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State of the City – 2016

Mayor’s Remarks
State of the City

April 5, 2016
Orlando: The City Connected

Thirteen years ago we began a journey to transform everyone’s favorite destination… into our country’s favorite place to live.

Driven by a shared vision to shape Orlando into a place that is truly by everyone and for everyone… we made strategic investments in:

  • Tools, technology and training to fuel our superior police and fire protection.
  • Bringing world-class sports, art and entertainment here through our venues.
  • Expanding our parks and strengthening our neighborhoods.
  • Bolstering our transit options and building SunRail.
  • Invigorating our Downtown and making it the economic and cultural hub of our entire region.
  • Helping thousands of businesses open or grow.
  • Creating our tech and life sciences industry clusters.
  • And, building an environment that nurtures innovation and entrepreneurship.

Today, we are the City where everyone wants to live! Orlando is the fastest growing major City in America. It’s an exciting time to live in Orlando and see our hard work paying off. It’s all a result of the never quit… can-do attitude… of everyone in this room… and everyone who calls Orlando home. As mayor, and more importantly as your neighbor, let me say thank you!

Together, we have accomplished so much. But, there’s more we must do. If you think about it…

The 19th Century centered on New York and the industrial revolution. The 20th Century was about California cities and the tech revolution. What City will define the 21st Century? What City will be the new springboard for the American dream? Right now we’re well positioned, but the race is wide open.

So, how do we ensure that Orlando wins? That’s a question we can answer with one, powerful word: connectivity.

In the century ahead, how we connect will be just as important as what we build.

In the century ahead, connectivity will determine who leads and who follows.

In the century ahead… it’s cities that connect innovation, transportation, opportunity and quality of life together that will drive our country forward.

There’s no doubt, we have laid a great foundation for our future.

And, the state of our City, the City Beautiful, is strong and poised for great things.

To achieve those great things, and be the defining city of the 21st Century, we must become Orlando: The City Connected.

Connected Through Transportation:

The first piece of a more connected Orlando is a true 21st century transportation ecosystem that serves our region and beyond.

Our transit infrastructure is the key to our economic vitality and our quality of life, and our regional partners understand this.

We have 10 billion dollars in transportation projects underway or planned over the next five years.

The I-4 ultimate project is in full swing. We’re less than two years away from opening Sunrail’s Phase 2 south to Kissimmee. Next year, we’ll add the Brightline, which will connect Orlando to Miami. And soon after, light rail can connect the airport to I-drive. We’ve added car and bike sharing to our City and made Orlando more pedestrian friendly. We’ve built more than 300 miles of urban bicycling trails, signed routes and lanes. LYMMO is expanding, now serving the booming “North Quarter” and soon Parramore through the Lime Line. Later this year, with the leadership of Commissioner Ortiz, Orange and Seminole counties, we’ll explore opportunities for a Bus Rapid Transit system like LYMMO for the Semoran Boulevard corridor. That system would link residents directly with OIA and the businesses along the corridor.

When it comes to transportation… we have accomplished so much. But, there’s more we must do.

Even with all of this underway, we face a hard reality. It’s not enough to avoid a future where gridlock holds our economy back and creates problems for each of us.

To be the City that defines the 21st Century, we must become America’s new home for mass transit.

Imagine Orlando a short ten years from now.

Our mass transit options make it easier and less expensive to move people to and from the places they live, work and play.

In this future, SunRail is the backbone of a transit system that ties Downtown, our airport, Lake Nona and all our major employment sites together.

We see thousands of professionals use SunRail to commute to work every day… as well as the airport for business travel.

In this future Orlando’s airport is a multimodal hub for the entire southeast. And, our transit system fuels job creation, major development and more walk-able, healthier communities.

This future might happen, but it’s far from guaranteed.

It’s up to us to make it reality, beginning with SunRail. The faster we grow SunRail ridership, the faster this future arrives. That includes expanded service at night, on the weekends and for major events – and the creation of other forms of public and private transit that link to SunRail. At this moment, SunRail isn’t ideal for everyone. But, SunRail can work for many more of us.

