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What Makes Our City Great: Orlando Edition (Part 1 of 3)

Orlando FL “A great city is not to be confounded with a populous one.” - Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)

Those words are no less true today than they were when they were spoken more than two millenniums ago. In the coming weeks, we will use this blog as a means to explore the aspects that make each one of our three primary markets a great place to live, work, and play. We will start today with Orlando, and then move on to South Florida and Charlotte. We hope you will enjoy this light-hearted discussion, and we welcome your commentary at the conclusion of the article.

More than a vacation destination

Ask someone who has never been to Orlando to give their first impression of the city and you will almost invariably get the same two-word response: Disney World. Who can blame them? After all, the Disney entertainment empire is the primary reason why Orlando was recognized as the most visited American city, with over 48 million visitors in 2009, according to Forbes.com. Indeed, much of the surrounding population and industry arose in the shadow of what has become our country’s proudest beacon of tourism. But those in the know will tell you that, while we are grateful for its presence, there is so much more to Orlando than just the mouse.

Most outsiders don’t realize the sheer size of the greater metropolitan area, the 5th largest in the Southeastern United States. It would likely come as a surprise to many that the heart of downtown Orlando is some 20 miles (by vehicle) northeast of Disney, and that the city’s burgeoning east side stretches another 15 miles out. Those who limit their travel to the Orlando International Airport and the southwesterly theme park destinations are missing out on all that our great city has to offer.

University of Central Florida - A growing educational powerhouse

Nearly every great city of note lays claim to an equally great educational institution. Universities often serve as the lifeblood of a local economy, feeding it with highly skilled workers, and attracting research dollars and surrounding enterprises alike. Orlando has just such an institution in the University of Central Florida (UCF), the nation’s second largest university with an enrollment of more than 56,000 students. Offering more than 200 degrees across 12 colleges, including a newly founded College of Medicine, UCF is quickly becoming known as an academic and research leader. Indeed, Orlando area employers need not look far in their ever-present search for top scholastic talent.

A growing high-tech corridor

Within a stone’s throw of UCF lies a bastion of high-tech industrial research and innovation. Central Florida Research Park serves as a major hub for military simulation and training, housing manufacturing facilities and test laboratories for many of our nation’s top engineering firms. To the south, a burgeoning Medical City, complete with research hospitals and supporting labs, has sprung up around the UCF College of Medicine. Studies project that the long-term economic impact of the college will be more than $7 billion, including 25,000 new jobs within the local economy. Plans are in place to connect the two major research areas, creating a high-tech corridor that spans the entire southeast quadrant of the metro. Once based almost exclusively in agriculture and tourism, the future is looking bright for the diversification of Orlando’s local economy.

Recreational choices galore

It is no secret that Orlando’s weather serves as a major attraction in and of itself. With January daytime highs averaging around 72 °F, and annual lows rarely dipping into freezing territory, Orlando’s temperate winter weather is virtually unsurpassed across the nation. This begs for outdoor activity, and accordingly, Orlando residents are privy to year-round waterskiing, wakeboarding, canoeing, hiking, running, and swimming (amongst virtually any other outdoor endeavor not involving ice or snow).

The city also plays host to the Orlando Magic franchise in its brand new Amway Center arena. The $480 million building, which serves as the crown jewel of the immediate downtown area, was recently dubbed “the best building in basketball” by NBA Commissioner David Stern. To the east side of town, the UCF Knights’ perennially contending Division I-A NCAA football team plays in a 45,000 seat on-campus stadium, while the basketball team plays in a new 10,000 seat indoor arena. While the city does not lay claim to an NFL franchise of its own, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, and Jacksonville Jaguars are all just a short drive away.

What do YOU like about Orlando?

We could go on and on about what makes Orlando a great place to live. After all, we at Kavaliro made the conscientious decision to headquarter our business here, so it goes without saying that we see great things in the area. But we want to hear what YOU have to say. What aspects do you find most attractive in The City Beautiful? Please join the conversation by using the comment tools below.

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