Orlando top ranked for small businesses, tax climate

Filed in: Entrepreneur , Rankings , Why Orlando?

orlando skyline 2012_350w.jpgOrlando earned accolades this week for both its friendliness toward small businesses and favorable tax climate, according to two reports from the Kauffman Foundation and KPMG International.

In partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Thumbtack.com rated Orlando an "A" overall as one of the friendliest cities in the country for small businesses and entrepreneurs. While Florida earned a "C+" overall, Orlando is the top-rated city in the state.

The Small Business Friendliness Survey was compiled from more than 12,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs across the country, and its Orlando findings are available here.

"After a two-month survey of thousands of small business owners nationwide, Orlando has emerged as one of the top cities in the country for small business," said Jon Lieber, Chief Economist at Thumbtack.com.

Other key findings of the Kauffman Foundation study ranked Orlando as 6th in the country for its regulatory friendliness and gave the City Beautiful an "A+" for the friendliness of its tax code, licensing laws and zoning and environmental regulations.

Orlando also offers one of the most favorable tax structures for businesses among major international cities, according to a new study released by KPMG International.

KPMG's 2014 Competitive Alternatives: Focus on Tax study is a global comparison of the total tax burden that companies in 107 cities throughout 10 countries may face, including corporate income taxes, capital taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, miscellaneous local business taxes and statutory labor costs.

Of the 51 large international cities highlighted in the study, Orlando ranked 18th overall and 9th in the United States.

Orlando had an overall total tax index of 88.2, representing tax costs 11.8 percent below the U.S. baseline of 100.

Other findings in KPMG's study include:

Corporate Services - Orlando had a total tax index of 90.2, representing tax costs 9.8 percent below the U.S. baseline of 100 - 11th among the 51 large international cities (4th in the U.S).

Digital Services - Orlando had a total tax index of 90.1, representing tax costs 9.9 percent below the U.S. baseline of 100 - 12th among the 51 large international cities (5th in the U.S).

Manufacturing - Orlando had a total tax index of 86.8, representing tax costs 13.2 percent below the U.S. baseline of 100 - 20th among the 51 large international cities (11th in the U.S)

Research & Development - Orlando had a total tax index of 90.9, representing tax costs 9.1% below the U.S. baseline of 100.0 - 18th among the 51 large international cities (11th in the U.S.).

Read KPMG International's full study here.

July 16, 2014

Advanced IT Concepts expands local headquarters

Filed in: Defense , Economic Development Projects , Headquarters , Jobs , Seminole County , Why Orlando?

AITC Makes IT_newsroom.jpgToday, Governor Rick Scott announced that Advanced IT Concepts, Inc. (AITC) will expand its corporate headquarters in Seminole County. AITC provides systems integration, professional services and value-added resale of Information Technology (IT) solutions to both the government and private sectors.

The expansion in Winter Springs will bring 50 new jobs and a capital investment of $1.87 million, including land, to the area over the next five years.

Governor Scott said, "AITC's addition of 50 jobs in Seminole County is great news. Now more Floridians will have the opportunity find a job and support their families. Since December 2010 Florida businesses like AITC have created more than 580,000 private-sector jobs. This announcement is further proof that Florida is the best place in the nation to get a job and raise a family."

Founded in 2010, AITC is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business and is among the fastest-growing small businesses in Seminole County. It was recently named by the Orlando Business Journal as one of Central Florida's 50 fastest-growing, privately owned companies and ranked 39th for fastest-growing small business in Florida. AITC considered moving to Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia but chose Florida for its expansion to better suit the company's clients.

"We sincerely thank Governor Scott, his team and Seminole County government for providing the environment, resources and support needed for this significant step. The support received by AITC will allow us to focus on growing the company and creating new jobs to better serve our clients," said Gabriel Ruiz, AITC's President and CEO.

AITC was founded by former military IT professionals to assist customers through the design and implementation of innovative IT solutions for the defense industry. AITC draws on significant telecommunications and IT experience to provide advisory services, strategic planning, program management, system deployment and technology specialists, as well as engineering, logistics and training support.

Florida's high-tech economy and workforce make it a great location for homeland security and defense businesses looking for workers with the expertise needed to compete in this rapidly-evolving industry. Florida is ranked third in the nation for high-tech establishments. In addition, the state's software and computer systems design and integration industry is one of the largest in the U.S., with nearly 12,600 firms. Nearly half of the more than 80,000 professionals who work in the field are employed by software development firms, with the rest working in related technology-intensive industries throughout the state.