Changing the way you commute is a big, intimidating decision.

But, if you listen to those who’ve done it, they’ll say SunRail has made their lives better. They’ll tell you that breaking out of the “car culture” means they don’t have to sit in traffic for an hour each way from Sanford or Lake Mary. They get to work, reliably on time every day, and they’re able to put their commuting time to better use, instead of being stuck and stressed behind the wheel of car.

I want to personally challenge everyone who commutes to Downtown using I-4 to try SunRail over the next few weeks. This challenge includes all of us.

I encourage each of you to take a friend, perhaps someone who lives in Seminole or Volusia County and spends too much time in I-4 traffic, to experience the benefits of SunRail first hand.

To make it easy, everyone here gets a pair of special “Try The Train” tickets good for the rest of this week.

Connected To Opportunity:

In a connected Orlando, a world-class transit infrastructure powers a world-class economy.

Our tourism industry has long been the foundation of our economic success.

Just last year Universal Orlando Resort, the City’s largest employer, created 15-hundred jobs with plans for even more expansion.

We’ve spent the last thirteen years expanding on that hospitality foundation and building Orlando’s next generation economy, focusing on the life sciences and technology industries.

Since 2003, City programs have helped create more than 2,200 high paying jobs in these areas.

These jobs have an average annual wage of more than 62-thousand dollars, nearly 150 percent more than the current average annual wage.

We’ve also focused on Main Street Districts that tie our neighborhoods and centers of commerce together.

Our eight districts are responsible for a thousand new housing units, more than 45-hundred new jobs and a billion dollars in new investment.

Because of this work, Orlando leads the country in job creation! And, our City economy ranks among the best in the country.

We have accomplished so much. But, there’s more we must do.

To create the economy that defines the century ahead and provides unparalleled prosperity for our residents, we must become America’s new home for opportunity, education and innovation.

To accomplish this, we must create a ladder to the middle class and beyond for every single person who calls our City home.

Imagine our economy as a ladder we’re building together.

The first rungs represent our commitment to provide every child with the opportunity for a great education.

Moving up the ladder, young people have the opportunity to get a first job, learn important skills and then leverage those skills on a pathway to a career, to college or to start a business.

Higher up the ladder… we see new kinds of companies that have made their home in Orlando and that serve as a magnet to keep college graduates here by giving them the opportunity to have great careers without leaving Central Florida.

Next, there’s the opportunity for innovators and entrepreneurs to start and grow a business in Orlando because they’re connected to all the talent and resources they need.

In this vision, every rung on the ladder connects with another rung.

Every step someone takes is made stronger by the step they took before it.

That vision of a ladder for everyone is why our new Downtown UCF and Valencia campus is so important.

This campus will anchor our innovation cluster, the Creative Village.

But, it will be so much more.

It will be a place where kids growing up in Parramore have a pathway from preschool… to college… to career… all within walking distance.

Students can take what they learn in a classroom and immediately put it to use in the real world.

To build this ladder, we must help young people connect education to opportunity.

It begins with early STEM education and other programs to deliver education and enrichment to our young people, especially those who are served by the Parramore Kidz Zone and After School All Stars.

It continues with initiatives like the Opportunity Jobs Academy where we’re connecting our high school students with an opportunity to have their first job, along with mentoring and skills-training to help them succeed in those jobs.

I’m excited that this afternoon, I’ll get to be one of those mentors.

To build this ladder we must be the best place for innovators and entrepreneurs.

Right now, there are amazing entrepreneurs at work in our City, creating the companies and careers of tomorrow.

You’ll see one of those companies on Shark Tank this Friday.

The company called Trobo has built a storytelling robot for kids that teaches lessens about STEM-related subjects.

Victory Tailgate is another homegrown success story. Started in a garage in 2008, they’re now the largest manufacturer of tailgating games in the country with 250 employees and plans to add 100 more this year.

With a median salary of more than 55-thousand dollars, Orlando’s own U-Break-I-Fix is number 13 on Inc. Magazine’s list of the fastest growing companies in America. This year, the company’s young leadership team made the decision to move their corporate headquarters and 70 employees to Downtown because that’s where their current and future employees want to live and work.

