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State of the City


About The Event

Mayor Dyer’s annual State of the City address takes place in the Summer. This is a time to reflect on our city’s recent accomplishments and also make several announcements on the city’s priorities to keep Orlando connected and moving forward. Visit for information on the next State of the City Address.

Previous State of the City speeches

View the 2019 State of the City Address

State of the City 2019
June 24
Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts

Introduction:  The Future Ready City

Good morning and welcome to our annual State of the City event!

What beautiful words from Orlando’s Poet Laureate, Susan Lilley, to set the tone for us.

And you know what is funny about that airport tram message? Of all the things, I’ve had the opportunity to do as mayor, that is probably the one thing our residents and visitors bring up the most.

Now, let’s think about the diverse spectrum of people onboard an airplane bound for our City Beautiful.

It really is the perfect image to illustrate the “Orlando Story” that our community has written.

  • It’s the story of a City that’s evolved into a vibrant, 21st century community with an economy on the rise and unmatched quality of life.
  •  It’s the story of a City that refuses to back down from the challenges that confront us.
  • Most of all, it’s the story of a City that celebrates our diversity… strives for equality… and understands that what makes us different… is our greatest strength.

It seems like everywhere we look we’re encouraged to define ourselves by what divides us:  our political party, our race, our religion, our gender, our sexual orientation, where we were born, what language we speak or how much money we make.

Not in Orlando.

No, not… here in Orlando.

In Orlando, we’ve proven there’s a better way.

Despite all of the national negativity and division… Orlando is defined by what unites us.

We do this because we know that unity, collaboration and partnership are the keys to opening the doors of prosperity for all of us.

And… we do this because we know that unity, collaboration and partnership are the rock-solid foundation from which our community will not only continue to succeed, but will own the future!

Our future is what we’re here to talk about today.

Together, we’ve shaped Orlando into a 21st Century City filled with vitality and ambition.

But, our work isn’t over.

Our future success depends on our ability to attract and grow talent… our ability to take advantage of the sweeping technological advancements coming our way… and our ability to expand opportunity for everyone.

Now, “Smart City” is a buzzword that many cities use without really knowing its meaning.

Who here knows what Smart City means?

I’m guessing if I asked ten of you… we’d get ten different answers.

So, we prefer to talk about being a “Future Ready” City

In Orlando… our goal is to become America’s premier Future Ready City.

We can’t predict exactly what the future holds in store for us.

What we CAN DO is put our City in the best possible position to take advantage of the advances coming our way.

Rather than have me tell you what we’re doing to be a “Future Ready” City… we’re doing something different today.

We’ve invited some of our residents to tell us what Future Ready means.

Through their stories… in their own words… we’ll look at the future of Orlando… and help illustrate the state of our City.

Sasha’s Story:  A City Of Opportunity

Our first story began more than two decades ago, just a few blocks from here.

If you were born in Parramore in the late 90’s… you were likely born into poverty.

If you were a female… you were more likely to end up a pregnant teen or a high-school dropout…  than go to college.

From the moment she took her first breath… the odds were against Sasha Mills.

(Sasha’s Story Video)

Sasha is a living example of how education and opportunity can change lives.

Sasha is why we’ve worked so hard… year after year… block by block… through strategic investment and planning… pulling together incredible partners… to build the most robust educational ecosystem in Florida… right here in Parramore.

With the help of our Parramore Kidz Zone, Sasha beat the odds to get where she is today.

With the UCF- Valencia Downtown campus opening its doors in just 63 days, young people growing up today in Parramore have a living, breathing opportunity escalator outside their front door and access to the jobs of the future.

This campus will serve as the engine for our Creative Village, an urban neighborhood dedicated to innovation and creativity.

Creative Village is coming to life right now with more than half-a-billion dollars-worth of construction underway.

Did everyone see the article from Inc. Magazine that talks about all the talent fleeing from Silicon Valley… And makes the case that Orlando should be their destination of choice?

