May 22, 2024

East Central/ Space Coast: Technology Rules

Research universities and skilled talent spawn innovative business 'clusters.'

Diane Sears | 9/24/2009


Teresa Leone, lab manager at Burnham
Scientists from many disciplines come together to study obesity at Orlando’s Burnham Institute for Medical Research. Teresa Leone, above, is the lab manager at Burnham. [Photo: Jeffrey Camp]

“Medical city” takes shape: The first anchor tenants have started moving into the planned “medical city” in the 7,000-acre Lake Nona development in southeast Orlando, creating an influx of high-wage jobs:

  • Burnham Institute for Medical Research, which opened in May, eventually will employ more than 300 people with $27.8 million in annual salaries and benefits.
  • The University of Central Florida College of Medicine, where the first class of 40 students started classes in August 2009, will employ 350 with $40.6 million in annual salaries and benefits.
  • The Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center plans to add 1,170 jobs when it opens in 2012, eventually ramping up to 2,100 and paying $262 million in salaries and benefits.
  • Lake Nona’s largest project — a Nemours Children’s Hospital set to open in 2012 — is expected to create almost 5,100 jobs paying $166 million in wages in its construction phase alone. In its first two years after opening, Nemours will create a projected 1,900 hospital jobs paying $109 million in annual wages, eventually building its staff to 2,600.

Getting to know you: In an innovative marketing campaign using a variety of social media, the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission features business leaders, elected officials and residents touting what they like about living and working in central Florida. As part of the “Orlando Works” initiative, Twitter enthusiasts share their favorite things about the region in 140-character descriptions (@OrlandoWorks); businesses post information about their companies on YouTube ( and Flickr (Orlando Works group page); and Facebook pages from the Metro Orlando EDC, Film Orlando and bioOrlando provide additional information.

“We needed to expand because we’re growing so rapidly, and we chose Orlando because of the great people in the area.”
— Valerie Bierman
Kaplan University, Orlando

Right Location, Right Workforce

Bucking the nationwide negative trend in employment, Kaplan University has hired about 500 people to staff its new online student support center, which opened in April 2009 in east Orlando. The jobs include positions in finance, information technology and administration as well as admissions advisers, financial aid officers and counselors dedicated to assisting active-duty and veteran military students.

“We needed to expand because we’re growing so rapidly, and we chose Orlando because of the great people in the area,” says Valerie Bierman, executive director of admissions for Kaplan University’s Orlando student support center.

The private company, based in Davenport, Iowa, serves more than 58,000 students online and on its 10 campuses in the United States and Europe and is part of Kaplan Inc., a subsidiary of the Washington Post Company. In considering sites for expansion, Kaplan looked for an area with a vibrant business community that would both provide a qualified workforce and be a draw for relocated employees.

Its site in the Central Florida Research Park near the University of Central Florida is ideal, Bierman says, because Kaplan can hire local UCF graduates and others who already work in academics. It’s also close enough to allow for collaboration with Kaplan’s locations in south Florida. Bierman herself moved to Orlando from the Kaplan University’s Fort Lauderdale site.

“I decided I wanted part of that magic, so I decided to locate here as well,” she says. “We’re very pleased here.”

Tags: Space Coast, Business Florida

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