We need to create an environment where more of these success stories are made every day.

An environment where all the pieces are in place for entrepreneurs to succeed…where someone can take an idea… turn it into a start-up… get financing… grow the company… find talent… benefit from mentoring and guidance…continue to grow the company… and then invest back into the community.

We’re making this vision a reality through the Firespring Fund, which provides the seed funding that’s the largest barrier to growth faced by Central Florida’s technology and advanced manufacturing entrepreneurs.

Starting today, our community’s best and brightest entrepreneurs can apply to the FireSpring fund to help take their business from a startup to a sustainable company.

When we invest in our own economy… something amazing happens.

We create a magnet for more talent, more innovation and more small business creation.

We create a magnet that ensures that more graduates from all our top educational institutions including UCF, Florida A&M Law School, Rollins College, Full Sail, Seminole and Valencia Colleges stay here to pursue their dreams.

Building that ladder also means leveraging the power of our world-leading tourism industry to connect with and grow new industries.

Orlando Health’s new Proton Therapy Center is a great example of this dynamic.

The Center will treat patients from around the world, merging elements of our healthcare and hospitality industries to grow a new industry – “medical tourism.”

The same can be said for the new USTA headquarters at Lake Nona.

When the facility opens, we’re doing much more than just christening the new home of American Tennis.

With the leadership of Commissioner Gray, we’re leveraging the power of our airport and Medical City to help launch a whole new industry – sports training and sports tourism.

Connected To Your Government & Superior City Services:

We have an ambitious plan to bolster our transit infrastructure and innovation economy.

To accomplish this, our vision to modernize government services must be equally bold.

It should be said that our core City services are already some of the best around.

Let me give you some examples.

  • Third party accreditors call our police and fire protection one of the best of any Florida City.
  • We continue to reduce crime, including residential burglaries, which are down 16 percent over the last two years.
  • We’re also proud that 40 percent of OPD and 30 percent of our fire department hires in the past two years are veterans.
  • Our firefighters responded to 60-thousand calls last year, providing medical attention to 20-thousand people.
  • Firefighters also trained 33-thousand people in hands-only CPR and will double that number this year. By doing so, all of us are more likely to survive a heart attack here than anywhere else in America.

In the area of fiscal accountability, Fitch continues to give our City the highest credit rating possible, recognition that our government is a responsible steward of your tax dollars.

And, we’ve achieved our mission of becoming the most sustainable City in the southeast.

While our City services are some of the best around.

There’s more we must do.

To own the 21st century, Orlando must become America’s home for a new class of modern, data-driven, cost-effective City services.

To start, we must ensure the City can support our ambitious transportation goals and our robust economic development activities.

To do this, I’ve asked my Chief of Staff Frank Billingsley and Chief Administrative Officer Byron Brooks to undertake a top-to-bottom review of our economic development and transportation services.

From permits to planning, to connecting residents with resources and partners, we’re going to modernize our systems, reduce and eliminate unnecessary steps and provide the best customer service anywhere.

We are going to be the easiest place to do business in America.

A new class of City services means working to build the most innovative police department in America, one that leads the country in dealing with complex crimes such as sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence.

These crimes are a growing epidemic nationwide.

That’s why OPD is training a new special victims response team to better equip first responders to deal with sexual violence and crimes against children.

In fact, later this month Chief Mina will lead a national discussion at the White House to better understand the dynamics behind these crimes and how to prevent them by using data.

Heroin abuse is another growing epidemic here and across the country, with ten times the number of people dying from overdoses last year than just four years ago.

Because of this, OPD is following the lead of our fire department and ensuring our officers have the training and medication necessary to treat victims and save lives.

Our focus on next-generation policing will be the foundation of our new police headquarters in the heart of Parramore.

More than just a state-of-the-art home for our modern police department, it will be a community hub, accessible to those who live and work nearby with glass walls and community rooms serving as the physical embodiment of our open and transparent policing efforts.