Enterprise Florida's President and CEO, Gray Swoope, said, "AITC adds value to several of Florida's industries. This expansion is great for Florida's IT and defense sector, and the company has proven its ability to thrive as a small business in the Sunshine State. Florida's resources, including a strong workforce, expansive infrastructure and strategic partnerships, have created one of the top business climates in the country. We're excited to see the growth of AITC and I look forward to their continued success."

This project was made possible with the help of close partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the Orlando Economic Development Commission, Seminole County and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

"AITC's story of growth as a Florida business is confirmation that our sound economic policies and business-friendly environment are working. The accomplishments achieved by AITC's founders demonstrate that Florida is a great place for veterans to start or grow their businesses. Florida's economy is a place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed through innovation, creativity, and hard work," said Jesse Panuccio, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

"On behalf of Seminole County, I am excited to welcome Advanced IT Concepts, Inc. to our community. AITC's decision to relocate to Seminole County means increased opportunities for Seminole County area residents, and is a testament to the pro-business atmosphere we continually strive to foster," said Seminole County Chairman Bob Dallari.

"Orlando is a world leader in defense technology - by both large and enterprising small businesses. We're pleased with AITC's decision to expand locally and create jobs that will bolster our region's reputation as a premier location for innovation and skilled workforce," said Rick Weddle, President and CEO of the Orlando Economic Development Commission.

July 14, 2014

Enter the 2014 Schwartz Tech Awards

Filed in: Events , General News

Schwartz Tech Awards.pngNew partners, categories and event format for this year's tech and innovation awards from the Orlando EDC

Each year, the Orlando Economic Development Commission (EDC) honors companies and individuals for bright ideas, creative solutions, pioneering research and support for the tech community with an awards program. This year, the EDC is adding new partners, new categories and changing the format of the event.

The EDC is partnering with the Orlando Tech Association for the first time and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council for the awards program. Now in its 24th year, the event is named after the late William C. Schwartz, an avid community leader in Orlando, business pioneer and innovator within the field of optics and photonics.

This year's award categories include:

  • Regional Innovator of the Year - (One from each jurisdiction - Orange, Seminole, Lake and Osceola Counties and the City of Orlando) - Recognizes companies for creating, developing and successfully implementing products, ideas and processes that positively impact our community.
  • Researcher of the Year - (Academic Researcher and Industry Researcher) - Recognizes individual researchers from academia and industry who are pioneering exploratory and cutting-edge research to enhance products, services or other applications in any field.
  • Diversity in Tech - Recognizes an individual who strives to promote understanding and appreciation of diversity in the region's tech industry, either through service to women or minorities or who serves as a role model to others.
  • Tech Investor - Recognizes an individual who has financially supported the region's tech industry. Nominees do not need to be local, but their investment must be.
  • Tech Community Champion - Recognizes an individual who does not directly work in the region's tech industry but supports its efforts, entrepreneurship and expansion.

"The EDC has been proud to recognize technological innovation over the years with this awards program, but we wanted to ensure that the program kept up with needs and desires of our evolving tech community," said Rick Weddle, president and CEO of the Orlando EDC.

"Reaching out to the Orlando Tech Association to partner speaks volumes of the EDC's growing engagement with the local tech scene," said Orrett Davis, executive director of the Orlando Tech Association.

The call for entries and nominations are open from July 1 through August 1. The winners will be announced at an event held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 30, at Orchid Garden at Church Street Station in downtown Orlando to coincide with Orlando Tech Week.

Two additional awards will be given during the Sept. 30 celebration recognizing student entrepreneurs from top regional academic business competitions and an innovative company from the Florida High Tech Corridor Council.

For more information, visit orlandoedc.com/schwartz.

July 1, 2014

Cloud-based software company to expand in Orlando

Filed in: Trends , City of Orlando , Economic Development Projects , General News , Innovative Companies , Jobs , Projects , Small business

PowerDMS-with-Tagline_sm.jpgPowerDMS, Inc., a cloud-based document management software company, will expand its presence in downtown Orlando, adding 65 new jobs over the next three years and investing $400,000 into the region.

Founded in 2001 by CEO Josh Brown, the robust software platform provides practical tools necessary to organize and manage crucial documents and industry standards, thereby helping organizations maintain compliance with constantly evolving industry accreditation protocols.

Structured as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, PowerDMS combines attributes of Governance and Risk Compliance (GRC) and Enterprise Content Management (ECM) into its software platform, allowing customers to manage risk through living compliance documentation and content.

In addition to being awarded a financial incentive from the City of Orlando, PowerDMS recently secured growth equity funding from Ballast Point Ventures and plans to use the investment to augment its sales and marketing team and enhance its technology platform by offering new features to its customer base, which includes law enforcement, public safety, healthcare and retail. The company currently employs 57 employees.

