Face Off: How local chambers of commerce are responding to the region’s population growth

Face Off: How local chambers of commerce are responding to the region’s population growth

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read February 2020 — Both the number of visitors to Orlando and its population are on the rise. The Invest: team spoke with Betsy Gardner Eckbert, president and CEO of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, and Andrew Cole, president and CEO of the East Orlando Chamber of Commerce, about their latest efforts to respond to the local growth and the challenges their chambers face.

Andrew Cole

How is the community responding to the region’s visitor growth?

Betsy Gardner Eckbert: The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce started several efforts to target and reach international guests. The second-biggest group of visitors that we receive in Winter Park is international. Half of the international visitors we received two years ago were coming from the United Kingdom. To respond to that demand we put together our Tourism Task Force, which created a business plan through destination marketing efforts, and as a result we had a 560 percent increase in traffic to our website from people from the U.K. We increased by 86 percent the traffic of people from the U.K. through the door of our Welcome Center. We will continue to expand our reach to international guests from different countries as well, including Canada and Brazil. 

Andrew Cole: We’re anticipating having almost 2 million people in Orange County by 2030. I think that speaks volumes, and we’re preparing for that population growth. Our transportation infrastructure is being enhanced, Virgin Trains is making its way into Orlando, the Orlando International Airport is building a new terminal, and our local governments are looking at additional transportation solutions and housing affordability issues. Businesses are expanding, creating new jobs, such as Universal Studio’s new Epic Universe theme park, Disney’s continued growth of their parks, and the Creative Village in Downtown Orlando is an innovation district for high-tech, digital media and creative companies providing new opportunities. Tourists and visitor numbers continue to increase providing plenty of opportunities for businesses to thrive. It’s exciting to know that businesses that are here and those relocating here have opportunities to grow and expand their footprint in Orlando.

Betsy Gardner Eckbert

What are some challenges for your chamber?

Eckbert: One of the challenges for our members is attracting and retaining the appropriate talent. To support them, we launched a pilot program to identify talented professionals — mostly women with impressive degrees who have stayed home to raise a family. Our program helps them get back into the workplace. Through this pilot return-to-work program we placed 83 percent of the participating women within six months in local and global companies. We are very excited to have the ability to furnish our members with a talent base of people who are reliable and have the skills and talents they are looking for. 

Cole: One of our biggest challenges is making sure that we have smart growth in that we’re looking at all aspects of the impact any new development will have on the area. We also have the battle between people who want to stay rural and those who want to see development. As long as we can plan smart growth, continue to address our challenges and remain forward thinking, I know Orlando will continue to be the place to be.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Winter Park Chamber of Commerce: https://winterpark.org/ 

East Orlando Chamber of Commerce: https://www.eocc.org/

Face Off: Bringing More Energy to the Bay

Face Off: Bringing More Energy to the Bay

By: Max Crampton Thomas

4 min read February 2020 As the Tampa Bay region continues to grow both in population size and new developments, the need for access to more energy and cleaner energy solutions grows with it. Invest: spoke with the leaders of two of the main sources of energy for the region and their innovative approach to creating cleaner energy solutions. T.J. Szelistowski serves as the president for Peoples Gas, which has provided Florida residents and businesses with reliable, environmentally-friendly, economical natural gas products and service since 1895. Nancy Tower leads Tampa Electric as its president and CEO. The utility has served the Tampa Bay area for 120 years, with more than 5,000MW of generating capacity. 

How is your company innovating in terms of technology?

T.J. Szelistowski: The last time we spoke, we discussed implementing gas-fired heat pumps that use natural gas instead of electricity for air conditioning. We are working with several customers on installations of this technology.  Additionally, we have installed the technology in three of our facilities and have been pleased with the performance.  

In terms of other technologies, we are targeting farming and waste facilities that release methane into the air. Our environmental solution is to capture that methane and clean it up to reinject it into the system. This not only provides a cleaner form of natural gas but also reduces methane emissions. We look forward to announcing some significant projects with this technology in the near future.

Nancy Tower: We believe battery storage is a part of our energy future. The technology is new, and we’re not ready to deploy that on a large scale until we figure out the true impact it will have on our system. We have put in place a battery storage project this year near our Big Bend solar project, which will give us really good information on how solar and battery storage interacts with our system. We’re really looking at how we can integrate battery storage into the complexity of the renewable energy ecosystem.

In other technologies, we are also in the middle of a large-scale installation of smart meters, which provide a lot more information and allow us to provide customers with superior service. 

