More than a half century ago, Walt Disney had a vision to transform swamps and brush into the greatest place on earth. This dream now brings in more than 60 million tourists from all over the world.
If you ask most people, the region is known for one thing: theme parks.
However, the attack on a gay nightclub has the eyes of the world on Orlando for a different reason. But residents have rallied around the victims — vowing to be “Orlando-Strong,” and refusing to let a madman hijack the city’s image. There is, they say, an Orlando the world doesn’t know: a thriving, diverse economy.
CCTV America’s Sean Callebs reports.
Orlando-strong: the city\'s young & diverse communitiesVowing to be “Orlando-Strong,” and refusing to let a madman hijack the city’s image, residents have rallied around the victims from Orlando shooting.
On the west side of the city, the largest business development in the southeast is taking shape. The Creative Village is an ambitious plan to create as many as 8,000 jobs, parks, clubs and restaurants — a beacon to attract more industry.
“Orlando has grown up as a city, seen our downtown grow,” Craig Ustler, Creative Village developer, said.
“It’s really meant to be what we call an innovative district, this has become the model for economic development,” Ustler said. “It is meant to cluster talent — educate that talent and have that talent literally walk across the street and go to work.”
With more than 60,000 students, the University of Central Florida is the second largest university in the United States. The university’s Interactive Entertainment Academy is right across the street from the Creative Village development.
Its graduate students helped develop some of the most popular video games in the world. Students learn programming, design and art production, and they have access to state-of-the-art equipment, helping a region known for tourism and service industry jobs to provide much more.
The hope is Creative Village will become a new home for the state’s best and brightest. Business leaders here said they are trying to get past the perception that retirees dominate Florida. They said, here in Orlando, there is a young, motivated workforce. While the average age in Florida is 42, here it is 33.
Another area of Orlando that is growing is Church Street Station, where a historic train station and surrounding buildings are being renovated to lure high tech jobs.
Canvs, a co-work space, is a place entrepreneurs can set up shop and get an office space for as little as $100 per month. They half-jokingly said it’s like a Starbucks, but with better Wi-Fi.
“We have a very strong millennial and younger generation that’s up and coming in Orlando,” Dayle Moore, Canvs operations manager, said. “So very diverse — and people don’t generally understand that until they get here.”
“I believe we can build a community that more people will talk about — and come to look at than any other area in the world,” Disney once said.
It was true 50 years ago and true today — a strong diverse region refuses to let the acts of a madman dictate its legacy.