To those companies and employees looking for a new home that’s affordable, has access to a talent pipeline and an incredible quality of life… there’s a place for you in Creative Village!

In the months and years ahead… we’re going to see the power of our education ecosystem, combined with new housing options, serve as a magnet to attract new companies to Downtown Orlando.

Nigel and Joe’s Stories:  An Innovative City

Creative Village is the result of our work to diversify our economy and establish new companies and careers in our City with a focus on innovation.

Technology is also playing a major role in the success and expansion of our tourism industry… with 75 million visitors being welcomed to our community just last year.

Our City’s largest employer Universal Parks and Resorts, in Commissioner Ings district, now serves as the global headquarters for four existing theme park destinations and manages the development of a fifth in Beijing.

Through the leadership of Advent Health and Orlando Health, our region has become the ideal platform to launch groundbreaking medical advances that combat our most pressing health issues.

Next month, Advent Health will launch a first-of-its-kind DNA study in Florida.

And celebrating 100 years, Orlando Health is expanding its Downtown Campus. The Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children celebrates its 30-year anniversary and tenth consecutive year being recognized as one of America’s best children’s hospitals.

The health and wellness industry is also fueling the rapid growth of the Medical City at Lake Nona.

Commissioner Gray has played a key role in turning what was once a cow pasture… into our thriving Medical City.

Nemours Children’s Hospital… the Orlando VA Medical Center… UCF Health Sciences Campus… GuideWell Innovation Center… and the UF Research & Academic Center all call Medical City Home… along with cutting edge training facilities like the USTA National Campus and the Johnson and Johnson Human Performance Institute.

And next year, KPMG’s new 55-acre, 400-million-dollar campus will open its doors… and bring 1,000 trainees from around the world to Orlando every single week.

All of this is why Lake Nona is the fastest growing area in Orlando… and one of the fastest-growing communities in America.

Being a Future Ready City means never being satisfied by what we’ve already accomplished.

Think about this statistic… 85 percent of the jobs in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.

Two of our residents are going to help show us why our future hinges on our ability to attract and grow talent.

(BEEP and Joe’s Story Video)

Nigel Smith and Joe Moye’s stories are different, but equally important pieces of the future ready puzzle.

Their stories help us understand why getting young people excited about STEM education helps create a pipeline of talent to fuel all of these future industries and endeavors.

Their stories help us understand why Orlando being among a handful of America’s “autonomous vehicle proving grounds” is so important… so our residents and businesses benefit from this technology first.

They help us understand why the race to 5G is the modern equivalent of the “space race” and why Orlando needs to win that race.

Autonomous vehicles…. connected healthcare…. and the entire innovation economy will rely on how quickly and efficiently our community is able to deploy 5G infrastructure.

That’s why we launched a first-of-its kind initiative to expedite 5G wireless permitting… so that Orlando benefits sooner from the jobs and economic opportunities brought by this revolutionary technology.

Because the connective tissue between technology, sustainability and quality of life is so important… we’re developing an entire “Future Ready Master Plan” that will allow us to better leverage technology and serve as a road-map to address challenges we face now and those that lie ahead.

Our residents have told us loud and clear… being a City where people want to live and work… means being a city that prioritizes sustainability.

A decade ago, we declared that we were going to be the most sustainable City in the Southeast… and we worked together to turn that goal into reality.

Now we are aiming even higher with our pledge to have 100 percent renewable energy for municipal buildings by 2030… zero waste by 2040… and 100 percent renewable energy citywide by 2050.

To achieve this, we’re focusing on solar energy.

Floating solar arrays, solar on public rooftops, solar parking lot canopies, and soon, solar panels at Orlando International Airport are all part of our shared clean energy solution with OUC.

Through solar power, our new records warehouse generated more energy than it used over the last two months.

