In the 1950s, before the world knew Orlando, we were building rockets. Rockets that would eventually do the impossible and put a man on the moon.
Around that same time, Orlando also began to grow its simulation industry thanks in part to the Central Florida operations of Lockheed Martin, which opened in 1957. Today, Orlando is known as the world’s epicenter for modeling, simulation and training with more than $4 billion in annual contracts flowing to Orlando companies hired to create simulated real-time experiences for governments and businesses.
Orlando’s innovation grew from simulating one-of-a-kind experiences to creating them. In 1971, Walt Disney World opened its gates and drastically changed the landscape of our economy and our reputation forever. With our other attractions like Universal and SeaWorld, Orlando has become known as the world’s vacation destination, hosting more than 72 million visitors in 2017.
In addition to millions of visitors, our theme parks attract tens of thousands of creative thinkers, engineers and technologists to live and work in Central Florida to design the parks’ brands, attractions and experiences.
Orlando doesn’t just attract talent – we grow it here with educational anchors like Full Sail University, Valencia College and the University of Central Florida, which is the nation’s second largest university and produces more graduates who get jobs in aerospace and defense companies than any other university in the country. This year, Orlando was ranked the number one metro for STEM job growth, outpacing cities like San Antonio, Austin and Seattle.
With so many technologists and innovators living and working in Orlando, it’s no wonder many are stepping out on their own to create new businesses, advancing Orlando’s reputation as a startup hub with collaborative co-working spaces, accelerators and incubators that further fuel the entrepreneurial spirit and the innovation economy in Orlando.
And a business-friendly city must be an innovation-friendly city and leverage partnerships to create new policies and programs to support this effort. Cities that embrace self-driving cars, virtual and augmented reality, advanced wireless connectivity, energy and infrastructure advances and other forward-looking innovations will set themselves apart.
That’s why Orlando is developing a Smart City road map to ensure our community continues to be a place where innovative technologies are tested and deployed, and where our residents and businesses can benefit from early exposure and adoption.