of money at all using an app,” said Rasesh Thakkar, Tavistock’s senior managing director, at a November news conference announcing the partnership. “That is a future we want to be a part of.”
Lilium’s prototype aircraft takes off and lands vertically like helicopters from the thrust of 36 small battery-powered engines that point downward from the flaps of the plane’s two sets of wings. Once airborne, the engines pivot to a horizontal position, and the aircraft shifts to forward flight. The planes can seat five people, including the pilot, and are capable of flying as far as 186 miles on a one-hour charge.
Orlando is betting big on the futuristic flight service. In November, the Orlando City Council approved more than $800,000 in potential tax rebates for Lilium over 10 years as an incentive for the 143 jobs that will be created at the proposed “vertiport.”
Remo Gerber, Lilium COO, says the average cost of a flight will be comparable to a business-class flight from Orlando to Miami, but he predicts that within five to 10 years, it will be as affordable as driving your own car.
Jimmy “Bubba” Hewitt, cofounder of the Orlando Magic, passed away in November. Hewitt, 79, suffered from advanced dementia and had recently contracted COVID-19, according to a news release from the team.
- UCF and HCA Healthcare’s North Florida division will open the UCF Lake Nona Medical Center next month.
- Rob Deininger was named president and CEO of AdventHealth’s Orlando market. He was previously president/ CEO of AdventHealth Fish Memorial in Orange City. He replaces Brett Spenst.
- Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Edward Haddock, co-chairman and CEO of Full Sail University, to the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System.
- Valencia College is opening a 26,400-sq.-ft. job training center near its campus in west Orlando.
- Elisabeth DeLuca, the widow of the founder of Subway, and her family donated 27,000 acres near Yeehaw Junction in southern Osceola County to the University of Florida to serve as a living classroom and lab for students and faculty. The property includes cattle, citrus, wetlands and forests and is home to a number of federally listed species and the endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow.
- A 1,000-foot-wide telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which is owned by the U.S. National Science Foundation and managed by the University of Central Florida, collapsed in December after several of the telescope’s cables snapped.
- The Orlando Sentinel has launched a Community News Fund with the Florida Press Foundation to support local and investigative journalism at the paper via taxde-ductible contributions.
- Walt Disney World is bringing back its park hopper option, which allows visitors to go to more than one park in a single day. The option was dropped last year amid COVID-19 to control crowd volume.
- Joe Rohde, 65, an executive designer and senior vice president with Walt Disney Imagineering, retired in January. He is best known for leading the design and construction of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
- SVC Manufacturing, a PepsiCo subsidiary that makes Gatorade, is investing $30 million in its Kissimmee plant, which will create 40 jobs. The company will receive a $3,000-per-job incentive from Osceola County and a 50% tax refund on the county ad valorem taxes it pays on new equipment from 2022 through 2026.
- Cytocom, a Winter Park-based biopharma firm, is merging with Cleveland BioLabs in an all-stock transaction. The combined company will operate under the Cytocom name.
- Marriott debuted an AC Hotel in downtown Orlando this month, located on the top eight floors of the SunTrust Tower at Church Street Station.
- The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort will open a 349-room hotel called the Swan Reserve this summer.
- White Castle is building a restaurant — its largest freestanding location ever and first Florida location since 1968 — at Unicorp’s O-Town West project near Walt Disney World. The restaurant will employ 120.
- XL Soccer World opened its second Orlando soccer complex — an indoor facility — in December in Lake Nona. It has a sister facility near downtown Orlando.
- Brightline and Walt Disney World Resort reached a deal to build a train station at Disney Springs. No timeline has been announced for constructing the stop.
- Silver Airways has added non-stop service three times weekly between Charleston and Orlando International Airport.
- AdventHealth Orlando was one of the first five hospitals in the state to store and administer COVID-19 vaccines. Others will include Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Jacksonville Memorial Hospital in Miami, Tampa General Hospital and UF Health Jacksonville.
- Walt Disney Co. will lay off 32,000 employees by March — 4,000 more than the 28,000 job cuts announced last fall.
- Avianca resumed its non-stop flights between Orlando International Airport and Bogota, Colombia, in November, marking the first international service between South America and OIA since COVID-19 travel restrictions. OIA ended 2020 with more than 29 million travelers, down 41% from 2019 but better than projections expecting 25 million to 26 million people.
- Port Canaveral’s operating revenue dropped 37% to $67.1 million in 2020. While cruise revenue fell 46% to $44.1 million, cargo revenue held steady at $9.6 million.
Read more in Florida Trend's February issue.
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