And this year, solar energy will help power 10 new or renovated City facilities, which will reduce both utility costs and our carbon footprint.

We continue to convert the city’s fleet of cars and buses to electric.

And we’re adding 100 electric vehicle charging stations next year to our city parks, community centers and garages.

To be a City that attracts and retains talent… we must also work together to expand and strengthen our quality of life amenities… our great places to play… to gather… to make memories with family and friends.

That’s why, we are adding new parks throughout our city…

In Commissioner Stuart’s district, \through a partnership with Dr. Phillips Charities, we are creating a new 66-acre public park and tennis centre, trails for biking and walking and dedicated open green space in the new Packing District development.

Two new community parks will also open in the southeast this summer – Heroes and McCoy.

And together with Florida Citrus Sports we are investing eight million dollars to completely reconstruct Lake Lorna Doone Park into a signature park with amenities that include a new inclusive playground, basketball courts and a water spray park.

These new amenities build on our world-class community venues and cultural facilities, adding to the many reasons our residents are proud to call Orlando home.

We’re about a year away from the completion of the second phase of our Dr. Phillips Center.

We are investing more in our local arts venues, with enhancements to the Mennello Museum and the Orlando Philharmonic’s Plaza Live and the construction of Harriett’s Orlando Ballet Centre.

And, world class design teams will soon bring to life the Holocaust Museum for Hope and Humanity and the National Pulse Memorial & Museum.

With great partners like the Orlando Magic… the Orlando City Lions… the Orlando Pride… the Orlando Solar Bears… the Greater Orlando Sports Commission… our sports and entertainment district can host any event in the world… including the upcoming MLS All-Star Game and the Special Olympics USA Games in 2022.

With additional renovations planned at Camping World Stadium we are also competing to host the World Cup games in 2026.

Our Main Streets are hubs of neighborhood gatherings.

Who has been to East End Market in Audubon Park? Or the Lunar New Year Dragon Parade Festival in Mills 50?

Or.. gone to Tasty Tuesday Food Trucks in the Milk District or tried one of our breweries like Rock Pit Brewing in SoDo?

All of these are in the City’s Main Street Districts.

The City’s Main Street Districts reflect Orlando’s fusion of cultures….from a growing food scene to unique community events.

The City’s investment in these districts has resulted in thriving neighborhoods with new businesses – in fact more than 1,000 small businesses have opened since we started the Main Street Program.

Each of these districts brings a unique character to the neighborhood and have become the soul of our city.

EL Cafétal:  Small Businesses & Expanding Opportunity

List after list now touts Orlando as one of the best cities anywhere to start a business.

We were also recognized as one of 2019’s best cities for Hispanic entrepreneurs.

Being featured like this helps us attract investment and promote our brand to the world.

But, lists don’t tell the full story of just how important entrepreneurship is and what we’re doing to help small businesses succeed.

To help us do that… meet Melvin Mendez.

(El Cafétal Story Video)

Last week, Commissioner Ortiz and I were there when Melvin and his family opened EL Cafétal in our Gateway Orlando Main Street District.

Funding through our Small Business Assistance Program helped him offset building permit and impact fees and get his business up and running.

Just like Melvin is looking to the future… when it comes to having the best climate in America for businesses… we can’t ever be satisfied.

We’re investing more than 2-million dollars annually to encourage small businesses to locate, expand, or redevelop in the City.

Even though the number of permits we receive has more than doubled in the past decade… we’ve reduced the time it takes for small businesses to open their doors thanks to Permitting Express.

The majority of these permits are now approved in less than 15 days.

This year, we’re working to apply that same model to our commercial construction industry through our new “Permit By Appointment” initiative.

And, we’re expanding our Main Street program.

Our ten Main Street districts have been so successful. Through Commissioner Hill’s leadership, we’re going to expand the Church Street District to welcome more members of our Central Business District and expand the District west in Parramore.

Donna’s Story:  The Future of Transportation

Being a Future Ready City… is about not shying away from our challenges.

