February 29, 2012
UCF Medical School
In the 1950’s a group of dreamers looked out at a giant
pasture near Orlando and imagined what could be.
Those visionaries built Walt Disney
World. Their dream changed Orlando for the better. Forever.
Ten years ago, another group of
dreamers looked out at a similar piece of land and imagined
the possibilities. They envisioned a new kind of home for
hospitals, universities, research institutes and life
science companies a place where medical breakthroughs were
made steps away from moms and dads raising their families.
They dreamed of a live, work, play
campus that gives our residents and visitors access to some
of the best health care professionals in the world. And,
they imagined an economic engine that would pump billions
into our local economy and create quality, high-paying jobs
for generations to come. Today, we are standing on that
once-vacant land. We are looking at a dream that has been
realized. Good Morning, everyone.
Welcome to the Medical City at Lake
Members of our City Council,
neighborhood Leaders, faithful members of the clergy, owners
of businesses, small and large, representatives of our
valued charities and non profits, all of our other elected
officials and, of course, the residents of Orlando.
I want to thank you, once again, for
the opportunity to report to you on the state of our City.
This is the first time we’ve taken the State of the City “on
the road.” We are here today for one, simple reason:
Because just like Disney a half century before, the Medical
City is going to change Orlando for the better. Forever.
The first step in turning the Medical
City dream into reality was securing the University Of
Central Florida College Of Medicine. More than 200 students
are enrolled in the medical school and the campus has
expanded to include the Burnett School of Biomedical
Sciences, a medical library and other UCF health sciences
programs. The campus was augmented with the addition of the
MD Anderson Cancer Research Institute, bringing a
world-class cancer center to the residents of Central
Florida. Our region has no better partner than the
University of Central Florida.
That is a credit to UCF President John Hitt, who this year
celebrates 20 years as the leader of our hometown
university. Please join me in saying thank-you to Doctor
Hitt for all he has done for our City.
The second piece of the Medical City
fell into place when the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research
Institute, one of the leading research institutions in the
nation, selected this Lake Nona site for its new east coast
home. The facility will employ over 300 scientists dedicated
to finding cures for disease and improving quality of life.
This summer, the University of Florida
Academic and Research Center will open its doors, which
includes UF’s College of Pharmacy and Institutes on Aging
and Therapeutic Innovation.
The facility will allow UF scientists to work with
researchers from the Sanford Burnham on diabetes, aging,
genetics and cancer research.
Also later this year, the Nemours
Children’s Hospital and Outpatient Clinic will open.
Nemours will bring comprehensive children’s healthcare and
research capabilities to the forefront of the emerging
health and science sector of Central Florida.
The last major tenant of the Medical
City is the VA Medical Center. It’s the first VA hospital
built in the United States since 1995. The 665 million
dollar hospital will increase access to health care for 400
thousand Central Florida veterans and includes the national
headquarters for the VA’s simulation training program. With
more women serving in the military than ever before, the new
center will also feature a specialized Woman’s Care Clinic.
Once all these facilities are open, the
Medical City will create more than 30,000 jobs and have a
10-year economic impact of nearly 8 billion dollars. This
one-of-a-kind cluster of clinics, classrooms and
laboratories will revolutionize America’s healthcare
landscape and our local economy.
But, the Medical City’s impact doesn’t
stop at the end of the workday. We can’t forget about the
other side of the Medical City, the high-tech residential
neighborhoods and schools that will be home to doctors and
scientists and their families. Already being built, are the
first of many homes that feature energy efficient
technologies that dramatically reduce power bills. These
homes also have electric vehicle charging stations and
internet access that is among the fastest on earth. Nearby,
Valencia College, American’s best community college, will
open its new southeast campus, right next to Lake Nona High
School in 2012.
The Road Map for a Better Future As
important as the Medical City is to our future, the way it
was created might be even more important. The seeds for the
Medical City were sewn when we lost out on the Scripps
Institute to south Florida in the early part of the last
Realizing that we would not be able to
compete for the companies and jobs of the future unless we
redefined the way our entire region worked together, this
community committed itself to a level of cooperation never
before seen in Central Florida. In fostering the partnership
necessary to create the Medical City, we didn’t just build a
We also created a road map for how to
get big, important things done and how to overcome the
challenges that confront our community. The partnership
strategy that fueled the Medical City was the foundation of
our effort to secure SunRail, Central Florida’s first
commuter rail system.
