When you say Orlando, most people think Disney World. And when you talk about jobs in Orlando, people talk about Disney, which employs a veritable “city” of 55,000 people. But Disney is only one job vendor in this booming Central Florida economy.
“There’s growth in every direction,” says Philis Intro, research director for the Economic Development Commission (EDC) of Mid-Florida, a public-private partnership serving Orlando, Orange, Seminole, Lake and Osceola counties.
Moving into Mouse Country
In fact, more than a thousand adults move into Metro Orlando each week to take advantage of the area’s diversified economy, which includes industries in high-tech, health care, finance, manufacturing, international trade and film.
In May 2000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a Metro Orlando civilian labor force of 919,300, with a 12-month employment growth rate of 5.8 percent, and a minuscule unemployment rate of 2.6 percent. This is below the state average and well below the 4.0 national average. Total Metro Orlando population is approximately 1.5 million.
Add to this a cost-of-living index below the national average. To dramatize how far your dollars go in Metro Orlando, consider this: To match a $100,000 salary in Boston, based on a range of factors, you need only $51,000 in Orlando. And the EDC reports median Orlando household income is higher than state and national medians, making the good life more than a cartoon fantasy.
To get an idea of the employment range, take a look at the major employers. Florida Hospital, a regional provider employing 12,800, ranks second to Disney in number of persons employed. The next seven, in order, are:
- Universal Studios – Florida
- Publix Supermarkets
- Orlando Regional Healthcare System
- Winn Dixie Stores
- University of Central Florida
- Lockheed Martin
Employment – Serious Business in the Land of Laughter
Lockheed Martin (electronics and missiles) leads the list of manufacturers with the highest number of employees, followed by Cirent Semiconductor, Sentinel Communications and Siemen’s ICV. Altogether, high-tech companies employ about 80,000 people.
High-tech, business and finance developments are supported by several educational institutions, including the University of Central Florida, whose Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers has contributed to the region’s reputation as “Laser Lane.” Other key programs include Rollins College’s Crummer Graduate School for Business and Valencia Community College’s Technology Innovation Center, recognized for its program in microelectronics.
Metro Orlando also presents opportunities in finance and administration. It’s the corporate headquarters for such giants as:
- Chep USA
- Dixon Ticonderoga
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, finance, insurance and real estate jobs number about 60,000.
The EDC reports the region’s mix has traditionally been skewed toward low-skill service jobs, since 40 percent of the economy is based on services, including hospitality and tourism. Metro Orlando planners believe growth in industries as diverse as electronics, film/TV production, finance and international trade will add high-paying jobs across the spectrum. They point to a projection by Woods & Poole, an independent firm specializing in long-term county economic and demographic projections, that Metro Orlando will be the region’s fastest-growing employment and population market through 2008.
And you thought engineers and business people didn’t know how to have fun. A lot of them live in Orlando, don’t they?