"We're eager to expand our operations right here at home in Orlando," said PowerDMS founder Josh Brown. "It's an exciting time to be part of the growing tech community and help shape the future of the industry here."

"We have big plans and are currently looking for a new office location that will match our extremely unique culture. New developments in the community, including SunRail and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, are helping us attract the type of talent we need to succeed," Brown added.

Competition for the project also included Texas, New York and California.

"This expansion by PowerDMS is great news for Orlando and is further proof that the state's economic turnaround continues," said Gray Swoope, President and CEO of Enterprise Florida. "Florida's large and diverse workforce allows companies from all sectors to be successful and grow. IT companies in particular are succeeding in Florida thanks to a strong base of industry leaders and a rich network of partners."

"Downtown Orlando is a great location for dynamic tech companies like PowerDMS," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, "with a talented labor force, business friendly environment and high quality of life, Orlando has become an ideal site for corporate headquarters looking to expand."

"With its decision to expand in Orlando, PowerDMS has confirmed that Orlando's technology workforce is attractive to companies," said Rick Weddle, President and CEO of the Orlando Economic Development Commission.

Partners on this project included the City of Orlando, the State of Florida, Enterprise Florida and the Orlando Economic Development Commission.

June 18, 2014

Hospitality technology company expands in Orlando

Filed in: Trends , City of Orlando , Economic Development Projects , General News , Jobs , Projects , Workforce

NAVIS_logo_sm.jpgNAVIS, a technology company providing reservation sales system and marketing solutions for the hotel, resort and vacation rental industries, will expand into Orlando creating 67 new jobs over the next three years and making a capital investment of $404,600 in the region.

"Florida's IT sector continues to grow and positively impact the state's economy thanks to companies like NAVIS. Because of Florida's resources, including a top-ranked workforce, expansive infrastructure and strategic partnerships, IT companies are thriving in our state. We continue to work toward making Florida's IT industry the best in the country and look forward to seeing NAVIS succeed," said Gray Swoope, President and CEO of Enterprise Florida.
"As a global leader in the hotel and lodging industry, Orlando is a natural fit for NAVIS's strategic expansion efforts," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. "The selection of Orlando for NAVIS's eastern regional headquarters speaks to the value of our community's assets - a talented labor force, business-friendly environment and high quality of life. We are excited to welcome NAVIS to our dynamic City."

Founded in Bend, Ore. in 1987, NAVIS (formerly Buehner-Fry Inc.) originally provided call management services to the lodging and corporate housing industries. Today, its products have evolved to include a suite of innovative software and solutions to streamline the reservation sales process. In response to rapid growth, NAVIS' expansion to Orlando will create high-wage business services positions.

"NAVIS' effective client revenue generation processes are driving growth. Our new Orlando offices demonstrate our commitment to the growing number of NAVIS clients in the Eastern U.S.," said Michelle Marquis, Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives for NAVIS. "These operators selected NAVIS' marketing, sales solutions and services to increase their revenue, and our new Orlando team will help make this happen for them." The Eastern division will be based in the Millennia Lakes business complex.

Orlando is known worldwide for its tourism and hospitality industries. The region has exceeded the national record for tourism for three consecutive years. In 2013, Orlando hosted over 59 million visitors, generating $187 million in tourist development tax.

"Orlando's reputation as a world-class business services location is bolstered by companies like NAVIS, which has chosen our region to help grow their national client base. We're pleased with NAVIS' decision to open an office here and provide innovative solutions to the hospitality industry in Orlando and across the country," said Rick Weddle, President and CEO of the Orlando Economic Development Commission.

The City of Orlando, Enterprise Florida and the Orlando Economic Development Commission collaborated on this project.

Read the Orlando Business Journal article here >>

June 17, 2014

UCF, Osceola County partner on new research facility

Filed in: Trends , Manufacturing , Economic Development Projects , General News , Innovative Companies , Osceola County , Research and Development , Why Orlando?

UCF_Osceola_EDC.jpgThe University of Central Florida will partner with Osceola County and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council to establish a state-of-the-art research and incubation facility focused on the next generation of universal smart sensors.

The goal of the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center is to recruit or create the world's first industry-led smart sensor consortium. Formed to make Florida a global leader in a rapidly growing industry, the center will be the home of research aimed at advancing technologies that will shape the future of automobiles, surgical devices, home appliances and a host of other devices.

As these innovations become ready for the marketplace, the center's partners envision a growth in high-wage jobs for Central Floridians as existing companies expand and new companies move to the region to collaborate with the center's researchers.