T.J. Szelistowski

Why has investment in cleaner, more renewable energy and environmental sustainability been such a focus for your company?

Szelistowski: Natural gas is the perfect partner to renewable solar energy to provide capacity when the sun is not shining and to ensure energy is available to customers around the clock. Additionally, natural gas can provide great environmental benefits by replacing diesel fuel usage in large vehicles, such as buses and waste-management trucks.   

 A variety of ships are starting to convert to natural gas because of changing environmental regulations, specifically IMO 2020, which slashes permissible levels of sulfur permitted in fuel for seaborne vessels to minimal levels and opens the door for liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative.

Tower: The biggest factor is that customers want it. When thinking back over the last few years, the number of people focused on a cleaner environment has increased exponentially. This is symbolic of the focus citizens and our customers have on environmental stewardship, and that is not going away. We are very happy with our progress.

I think it’s our obligation on behalf of customers to demonstrate that clean energy is not only our responsibility in terms of an environmental perspective, but also from a cost perspective. We are focused on both of those things simultaneously. As the entity generating electricity, we have the responsibility of doing that in the most responsible way.

Nancy Tower

How would you respond to the argument that clean energy is not yet cost-effective or readily available?  

Szelistowski: Natural gas interstate transmission pipelines are relatively new to Florida compared with the Northeast, having been introduced only in the 1950s. In addition, natural gas is a primary source of space heating in many parts of the country. With limited space heating in Florida, natural gas is primarily used for cooking, water heating and clothes drying in addition to industrial uses. We see a great desire for natural gas by people who have moved from other parts of the country and have enjoyed using natural gas in the past.  

In terms of misconceptions, people do not realize the widespread availability of natural gas in Florida. Additionally, they may not realize the affordable nature of home and business use of natural gas. With low and steady gas prices, natural gas provides a great alternative to both business and homes.  

Tower: It is our job to ensure that our generation portfolio is the most cost-effective for customers. Over the long term, we have carried out extensive cost modeling to ensure we can meet these expectations. In the next number of years, we will add more solar capacity and our generation will include more small-scale methods combined with battery storage. This doesn’t come without hard work and we need to find the right ways to keep costs low. This involves finding the right land close to our transmission infrastructure, ensuring suppliers are providing competitive prices and efficient cost management. Costs have come down, but we need to ensure we tightly manage this.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://www.tampaelectric.com/

https://www.peoplesgas.com/

Palm Beach Returning to its Gaming Roots

Palm Beach Returning to its Gaming Roots

By: Sara Warden

2 min read February 2020 — IBM developed the first PC in Boca Raton and now the city is making a new effort to bring back the gamers. In 2021, Misfits Gaming Group will consolidate its North American presence with a new, $1.35-million, 18,000-square-foot headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida.

 

The Misfits organization owns teams that compete in League of Legends, CounterStrike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and Super Smash Bros. Founded in 2016, Forbes estimates the company’s value at $120 million and global esports revenues are estimated at $1.1 billion in 2019.

The Misfits Gaming Group will set up two Florida-based franchised esports teams, the Florida Mayhem and Florida Mutineers, through which it will run several large-scale esports events throughout the year, in addition to college tournaments and community events. These events can rake in millions, with eye-watering prize money. The winners of the Dota 2 esports tournament walked away with over $3 million each, as did the 2019 winners of the Fortnite World Cup. In comparison, the 2019 winners of Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep, took home $2.9 million each.

One of the reasons Misfits chose Boca Raton for its new HQ is the business-friendly environment Florida provides – not to mention the generous tax breaks provided by the authorities. Local and state authorities will provide over $200,000 in grants and tax refunds in exchange for creating 30 new jobs with average salaries of $95,000.

“[Misfits] falls within a targeted industry sector for not only our county efforts, but state efforts as well,” said Kelly Smallridge, president and CEO of the Palm Beach County Business Development Board in an interview with Esport Observer. “Also, the fact that the jobs are high paid, much higher than the average of the county, which is $53,000.”

Florida is a surprisingly logical state in which to expand an esports empire. According to Enterprise Florida, the state has the nation’s third-largest tech industry and is a leader in high-tech employment, ranking No. 1 in the Southeast. Florida’s universities are one of the region’s largest producers of STEM graduates – in fact it is one of the largest generators of graduates entirely. And West Palm Beach has one of the highest concentrations of IT employees in the state.

