The people who brought the world the Ferris wheel restaurant and most other new amusements from zip lines to mega roller coasters are coming to Orlando permanently.

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, an organization of theme parks, amusements, and the companies who invent, design, build or run them, announced early Wednesday morning that it is moving its headquarters from the Washington D.C. area to the Orlando area.

The announcement, made at a Wednesday morning press conference in Barcelona, Spain, also declared that the organization is extending its deal to hold its international expos at the Orange County Convention Center through 2030, a five-year extension.

That expo is an amusement park aficionado’s toy store, as the companies who build and design rides and other amusements bring in their models, plans and prototypes of the next generation of attractions. It’s where the next big ideas are introduced and marketed to amusement park companies large and small, worldwide.

AAPA Attractions Expo 2016 takes place at the Orange County Convention Center Nov. 14-18

The group also is the largest and most prominent organization in the amusement park industry that drives Orlando and other big markets in Los Angeles, Japan, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Barcelona, and elsewhere.

The Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday morning that the group was attracted to Orange County through economic incentives offered by the county and the state, but that officials declined to say how much those would be.

In addition to bringing several permanent new residents (or new hires) to Orlando as part of the headquarters move, IAAPA Attractions Expo brings $51.3 million in annual economic impact (and about 30,000 visitors annually) for a total of more than $1 billion of combined positive impact for Orlando and Orange County from 2010 to 2030 and beyond, the organization stated in its press release Wednesday. The association did not say how many jobs it intends to relocate from its current headquarters in Alexandria, Va., though the Sentinel reported the number at 40.

IAAPA’s presence in Orlando also could spur more development of the most lucrative part of the amusement park industry, jobs-wise, the hundreds of companies, often small, entrepreneurial businesses, that do everything from designing and building rides to writing software for turnstile management to choreographing shows. Orlando and Los Angeles have long been the hotbeds for such companies.

The decision, by the IAAPA board, may have helped that the group already is heavily invested in, and led by, Orlando. John McReynolds, vice president for external affairs for Orlando-based Universal Parks and Resorts, for example, is its board chairman.

“IAAPA is the global organization that supports and connects attractions industry professionals from around the world and although we’ve done so successfully for almost 100 years, it’s now time to look ahead and form our vision for the next 100 years,” McReynolds stated in a news release issued Wednesday.

“I cannot think of a better place to build our future than in Orlando, the theme park and attractions capital of the world,” McReynolds added. “Our new headquarters will become a global gathering place where industry leaders will connect to conduct business, learn from each other, address challenges, and imagine the attractions that will put smiles on people’s faces for many years to come.”

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs traveled to Barcelona Tuesday to answer questions from the IAAPA board members about the region and to outline the county’s interest in bringing the headquarters to Orlando and discuss the Expo extension. In doing so, she missed a critical meeting of the Orange County Board of Commissioners Tuesday night, but brought home the organization.

“We’re thrilled to welcome IAAPA to Central Florida,” Jacobs said. “In addition to the obvious synergy with our world-class theme park and entertainment industries, the addition of another national association headquarters unit is tremendously important. As the home of the AAU and USTA associations, it makes great sense to add IAAPA to this impressive lineup.”

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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