"This center holds great potential for becoming another economic game changer for our entire region - and the timing for such an endeavor could hardly be better," said UCF President John C. Hitt.

Sensors allow us to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell beyond our capabilities. Sensors can detect things that we cannot, such as deadly carbon monoxide. They can show how diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's disease affect the human body, helping doctors provide more effective drug treatments.

The world smart sensors market is projected to reach $7.8 billion by next year, according to Global Industry Analysts Inc., and global demand is expected to increase dramatically in the years to come.

"We've asked ourselves for years what comes next after Medical City and it's this infrastructure project," said Rick Weddle, president and CEO of the Orlando Economic Development Commission - a partner in the new center -- and current president of the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation. "This is how the communities of the future are being built and this is what technology-led economic development is all about."

The center will be built on 20 acres owned by Osceola County near the intersection of U.S. 192 and Florida's Turnpike, across U.S. 192 from Osceola Heritage Park.

The Osceola County Commission on Monday approved a memorandum of understanding with UCF and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council. Osceola County committed to investing $61 million for design, construction and equipment costs associated with the 100,000-square-foot center. UCF will lease the building for $1 a year for 30 years and will operate the center.

"This is a historic day for Osceola County. Partnering with the University of Central Florida as the home of a research facility of this significance ties into all the planning and work we've done to diversify our economy," said Osceola Commission Chairman Fred Hawkins, Jr. "Creating these types of 21st Century jobs will make us a world leader in this coveted and competitive hi-tech field."

The new partnership comes at a time when Florida continues to lose manufacturing jobs. A Brookings Institute report issued this month noted that Florida has lost 75,000 manufacturing jobs since 2007, and the state's domestic and international trade deficit is growing. The same report said that for every four boxcarloads of goods brought into the state, only one carload is leaving with goods manufactured in Florida.

"We must change those numbers, and our dynamic partnership between UCF and Osceola County will help to make it happen," Hitt said.

UCF researchers have developed sensors capable of a range of applications - from detecting hydrogen and specific chemicals in the air to reading oxygen in the blood - and are also creating the materials that will enable sensors to be integrated into ever-smaller computer chips.

UCF is set to provide $10 million - from non-state and non-tuition sources - to help design and build the center and for start-up costs, as well as an additional $7 million to hire talented researchers.

The Florida High Tech Corridor Council will contribute $1 million initially. The council also will expand the scope of its signature Matching Grants Research Program at UCF, the University of South Florida and the University of Florida to include Sensor-Driven Advanced Manufacturing. Up to $5 million of matching funds will be available for research activities and the operation of a consortium.

"Thanks to the forward-thinking leadership in Osceola County, this project will help create more opportunities for our entire region," said Randy Berridge, president and CEO of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council.

UCF's connections with Osceola County include a shared campus with Valencia College on Denn John Lane, as well as business incubators in St. Cloud and Kissimmee. Osceola County also was one of the first partners to contribute to the development of the Medical City at Lake Nona.

The Orlando Sentinel covers this story in the article UCF pledges $10 million to research center in Osceola County. Click here to read the article.

The Orlando Business Journal covers this story in the article UCF, Osceola putting $200M+ into advanced manufacturing hub. Click here to read the article.

June 16, 2014

Fortune Magazine features Lake Nona as next great American city

Filed in: Trends , Biotech / Life science , Clean Tech / Green , Economic Development Projects , Education , General News , Jobs , Orange County

Fortune-logo.jpgIn the June 30 issue of Fortune Magazine, writer Jennifer Reingold takes an in-depth look at Orlando's Lake Nona Medical City, covering its history and touching on what's in store for the futuristic site.

Titled "How to build a great American city", the story begins with an overview of Lake Nona as a transformative location, similar to how Disney changed the entire landscape and Orlando community in the 1970s.

"Many cities have attempted to establish 'clusters' such as Medical City to spur their economics. Few have succeeded. And till now none has combined a cluster with a residential development with this ambitious mix of appeal and livability," Reingold wrote.

Click here to read the full article >>

June 13, 2014

Orlando leads large U.S. metros in job growth

Filed in: Trends , Entrepreneur , Events , General News , Innovative Companies , Jobs , Why Orlando?

photo.jpg
Orlando has regained 100 percent of the jobs lost during the recession and is leading the nation in year-over-year percentage job growth among metros with at least 1 million people.

Orlando EDC President and CEO Rick Weddle shared this good news during Friday's second Quarterly Investor Update of the year. Several top business leaders who joined the EDC on its New York business development and media missions in March also discussed their experiences with investors, including new insight on out-of-market perceptions about the Orlando region. Among the greatest misperceptions was that Orlando lacks a vibrant downtown. The EDC is working with Project DTO on downtown Orlando's visibility outside of the market.

