December 2013 economic news, notes and commentary from the Central Florida region.
Thomas Moore, a longtime Rollins College physics professor, was named the 2013 Florida Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Moore serves as Rollins’ Archibald Granville Bush Professor of Science. The award is known as one of the most prestigious honors for undergraduate teaching. In other news, Rollins College and O.P. Jindal Global University of Sonipat in Haryana, India, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on promoting liberal arts and humanities studies. A delegation from the O.P. Jindal Global University visited Rollins in early December, meeting with administrators and faculty regarding curriculum development for a degree program.
Another sign that housing is bouncing back: Bella Collina, launched as a Lake County development in 2005 with the promise of market-leading grandeur, is being revived. New developers bought the project in 2012 and, thanks to a recent court victory, appear poised to take action on the shores of Lake Apopka. A Lake County circuit judge ruled that another investment group must pay $4 million in back fees it owed on 39 lots—paving the way for developers to take possession of hundreds of additional lots and start construction. A relaunched Bella Collina could garner an average home price of $1 million.
Florida Institute of Technology and Valencia College
Florida Institute of Technology and Valencia College have agreed to allow Florida Tech students to pursue a bachelor’s degree in logistics management at Valencia College in Orlando. Students who hold an associate of arts or associate of science degree may apply and those who earn equivalent transferable credits from a regionally accredited institution are also eligible. Valencia College will provide classrooms at its Lake Nona campus in Orlando. In other news, FIT was listed at the No. 39 spot in the inaugural U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges for Veterans rankings (out of 234 ranked schools). The rankings provide military veterans with a list of top schools that offer benefits in order for them to pursue a college education.
Oak Ridge High School
The Junior Achievement Academy for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, introduced in fall 2012 at Oak Ridge High School in Orlando, has experienced positive results during its inaugural year. A study shows that JA Academy students outperformed their peers in a number of areas, including FCAT and reading benchmark scores and course grades. Developed by Junior Achievement of Central Florida and Orange County Public Schools, the program focuses on building economic insight and leadership talents, while also teaching an entrepreneurial approach to help students capitalize on future career opportunities. The first freshman class included 125 students, and there are currently 250 students enrolled in the program. According to the study, JA Academy students scored an average of 4.7 points higher on the reading benchmark test and 16.8 points higher on the end-of-course Algebra exam. The most significant figure is a 23.1-point difference in FCAT reading scores. The overall G.P.A. of the inaugural class also ranked better with a 3.72.
Orlando Police Department
In a move that brings a new downtown entertainment complex closer to reality, the Orlando City Commissioners approved a deal to sell the Orlando Police Department headquarters building to the Orlando Magic for $12.7 million. The sale includes an adjacent parking garage. The city will then lease the building back from the Magic for $100,000 a year until the police department can either find a new building or build a new one. Magic owners want to construct a $100 million entertainment complex and conference center on the land, which is adjacent to the Amway Center. There is no official timetable for development, but work could start as soon as this summer.
Florida Hospital Kissimmee
Florida Hospital Kissimmee is gaining a three-story, 80-bed patient tower that will feature large private patient rooms and advanced cardiology services. The expansion will double the size of the hospital. The addition of the cardiology services is especially important as heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in Osceola County, hospital officials cited. Also, the general need for health care in the county has grown; over the past decade the population has increased by 55 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The 94,000- square-foot patient tower is expected to be completed by spring 2015. Orlando-based Multicominc., a manufacturer and full-line stocking distributor for end-to-end integrated video-data-voice solutions, has signed a $1.2 million deal to install advanced power technology throughout Colombia in early 2014.
At Valencia College’s Lake Nona campus, Florida Tech students can now earn a bachelor’s degree in logistics management. Multicom’s achievements in the international marketplace have been recognized nationally with The President’s “E” Award in acknowledgement of outstanding contributions to the expansion of exports.
Legoland Florida is adding a 152- room hotel to its theme-park offerings. Appropriately, the four-story hotel will be multicolored and feature bright décor based on the popular play sets. The hotel is expected to open in 2015. Construction work is projected to create 250 jobs, and another 250 people are expected to work at the hotel upon completion. The hotel will be Legoland’s fifth, joining properties in California, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Malaysia.
The National Entrepreneur Center
The National Entrepreneur Center received funding from Orange County and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to establish the Central Florida International Trade Office, which will provide a single location to “accelerate the access and activity for international traders in Central Florida.” By streamlining access to existing resources, providing relevant connections, highlighting the region’s infrastructure, and emphasizing the area’s collaborative approach to doing business, the office is positioned to serve as a catalyst to accelerate international trade, according to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. The office opened in January.