The state is also a pioneer in connectivity, essential for any industry built around fast internet connections. The state has 61,000 total fiber miles, the third-most extensive statewide network in the United States. It also has 275 data center locations, the fourth-highest density among all U.S. states. 

Misfits certainly sees this potential in Florida, and in November launched a $10 million esports and gaming incubator and seed fund. “As the first esports and gaming-focused startup incubator and seed fund offering the resources of our caliber in North America, our goal is to create infrastructure for supporting and developing emerging business talent,” said Ben Spoont, CEO and Co-Founder of Misfits Gaming Group in a press release. “We want to help invest in the kind of ideas that will move our industry forward.”

To learn more, visit:

https://misfitsgaming.gg/ 

https://www.ibm.com/

https://www.bdb.org/

https://www.epicgames.com/fortnite/competitive/en-US/events/world-cup

Pharmacies Going the Extra Mile in Philadelphia

Pharmacies Going the Extra Mile in Philadelphia

By: Sara Warden

2 min read February 2020 — According to research from the University of Texas, 13-27% of ER visits in the United States could be managed in physician offices, clinics, and urgent care centers, generating $4.4 billion in annual savings for the health system. As the population grows and hospitals become saturated, Philadelphia’s private sector innovation is helping to lift the burden.

Last month, pharmacy giant CVS launched 13 HealthHUBs across Philadelphia and South Jersey, with the goal of offering patients a broader range of health services than are normally available in pharmacies. “The purpose of this model is to put patients at the center of their care,” said Anthony Riccardo, regional director for CVS Pharmacy, at the launch of the Folsom HealthHUB in the Delaware County branch. “Customers tell us they want local access to convenient, personalized and integrated healthcare. Our HealthHUB locations do just that — helping to elevate the store into a community-based healthcare destination.”

CVS leverages its impressive countrywide coverage on the front lines to bring additional services to the community, decreasing the probability that symptoms will worsen and lessening the burden on secondary healthcare providers. The services provided range from counseling patients with chronic conditions, to smoking cessation plans and health screenings, with a focus on addressing potential problems before they arise.

The company is not the only business in the private sector that sees the potential pharmacies can contribute to the healthcare sector. Last month, Philadelphia also welcomed Medly Pharmacy, a company that is tackling inefficiencies in pharmacy operations through an app and service platform that simplifies the process of filling a prescription.

Although the main draw of the store is its online platform, the company’s co-founder, Chirag Kulkarni, recognizes the need to also have a physical store established in the city. “I can say 99% of our customers have never walked into our pharmacy,” he said in an interview with Philadelphia Business Journal. “But it’s critical from a brand perspective to have a pharmacy a person can go into if they wanted. There is a level of trust in medicine, and with a pharmacy having that brick and mortar location brings legitimacy.”

So why are these companies attracted to Philadelphia? For Medly, the city has proximity to its key markets in New York and New Jersey and a similar level of population density, making it a logical choice for expansion. The median age in Philadelphia is also 34.3, and with a younger population also comes the desire for new technological advances to make everyday life more convenient. “Our research found that from a geographic viewpoint, Philadelphia is very similar to where we operate now in that it has high concentrations of population in certain areas,” he said. “We also saw a strong need for something like what we offer.”

 

To learn more, visit:

https://www.utexas.edu/

https://www.cvs.com.html

https://www.medlypharmacy.com/

 

Spotlight On: Catherine Stempien, President, Duke Energy Florida

Spotlight On: Catherine Stempien, President, Duke Energy Florida

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read February 2020 — Duke Energy Florida is not just increasing the amount of renewable power it is offering customers, with several solar plants coming online, it is also looking to harden its grid to protect it from increasingly harsh storms in the southern United States, as well as in cutting-edge “self healing” technology to reduce the impact of outages, according to Catherine Stempien, the company’s president.

 

 

 What advances have been made regarding the company’s clean energy projects in the region?

 

We are still in the process of building 700 megawatts of solar in our system and that will be completed by 2022. We are making significant progress on that. We are either operating or in the construction phase for about half of those megawatts. We brought two new solar plants online in December, at Lake Placid and Trenton, and we have two being completed in the first half of this year in Fort White and DeBary, with two others just announced in North Florida.

 

The other area where we have really made progress is in battery storage. We have said that we are going to build 50 megawatts worth of battery projects, and we have made announcements for three of these projects located in Trenton, Cape San Blas and Jennings. The battery charges when the sun is up and when the sun is down the battery discharges that energy. But batteries can do much more for our system. We have been testing a lot of cases for battery use, and the projects that we are going to be doing will help improve reliability for our customers, giving them more reliable power.

