Orange County, Florida, is comprised of 13 municipalities, with the City of Orlando the largest, and serves as home to 1.2 million residents. The region has become a place in which people not only want to live and raise a family, but also do business. Forbes ranked Orlando the No. 1 region for job growth and one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. Highlighting the Dr. Phillips Center, SunRail, the nation's newest commuter rail system, and the vibrant, developing food scene, the New York Times named Orlando No. 13 of 52 Places to go in 2015. U.S. News & World Report recognized the region as one of the Best Places to Travel in 2015 and one of the Top 100 Best Places to Live in the United States in 2016. Forbes also ranked Orlando as one of the nation's Best Cities to Buy Housing, third for the Best Big Cities for Jobs and one of the top 10 Cities that Americans Are Moving to Right Now.
Orlando, is one of the most recognized cities in the world largely because of its thriving tourism and hospitality industry. However, there is much more to the region than its theme parks and attractions. In addition to being in close proximity to the east coast, Orlando is home to a cluster of booming industries, including the life sciences, innovative technologies, advanced manufacturing and simulation. This prime location, in addition to its diverse concentration of leading industries, makes it an ideal place for investment opportunities.
With a diverse population that drives local and international entrepreneurship, Orange County is a perfect example of a region committed to global connectivity, innovation and to fostering economic opportunity. According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, by the end of 2016 the unemployment rate was a mere 4.2% and the leisure/hospitality and professional/business services industries housed the largest percent of jobs (total of 37%) out of all the industries. Many of these popular industries house companies such as Walt Disney World Resorts, Lockheed Martin, Texas Instruments Innovation Lab, Guidewell Innovation Center and BRIDG.
Orlando is also home to top higher education institutions which have played an integral role in providing and funding centers and innovation labs in which important areas of study are not only explored to great lengths, but also further developed. At the forefront of this innovation and groundbreaking research is one the nation’s leading schools, the University of Central Florida (UCF).
TOURISM AND TECHNOLOGY
Orlando and Orange County are best known around the globe as a top tourist destination welcoming 68 million visitors in 2016 alone. With our top notch theme parks and attractions, entertainment options, fine dining, world class airport and hotels, and stunning natural parks there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Tourism is a leading industry throughout the region, representing approximately one-third of the local economy and accounting for tens of thousands of jobs.
ACE tour participants will fly into the world class Orlando International Airport and start their experience with the opportunity not only to visit, but also go behind the scenes of a theme park giant that Orlando has become synonymous with – Walt Disney World. Delegates will get a tour of the popular Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride, explore the Magic Kingdom and receive an overview of how Disney uses simulation technology throughout their parks.
Beyond its theme parks and attractions, major sporting events and their nationally recognized sports teams also bring visitors year round. Orange County is home to the NBA’s Orlando Magic and has become widely known as the soccer capital of the south with a new stadium for their Major League Soccer franchises, the Orlando City Soccer Club and Orlando Pride. The region also serves as host to teams, bowl games, and other major sports events from across the nation at top notch facilities including the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Camping World Stadium, the Amway Arena and the Orange County Convention Center, which is the second largest in the U.S.
Since its inception in 1963, UCF has transformed from a small commuter school into the second largest university in the nation with strong community partnerships throughout the region and programs that allows students to gain vital exposure into their areas of study. Among the many academic opportunities offered by UCF are study abroad programs which immerse students in the language and culture, while also opening the doors to learning and conducting research with 98 institutions in 36 countries.
Additionally, UCF is a research leader in a vast array of areas that are thriving locally, including optics and lasers, modeling and simulation, and video game design. ACE participants will visit UCF’s College of Engineering, home to four labs strategically designed to turn creative ideas into marketable innovations. These labs are not only home to major companies like Texas Instruments and the Harris Corporation, but are also available for students to learn about the creativity in the innovation process. Attendees will receive a formal ACE welcome from delegates and learn about public/private partnerships related to UCF’s engineering and innovation, as well as how those partnerships translate into opportunities for students after graduation.
INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGIES AND DEVELOPMENT
LIFE SCIENCES AND MEDTECH
One of the popular areas of Orange County that is attracting residents and innovation-driven businesses is Lake Nona, which has been labeled “a community of and for the future.” Lake Nona is home to Medical City and some of the nation’s leading hospitals, research institutions and life science companies. Pioneering institutions in Medical City are already forming networks and synergies, which are transforming Orlando into a global destination for health care, research and medical education, and creating an environment in which clusters of booming industries can thrive, including Life Sciences & Healthcare, Innovative Technologies, Advanced Manufacturing, Corporate Headquarters and Simulation, Aerospace & Defense.
Participants will visit the Guidewell Innovation Center. This intellectual hub opened in a coordinated fashion with a collaborative mission, which was based on the proven theory that a cluster of healthcare and bioscience facilities in proximity to one another will accelerate innovation. There will be a panel discussion on Orlando’s fastest-growing, most forward-thinking and advanced master-planned community, Medical City at Lake Nona, and how it is becoming an innovative training hub for sports, life sciences, and professional services. ACE Participants will gain insight on how simulation training has become an integral and effective part of medical education and experience state-of-the-art simulation technologies, as well as how it’s adapted to different sectors/regions. Additionally, participants will learn how this environment has not only become successful, but also fosters collaboration, cooperation and partnership between academia, industry and government.
The Central Florida portion of the tour will conclude in Osceola County where participants will visit BRIDG, the only advanced materials manufacturing development center focused on the integration of semiconductor-based processes and materials into future products like smart sensor and photonics devices.
Supported by Osceola County, UCF, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and others, BRIDG facilitates the connection between innovation and industry and is “Bridging the Innovation Development Gap” that makes commercialization possible.
AMERICAS COMPETITIVENESS EXCHANGE