One of our biggest is traffic congestion… and no; it isn’t just because I-4 is under construction.

Our traffic headaches are not going to get any better, they are only going to get worse if our community does not make additional significant investments in transportation infrastructure.

Donna Flood is going to help show us how her daily commute was improved because of our investments in SunRail.

(Donna’s Story Video)

Donna and thousands of others are benefiting from SunRail.

Each of you driving a car is also benefiting from SunRail… imagine how many more cars would be on our streets daily if everyone riding SunRail was driving their car instead.

But SunRail alone isn’t the answer … we must provide a variety of options that connect people to where they want to go.

We must connect SunRail to the airport and deliver weekend service.

We must bring Virgin Trains high speed lines into our airport from Miami… and then on to Tampa.

We must improve Lynx service and give people more frequent and reliable options to get to and from work or school.

We must expand our network of biking and pedestrian trails.

Not every resident will use every transit option…but we need transit options for every resident.

Our economy and our ability to attract high-paying employers depends on it.

Our quality of life depends on it.

Our future depends on it.

Our community’s success could stall like traffic on I-4 if we don’t invest in transportation options.

That’s why we are standing with our residents and Mayor Demings to invest in expanded mobility options in Central Florida.

A Story That Impacts Us All… Central Florida’s Affordable Housing Crisis

Another fundamental challenge to our future is a lack of affordable housing.

Headlines declare that our region is the worst in the nation when it comes to housing affordability.

Affordable housing is a complex issue.

The City of Orlando cannot fix this problem alone.  We need local, state and federal partners.

The ability for local communities to leverage federal dollars to address this issue is based on population. That is why I am encouraging every single one of our residents to ensure they are counted in the 2020 Census.

I am proud that the city has made significant investments in housing. In the last five years, the City has committed nearly 32-million dollars to create or preserve housing options for residents at all income levels.

This includes building or rehabilitating more than 1,400 multifamily rental units and more than 160 new units that provide an opportunity for residents who want to achieve the American dream of homeownership.

In all, we’ve initiated the creation of 14 affordable housing developments.

We’ve amended our City code to encourage more small apartment buildings of eight units or less… and more “micro” housing units which are typically faster to develop and more affordable.

We’ve also amended our City code to allow for “granny flats” or accessory cottages to expand the stock of affordable rental housing. We are seeing this as something our residents want. In less than a year, we’ve permitted nearly 100 units.

This work to modernize our code will ensure our high standards for aesthetics and zoning remain intact to protect the integrity of our neighborhoods.

All of this adds up to a commitment that our City is making to our residents… that anyone who wants to live in our city CAN live in our city.

James’ Story:  The Struggle To End Homelessness

The challenges we face as a City and a region are not independent of one another.

A lack of transportation options… impacts affordable housing and vice versa.

In the same way… our affordable housing challenges are threatening to erode some of the gains we’ve made to end homelessness.

We should be proud of the work we’ve done through our “housing first” initiative. Ninety six percent of the chronically homeless individuals and veterans we’ve placed into permanent supportive housing are still housed today.

But, we’re nowhere close to declaring victory.

Right now, the number of “precariously housed” people… in particular families and children… is on the rise.

These are people who are a paycheck or two away from being homeless.

These are our neighbors who work two and three jobs to make ends meet… and who are living on the edge because of rising rents and how difficult and expensive it can be to get to and from work.

They are the reason we’ve focused so much attention on affordable housing and transit today.

That’s why in the last year alone, we dedicated three and a half million dollars to support our regional partners in addressing homelessness.

Together, we are making a difference – and it’s important to see the impact we have made so far….I want everyone to meet James Brown from our Streets and Stormwater Division.

(James’ Story Video)

James is one of the many success stories through our partnership with GoodSource Staffing Services which helps individuals who are homeless or precariously housed find jobs.