Our community worked relentlessly to advance SunRail as the
critical first step in the effort to reduce traffic
congestion, give our residents alternatives to their cars
and create tens of thousands of quality jobs.
Just 27 months from now, Central
Floridians will be able to board a train that connects our
communities in the City of Orlando, Volusia, Seminole,
Orange and Osceola counties. SunRail is expected to generate
250-thousand jobs and an 8 billion dollar economic impact
over the next 30 years.
Our model for partnership also paved
the way for the Creation of the Amway Center, the Doctor
Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the ongoing
revitalization of our Downtown
The Amway Center celebrated its first anniversary a few
months ago. With the leadership of Commissioner Lynum, the
associated Blueprint program is still putting residents to
Around the corner, construction is in full swing on the Dr.
Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which is set to
open in 2014. We also remain committed to finding a way to
refurbish the Citrus Bowl.
Just a few days ago, the eyes of the
world focused on Orlando for the NBA All Star Game.
The game gave us the chance to showcase our City and our
Downtown. It also gave us a glimpse of the power of our
community venues… and what the future could look like as we
expand our brand as a premier destination for arts,
entertainment and sports.
Our newfound culture of collaboration
helped us weather the worst recession since the great
depression and position Orlando as one of a handful of
American cities primed to recover faster and stronger than
Knowing small businesses are critical
to creating jobs, we partnered with our neighborhood
businesses to launch our Main Street program. Our Main
Street Districts are responsible for 278 new businesses… and
more than 15-hundred new jobs. I know Commissioner Stuart is
proud to have a district that’s home three of those Main
We also took bold steps as a government
to reduce regulation and red tape at City hall. We cut the
City’s transportation impact fees for small businesses
looking to re-activate dormant property.
In return, those businesses made an investment in our City
of more than 5 million dollars and created more than 500
jobs in only one year. Knowing that the best way to create
good jobs for our residents is to grow them ourselves we
continued to invest in entrepreneurship through our
We also worked with our partners at the
county and state level to retain companies and attract new
ones. Amcor Rigid Plastics, Signature Flight Support, Planet
Hollywood, Row Sham Bow and Publix have new or expanded
homes in Orlando, creating hundreds of jobs.
Some critics use inflammatory terms
like “corporate welfare” to attack any program that uses tax
incentives to support local businesses. To them I
would say - you are mistaken. We’re not giving businesses a
hand-out. We are giving them a hand up. These incentives
don’t kick in, until a company proves they created the jobs
they promised. And, the investments we’re making to create a
business-friendly atmosphere are paying off. This year
alone, national publications ranked Orlando as the least
expensive city in America to open a business. The most
business-friendly city in the United States. The third best
city in the country for finding an IT job. One of a handful
of cities poised to be America’s next “Boom Towns.”
We are proud to be laying a foundation
for our businesses to chart their own individual courses for
A road map for collaboration isn’t the
Medical City’s only legacy. We are replicating the
“clustering” approach being used here, to the technology
industry. Our aim is to bring high-tech companies together
on the 68-acre site of the old Amway Arena.
When the Amway Arena is imploded, we
will begin transforming the site into a live, work, play
campus that’s home to companies in cutting edge industries
like digital media and modeling and simulation. The Creative
Village will be another economic engine for our City. One
that creates more than 5-thousand, quality jobs.
When we talk about partnership we can’t
forget that collaboration is also at the heart of our work
to strengthen neighborhoods. Orlando is fortunate to have so
many diverse, distinct neighborhoods. That’s why we’ve
engaged in City-wide vision planning, which gives residents
and small businesses new opportunities to determine how
their neighborhoods grow and prosper.
These sessions helped us add 14 miles of sidewalks over the
last four years and repair another 7 miles of sidewalks.
We worked with neighborhood leaders to
create a maintenance strategy to resurface 15 miles of
neighborhood streets and repair 13-hundred feet of curb and
gutter. The sessions helped us prevent accidents and reduce
speeding in 15 different neighborhoods through the
installation of new traffic calming devices. Through the
leadership of Commissioner Ings, neighborhood leaders also
helped secure a desperately-needed supermarket and a new
police sub-station for the west side of Orlando.