 

How is the company ensuring customers get the energy they need?

 

Our customers want power, and they want that power to stay on 24/7. We are midway through deploying our self-healing grid technology. About 50% of Pinellas County is covered by this technology now. If you think about the electric grid as a highway system, when you have a traffic jam somewhere in that system you want Waze or Google Maps to redirect you around that traffic jam. The grid works the same way: if we have an outage, or a tree falls down on a line, you want to be able to redirect the power around that problem to make sure that people get their energy. This technology does that automatically. We have sensors and communications devices all over our grid that automatically reroute the power and minimizes the problem, reducing the number of customers impacted. People might see a one-minute outage and then it will go back up again. In 2019, 150,000 outages did not happen because our system was able to reroute power, and that prevented 10 million minutes of customer interruptions. 

 

Why is Duke Energy pushing forward with sustainable power solutions?

 

Duke Energy Corp, of which we are a part, decided it was going to push itself and target climate goals that we are going to hold ourselves to. By 2030, we want to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% from 2005, and by 2050 we want to be at net zero. Duke Energy Florida is going to be an important part of the enterprise goal. We have a line of sight on how we are going to meet the 2030 goal, but we don’t have an exact line of sight into how we are going to do it by 2050. We need certain technologies to advance faster, and we need the regulators to come along with us. We believe you have to set yourself aspirational goals.

 

How much should companies involve themselves in sustainability efforts?

 

Over the last number of years, we have seen an increase in the intensity and the characteristics of storms hitting the United States. Florida is at a higher risk of getting hit by those storms. We believe we need to plan for storm events. In 2018, two major storms hit our service territory, one in Florida and one in North Carolina. Hurricane Michael was a Category 5 storm that devastated the areas it hit. We had to completely rebuild the distribution system and 34 miles of transmission lines. But it left pretty quickly. 

 

Another storm, Hurricane Florence, hit the Carolinas. It was a water storm that stalled over the eastern part of North Carolina and dumped rain for days, causing extreme flooding, which makes it difficult to access substations and lines. It is hard to predict these kinds of events, so we are looking to constantly improve our response, making sure we have the right crews, with the right equipment, available to restore power.

 

The Florida legislature recognized these challenges and passed legislation in 2019 to encourage utilities to invest in hardening their grids for storms. It cleared the regulatory path for us to work on storm hardening, from making poles stronger, undergrounding certain parts of the grid, and replacing lattice towers with monopole towers. All of this work is part of a 10-year plan to harden our system so we are prepared.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.duke-energy.com/home

 

 

Small business, commercial and construction lending drive strong growth for South Jersey banks

Small business, commercial and construction lending drive strong growth for South Jersey banks

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read February 2020 — The Southern New Jersey region is mainly driven by the healthcare, education and retail sectors, but small businesses remain key cogs in the region’s economic machinery. Their financial needs are among the busiest service areas for lenders along with commercial and construction lending, according to local banking leaders who spoke with Invest: South Jersey.

 

Small businesses represent growth opportunities for South Jersey financial institutions, as evidenced by the robust professional sector in the region that continues to grow rapidly as more individuals start their own businesses. 

WSFS Bank has about 50,000 primary core customers in South Jersey, with millennials being its second-largest demographic. Phil Corradino, Senior Vice President and New Jersey Regional Director at WSFS, is focusing on growing alongside millennials as they launch their own companies, purchase their first properties and start their families. 

“In terms of small business, we feel that we’re in a great growth position. The small-business sector went through a very difficult period from 2008 and onward, even as recently as 2015, but now you see a lot of small business growth and lending, especially in South Jersey. We’ve put dedicated lenders in place at the local level to serve these business owners, and it’s their mission to be there to help educate them, with roundtables, focus groups and networking events.”

Louisville, Kentucky-based Republic Bank has consistently been a top small-business lender in the region over the last few years and is also experiencing growth in that segment. “We focus on small businesses because South Jersey is known for its mom and pop shops. We promote our commercial customers and make donations to help attract consumers to their businesses and support their growth. We don’t limit our services to just one industry or type of business, we try to serve every business and prospect in any industry,” said Joe Tredinnick, market president at Republic Bank.

Financial institutions are positive about the near-term growth outlook for the small-business segment.”The small-business potential and growth that I believe we are going to see over the next three to five years in South Jersey is going to be monumental, and WSFS is excited to be in the middle of it,” Corradino stated.

