Mayor Demings State of the County Address
June 10, 2022 | 9 a.m.
Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings delivered the 2022 State of the County address on Friday, June 10, 2022 at the Orange County Convention Center to an audience of more than 600 residents and local community leaders.
The theme this year was “Investing Boldly.”
“This has already been a year of extraordinary accomplishments as we continue to invest boldly in our future and work to make this.... the greatest county in the state of Florida and perhaps the nation,” said Mayor Demings.
The 2022 State of the County address centered on investing boldly in four areas: tourism; business and entrepreneurship; community wellbeing; and entertainment and culture.
Mayor Demings noted the Central Florida tourism industry is back in full throttle. Orange County collected $38.5 million in tourist development tax dollars, which shattered the previous tourist development tax record of $31.2 million in March 2019.
None of this would have been possible without major capital investments by the theme parks and their multibillion-dollar expansion projects. Universal Orlando, Sea World Orlando and Walt Disney World Resort all have opened new attractions this year and have more openings coming soon.
The Orange County Convention Center has proven to be a multibillion-dollar economic driver, projected to host 155 events with 1.5 million attendees this fiscal year, generating an economic impact of an estimated $2.4 billion.
The Orlando International Airport (OIA) is experiencing record-breaking passenger counts and is ranked as the seventh busiest airport in the United States and the world. Later this year, the airport will expand its footprint with the opening of the new South Terminal C, a $2.75 billion investment, with more than a million square feet that can accommodate up to three regional rail systems.
The private rail company Brightline has finished construction of an intermodal terminal facility at OIA. Its 170-mile extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando should begin operations in early 2023.
Last month, Visit Orlando and the Orlando Economic Partnership launched a new comprehensive brand campaign to promote the destination and region. The “Orlando Unbelievably Real” campaign was developed to attract leisure travel and economic development.
Business & Entrepreneurship
Orange County has been nationally recognized for its financial strength, making it a beacon for existing and relocating businesses.
This past year, both Astronics Corporation, a technology company, and Conti Federal Services, an infrastructure construction firm, relocated their headquarters to Orange County. Aerospace and defense leader Northrup Grumman expanded its footprint with a new 88,000-square-foot facility in the Central Florida Research Park.
Most recently, Sherwin Williams, one of the world’s top paint manufacturers, opened a new $44 million manufacturing facility in Orange County.
“This is a positive indicator of our appeal to new businesses, which help grow our local economy,” said Mayor Demings.
In keeping with the goal of diversifying industry, the Central Florida Cluster Initiative, also known as Cenfluence, established a global network to stimulate expanded economic opportunities and jobs for Central Florida. Also, BizLink Orange launched in late 2021, connecting small businesses and entrepreneurs with tools for success.
Orange County Government provided CareerSource of Central Florida with $10 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to launch Level Up Orange. This program enhances workforce training, connects people to careers and develops skilled talent for such in-demand jobs as healthcare, construction and more.
Mayor Demings noted the continued investment in its employees, the backbone of Orange County Government. Every employee now earns a living wage of $15 per hour or higher.
“I couldn’t ask for a more dedicated and committed team focused on improving Orange County’s delivery of service and quality of life for everyone,” he said.
Orange County’s population continues to grow. Based on the latest 2020 census data, the County’s population has increased 25 percent since 2010 to 1.43 million residents. Given the new data, the Advisory Committee on Redistricting recommended new commission district boundaries to meet the needs of representation. The Board of County Commissioners approved the new redistricting map in February 2022.
With population growth has come strained housing availability for both renters and prospective home owners.
“Our challenges will require us to remain proactive with our Housing for All 10-year Action Plan aimed at addressing affordable housing deficiencies” asserted Mayor Demings. “So far, our Housing for All Trust Fund has invested $33 million in public-private partnerships to increase the supply of affordable and workforce housing.”
Mayor Demings also noted we cannot adequately address the total cost of living for our workforce without also addressing the cost of transportation because the combined cost of housing and transportation is crippling the ability of many of working families to get back on their feet.
To address this, the Mayor talked about the Transportation Sales Tax referendum, which will be on the November 2022 ballot. He referred to this as a “generational opportunity to transform Orange County’s transportation system.”
The penny sales tax is expected to raise 600 million dollars annually with more than half (51 percent) paid by tourists. If passed, east-west connectivity would vastly improve and offer better connections to all four corners of Orange County as well as all points in between.
The Mayor stressed that a dedicated funding source would allow for a true multimodal transit system with improved access, reliability and connectivity.
Forty-five percent of the monies generated by the penny sales tax would be earmarked for transit, starting with LYNX. There would be more buses, improved connectivity and EXPRESS service.
The penny sales tax would also improve SunRail operations, with potential service to the Orlando International Airport, as well as add weekend and late-night service.
Additionally, 45 percent of the transportation sales tax collected would be used to upgrade major road intersections, improve existing roadways and repave older roads sooner rather than later.
The referendum would also address the dire state of bicycle and pedestrian safety in Orange County.
“The positive impacts of the transportation plan would be felt for decades,” affirmed Mayor Demings. “Having better transportation options will help spur new businesses and support existing ones.”
