Job growth boosted Metro Orlando to rank seventh nationally as a Best-Performing City by nonprofit, nonpartisan analytics group the Milken Institute.
The four-county region area moved up two notches from last year’s ninth-place spot, according to a study released Wednesday. The annual review of 381 metropolitan areas considers growth in jobs, wages, and high-tech positions.
The region performed “particularly well” in the job growth, with employment rising than 4 percent from 2015 to 2016. Wages grew even more — nearly 8 percent from 2014 to 2015 — but remain relatively low due to the Orlando economy’s reliance on tourism. That reliance, though, is shifting.
“Though typically known as a tourist destination,the continued diversification of the metro’s economy will add to its success in the future,” Milken Institute researchers stated.
The region did not outshine metro areas including Provo, Utah and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. for drawing high-tech jobs over the last five years.
Metro Orlando lagged with a ranking of 81st for being a high-tech hub last year and 78th for high-tech jobs created during a five-year period ending last year. But the region appeared to be catching up to some extent with a ranking of 22nd place for creation of sought-after technology jobs from 2015 to 2016. That employment sector has shown some momentum more recently in part because the University of Central Florida, with enrollment of more than 64,000 students, helps feed growing high-tech industries, the report stated.
Among other employment hot spots, Orlando-area’s professional, scientific and technology positions grew 8.2 percent during that one-year period.
Construction, which as been a roller coaster jobs sectors in Central Florida for more than a decade, grew with expansions of Walt Disney World Resort and other projects adding 7,130 jobs last year, according to the report. Some of the draw may be rising costs elsewhere in the state.
“We view the Central Florida market as having a lot of potential, not least because of its connectivity, world-class educational institutions, and lower land costs compared to metro areas like Miami or Fort Lauderdale,” said Brad Meltzer, president of Plaza Construction Group Florida, which just expanded into the region.
Nearby Orlando, Brevard County showed the greatest growth of any of the cities. Researchers attributed those gains to “catching up on growth that had initially been elusive coming out of the recession.” They cited the region’s draw to retirees and growing medical hub as key drivers.
The only Florida metro ranking higher than Orlando was the Sarasota area, which was listed as sixth on the list of top-performing cities. Elsewhere in the country, the metropolitan areas of Provo; Raleigh; Dallas; San Francisco; and San Jose, Calif. were ahead of Orlando in the annual ranking.
Looking ahead, researchers noted that a planned $500 million expansion of the Orange County Convention Center should help draw more visitors to the region. And KPMG’s debut with a training campus in Orlando’s Lake Nona is set to bolster job growth with an estimated 1,000 new positions, according to the institute.
Written and Posted by Orlando Sentinel - January, 2018