According to Parke Bank President and CEO Vito S. Pantilione, its construction lending product is enjoying strong demand in the Philadelphia and South Jersey areas. “It is a very attractive product, especially because many banks have discontinued this banking product. Even though the regulations for construction lending have become much more stringent, our structure allows us to handle it because we are well-capitalized and we have the experience and expertise,” said Pantilione.  

Most recently, the bank has also seen an increased demand further north, in the Bronx and Brooklyn areas of New York City. “We carefully entered the Bronx and Brooklyn markets and now have multiple multifamily projects and commercial loans in these areas,” he said. 

Similarly, New Jersey-based OceanFirst Bank is seeing fast growth in its commercial lending activities. Vincent D’Alessandro, OceanFirst’s southern region president, said the bank’s growth has been driven by its talented commercial relationship managers. “Our business customers have a specifically assigned relationship manager who focuses on those businesses. Our expansive growth has enabled our relationship managers to dive deeper into businesses that they may not have been able to tap into before, in providing more sophisticated products and services.” 

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Parke Bank: https://www.parkebank.com/ 

OceanFirst Bank: https://oceanfirst.com/ 

WSFS Bank: https://www.wsfsbank.com/ 

Republic Bank: https://www.myrepublicbank.com/ 

 

Rock Hill crystallizes its future with new development and capital projects

Rock Hill crystallizes its future with new development and capital projects

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read February 2020 — About an hour south of Charlotte, in South Carolina, a city is experiencing an evolution much like its counterpart in North Carolina. Located in York County, the city of Rock Hill is crystallizing its future by moving past its textile history to make way for new development anchored by education and projects related to sports tourism. According to York County leaders, there are over half a billion dollars worth of projects under construction or in the pipeline, while completed projects have begun to change the landscape of Rock Hill and it’s Downtonw.

Much like Charlotte, the city of Rock Hill is focused on attracting and retaining talent as part of its economic development master plan, leveraging the growth of Winthrop University as the centerpiece of the capital projects happening in the area. The seminal project in the region, University Center, located in the Knowledge Park area, has already seen $100 million of total investment. “It’s a 23-acre former mill site that closed in the 1990s and employed around 5,000 people,” University Center developer Skip Tuttle told Invest: Charlotte. “It links Winthrop University to Downtown Rock Hill on the other side.” When complete, the project will account for about $250 million of development in Downtown Rock Hill. Tuttle, president of the Tuttle Company, is also making way for new office space in the nearby Lowenstein building featuring 225,000 feet of Class-A space, slated to attract new businesses to the region. “We have progressed rapidly on the redevelopment and have leased 70 percent of it. There are 350 people working there now in 10 firms,” he said. 

Another game changer for the region has been the Rock Hill Sports and Event Center. Opened

In January, the center welcomed 13,000 people during its first month in business, Tuttle said. “It has proven to be a phenomenal success, to the point that virtually every week this year it is booked,” he said. The center will serve as a mecca for indoor amateur sports ranging from gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, competitive cheerleading, and even cornhole. “It is going to be a catalyst for the rest of what we are doing in Rock Hill, which includes restaurants, breweries, outdoor entertainment venues, as well as office complexes. It is a true live, work, and play environment,” Tuttle said. 

Much of Rock Hill’s success can be attributed to the flurry of development and economic diversification happening in the Queen City. “There is no question that we are located in an area that is a desirable place to be because we are close to a major metropolitan area with an international airport less than 30 minutes away,” Tuttle said. “We have companies that are here because of the proximity to that airport and the other things that Charlotte has to offer.” Yet, Tuttle believes that Rock Hill has the workforce and infrastructure needed to create its own boom in economic growth and diversification. “About 56,000 people a day commute to Charlotte from York County. The local economic development folks are using that as a tool to recruit businesses by telling leaders that those highly trained, well-qualified individuals who leave York County to work in Charlotte could be working for them in Rock Hill,” he said, “And it is working.” 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit: https://tuttleco.com/

Spotlight On: Beat Kahli, President and CEO, Avalon Park Group

Spotlight On: Beat Kahli, President and CEO, Avalon Park Group

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read February 2020 — The Sunshine State has been a beacon of light for companies and families wishing to live, learn, work and play under the sun. Much of the population growth happening in Florida is concentrated in Central and South Florida. Compared to South Florida, the Orlando market still has land to develop and has done a great job in diversifying its economy, Avalon Park Group CEO Beat Kahli told Invest: Orlando. The group is developing four projects spanning from Tampa to Daytona Beach and focusing on mixed-use communities where residents can live, learn, work and play.  