With its upcoming regional business branding campaign the EDC is out to change minds about Orlando's many strengths as a premier business location and get the region into the consideration set for business decisions more often.

May 21, 2014

Chief Executive Magazine features Orlando tech

Filed in: Trends , Entrepreneur , General News , Innovative Companies , Research and Development , Simulation , Why Orlando?

chief executive magazine.jpgIn the May/June issue of Chief Executive magazine, writer William J. Holstein calls Orlando a top tech region for its innovative collaboration between industry and academia.

His story quotes Orlando Economic Development (EDC) President and CEO Rick Weddle as saying the key to creating a regional climate where commercialization can flourish is to break down the silos between tech-transfer officials, entrepreneurs, large companies, economic development officials and other constituencies to allow them to better communicate and align their interests.

Orlando entrepreneur Waymon Armstrong, president and CEO of Engineering and Computer Simulations, Inc. (ECS), is also quoted in the article saying, "Small companies innovate, big companies acquire."

Holstein's story is a direct result of an EDC mission to New York City in March with key business leaders who met with nearly a dozen top-tier business and technology outlets.

The article also appears in the magazine's "Best and Worst States for Business," which ranks Florida as No. 2 in the nation, but still beats out the No. 1 state, Texas, for the best quality of life.

Read the full article on Orlando's tech transfer here >>

May 16, 2014

Orlando serves up more jobs with USTA

Filed in: City of Orlando , Economic Development Projects , General News , Headquarters , Jobs , Orange County , Why Orlando?

LakeNona_RevisedAerial_v3_small_400.jpgThe Orlando Economic Development Commission (EDC) joined Governor Rick Scott, local officials and leaders from Lake Nona and the U.S. Tennis Association to announce Orlando as the "new home for American tennis" this week.

The state-of-the-art, 106-court facility in Lake Nona will house the USTA's Community Tennis and Player Development divisions and will be divided into dedicated areas that will focus on the complete tennis pathway - from the youngest players, to recreational players, to collegians and to future professional players. The Lake Nona facility will also serve as home to the University of Central Florida's tennis program. The project will create 154 new Florida jobs and more than $60 million in capital investment.

"Orlando is the ideal location for the USTA's new divisional headquarters and training and tournament facilities. We're a region internationally recognized for welcoming visitors and businesses from around the world with access to first-rate infrastructure, world-class amenities and a community built upon collaboration," said Rick Weddle, President and CEO of the Orlando EDC.

file-799119786-medium-jpg.jpgIn addition to its headquarters operations, the facility will serve as a tournament and training destination, serving a large number of visitors from outside the state throughout the year. This will increase the economic impact to the state and region.

The Lake Nona location provides much needed infrastructure and airport access, nearby amenities, a supportive community with regional partnerships and an ideal climate for playing conditions.

"The Lake Nona area in Orlando provides the optimal location for the USTA's new facility," said Dave Haggerty, USTA Chairman of the Board and President. "We can build a state-of-the-art facility which will further our mission in the country's top destination market that also provides opportunities for year-round play."

Tavistock Group, the international private investment organization behind the 7,000-acre master-planned development at Lake Nona and the 600-acre Lake Nona Medical City healthcare cluster, was the driving force behind the pursuit of the USTA. Tavistock Group provided an innovative structure to acquire the land for the new state-of-the-art facility and will act as the lead developer on the 270,000 square-foot complex and its more than 100 tennis courts.

"Lake Nona is founded on the principles of innovative collaboration and inspiring human potential," said Rasesh Thakkar, senior managing director of Tavistock Group. "USTA's state-of-the-art facility at Lake Nona will be such an exemplary, tangible example of these principles in practice as this new 'Home of American Tennis' forges links across the region in pursuit of helping people of all ages and athletes from across the nation be their best, both on and off the court."

"The City of Orlando is proud to become the next 'Home of American Tennis,'" said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. "The selection of Orlando for the United States Tennis Association's divisional headquarters speaks to the value of our community's assets - a talented labor force, business friendly environment and global access via a world-class airport. Orlando is a great place to live, work and play. We are excited to welcome USTA to our dynamic City."

"It's incredibly exciting to welcome USTA to Orange County. As a region we are committed to world-class sports, recreation and culture. Establishing the nation's top tennis training facility in Central Florida is a great win for our community," said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. "In addition to the direct economic impact of USTA regional headquarters, we're excited about the prospects of year-round tournaments and the development of future tennis stars right here in our own back yard."

May 15, 2014

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