That new class of City services also means tying sustainability into everything we do.

These days, sustainability isn’t just about protecting our environment.

Our green efforts are a big part of how we attract and retain talent and build that environment where young people want to live and work.

We’re working on a plan that will empower our business community, by making sure they have all the modern data necessary to make more informed decisions about their energy and water usage in our biggest buildings.

We’re also continuing our effort to improve the energy efficiency of more than 50 City buildings that will save two-and-a-half million dollars a year.

We’re making a commitment to convert our entire city fleet to renewable fuels by 2030, leading by example and making our City less dependent on gasoline.

We’ve added 17 compressed natural gas trucks to our solid waste fleet and helped our airport open its first public CNG fueling station.

And, we’ll help LYNX open its new public natural gas fueling facility as part of their mission to put 150 CNG buses on the road by 2020.

With the partnership of OUC, we’re expanding our tree canopy through the “One Person One Tree” initiative.

We’re working with our restaurant and hotel industry to divert food waste from our landfills through our new Commercial Food Waste program.

We’re investing 50 million dollars in our City’s infrastructure to improve roadways, sewers and stormwater drains so that residents can travel safely and our streets won’t flood.

These kinds of improvements aren’t always visible, but they are the foundation of our superior quality of life.

Serving our residents means providing access to quality, safe and affordable housing.

To create more housing options, we are working with Commissioner Hill and partnering with non-profits like LIFT Orlando, businesses and developers to construct five new affordable housing developments and transforming vacant lots in Parramore into affordable housing.

Connected To Spaces & Places:

The residents in our 21st Century Orlando won’t just require great places to live and work, they’ll also demand great places to play.

The spaces where we gather are so important to our quality of life.

They give a city its character.

They’re where we make shared memories.

We have incredible public spaces in Orlando, like our iconic Lake Eola Park.

Since 2003, not only have we added the east lawn to Lake Eola Park, we’ve added 22 parks and renovated 28 others.

We’ve also seen how public art can draw us together through See Art Orlando and new art installations at Lake Nona.

With Commissioner Stuart’s leadership, we’ve enhanced Loch Haven Park by adding a new performance plaza and outdoor event space.

We’ve experienced the power even small public spaces have, like our community gardens that allow neighbors who might not have known one another to garden side by side.

And, we continue to see the economic power of spaces to watch sporting and entertainment events.

In the next 24 months, that strength will be on full display as we welcome hundreds of thousands of people to Wrestlemania, NCAA March Madness, Orlando Magic games, the COPA America Games, Orlando City Lions games, The Orlando Pride’s inaugural season, Solar Bear Games, our three annual bowl games and the Florida Classic, Broadway shows at the Doctor Phillips Center, major cultural festivals and everything in between.

Again, we have accomplished so much.

But, there’s more we must do.

If we want to be a 21st Century City where people from all over the world seek to live and invest, then we must become America’s new home for great shared spaces.

That means we need to see the vision of our sports, arts and entertainment district become reality, anchored by the Orlando Magic’s SED project.

It means we need to continue to create new park spaces, by adding fields at Trotters Park and new parks in southeast Orlando.

And, creating a dog park at Constitution Green with the leadership of Commissioner Sheehan.

It means we must blend new parks and green space into the fabric of our Downtown and our neighborhoods, like the way we’re going to transform what used to be a giant parking lot underneath I-4 into one of the coolest public parks in America.

Connected To Each Other:

Our events and public spaces are also a powerful platform to see Orlando’s diversity.

Think about the incredible inclusiveness that’s on display at Fireworks at the Fountain… or one of our City’s largest National Night Out events in Commissioner Ings’ district… or when we gathered to open our community venues.

In Orlando, we value every single person and we believe diversity is one of our greatest strengths, not something to be legislated out of existence.

We’ve shown our state, and our nation, what it means to embrace other cultures, and ways of life.

In recent days we’ve seen some of the biggest companies in the world voice their unhappiness with Georgia and North Carolina over how those governments are seeking to infringe upon the rights of those who are different.

I would say to those companies, give us a call.

Maybe it’s time for a location change.

