Mayor Demings Delivers 2019 State of the County to Full House at Orange County Convention Center
On May 16, Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings welcomed nearly 1,500 citizens and community leaders to the 2019 State of the County address at the Orange County Convention Center.
“My earnest commitment as your Mayor is to do everything in my power to move Orange County forward” said Mayor Demings at the Linda Chapin Theater in the West Concourse. “Now is the time to move forward, and not go back. Now is the time to build a better quality of life, not only for us, but for generations to come.”
During his remarks, Mayor Demings said he is prioritizing the needs of local residents to build the community together on the three pillars of innovation, collaboration and inclusion.
“As we build our community together, we want Orange County to be known not only as the premier place to do business, but ground zero for the entrepreneurial spirit and a hub for innovation,” said Mayor Demings. “We want to be intentional about fostering a culture of top notch customer service in our Orange County Government operations.”
Highlights of his speech include reducing residential permit turnaround times and general trade permit action; launching a unified strategy to increase the inventory of affordable housing in the community through the Housing for All Task Force; allocating an additional $20 million for children’s services; increasing the living wage for Orange County Government employees to $15 an hour by the end of 2021; earmarking $42 million for arts and cultural projects; and proposing a sales tax referendum to support a fully funded transportation network.
Highlighted in the State of the County address was the strength of Orange County’s local economy — a key factor in propelling Orange County’s bright future. The County’s fiscal health is strong evidenced by healthy reserves and outstanding bond ratings. The current budget is $4.4 billion and because of Orange County’s very strong local economy, Mayor Demings said he has no intention of increasing property taxes now or in the near future. His plan is to continue to be fiscally prudent and transparent in the approach used to manage the budget in a way that can mitigate unanticipated changes in the economy. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure Orange County’s fiscal health as the economy continues to grow and that the state of Orange County remains strong.
A GROWING COMMUNITY
Orange County is experiencing tremendous growth. It is projected that the population will grow by a net of nearly 1,000 new residents each week. This means the demand for new housing and commercial projects will grow. In the first half of this fiscal year, Orange County issued permits for nearly $350 million in new apartment construction exceeding all of Fiscal Year 18 by over $100 million. “As we build our community, it becomes necessary to increase our housing units, build our roadways and expand our businesses,” Mayor Demings said during his speech. “Orange County must improve its permitting processes. Our goal is to reduce residential permit turnaround times to 14 days or less and for general trade permit action to be handled within 24 hours.”
Additionally, as Orange County prepares for the 2020 Census, it is important to ensure that everyone is counted and no one is left behind. During this last decade, there was over 400 billion federal dollars made available on an annual basis and $4 trillion since 2010. In an effort to ensure a proper count, the Complete Count Committee was launched. Success of the census depends on community involvement. Residents are encouraged to participate and invite friends and loved ones to participate. Visit www.ocfl.net/2020Census for more information.
HOUSING FOR ALL
Across the country, communities are struggling with a shortage of affordable and available rental homes for individuals and families, especially low-income households. One of Mayor Demings’ first priorities is housing affordability. Mayor Demings’ Housing for All Task Force held its first meeting on April 12 and is led by co-chairs Keewin Real Property Company owner Allan Keen and LIFT Orlando Chief Operating Officer Terry Prather. They lead a 39-member team consisting of leaders from a diverse group of non-profit organizations, major employers, real estate professionals and resident representatives from all six Orange County districts.
“Housing affordability is a priority of my administration, and because of our inherent strength as a County, I am confident we will turn this immediate challenge into an opportunity,” Mayor Demings said. “It is at the heart of what building a community together really means. Together we will change the narrative around housing affordability, and the landscape of housing inventory for our current residents and for future generations.”
Building the community together requires a renewed focus on public safety. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office continues to lead proactive efforts to reduce crime. Last year, crime in unincorporated Orange County declined by 7 percent. This followed a decade’s long downward trend. Through the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative, Orange County is improving the security and safety of the community. Recently, the County received a $3.5 million award which allocates more resources for public safety agencies to train, prepare and respond to a major critical incident. Senator Marco Rubio, Congresswoman Val Demings and other members of our local congressional delegation work continuously in securing the resources needed to keep local communities safe and secure.