How would you describe the strength of the real estate market in Orlando today?

Orlando has a high level of infrastructure, with the Orlando International Airport, the Orange County Convention Center, University of Central Florida and a broad job base. The level of infrastructure compared to the pricing on real estate is one of the biggest advantages in the area. If you compare Orlando to other markets like South Florida and New York, Orlando still has land. While we still have a lot of land available, Orlando has done a great job in diversifying its economy. The I-4 corridor is key to the region’s growth and I see Orlando and Tampa growing together. 

 

What are your most significant projects in Central Florida?

We have four large projects in the I-4 corridor between North Tampa, Orlando, Daytona Beach and Tavares. We have over 20,000 residential units and those projects are all at different stages. Our Avalon Park Orlando project is 99% completed. For this project, we focused first on young families. We have 10,000 students stationed in our school district and thousands of homes already built. The community is a great place to live, learn, work and play with a variety of apartments, single homes, town houses, schools and about 150 businesses.  

 

What are some trends in Orlando’s real estate market?

People are interested in mixed-use development communities where you can live, learn, work and play. Building smaller homes is another trend, especially due to their affordability. People are getting smaller homes with higher upgrades in design and finishes. The most important change is toward live, learn, work, play communities and the quality of life these present. Co-working spaces are also a trend and we have already started to include these types of spaces in our communities. 

 

What is your outlook for Orlando’s real estate sector in the next year?

We have done a much better job after the Great Recession. When I look back on the last decade of recovery, I’m very positive about Central Florida for the next 20 years. However, we expect the real estate sector to stabilize within the next two years. Central Florida has attractive prices, and its diversified economy provides great opportunities for real estate investments.  

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.avalonparkgroup.com/team/

Tourists, Flight Availability Underpin MCO’s Record Growth

Tourists, Flight Availability Underpin MCO’s Record Growth

By: Sara Warden

2 min read February 2020 — Orlando’s tourism industry is going from strength to strength, generating $75.2 billion from 75 million people in 2018. The industry’s success at drawing in new customers benefits almost every other industry in the region, not least aviation. In 2019, Orlando International Airport experienced a record-breaking year, welcoming 50.6 million passengers – a 6.1% increase on the previous year.

“Orlando lnternational’s growth in 2019 is due to a combination of factors,” said Phil Brown, CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) in a press release. “A strong Central Florida economy, continued innovative attractions being unveiled by the local theme parks, increased air service to new markets around the world and more seats coming into the area all equal record traffic at MCO.”

Currently, 38 airlines operate flights out of Orlando International, and in 2019 seat capacity was increased by 5.9% — around another 3.25 million seats. Most of this growth was generated by Spirit and Frontier, two budget airlines that continue to expand in Orlando. Spirit Airlines announced this month that it would expand the frequency of 16 routes from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Orlando International Airport in 2020.

“Florida is very important to Spirit Airlines, and we are going to keep growing in the state we call home,” said John Kirby, Vice President of Network Planning for Spirit, in a statement. “As the only major airline headquartered in the Sunshine State, Spirit Airlines continues to add new destinations and more nonstop service to meet the needs of Florida’s growing economy.”

And 2020 is shaping up to be an equally exciting year. According to GOAA, there will be 39 new destinations launched from airlines including Air Canada, Westjet, JetBlue, Emirates, Delta and Virgin Atlantic over the course of the year.

The first half of 2020 is full of exciting new attractions such as Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Cirque du Soleil is also stopping by to perform Drawn to Life, which is sure to make 2020 a year to compete with its predecessor.

And Universal Orlando Resort is planning a new theme park resort, plunging billions of dollars into 700 acres on Universal Boulevard for its Epic Universe. The park is set to integrate the traditional theme parks and rides, as well as hotels, restaurants and other entertainment facilities. “Our vision for Epic Universe will build on everything we have done and become the most immersive and innovative theme park we have ever created. It is an investment in our business, industry, team members and our community,” said Universal Parks & Resorts Chairman and CEO Tom Williams at the unveiling of the project last August.

Orlando International is growing to accommodate this influx of tourists, with $4 billion in construction projects in the pipeline. The new $2.1 billion South Terminal is now 45% complete, will add 19 gates and is scheduled to open by 2021.

 

To learn more, visit:

https://orlandoairports.net/

https://www.spirit.com/

https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us