In the two years since this partnership began, more than 200 individuals have received work assignments with City departments, and we’ve recently expanded the program to provide even more employment opportunities.

Our work to end homelessness is an extension of our overall focus on being an inclusive, caring community.

Immigrants now make up more than 20 percent of Orlando’s population and our region has more than 32-thousand immigrant entrepreneurs who are creating jobs and investing in Orlando.

That’s why we continue to invest in our HOLA office, to connect our newcomers to organizations to find jobs, housing, healthcare services and educational opportunities.

That’s why we created a new Office of Multicultural Affairs to harness the power of our City’s growing diversity.

That’s why we passed the Trust act, to ensure our immigrant population does not live in fear of reporting crimes or interacting with law enforcement.

And, thanks to Commissioner Sheehan’s leadership, we’re the first City in Florida to create a network of certified LGBTQ Plus owned businesses to provide a better connection to the city’s contracting and training opportunities.

All of this is a big reason why the Human Rights Campaign gave our City the highest score possible on its annual Municipal Equality Index for the last five years in a row.

Jackie’s Story:  A Safe City

Orlando is now America’s melting pot.

We’re a global city.

But, like other cities across the country, there’s a lack of diversity in public safety careers.

In order to give more people from all walks of life the incredible opportunity to serve our community as firefighters and police officers, we’re launching a new recruitment initiative to bring more women, minorities and veterans into public safety careers.

Our vision is to be a city where a young girl sees a fire truck and sees her future, much like OFD Engineer Jackie Pollack.

(Jackie’s Story Video)

Safety is and will always be our top priority.

This year, we will break ground on three more state-of-the-art replacement fire stations that serve our Rosemont, Baldwin Park and Dover Shores neighborhoods. As part of our efforts to increase diversity, all of our new fire stations have been designed to ensure there are private areas for both men and women.

To provide the highest level of emergency medical service, in the most efficient manner, OFD is currently hiring 29 new civilian paramedics and EMTs for medical transport.

One of our largest city projects underway is leveraging the latest communications technology to upgrade our computer aided 911 dispatch system.

The new system integrates both OPD and OFD into a unified dispatch system to increase operational efficiency, interagency collaboration and further enhance the safety of our residents.

Earlier this year, our Orlando Police Department implemented a new operational structure to add six new patrol squads to increase the number of available officers during the early afternoon and late evening hours when calls for service are highest.

And, through the hard work of our Orlando Police Department, we continue to see an overall reduction in crime… including a 50 percent decrease in residential burglaries over the last four years…. and we continue to push for more ways to make our community safer.

Closing:  Thank-You’s & Recognitions

Our standard of excellence… and desire to show leadership… extends to everything we do in our effort to be a Future Ready City.

As we said at the top of the program… no one knows for sure what the future holds.

All we can do is put ourselves and our City in the best position possible to be “Future Ready.”

I have confidence that our community will thrive in the future because of people like Nigel, Sasha, Joe, Donna, Jackie, James and Melvin.

We hope everyone enjoyed getting a chance to experience some of the different perspectives from our residents. Some of them are here with us.  Please join me in saying thank you to them for sharing their stories … and for their hard work to move our community forward!

I’d like to thank our City Commissioners for your leadership and unwavering commitment to our city.

Commissioner Gray

Commissioner Ortiz

Commissioner Stuart

Commissioner Sheehan

Commissioner Hill

Commissioner Ings

And to the members of our City family… there is no better team in any City.  From the bottom of my heart… it is an honor to work alongside you every day to serve our residents.

And… to our residents… thank you for your passion, your ambition and your love of our City Beautiful.  Everything our City is and will be… is because of you.

You all play an important role in creating our “Orlando story.”

You are helping to build America’s premier Future Ready City.

For those reasons, we can proudly declare that the state of our City is strong… unified… and ready to own the future.

Thank you.

God Bless America.

And, God Bless the City of Orlando.