Apopka incorporated in 1882 and recognized as a city historically resistant to great change is now earnestly looking to the future.
In April when new Mayor Joe Kilsheimer unseated 93-year-old John Land, the winds of change began blowing. Land, largely beloved through his tenure, was first elected Apopka mayor in 1949 and served for the next six decades (less three years). Kilsheimer, a city resident for more than 25 years and a former Orlando Sentinel journalist, vowed to create more jobs and prepare the city for inevitable growth.
PLANS ARE EMERGING
Case in point is the proposed 95-acre Avian Pointe, a residential community that would be the first to offer luxury apartments and townhomes in the city. In addition it would feature single-family homes, a bike trail and fitness center and would be developed near State Road 429 on the city’s west side.
Also, in the pipeline is a boutique hotel designed to attract eco-tourists interested in birding, angling and biking at Lake Apopka.
If the drawing board becomes reality, the project could add 1,500 residents to the city’s current estimated total of 44,000.
Avian Pointe would also rise two miles from Florida Hospital’s new $180-million medical campus, which is expected to start construction next year.
And, according to Kilsheimer, such plans are only the start for Orange County’s second-largest city, which for years has been known as the Indoor Foliage Capital of the World. Other agenda items include downtown redevelopment; repurposing the existing Florida Hospital site; readying for the $1.6 billion, 25-mile Wekiva Parkway; and possible rail service from downtown Orlando through Apopka to Lake County.
“There are lots of exciting things getting ready to happen,” he says. “People are beginning to look at Apopka in a new light.”
NEW TAX EXEMPTIONS
A ballot referendum in November could deliver an economic jolt to New Smyrna Beach and Edgewater – if approved by voters. Both cities would be granted a green light to offer tax exemptions to new and expanding businesses. That could spell more jobs and greater community investment. Exemptions would be given on a case-by-base basis.virtual expansion
A Port Orange manufacturer received its largest military order to date. Raydon Corp. landed a $100 million contract with Army National Guard for virtual training simulators. CEO Mike Vollmar expects to add nearly a dozen jobs in the next six months paying an average $75,000 a year as a result of the contract. Other local companies see a real ripple effect for Volusia from the business, not to be confused with a virtual one.
Osceola commissioners have agreed to privatize tourism promotion in the county, empowering a newly formed not-for-profit organization – Experience Osceola – to market the area globally.
Hailed by many tourism leaders, the action cemented a decision commissioners made in March to establish a public/private partnership responsible for promoting its No. 1 industry. The formalized contract also ushers in a new era for Experience Kissimmee, the destination marketing organization formed in 1978 as the Kissimmee-St. Cloud Convention & Visitors Bureau. Experience Kissimmee will cease operating as a department of Osceola County government when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.
D.T. Minich, who held the top post at St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau for the past seven years, was named Experience Kissimmee’s first-ever president and CEO, inheriting a nearly 40-person staff and an annual operating budget of almost $11 million. At press time, a search was on at VisitSPC for Minich’s replacement.
Less than a year ago, there was Times Square. For three months, including the holidays, a 10-second spot featured Flagler Beach 18 times daily on a 520-square-foot screen. Now it’s Forbes magazine, recently placing Palm Coast No. 7 on its list of the “Best Small Places for Business and Careers.”
Flagler County has become a media darling of sorts.
While the county’s Department of Economic Opportunity paid for the Big Apple placement, Forbes spent time praising Palm Coast’s business environment, job growth and education achievement. Efforts to boost the city’s tourism and technology also were cited.
Economic diligence, says Helga van Eckert, executive director of Flagler’s DEO, is paying dividends. “Flagler County is now a community that not only understands and wants economic development, but has everyone on the same page in pursuing it,” she says. “Local businesses, government and not-for-profits are all working together toward a common end goal.”
Call it an altered perception – one that shows well on the big screen, in print and across the country. – Teresa Edmond-Sargeant contributed to this report.