September 24, 2022

Business Florida 2022 - The Regions

East Central

Brevard • Lake • Orange • Osceola • Seminole • Sumter • Volusia

| 11/8/2021

Innovation & Technology

To think of Orlando as a great place to vacation is never wrong. It’s just not completely right. In addition to all those thrill rides, water slides and Cinderella’s castle, Orlando is widely known as one of the nation’s top metros for STEM growth. And on WalletHub’s list of “Best Cities for STEM Jobs 2021,” Orlando is among the top 20.

Ranked No. 77 on U.S. News & World Report’s “Top Public Schools 2021,” UCF is actively seeking to carve out a place among the nation’s 50 best public research universities and it is making good progress, steadily increasing its research activity over the past decade. In 2020, University of Central Florida received more than $204.5 million in research funding, up 53.3% from $133.4 million in 2010. Patent production is on the rise, too. Among the Top 100 worldwide universities granted U.S. utility patents in 2020, UCF ranked No. 60 with a total of 46 patents, two more than the previous year.

• Optical sensor manufacturer Ocean Insight is expanding in Orlando, investing $4 million in a new corporate headquarters and planning to create 100 new jobs over the next three years. Customized for maximum manufacturing efficiency, the 52,000-sq.-ft. space includes built-in safety features such as shields and partitions to separate workstations.

• 3D Media, a cutting-edge augmented and virtual reality immersive training technology company, has joined UCF’s Business Incubator in the Research Park Innovation District with plans to add 25 high-wage jobs in Orlando. Previously located in Thibodaux, La., 3D President Megan Roy chose to expand in Orlando for better access to military simulation and training commands and to take advantage of the robust modeling and simulation talent pool available through UCF and Full Sail University.

• Red 6, a high-tech fighter jet training firm, has opened a technology hub in Orlando as part of a plan to relocate all of its operations from California to Florida. The defense startup firm plans to also relocate its headquarters from Santa Monica to Miami.

• Microvast, a Texas-based company that makes fast-charging lithium ion batteries for electric cars, is seeking to expand its research and development operations in Orlando. The company has participated in the University of Central Florida’s incubator program since 2017.

• In preparation for the opening of a new Advanced Technology & Manufacturing Center in April 2022, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is adding 10,000 square feet of production space at its research park in Daytona Beach. Half of the space will be occupied by WeatherFlow-Tempest, a company focused on weather observation, modeling and forecast technology.

• Global professional services firm KPMG has announced its intent to bring 350 new jobs to its new “Capability Center” in Lake Nona. This marks KPMG’s second major expansion in Orlando, just one year after opening the facility.

KEY PLAYERS: Electronic Arts, Redwood City, Ca.; Stax by fattmerchant, Orlando; SemTech IT Solutions, Longwood


Logistics & Transportation

East Central Florida is fortunate to have vibrant industry sectors like tourism, aviation, technology and life sciences. But it is the fifth industry sector that may matter most. Logistics and transportation — the easy movement of people and products into, out of and all across these seven counties. Four primary modes of transportation — air, sea, rail and road — keep East Central industries humming.

East Central Florida boasts four international airports: Orlando International; Orlando Sanford; Melbourne Orlando International; and Daytona Beach. Despite the pandemic, Orlando International remained Florida’s busiest airport with a total of 29.1 million travelers moving through in 2020. That sounds like a worthy accomplishment but, due to the pandemic, international traffic was down 57%. And domestic travel, with 26 million passengers, declined 39%. In neighboring Seminole County, Orlando Sanford International Airport recorded losses too — just 1.5 million passengers in 2020 compared to 3.3 million the year before.

A $60-million upgrade at Orlando Sanford International, that includes an expanded ticketing area, state-of-the-art technology, four new gates and a new baggage claims area, is up and running. And at Orlando International, the new South Terminal is taking shape with 15 gates, an automated baggage system and a TSA checkpoint featuring facial recognition technology and iris scans for international arrivals and departures. The new terminal will be truly multi-modal with a six-level parking garage and a train station to accommodate the high-speed Brightline trains that are scheduled to begin service in late 2022.

Over on the Atlantic Coast, it seemed as though Port Canaveral was poised for another banner year. The world’s second busiest cruise port had logged a record 4.6 million multi-day passengers in 2019 and, at $110 million, total port revenue was up 6%. Canaveral’s future was looking great … until COVID-19 and what had been a thriving industry in East Central Florida — to put it bluntly — pretty much tanked.

Cruising returned to Port Canaveral on July 31, 2021, with the debut of Carnival’s new ship Mardi Gras. By mid-August, another three ships had sailed from Canaveral’s shores, with several more on tap, 2022 is shaping up to be a banner year for cruising. In fact, the port is projecting $85.1 million in cruise revenue for the fiscal period beginning Oct. 1, 2021, and ending Sept. 30, 2022, well ahead of FY 2019’s record $81.9 million.

Elsewhere, in railroad news, construction is finally underway on the long-anticipated “Phase 2 Northern Expansion,” an extension of SunRail out of Orlando to include one new commuter SunRail station at DeLand and approximately 12 miles of expanded commuter rail service between the DeBary Station and the DeLand Amtrak Station in Volusia County. The project is expected to open by summer 2024.

As Floridians quarantined at home in 2020, I-4 Ultimate, the $2.3-billion, 21-mile construction project begun in 2015 in Orlando, made significant progress. With fewer cars on the roads, crews accelerated construction on a dozen sites, and for the first time since I-4 opened in the 1960s, drivers were traveling on brand new pavement across 21 miles in Orange and Seminole counties. General use lanes are now pretty well complete, and the managed lanes that will provide more driver options and reduce peak congestion could open by the end of 2021.

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