Job creation, transportation and youth highlight Jacobs' 2016 address.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs focused on job creation, transportation and investing in youth during her 2016 State of the County address, which she delivered Friday, April 22, at the Hyatt Regency Orlando.
More than 750 residents and government officials — including Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn and Winter Garden City Commissioner Bobby Olszewski — attended this year's address.
HIGHLIGHTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
Jacobs reported that since 2010, 96,900 jobs have been created, which last year spurred the construction of 2,600 new homes catapulting Orange County’s 2015 building permit valuations to $1.9 billion, a 17% increase from the prior year, without any property tax hikes, millage rate increases or cuts to county services. For the third consecutive year, countywide property tax revenues are up, with more than $386 million generated in 2015.
With $200 million from "INVEST in Our Home for Life" already allocated for road construction and transportation improvements for our citizens, the enhancements to Orange County’s infrastructure will improve quality of life and strengthen the region’s infrastructure, roads and transportation options, Jacobs said. Those improvements including the groundbreaking for SunRail’s Phase 2 South and several milestones for the I-4 Ultimate project.
Gallup ranked the metro Orlando region No. 1 in the nation for job creation in 2015. Additionally, KPMG named the region as the second-most cost-competitive community in the U.S. for business, Jacobs said.
ORANGE CODE AND OCFL ATLAS
Since taking office in 2011, one of Jacobs’ priorities has been to work toward a sustainable future and streamline the county's development review processes to make it more transparent, efficient and predictable. A first step was to become more responsive to customer needs in development permitting by establishing "One-Stop." Jacobs also created the Regulatory Streamlining Task Force to evaluate the county's development review processes and embarked on the county's first Sustainable Orange County Plan. Through an innovative approach to sustainability and development, the region continues to move forward by bringing the county's 60-year-old land development code into the 21st century.
Known as Orange Code, the new code process represents a simplified and sustainable way to govern how land is developed. Through this new approach, Orange County hopes to create inviting places, spaces, and neighborhoods, each with a distinct feeling. The county will launch this new code on I-Drive, Jacobs said.
Jacobs also announced the launch of the county's newest web and mobile app, OCFL Atlas, through which citizens can pinpoint new projects in their communities and access real-time development data, board meeting details and project locations.
ENHANCING ORANGE COUNTY’S ECONOMY
As the Convention Center enters its third year of a $187 million capital investment project, Orange County continues to invest in high-tech meeting spaces and the world-class amenities. The Orange County Convention Center propels a significant economic engine, hosting more than 200 events a year, welcoming 1.4 million attendees and contributing more than $2 billion to the area’s economy.
Maintaining a focus on entrepreneurship and economic prosperity, Orange County continues to be a destination for companies to do business. Through the National Entrepreneur Center, the Central Florida International Trade Office and working with UCF’s Business Incubator at Research Park, the region is seeing gains in its innovation economy. Orange County also continues to focus heavily on Modeling, Simulation and Training through its MS&T Blue Ribbon Commission.
Through the collective efforts of the Blue Ribbon Commission, National Center for Simulation, UCF, the Corridor, the EDC’s Metro Orlando Defense Task Force members and other partners — another $14 million in state dollars is headed to Central Florida. These dollars represent the final stage of Orange County’s three-year effort to help the Research Park keep up with its growth. Totaling $42 million, these funds will go to purchasing buildings, and offering space to the military at a lower cost. By investing in MS&T, Orange County is helping to contribute more than $4.8 billion to Florida's gross state product, including more than 27,000 jobs for Floridians, with an average annual salary of almost $70,000.
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE
In addition to the tremendous investments in infrastructure and innovation, much work has been done to care for Orange County’s citizens and children impacted by homelessness. By late 2015, the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness ended Veterans homelessness, with an effective rate of zero. Homeless families however, remain a difficult challenge. In early 2015, a report was released to look at how effectively dollars are being spent with regard to housing homeless families. The Orange County Committee of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness is already working to make those changes. A key finding in that report was the need for affordable housing, Jacobs said.
Through the INVEST initiative, there are multiple programs and projects aimed directly at expanding access and inventory of affordable housing for strategies in addressing this shortage. Orange County’s housing initiatives will receive $5 million over the next five years to help fund these efforts, including an Affordable Rental Housing project, which will create 70 new affordable housing apartments, with 20% of the units dedicated for the homeless population. This also includes the renovation of the Wayne Densch Center and a single-family subdivision called the New Horizons Project.
Orange County’s projected $2 million investment to the Wayne Densch Center, in partnership with Florida Hospital, Ability Housing, Wayne Densch Charities, the Central Florida Foundation and the Florida Community Loan Fund will support the renovation of the facility and provide a vital housing resource for families, including those who have challenges because of mental illness, addiction or physical disability. The New Horizons Project in South Apopka, formerly known as Hawthorne Village, will also provide 56 homes for low- and very low-income households in need of housing.
Through the same partnership approach, Orange County is helping to address Central Florida’s heroin epidemic with the Orange County Heroin Task Force, which Jacobs convened in 2015 with co-chair Sheriff Jerry L. Demings. The Task Force’s 37 recommendations included bond increases for suspected trafficking as well as a public information outreach campaign using traditional and social media to warn citizens about the deadly nature of heroin. The Task Force also recommended the activation of a “blanket prescription” for Naloxone, a life-saving drug when faced with fatal overdoses. Jacobs recently testified before Congress about the deadly impact heroin use poses to Orange County citizens and provided insight and research based on the findings of the Orange County Heroin Task Force.