2 min read March 2022 — Orlando boasts a talented workforce pipeline and is emerging as a financial services hub in Florida. Invest: caught up with Tim Giuliani, president and CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership, about how technology is driving growth in the region and the organization’s role in ensuring equitable economic growth. “We want to make sure the whole community is at the table,” Giuliani said.
What have been your key takeaways from the past year and how are you applying those lessons learned moving forward?
All the trends that had been helping Orlando over the past decade or so had been accelerated by the pandemic. The Orlando region has been growing at a rate of 1,500 new residents per week, and that hasn’t stopped. And now that more people can work remotely, they are moving here while working for global companies. Another big tailwind for us is Brightline, which will open this year to improve our regional transportation and connectivity. Orlando has always been the crossroads of Florida and that positions us well for the volume of businesses moving in.
We just hit our five-year anniversary as an organization. In that time, our businesses have added 18,000 jobs. This adds $2.3 billion in new wages and $2.6 billion in capital investment to the market. For us, it is about integrating economic and community development and, by focusing on what we like to call Broad-based Prosperity™, we’ve been able to make great progress toward increasing the capabilities and access to opportunity for all who call the Orlando region home.
What programs are you prioritizing?
We are focused on driving investment in transportation and technology and that is where our advocacy efforts are focused. Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings is looking to put a penny sales tax on the ballot, which would generate $600 million per year in Orlando. A majority of that would be paid by visitors and it would seriously enable us to have a real transit system with a lot more connectivity throughout our region.
On technology, we are focused on semiconductors, where we have locally invested over $200 million. We were recently part of a coalition led by Osceola County in partnership with the University of Central Florida and BRIDG, a not-for-profit, public-private partnership that provides R&D capabilities for semiconductor processes, that was one of 60 finalists, one of only eight technology-focused submissions, and the only Florida recipient selected from a pool of 529 applicants for phase one of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) $1 billion “Build Back Better Regional Challenge,” which aims to develop and strengthen regional industry clusters across the country while embracing economic equity, creating good-paying jobs, and enhancing U.S. competitiveness globally. Our application to phase two of the Challenge puts us in contention for awards worth $25 to $75 million to expand upon infrastructure, workforce development, and community reinvestment for new production research and processes for the semiconductor industry. This investment will boost our region’s advanced manufacturing industry, leading to the fully realized potential of Osceola County’s NeoCity technology district that’s home to SkyWater Technologies, the publicly traded company that’s the only U.S.-owned and U.S.-based pure play semiconductor foundry.
Additionally, we have asked our investors to take a diversity, equity and inclusion pledge and more than 150 executives have done it so far. A lot of our programming is based around supporting women- and minority-owned businesses, offering lots of unique professional development. We’ve launched a Black Boardroom Leadership Institute to make sure nonprofit boards are more equally represented in the community. We want to make sure the whole community is at the table.
What other industries are emerging that are new to the area?
The big story has been financial services, to the extent that Moody’s has called us the financial services hub of Florida. We now have more people employed in financial services occupations than in hospitality and tourism, which is incredible for a destination like Orlando. KPMG established their southern anchor in Orlando with a $430 million global training innovation center. They have also announced 350 hires for their national capability center. Deloitte continues to expand here and is now the largest private sector employer in Seminole County. ADP now has 1,600 employees here. The financial services sector has really caught fire over the past five years.
How is Orlando strategizing to recruit and retain local talent for this influx of business to the region?
Within a 100-mile radius of downtown Orlando, there are 500,000 college students because of the scale of our higher education institutions. CBRE does a tech talent report and we are typically in the Top 3 of tech talent momentum. Our work has contributed to the addition of more than 18,000 jobs to the regional economy over the past half-decade, and we have yet to hear any company scale back their plans here.
Our mission as an organization is to advance what we like to call Broad-based Prosperity™. We are working toward finding regional solutions that address our shared current and emerging challenges in order to build a region whose residents live a meaningful life in a place where equal access to resources and pathways to success allows opportunities for all. Our goal is to create a region bound only by our imaginations and we want to take focused neighborhood efforts powered by public-private partnerships and scale them across the region. We have worked with a hundred companies to use skills-based hiring processes in order to diversify the workforce. We are also working with schools to add the skills most sought after by employers into the curriculum so students are better prepared for the jobs of today and the future when they graduate.
What are some of the opportunities you see going forward?
We have been collaborating with technology leaders, from entrepreneurs to executives of large companies, to drive a more technology-specific strategy for growth. But we are excited about partnering with Visit Orlando to tell a more holistic story of the area. We want to tell authentic stories to expand people’s perception of the area and about things that can only happen here. Perhaps most interestingly, we are launching a digital twin city with the company Unity. Housed in a brand new interactive marketing center in our new offices opening this summer, this technology will enable us to offer immersive, real-time holographic simulations of work environments, available real estate and talent, as well as infrastructure and connectivity. This could be for meetings, presentations and collaborating on a hybrid level. It is extraordinary in its depth of experience and its potential use cases.
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