Like many communities across America, Orange County has experienced an increase in opioid abuse. In order to address this epidemic from a multi-jurisdictional collaborative approach, Orange County will be one of the largest counties in Fla. to participate in a federally funded overdose mapping strategy. This mapping system will help focus the public safety and drug treatment programs toward neighborhoods most in need.
Last year, Orange County’s first responders administered over 1,500 doses of the life-saving medication Naloxone. Every administration of this drug is an opportunity to save a life. Recently, Orange County partnered with Florida Blue’s Project Opioid that brought together regional leaders to find long-term solutions to put an end to the opioid crisis.
QUALITY OF LIFE
To build a community that empowers children to prosper, funding must be put in place for children services. The addition of $20 million in the current fiscal year budget, Orange County is able to provide $87 million for children’s services. Equally as important are efforts to provide a community safety net for the most vulnerable among us. This year, Orange County received $800,000 in federally funded assistance programs to provide services to individuals who are focused on improving their lives by participating in career counseling, adult basic education, job training, housing, job placement, transportation and more. The goal is to increase individual employability and strengthen families.
Mayor Demings also announced that now is the time to ensure every Orange County employee earns a living wage within three years. “It is my commitment that there will be no full-time Orange County Government employee who will earn below $15 an hour by the end of 2021,” Mayor Demings said. “The time is right and the time is now for other employers in our community to join me in this effort.”
Visit Orlando and tourism leaders recently announced that 75 million tourists visited Orange County in 2018. Tourism has a $70 billion impact on our region – a good indicator of the overall economic health of Orange County. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, Orange County is an enviable destination for convention and meeting planners around the world. In 2018, the Orange County Convention Center hosted 184 events, including 1.4 million people with a total economic impact of approximately $2.4 billion. Companies continue to choose Orange County for their conventions, indicating that the time is right to build. The investment in capital improvement projects will make the Convention Center even more competitive. With the 2023 expected completion of a $605 million Capital Improvement Plan, the Convention Center’s North/South buildings will add a Grand Concourse including an 80,000 square foot ballroom and 60,000 square feet of meeting space. The new multi-purpose venue will add an additional 200,000 square feet of space projected to accommodate 20,000 attendees.
Funds derived from tourism help to improve the overall quality of life in Orange County through investments in the arts and other cultural amenities. Working together with commissioners, the Orange County BCC approved nearly $42 million of funding for community projects such as: the Holocaust Memorial Education and Resource Center, the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Live Project, the Orlando Science Center Life Project, the Winter Park Canopy Project and the Orange County Regional History Center.
“I believe funding for these types of projects will stimulate, enhance and support the arts and reach a more ethnically diverse spectrum of our community,” Mayor Demings added.
A recent ranking from Wallet Hub named Orlando as the No. 1 best large cities to start a business in the nation. Luminar Technologies is an example of the caliber of companies Orange County’s continue to attract. Headquartered in Orange County, Luminar Technologies has grown quickly to become a global leader in LiDAR, used in autonomous vehicles. Over the last few years, Luminar has achieved significant economic growth to Orange County by adding almost 300 jobs in this cutting-edge technology field. Luminar is in Orlando because of the bright minds and research emerging from the University of Central Florida and its College of Optics and Photonics.
The local impact of innovation initiatives in our community is astounding. With over 150 Modeling Simulation & Training (MS&T) companies in the region, the Central Florida Research Park is the sixth largest research park in the country. Team Orlando reports average yearly salaries of $82 thousand and directly employs nearly 2,800 military and civilian personnel. In total there are 10,000 employees related to MS&T with over $5 billion in contracting authority.
By the year 2030, Orange County will boast a regional population of 5.2 million. This brings about challenges that the community must face. The pain of a transportation infrastructure that is over capacity is felt by residents every day.
“I am convinced that now is the time for us to seek multi-modal transportation options that will increase frequency of public transit so more people will use it,” Mayor Demings said. “Now is the time to collectively arrive at a comprehensive solution that will foster an environment where a transportation network is fully funded. I invite our community to consider support of a sales tax referendum to prepare for the future today. I look forward to leading efforts to pass a one cent sales tax increase that will allow us to fully fund a transportation system that can better serve us well into the future.”
Over the next few months, Orange County will hold public workshops to gain input from community stakeholders, learn the priorities of citizens and local elected officials, and build towards a long term solution that works for everyone.
“Now is the time to move forward and not go back, now is the time to build a better quality of life not only for us but for generations to come,” Mayor Demings concluded.