Along Semoran Boulevard, Commissioner
Ortiz has worked with residents and businesses to rejuvenate
the entire corridor, making it safer for pedestrians and
giving one of our City’s gateways a new identity. Our focus
on neighborhoods also helped put plans in place to extend
our free Lymmo bus service east to Thornton Park and West to
Parramore, right in time for residents to use Lymmo to
connect with SunRail.
The passion our residents have for
their City and their neighborhoods also helped bring back
the iconic Lake Eola Fountain, bigger and better than ever.
Isn’t that right Commissioner Sheehan?
In Orlando, we love our neighborhoods.
One of the great pleasures of being Mayor is the opportunity
to work alongside our residents as we build the strongest,
most engaged neighborhoods anywhere in America.
We’ve talked a lot today about the
significance of partnership. But, there is another “Piece of
the puzzle” that’s just as critical when it comes to making
our City the best place anywhere to live, work and raise a
family. Strong, efficient, City government.
First and foremost, good government
means keeping our City safe. Orlando now has more police
officers and firefighters per thousand residents than any
major city in Florida. At the same time, we’ve reduced our
workforce everywhere else. In the last few years, we’ve
engineered the most dramatic reduction in crime in City
We’ve also made huge strides in
combating domestic violence, preventing crime at apartment
complexes and increasing neighborhood watches. One area of
concern where crime is up slightly is property crime and
burglaries. Law enforcement experts often describe these as
low priority crimes. But, you try telling that to a family
whose house has been broken into. We will not tolerate crime
anywhere in our City, violent or non violent. That’s why we
are putting new resources into the fight against property
We’ve formed specialized patrol units
to focus on stopping burglaries. We’ve also added property
crime detectives, to make sure that we send burglars to
jail. Technology continues to be critically important to the
safety of our City as we expand our IRIS camera program.
Chief Rooney will tell you that one IRIS camera is like
having three extra police officers; at a fraction of the
cost. The cameras not only prevent crime, they also greatly
increase the odds of an arrest and successful prosecution
when a crime is caught on camera.
While we love technology, nothing can
replace our hard-working police officers, who serve our
community in ways that go far beyond what they do in
uniform. A great example is Operation Positive Direction,
where police volunteer their spare time as mentors to kids.
I want to read part of a thank-you letter from Droody
Pierre, a student at Jones High, about her experience as a
member of the City’s Dragon Boat team with members of OPD.
Paddles up, all boats hold. Go!!
This was the last thing I heard before taking off with a
force of ten teens and eleven swat team members. We reached
and stretched; pulled and counted. For that moment we
weren’t just “teens from the neighborhood.” We were a force
to be reckoned with.
We not only created a team but a long lasting bond and
family; something I know we will truly never forget.
Some of the OPD volunteers are here
today. Please join me in recognizing them for their hard
Not to be outdone, Orlando’s
firefighters are getting out of those big red trucks and
spending time in neighborhoods as well. They call it the
Blitz Program, where firefighters pound the pavement to
provide home safety inspections, install smoke detectors and
even give CPR training. Just a few days ago, I had the
chance to join them. I must say our City has no better
ambassadors than our firefighters. Please join me in
saluting them for all that they do. I should also mention
that our Fire Department has maintained its ISO 1 rating.
That means they continue to be one of the top 60 fire
departments in America out of more than 50-thousand
departments. This year, our Fire Department took on the
responsibility of transporting patients. In doing so, we
have been able to increase the continuity of care we give to
victims, while keeping our fire department fully staffed.
Good government also means being as
careful with a dollar as the families in our City.
We take great pride in the fact that our City government is
in the best financial shape of any major city in Florida.
Orlando residents pay the lowest tax rate of any major city
Our City government has fought tax increases, while other
Florida cities have raised their tax rates in response to
the negative effects of the recession.
We’ve reduced the size of our
government and dramatically cut costs with the only new
spending going toward police and fire protection. Our City
government has balanced its budget without draining
reserves. In fact, since 2005 we’ve added to our savings by
30 percent while other governments around Florida have
reduced their strategic reserves.
Orlando is the only major city
government in Florida that has funded all of its retirement
benefits. And, Fitch Ratings gave us a Triple-A bond rating
this year. That means our City has better credit than the
federal government. Our strong financial health is the
product of tough, but necessary decisions by this City
Council. Please, join me in recognizing our City
commissioners for their hard work and fiscal discipline.
