Illustrating a notion that you can never offer too many options, much of the proposal that Orlando economic officials had put together for the failed bid to win the second headquarters for Amazon pitched numerous properties downtown including a spot near the soccer stadium and the Orlando Sentinel property, along with other prospects in Lake Nona, Sunbridge, NeoCity, and Tupperware.
Amazon last week said no thanks to any of them, dropping Orlando along with more than 200 other cities that had bid for the company’s proposed new $5 billion “second” headquarters and the projected workforce of 50,000 high-paid employees that was to be part of it. The company last week announced 20 finalist cities.
The Orlando Economic Partnership, which put together and shepherded Central Florida’s bid, released much of the proposal with some general assessments of perhaps why Orlando lost, and what it might do next, concluding, “it’s clear the top priority was a large existing pool of tech talent.”
The key word there might be “existing,” as Casey Barnes, vice president for business development for the partnership, noted the City Beautiful’s proposal spoke highly of the potential high-tech job pool in Central Florida given the University of Central Florida and other universities and colleges, while the current labor pool might not be big enough now, for what Amazon was seeking.
“The region will have to double down on efforts to boost STEM and workforce education as well as the available talent pool in the region’s emerging tech community,” the assessment points out.
The Orlando Economic Partnership, a result of the merger of the Central Florida Partnership and the Orlando Economic Development Commission, declined to release any money numbers relating to incentives offered Amazon as part of the proposal. noting that Miami made the final 20 list, and so the Orlando numbers were being redacted to protect “the on-going competitive nature of the project.” Information also was redacted about Duke Energy’s portion of the proposal, since Duke remains an active player elsewhere.
Among the proposed Central Florida locations in Orlando’s offer:
– Seven different sites, totaling about 17 acres, in the Creative Village live-work-learn-play community being developed in the northwest corner of downtown Orlando. That area is to be anchored by the new downtown campus of the University of Central Florida that broke ground late last year, but most of the area is still in to-be-determined mode.
– Two sites, totaling about 18 acres, that together are currently occupied by the Orlando Sentinel, its former printing plant, and numerous parking lots and outbuildings the Sentinel has in north central downtown, many of them vacant.
– Three sites, totaling about six acres, just to the east of Orlando City Stadium in the Parramore district of downtown.
– A couple of smaller, vacant sites downtown.
– A site at the NeoCity high-tech development under development in Kissimmee.
– A site at the Tupperware property, a 1,300-acre development around that kitchenware company’s headquarters in north-central Osceola County. That one comes with a future SunRail commuter train station, linking it to downtown Orlando.
Barnes said the downtown Orlando options, the Lake Nona or Sunbridge prospect, the NeoCity community location, and the Tupperware development were offered as four distinct options, and a fifth alternative also was proposed: a combination of any of those, in case Amazon wanted both an urban setting and a suburban or rural setting.
The Amazon proposal also put front-and-center an effort to deal with what is a growing discomfort about an image of Orlando: the image that the city essentially is composed of an airport, some theme parks, and a few hotels and restaurants.
The partnership’s new theme, “Orlando, you don’t know the half of it,” plays out boldly in the written prospectus and videos that make up the city’s proposal.
“OK, time for a reality check,” the first promotional video, “Orlando: Amplified” begins. “Time to toss aside what most people think Orlando has to offer. This is a great place to vacation. It’s also an amazing place to live, and a smart place to do business.”
Next up is Apple, which announced last week it will be looking for a location for a new facility for up to 20,000 high-tech workers.
“No question that we feel we would be a great fit for Apple, just as we thought we would be a great fit for Amazon,” Barnes said.