Orange County, FL - Mayor Teresa Jacobs delivered the 2015 State of the County Address to more than 750 Orange County citizens, community leaders, elected officials and special guests at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on June 12.
During her 25-minute speech, Mayor Jacobs reflected on the historic achievements of her first term in office realized through partnership and collaboration, and announced a new initiative that will enhance Orange County’s future as a great American community.
“The state of Orange County’s economy is strong,” Mayor Jacobs said. “By working together, we are creating history.”
Mayor Jacobs’ capstone announcement outlined a proposal for one of the largest capital investment projects in the history of Orange County, a $300 million initiative called INVEST in Our Home for Life. The funds will be spent on roads, parks, pedestrian safety projects, public and fire safety facilities and affordable family housing in Orange County. INVEST in Our Home for Life will be funded through existing resources thanks to conservative budgeting and an improving economy, not through increased taxes.
“To build a vibrant economy where creativity, innovation and opportunity will flourish, we need to invest now in the infrastructure that future generations will need,” Mayor Jacobs said. “From efficient roads to a healthy environment, it’s our job and our responsibility to invest wisely.”
In The State of the County speech, Mayor Jacobs outlined robust industries that have helped Orange County largely overcome the serious economic concerns of eight years ago. A record-breaking 62 million visitors in 2014 confirms Orlando as a premier global destination, she said, thanking tourism and travel leaders and recognizing the impact of this vitally important economic sector, which supports one out of every three jobs.
Orange County’s economic strength is generating attention, Mayor Jacobs said, with each of the “big three” credit agencies elevating the County’s credit worthiness to historic levels. Loan and finance-cost savings for taxpayers will be in the millions, she said. Housing starts and private sector investments, such as the billions being invested by theme parks, are all factors. But Mayor Jacobs said the most important measure is jobs. Since being elected in 2010, unemployment has dropped from 11.3 percent to the current 4.7 percent.
Mayor Jacobs described an intensive visioning process underway for International Drive, “the heartbeat of our convention economy.” She convened an I-Drive Visioning Committee earlier this year to work with Orange County planners to craft a revitalized, long-term vision for I-Drive, embracing visitors as well as families, entrepreneurs and young people.
Quality of life remains a priority for Mayor Jacobs, and she renewed her pledge to invest in people. Orange County continues to be a leader in advancing diversity, in preserving land for future generations, caring for the homeless, helping young people understand mental illness, assisting families with domestic violence issues, and encouraging youth leadership. She reiterated the commitment to end veterans homelessness and break down barriers to ending family homelessness. Mayor Jacobs said her Youth Mental Health Committee is moving into implementation phase, an important step as one out of every 10 children suffers from a mental health disorder.
The debut of SunRail, the new Citrus Bowl, the Dr. Phillips Center, Ultimate 1-4, the new U.S. Tennis Association complex, and the Veterans Administration’s new Medical “SimLEARN Center” are examples of a thriving community, Mayor Jacobs said. Equally impressive are investments in infrastructure, including a $187 million capital investment in expanding and renovating the Orange County Convention Center, and the new Orlando International Airport (OIA) high-tech intermodal transportation center. She also acknowledged Central Florida’s renowned modeling, simulation and training cluster and investments in international trade to connect local business with the global marketplace through the Central Florida International Trade Office.