Our diverse, inclusive Orlando community would be delighted to welcome you with open arms!

That same inclusive spirit is driving our efforts to end homelessness.

For far too long, the men and women who selflessly served our country have been among the homeless on our streets.

Energized by a challenge from the White House, more than 500 volunteers worked to identify all the chronically homeless veterans in Orlando.

We’ve now helped the vast majority, more than a thousand veterans, got off the streets and into housing.

Florida Hospital’s unprecedented contribution has spurred other private donations from across our region and because of that we’ve helped put 70 chronically homeless individuals living in Downtown into permanent housing just this year.

We have accomplished so much when it comes to being a community where no one is left behind.

But, there’s more we must do.

To become America’s 21st Century City…a city by and for everyone, we must also become America’s new home for inclusiveness.

That means seizing the momentum we’ve generated in reducing homelessness and doing even more.

At this moment, there are hundreds of homeless youth or unaccompanied young adults on our streets.

Many find themselves homeless and alone because they’re victims of abuse, have suffered emotional trauma or bounced in and out of the foster care system.

Nationally, 40 percent have fled their homes because of differences with their parents over their sexual orientation or bullying at school.

To address this, our partners, Phil and Kay Rawlins have formed a task force to specifically focus on youth homelessness.

This is another example of the many faces of homelessness we see in our community that most people don’t even know exists.

And, it shows how challenging the issue is because there’s no “one size fits all” solution.

Because of the complexity of this issue, we have tapped into the expertise of CSH, the nation’s leader in advancing housing solutions for our most vulnerable populations.

We need that kind of expertise inside City Hall, someone who is solely dedicated to solving homelessness.

So, I’m appointing Lori Pampilo (Pam-pee-low) Harris who previously worked for CSH to now serve as Senior Advisor to the Mayor on Homelessness and Social Services.

Through a partnership with Ability Housing we are revitalizing vacant and foreclosed properties on Mercy Drive to provide affordable housing and permanent supportive housing units for families and the chronically homeless.

And, we’re working with landlords to overcome the perceived risks and costs of renting to the homeless.

To encourage more housing options for the chronically homeless, part of the City’s 4 million dollar homelessness commitment includes a “shared risk fund” that reimburses landlords for any repairs, excess damage or legal costs they might incur.

I am proud to report that since this program’s launch last year, we have not had to use that fund once.

There’s no doubt that homelessness has been an unprecedented challenge for far too long for our entire region, but now thanks to the collaboration of Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties we are making headway.

Closing – Partnership:

We started today by talking about what City is going to win the race to define the 21st Century.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently described the essential characteristics he felt were necessary to make that happen.

He said, it’s cities “Where coalitions made up of the business community, educators and local government come together to forge hybrid solutions to improve their competitiveness and their resilience” that are going to change the world.

Now, does that sound like any city we know?

Sounds like Orlando, to me.

And, it sounds like our proven model for partnership.

Partnership is the hallmark of our community.

Our community’s ability to collaborate across political, ideological and jurisdictional lines is both our strategic advantage and the foundation of every accomplishment we’ve made.

This room, and our entire City, is filled with partners who deserve to be recognized and thanked.

There is no group more deserving of recognition than our hard working City commissioners who are both great partners and great leaders.

Mayor Jacobs and the board of Orange County Commissioners.

Leaders from Osceola and Seminole Counties.

Our very own State Senate President Andy Gardiner, Representative Mike Miller and Governor Scott, for their leadership in making the UCF and Valencia College campus a reality.

Our great partners in the tourism industry, including Universal, Disney World, SeaWorld and the CFHLA.

Our arts and faith-based leaders.

Our neighborhood leaders, our non-profit leaders and those from our civic organizations.

Of course, our dedicated City employees.

To each and every one of you, I want to say thank you.

Thank you for your hard work and commitment to our City.

Thank you, once again, for entrusting me with the best job in the world.

Because of you, we can confidently proclaim that Orlando is going to lead America through the 21st Century!

Thank you.

God Bless America.

And, God Bless the City of Orlando.