Moving Toward a Tipping Point

The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker

When we think about what futurists say 2030 could realistically look like, it is a world where the majority of vehicles are electric and likely driverless. And these vehicles will not only be on roads; a host of companies, including Uber, are actively testing VTOL’s (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) vehicles, which look like the small drones that were hot Christmas presents this past year, only supersized to carry human passengers.

Does it sound like science fiction? Not any more than telling people 30 years ago they would have handheld devices smaller than a deck of cards they could use to video chat. Consider what Central Florida will look like: Each week, 1,000 new residents come into the seven-county region, which is expected to grow by 1.3 million people, reaching more than 5.6 million people when the calendar hits 2030.

This is a future not simply being predicted, it is one being shaped. As Peter Drucker, the father of modern business management said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” This is a sentiment shared by the leadership of the Orlando Economic Partnership, particularly the current chair, Ken Potrock of Disney and the Partnership’s President and CEO, Tim Giuliani. Now a year removed from the historic merger of the Orlando Economic Development Commission and the Central Florida Partnership, the economic momentum being created in the region is quite staggering.

Already, Orlando is leading the nation in job growth, while also attracting an increasing number of well-known companies, creating thousands of high-wage, high-tech jobs in a region known internationally for tourism. In addition, it was recently named one of the nation’s most cost-competitive locations, which is helping to drive an emerging tech and startup hub, along with being Florida’s friendliest metro for small businesses.

Maintaining the Momentum

Much of that momentum began with the belief that, as Potrock said, “Orlando was well known, but not well understood.” The branding campaign, “Orlando. You Don’t Know the Half of It,” was specifically created to address this perception and has generated a different type of recognition, unknown just a few years ago.

“We created a campaign to tell people about the Orlando they didn’t know about, assuming they already knew about the tourism side of Orlando’s economy, which is a pretty unique approach coming from a tourism guy,” admitted Potrock.

Diversifying the economy was perceived by those in and outside the tourism industry to be essential to the overall desirability and stability of the region. The result of this new vision of Central Florida was more “at-bats” in the competition to bring highly prized relocation projects to the area.

“Before the campaign, only a third of the time were we even on the consideration list, and two-thirds of the time we weren’t,” Potrock observed. “We wanted to improve our batting average, and Orlando has already gone up substantially in consideration for job relocations. Not only for consideration, but to actually win.”

One example is the placement of KPMG’s global learning, development and innovation facility in Lake Nona. KPMG is a leading professional service company and one of the Big Four auditors, along with Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In 2015, the company began searching for a location and initially started with 49 potential cities before shortlisting to nine. These cities included major players such as Chicago and Atlanta. In the end, Orlando beat out Dallas. Ironically, site selection is one of the services KPMG provides for its own clients.

The facility, which broke ground in May 2017, is scheduled to open in 2019. It is the largest capital investment project the Partnership has attracted in the past 10 years, with a capital investment of $430 million and a job total of more than 300. The facility will feature 800 guest rooms, fitness and outdoor recreational facilities, along with multiple food and beverage venues. At full buildout, it will be approximately 800,000 square feet. 

Amazonia, Are We Ahead of the Curve?

Every state east of the Mississippi is dreaming of becoming the location of Amazon’s second headquarters, which has been dubbed HQ2. But this summer, the company broke ground on a 2.3 million-sq.-ft., 130-acre, multi-level fulfillment center just south of Orlando International Airport, also in Lake Nona. The center will employ close to 1,600 people and will include the latest robotic and cutting-edge technologies.

Of course, the fulfillment center is a golden egg, but everyone is vying for the goose laying those eggs — the Amazon headquarters. However, unlike other competitors for this crown jewel, Orlando had a ready-made platform to tell the story of this region that answered the question, “What do you know and what don’t you know about us?” It was a perfect opportunity to showcase the “You Don’t Know the Half of It” research that had already been done.

“We were fortunate in that we had already worked through the creative and tonal elements we wanted to use to position ourselves,” Potrock said. “While other cities and regions were scrambling to figure out how to tell their story, we had already written the script; we simply customized it to Amazon’s expectations and specifications.”

The perception of the internal community (from those who live here) and external community (from those who know of and visit the area) is changing. “We’re no longer sneaking up on people,” said Potrock. The Orlando advertising firm of Anson Stoner and branding committee led by another Disney executive, Jim Alessandro, are working on the next phase of the campaign. This will go deeper into reaching a diverse audience, whether it is millennials, technologists, entrepreneurs or engineers.

The educational process is always ongoing, whether the focus is attracting from the outside or retaining from within. One thing the Amazon pitch did for the area was bring a variety of leaders together to carefully examine the major factors that a company like Amazon would consider.

The Wish List

When the first transformational mothership landed in the late 1960’s, Disney was looking for a favorable year-round climate, scalable infrastructure and available land at reasonable prices. Central Florida contained the trifecta. The next one, whether it is Amazon or some other company of that type, will have its shopping list as well. According to Potrock, what tops its must-haves is a vibrant talent pipeline.

From infrastructure, to talent, to lifestyle and amenities, we see we have it all and that message is no longer a well-kept secret.” 

– Ken Potrock, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Disney Vacation Club and Adventures by Disney

It is staggering to consider what the region has to offer an Amazon-like company. Within a 100-mile radius of Orlando, there are more than 500,000 college students. It places Florida among the top 10 states in the nation for talent pipeline (U.S. Chamber of Commerce Enterprising States).

“Of the students graduating from UCF, 70 percent found jobs in the seven-county region,” said Potrock. “What is more surprising, 90 percent wanted to stay and work in the area.”

Even with that type of talent production, not to mention the non-college graduates who are seeking high-wage jobs, the unemployment rate is only 3.8 percent.

Instead of millennials exiting for greener pastures, they are either staying in or migrating into Orlando. The developing downtown environment — that soon will add two new campuses to go along with the venues that have been built in the last five years — is acting as a magnet. The average age in the region is 37, which is amazingly young considering Florida is a state known for attracting retirees. This, coupled with a variety of real estate options from both a business and a residential perspective, is helping to precipitate this attract-and-retain reputation.

“Also playing into this equation is our cost of living compared to metro areas like San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago or New York,” observed Potrock. “Plus, being a state with no personal income tax and a business-friendly environment all combine to make this area particularly inviting. The region is also vibrant, which is one of the consequences of being a major tourist destination. Many great lifestyle enhancements exist for those who live here. One recent study determined there are 5,000 restaurants in the region, the same number as in Chicago.”

Potrock concluded, “Whether we win Amazon or not, we’ve already won. The work that was done to put that package together, for that major win, can be used for any viable company. From infrastructure, to talent, to lifestyle and amenities, we see we have it all, and that message is no longer a well-kept secret.”

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About the author

Eric Wright

Eric Wright is an innovative leader, dynamic speaker and published author. He turns complex principles into simple and practical life applications. As President of Publishing at SCB Marketing, Eric oversees the production of four business and lifestyle journals, along with numerous specialty publications. Eric is co-author of Dogs Don't Bark at Parked Cars. www.dogsdontbark.com

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