Quality affordable housing and economic opportunity are ways a community can measure its overall quality of life, but land conservation is equally as important.
Last year, Orange County committed $100 million to purchase 23,000 acres of land under a program called Green Place. The first purchase preserved 24 acres near the Econlockhatchee River and added to an existing 1,000 acres of publicly and privately-owned conservation lands.
Recently, the Florida Wild Life Federation gave Orange County a special award for its land conservation efforts, and the U.S. Green Building Council announced Orange County as a LEED Gold Certified County, one of 17 counties in the United States to receive this international accreditation.
“Another way we’re investing in our community’s wellbeing is using American Rescue Plan Act dollars to provide direct relief to our residents,” said Mayor Demings. “We’re also investing in infrastructure projects to bridge the digital divide and improve access to the internet for underserved communities.”
Funding public safety is a priority and includes the construction of a new public safety communications tower, as well as building new fire stations and a new Sheriff’s sector building in West Orange County.
Orange County Fire Rescue also completed the design phase for a new 30,000-square-foot Fire Training Center in East Orange County. The project completion date is expected in the Fall of 2024.
The Mayor also discussed how Orange County Corrections Department is proactively addressing the opioid epidemic. In collaboration with Aspire Health Partners, the Corrections Department opened a fully licensed satellite clinic to treat incarcerated individuals with opioid addictions.
Corrections also launched a mental health program called “New Start” in February 2022. In partnership with the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and other groups, the program is designed to lead inmates from hardship to healing by providing medication management, education, support and guidance for eligible inmates.
For inmates with substance abuse problems, Orange County Health Services Department and the Drug Free Coalition are forging new initiatives to address the opioid epidemic with partners such as Advent Health.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office launched a Behavioral Response Unit Co-Responder Model that pairs trained clinicians with deputies to respond to calls involving those experiencing a mental health crisis. The teams are designed to de-escalate situations with peaceful resolutions and limit the number of arrests.
Last year, Orange County Government commissioned the Heart of Florida United Way to lead the analysis of gaps in services for our Mental and Behavioral Health System of Care. More than 200 community stakeholders and mental health providers participated in the gap analysis study.
“By implementing the Orange County Mental and Behavioral Health System report recommendations, I’m confident that together we can make a difference,” said Mayor Demings.
In 2020, Orange County convened the Citizens Safety Task Force after a series of shootings involving our youth, including two children (one only 3 years old) who were tragically killed by gunfire. The task force developed 20 recommendations to prevent and reduce violent crime and gun violence.
“I said then and I’ll say it now, we have no silver bullet to stop the violence, but through prevention, intervention, enforcement and prosecution strategies, we can reduce violent crime over time,” asserted Mayor Demings.
The Orange County Citizens Commission for Children continues to work with grassroots organizations and connect residents with children and family services through a new online resource directory.
In April, the State Attorney’s Office launched the first Adult Civil Citation program in Central Florida in partnership with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the Orlando Police Department and the Kissimmee Police Department. The program provides non-violent first-time misdemeanor offenders with an opportunity to enter a diversion program to avoid prosecution but still be held accountable.
Additionally, the Orange County Domestic Violence Commission concluded its work last fall and presented 16 recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners.
The Commission’s work provides the County and our community partners with strategies to prevent and reduce domestic violence.
Entertainment and Culture
In 2022, tourism development tax dollars provided an investment in world-class facilities that helped the County compete at a national and international level.
Orange County hosted the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games with more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from across 50 states. The were joined by 30,000 volunteers and 125,000 spectators for the week-long games that left an indelible mark on this community.
Full Sail University teamed up with Special Olympics USA to host the first ever 2022 USA Games Unified E-sports Invitational, which took place at Full Sail’s state-of-the-art Orlando Health Fortress e-sports arena.
The Orlando Science Center broke ground on a new nature and conservation LIFE exhibit, with $10 million approved for this project from the tourism development tax.
“We’re proud to boldly invest in events that showcase the broad array of cultures and diasporas from around the world,” said Mayor Demings.
Work continues with the MLK Initiative and the Mayor’s Veterans Advisory Council events. Support also continues for LGBTQ+ events and the community’s diverse entertainers in Orange County.
Through tourism development tax dollars, Orange County invested more than 40 million dollars to build the Steinmetz world-class concert hall at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in downtown Orlando.
The 2022 State of the County address took a closer look at investments and achievements.
We boldly invest in tourism as Orange County continues to be the No. 1 destination for visitors from around the world.
We boldly invest in small businesses and entrepreneurs, further diversifying our economy.
We boldly invest in workforce training to meet the needs for high-demand jobs.
We boldly invest in affordable housing and transportation to benefit us now and for future generations.
We boldly invest in the preservation of our environment to improve our quality of life.
We boldly invest in public safety, the fundamental reason why government exists.
We boldly invest in social and behavioral health issues that improve our community’s wellbeing.
Lastly, we boldly invest in entertainment and culture, the heartbeat of our community.
This is why Orange County is unbelievably real!