(December 2019) – I’ve lived all over Central Florida for almost 35 years now, and I still love looking at the region through other people’s eyes as if I’m arriving here for the first time. It amazes me when I hear people talk about their experience moving here and how they felt the community embrace them.
During interviews this year, we’ve asked many Central Florida leaders what they love about living and working here. One by one, they’ve painted a picture of Central Florida. These words are unique to our community. They define why we are successful in competing for vacation visitors, conventions, sporting events, concerts, plays, airline routes, corporate relocations, grant dollars, state and federal funding, venture capital and so many other important elements that make up our dynamic community.
We haven’t been able to fit all of these descriptions into the magazine, so we thought you’d appreciate hearing them directly from the speakers:
Thad Seymour Jr., interim president of the University of Central Florida: “We moved here 28 years ago from Chicago, where we had been 10 years. We figured we’d be here two or three years, and we never left. We raised our kids here. There are a bunch of things we’ve come to love about this place, but a lot of it is this sense of optimism. There’s a forward momentum here. There’s a spirit of collaboration, which a lot of people talk about, and it’s true.”
From Daryl Tol, CEO of the AdventHealth Central Florida Division: “It’s been an easy community to be an active part of. I’ve always felt embraced here….It’s remarkable how in Central Florida, we gather together to make a difference….It’s really a warm community.”
From George Aguel, CEO of Visit Orlando: “We have a culture here. Many people who lead businesses and lead our community here were at one time part of the tourism industry…. They get the value of hospitality and have developed a service mentality. Wherever you go, people are genuine, friendly, inviting, embracing and want to help. They want to be there to give you a great experience.”
From Alyse Quinn, co-founder of Big Vision: “Having lived in other large cities, I have never experienced a community like the one here in Orlando. We love the creative community here. I feel like we’re on the cusp of big things, and I can feel this wave coming over Orlando building this creative momentum.”
Sheena Fowler, Orlando Economic Partnership vice president of innovation and Orlando film commissioner: “Orlando is home to dreamers and doers, and this is ever-present in the residents who create the innovation that powers our economy….This kind of creativity is contagious and is palpable throughout the community, continuously inspiring new ways of doing and seeing things.”
Dr. Anette Khaled, UCF professor and cancer specialist: “There is an energy in this area. Everyone is so entrepreneurial, so willing to take risks and try something new. People may often be very skeptical of new discoveries, but here I’ve found they are more willing to try new things — and that’s how we’re going to advance.”
From Jason Siegel, CEO of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission: “There’s an intense level of optimism….Take a look at our skyline, the infrastructure changes, the airport, I-4, the downtown campus, the investment in sports…There’s a lot to be proud of, and it gives us a lot to sell our community on when we’re out trying to win opportunities for the region.”
Chester Kennedy, CEO of BRIDG: “I tell folks from outside the area all the time, I challenge you to find a hundred-mile stretch anywhere in the world where there is more happening than there is across the I-4 corridor right now from a technology standpoint.”
So when you’re traveling to other parts of the state, nation, world and universe in the coming weeks and months, be sure to spread the word. Central Florida is a great place to visit, yes, and it’s also the best place to live.