Summit Highlights Economic Growth

[L-R] Thad Seymour, Ph.D., vice provost for UCF Downtown; Sean Snaith, Ph.D., director of the UCF Institute for Economic Competitiveness; Pam Nabors, president and CEO of CareerSource Central Florida; Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs; Barbara Jenkins, Ed.D., superintendent of Orange County Public Schools; Crystal Sircy, executive vice president of the Orlando Economic Development Commission and Vernet Lasrado, Ph.D., assistant director for research at UCF gather for a media briefing at the 2017 Economic Summit

Mayor Teresa Jacobs of Orange County welcomed a capacity crowd of more than 600 citizens to the 2017 Economic Summit at the Orange County Convention Center in January. Now in its fifth year, the Economic Summit provides a barometer on growing business sectors and regional economic successes. The highly-anticipated annual local and state economic forecast, issued by nationally renowned economist Sean Snaith, Ph.D., director of the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Institute for Economic Competitiveness, is the central highlight of the event. Snaith said there is “much to smile about” regarding Orange County’s economy.   “In Central Florida, there’s growth in all sectors. The pace of growth, compared to the state wide averages, is much stronger,” Snaith said. “We’re growing faster than the state, than the national economy and not by a little bit, but by a great amount.”

The region’s robust economy, connectivity and transportation enhancements, in addition to the region’s diverse and talented workforce, continue to aid Orange County’s upward trajectory of economic growth and progress. “When you look at everything that’s happening in Central Florida, it’s clear that we are outpacing virtually every other region in the country. From job creation to infrastructure – including the fact that we’re about to double the size of our international airport, and we’ll still have room for growth – we are living in extraordinary times,” Mayor Jacobs said.  “We’re in the middle of a transformation on Interstate 4, as the historic I-4 Ultimate project continues to be very successfully managed by FDOT. And think about how quickly SunRail has become part of our lives. We’re not just adding infrastructure, we’re changing how we live, work and play today, as well as creating opportunities for how our children can live tomorrow.”

Vernet Lasrado, Ph.D., assistant director for research at the University of Central Florida, provided insight and a presentation on the region’s talent supply, which has attracted high-profile business expansions to Orange County this past year. Examples include VOXX International Corp., a leading manufacturer and distributor of automotive, consumer accessories and premium audio products, extended warranties provider SquareTrade, human resource and payroll software developer ADP, and CVS Health’s Caremark — which will add thousands of jobs in Orange County over the next couple of years.

The Summit also featured a Workforce Development panel discussion focused on continued job growth and economic successes in Central Florida for the upcoming year. The panel was moderated by Pam Nabors, president and CEO of CareerSource Central Florida. Panelists included Barbara Jenkins, Ed.D., superintendent of Orange County Public Schools; Thad Seymour, Ph.D., vice provost for UCF Downtown; Sanford “Sandy” Shugart, Ph.D., president of Valencia College; and Crystal Sircy, executive vice president of the Orlando Economic Development Commission.   “Workforce, hands down, is the most important factor of economic development,” Sircy said. “CEOs repeatedly tell us that workforce development and the talent pool today, and in the future, is vital to their success.” Sircy added that businesses are attracted to a diverse workforce and a ready talent pipeline.

“I’m especially intrigued to hear about the exploding need for certificate-level workers,” Mayor Jacobs said. “Thanks to changing technologies and emerging industries, we really need to create a pipeline of workers who are skilled in a wide variety of specialty and high-tech areas. From under-employed workers seeking new skills to high-school-aged and entry-level workers, we are committed to helping everyone gain access to job training, in order to develop a marketable workforce skill.”

Following the 2017 Economic Summit, Orange County hosted the second Florida TechMatch, an invitation-only event that gives local technology companies the chance to build relationships with national industry leaders.

“Orange County is very proud of facilitating these strategic partnerships between our region’s large and small-to-medium businesses, in order to boost industry synergies and contribute to our continued economic success,” Mayor Jacobs said at Florida TechMatch.

During Florida TechMatch, more than 72 vendors met with 16 corporate buyers representing companies and organizations like CareerSource Central Florida, Verizon, City of Orlando and Akerman.

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