Commissioners, in order to live within our means we’ve had
to make some hard choices during these tough times.
For example, we reduced mowing and
watering cycles and cut back on hours at some community
centers. We’ve had to find innovative ways to save money,
like partnering with Google to provide email for our City
workforce at a cost savings of a quarter of a million
dollars a year.
Of course, we don’t like to see grass a little higher than
it should be or community centers closing a few hours early.
But, you know what?
Because that grass is a little higher,
we’ve been able to keep our taxes lower!
I am proud that our government has been able to live within
its means without placing any additional burden on our
residents. The good news is because of our fiscal prudence;
once again, we can announce there won’t be any tax increases
in the year ahead, so we can keep money in the pockets of
our residents as the economy recovers.
Lastly, good government means providing
the services people depend on every day.
I want our residents to be proud that they live in a City
that delivers these core services better than anyone else.
Every three weeks, every street in our City gets cleaned.
That’s more often than any other city in Florida.
By filling potholes in 24 hours or
less, we also boast the fastest response time in the state.
Our flood plain management program entitles our residents to
a 20 percent discount on their flood insurance. Our bike
lanes and green space are second to none. In fact,
60-thousand people played sports in our parks last year.
Another important aspect of our City services is helping
people get around safely and efficiently. Our new Downtown
Intelligent Transportation System will provide real time
parking information for drivers.
We are also expanding the ITS program
city-wide, which includes a mechanism that coordinates the
movement of emergency vehicles with traffic lights. That
means accident victims will get to the hospital faster and
safer. We are also proud that our City services include
programs that help our kids succeed.
The Parramore Kidz Zone is entering its
6th year. Thanks to PKZ, juvenile arrests in that
neighborhood have been reduced by nearly 80 percent. The
City also provides a safe haven for more than two thousand
middle school students each year through its After School
All Stars program. Nearly 90 percent of the kids in After
School All Stars have improved their reading and math
scores. In two years, these young people have logged more
than 7-thousand hours of community service.
These programs are more than child care
or mentoring. They keep money in the pockets of moms and
dads by allowing them to keep a job or take extra shifts at
There’s an old saying that “Success has
a thousand fathers.” It’s not meant as a compliment.
It means everyone is quick to take credit when something
good happens, even if they didn’t have much to do with it.
Here in Orlando we are turning that adage on its head. In
our City, we want success to have a thousand fathers and
mothers, too. In fact, our future depends on us working
across party lines, geographic boundaries, and even
Our future depends on us sharing the
responsibility and the credit. As I look out at this room
today, I see so many people who are doing just that. I see
the team from Fifth Third Bank who led the effort to send
more than 1,000 homeless kids to summer camp.
I see representatives from Florida
Hospital and Orlando Health. Both of our hospital partners
are expanding their campuses to connect to SunRail and
creating true north and south gateways to Downtown Orlando.
There’s our partners at the Edyth Bush
Charitable Foundation who have given out 25 grants totaling
more than a million dollars to support the Medical City. I
see our hometown utility, OUC, that’s helping residents keep
money in their pockets by fostering the development of more
energy efficient homes here in Lake Nona.
I see our partners from Goodwill, who
have launched a program in partnership with our Blueprint
Employment Office to provide free interview apparel and
other services for job applicants. We have local businesses
HHCP and Parsons Brinkerhoff, who both moved their Central
Florida headquarters to Downtown Orlando recently.
I see our elected leaders and partners
from our economic development, civic and transportation
sectors: The Metro Orlando EDC, The Central Florida
Partnership, MetroPlan Orlando, LYNX and Visit Orlando.
Finally, I see the dedicated, hard
working members of our City family. Every year, City staff
engages in a workplace giving campaign. This year, our
employees broke all records for charitable giving at City
There are so many more partners that I
want to recognize. Unfortunately, if we saluted all of our
deserving partners, we’d be here until the medical school
class graduates. Just know that each of you here today, and
everyone who calls Orlando home, are partners in our journey
to make our City the best place anywhere to live, work and
raise a family.
Because of all of you, we can proudly
declare that the state of Orlando remains strong!
Because of you, our City has never been more full of promise
and possibility than it is right now!
2012 is going to belong to the Medical City.
If we continue to work together, there
is no doubt the next decade will belong to Orlando!
God Bless America.
God Bless the City of Orlando