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Focused on the Future

Orlando is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and for good reason. It appears that people are finally realizing what we have always known—that this area is a wonderful place to live, work and play and continues to broaden its horizons. Just ask around and you’ll see there’s no shortage of civic pride running deeply through each pocket of the region. We should know, because that’s exactly what we did.

In an attempt to get a better picture of how locals feel about this area, Orlando Family Magazine reached out to politicians, college and university presidents, various industry leaders as well as residents. We asked everyone a series of questions and for their candid responses in order to find out what individuals enjoy most as well as what they feel needs to take place to allow us to continue to grow and thrive.

Some of the responses have been edited for length and clarity, but the following answers give a clearer picture of some of the things people deem to be the most important in helping The City Beautiful flourish well into the future.

Fill in the blank. Orlando could use more ___________.

 “Housing at all levels. Not just what’s deemed affordable housing, but homes for everyone at every income level.”

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer 

“Transportation solutions—and we are getting there. Great global destinations have massive transportation infrastructures. Orlando is growing tremendously, and the continued investment in major transportation initiatives such as Brightline and Terminal C will go a long way in connecting us to South Florida and bringing even more visitors to the destination.”

Casandra Matej, president & CEO, Visit Orlando.

“Integration of the research and development infrastructure at our universities with our entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystems. We are already a very innovative city, and we should leverage our research expertise to help to further advance technologies that can be immediately translated to society. These could include innovations in smart city, safety and sustainability technologies, health solutions for dementia and Alzheimer’s, and driving the success of our amazing entertainment and defense industries.”

Alexander Cartwright, president, University of Central Florida

How do you see the Orlando area evolving over the next decade and what would you like to see take place?

“I would like to see Metro Orlando continue the diversification of our local economy with higher wage jobs.”

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings

“As the epicenter of the state, our region is in the business is moving people and goods by air, sea, road, rail, cycle and even space. We serve as the distribution hub for residents and visitors. When we stop moving, we stop growing. Stuck in traffic congestion decreases quality of life. To keep all of us moving, transportation agencies have accelerated projects and expanded connectivity options—such as the expansion of our multi-use trail network, SunRail opening the Tupperware and Poinciana stations in Kissimmee, and opening nearly 23 of the 25 miles of the Wekiva Parkway, which will complete the Beltway around Central Florida in 2023. We’re a region on the move.”

Michelle Maikisch, executive director, Central Florida Expressway Authority

“As part of our State of Downtown speech in December 2022, we declared Orlando as the MetaCenter of the metaverse and made a pitch to lure more professionals to the City Beautiful. Orlando talent and technology have been pushing the boundaries of immersive experience, digital entertainment, 3D modeling, gaming and simulation with thousands of high-wage open tech jobs in our community. We only see this growing stronger over the next decade, and as a city, are well-positioned to support this thriving industry.”

Mayor Dyer

“Investment and reinvestment in sports and entertainment venues—the Orange County Convention Center, Camping World Stadium, Amway Center, etc.”

Jason Siegel, president and CEO, Greater Orlando Sports Commission

“I think we are experiencing an arts renaissance in Orlando with the completion of the Dr. Phillips Center especially with Steinmetz Hall now open. I see Orlando becoming a travel destination not just for the theme parks but also for world class performing arts groups.”

Gabriel Preisser, general director, Opera Orlando

What’s your biggest concern with regard to education?

“I regret seeing higher education becoming a focus of political division. For decades, American higher education has been the envy of the world and the most productive knowledge engine the world has ever seen, fueling our economic competitiveness and grounding our democracy.”

Grant Cornwell, president, Rollins College

“Both the entertainment media and emerging tech industries are slated for radical growth in the immediate and midterm years ahead. These massive industries are clamoring to find enough new talent to meet projected increases in projects and workload. With our region being the host of an established and emerging technology corridor, the onus falls upon our colleges and universities to attract and educate sufficient numbers of students to fill these employment needs.”

Garry Jones, president, Full Sail University

“We must continue to evolve our region’s higher education infrastructure to provide talented individuals to help us to compete on the global stage for investments. And we must continue to demonstrate that degree attainment is the result of a personal investment and that its value grows over time. Education has the ability to change the trajectory of an individual’s life and the lives of their family members for generations to come. This results in continued broad-based prosperity for our entire community.”

Alexander Cartwright

What do you see as the biggest issue currently facing our local communities?

“The biggest issue facing our community is managing and preparing for the tremendous population growth.”

Orange County Mayor Demings

“One area that is close to my heart is preserving the land and waters that all life depends upon throughout Central Florida. We—universities, government, businesses, organizations — have the opportunity to work together to create sustainability strategies that include green spaces, water conservation efforts, and establishing natural areas that will allow the same diverse species and topographies needed to preserve life as we know it. Through this good work, entities and leaders can join hands and make a healthier place for the region’s people and for the future.”

Garry Jones

What do you feel is the best aspect of living in this area?

“My husband and I came to this area in 1990 and our two children were raised here, with my youngest soon to finish at UCF. The Orlando area is a hub of possibilities, providing many opportunities for nurturing one’s career, education or health. What I love is there are many things to do to stay active—we are an hour away from the beach and just minutes away from a lake or a trail. Plus, you can’t beat the weather. When friends ask why I call Orlando home, I tell them it’s a city full of possibilities and you’ll never be bored.”

Michelle Maikisch

How often do you visit one of the theme parks?

“My kids would say not nearly enough! We absolutely love our theme park experiences and try to divide quality family time to include plenty of outdoor activities and a Magic or Orlando City Soccer game.”

Casandra Matej

“Often. We have four children, and they love them all, especially riding the many rollercoasters.”

Jason Siegel

“At least once a year, sometimes more.”

– Gabriel Preisser

What recent advancements do you think have improved the quality of living in Greater Orlando?

“The new Terminal C at [Orlando International Airport] is world-class. The airport was already one of the great assets for our community and region. Now, we are even more accessible for tourists, business executives, students and families. Add to this the Brightline train project, and we have a powerful and effective transportation system supporting our economy.”

Grant Cornwell


Responses to some of our more interesting polls

Do you think the state could benefit from legalized sports gambling?

59% say no

41% say yes

“At the present time, I am not in favor of legalized sports gambling because typically whenever there is an increase in legal gambling, there is also an increase in illegal gambling.” – Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings

Do you consider downtown Orlando to be a safe area?

69% say yes

31% say no

“Like with most major cities, I would try to avoid being out late at night in the downtown area. [But], I do consider downtown Orlando a safe area.” – anonymous Windermere resident

Would you be in favor of the state legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use?

82% say yes

18% say no

“Yes. People are doing it anyway.” – anonymous Dr. Phillips resident

Summarize your thoughts on traveling on I-4 in five words or less.

“Often busy, but seemingly improving.”

“Avoid at all costs!”

“Better experience with express lanes.”

“Scary, alert, crazy, speeding people.”

“I’d rather pay tolls.”