Taking its name from the Kissimmee River, this wonderfully diverse community in Florida is multilingual and progressive. Osceola County was noted by Forbes Magazine as the country’s tenth-fastest growing county in 2014. Since then, Kissimmee has become the fastest-growing city in the state, with a significant annual population growth rate of two to three percent.
Nothing is holding this city of over 72,000 residents back, and the excitement over its successful development is palpable. Business in Focus spoke with the city to learn more about its current developments.
Kissimmee, Florida is taking to the skies. Its new, government-incentivized Aerospace Advancement Initiative that launched in April 2018 has made this popular city become a unique and integral part of America’s aviation industry. The initiative is geared toward attracting aviation companies to build the industry further.
“We offer a list of incentives to help companies get up and running and soften the cost of getting them established here,” says Economic Development Director Belinda Ortiz Kirkegard. Now, all types of aviation licenses – from private to commercial – can be obtained under one roof. But this is not all. This city has so much to offer that people are flocking here from around the world.
The Kissimmee Gateway Airport is creating a lot of opportunity for the area. The city has masterfully recruited a host of academic institutions to join its aviation training crew in making the city the country’s hottest one-stop aviation training powerhouse.
“It offers four accredited workforce certification programs, plus the first and only chartered aviation high school on airport property that is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),” says Belinda. Fifteen and sixteen-year-old freshmen are attending high school and learning more about the aviation industry. “It’s been a big year for us with our aerospace program,” Belinda adds. The city has recruited and secured wonderful new training companies that are contributing hugely to the city’s economic growth, especially in terms of higher wages and good quality employment.
Part of the training offering includes airframe and powerplant certification (A&P), an avionics program that focuses on the radio frequency and electronic aspects of aviation mechanics. Its advanced flight school offers Level D full-flight simulators. These consist of large pods containing computer screens that are balanced on hydraulic struts, giving 360-degree views.
“If you were to blindfold someone and let them sit down in it, they’ll think they are in the cockpit of a real airplane in the sky,” says Kissimmee Gateway Airport Director Terry Lloyd. Another major investor in the city is erecting a $4.5 million facility from which it will be performing satellite communication integration on airplanes.
It is not all about aviation, either. NeoCity, a futuristic waterfront development, is around three miles away from downtown Kissimmee and houses Bridging the Innovation Development Gap (BRIDG) – a private sector lead consortium that researches and develops sensors, nanotechnology and more at the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, based at the development.
This means a growing workforce and industry. To supply in the resulting residential demand, the city is greatly expanding its high-quality housing market. It is going big in its downtown area with two large new mixed-use developments. There is also its new public-private partnership project. The Mosaic Development in St. Petersburg is planned to start construction during the first quarter of 2019. Around 306 apartments and 10,000 square feet of commercial space will be erected on the lakefront adjacent to the downtown.
According to the city, it is a great time to invest in property in Kissimmee as, despite rising prices, high-end houses are still available at great prices and in a wide variety of options. “Now really is the time to capitalize on our booming property market. We are open for business and have a lot of positive new things happening across a number of areas. Those looking to invest or those searching for charming, high-quality lifestyle in addition to having a great job nearby, will really appreciate the city,” says Belinda.
The city is also looking to develop more open land into residential and mixed-use units. This project’s construction is set to start around the end of next year or early 2020. Currently, around one thousand new dwellings are projected to be added over the next five years.
Work time also makes space for playtime, and the recreation department’s diary is packed with fabulous events that entertain locals and visitors. With much-improved access to the city thanks to commuter rail line SunRail and the local bus line, people are now coming from further afield to join in the fun. There are also many parks and access to other activities. “Our award-winning Lakefront Park welcomes visitors to also enjoy the newly extended, six-mile Shingle Creek Trail which goes past Lake Tohopekaliga,” says Manager of Communications and Public Information Melissa Zayas-Moreno.
Unlike industrial cities, Kissimmee has a limited amount of space for heavy industry. However, what it perhaps lacks in industrial activity is made up for by its location right next to Walt Disney World. For this reason, the area’s hospitality industry has always been a very large contributor to its economy, and there is no shortage of fantastic establishments to visit.
To make the city’s attributes even more exciting, SunRail has around three stops in the downtown area and ties in with its multimodal transportation center that links its bus and train lines. The rail commuter system connects Volusia and Osceola Counties and has revolutionized business in the area. Not only does it mean a more mobile workforce, but it also stimulates tourism.
“Kissimmee saw its commuter count double within the first month and was one of the top three users out of all the communities along the SunRail line. A lot of businesses saw an increase in trade as people started coming from all over with the train to come and visit its lovely downtown. As anticipated, SunRail’s been a huge benefit to our downtown. One of the results is that we’ve seen an increase in development interest in this area,” says Craig Holland. Craig is development services department director and director of the Downtown Kissimmee Community Redevelopment Agency.
The city’s medical community is also growing at a very impressive rate, and Florida Hospital Kissimmee is believed to have invested more than $120,000,000 in the city in recent years. This expansion of employment and expertise also means an increased quality of living for residents as, with top medical practitioners on their doorstep, they do not have to travel for treatment.
There is a military training cluster and advanced science laboratories at the University of Central Florida, plus a rocketing commercial space industry; there is no end to the talents of this wonderful city. With its great Florida sunshine, fantastic lifestyle, and awesome jobs, Kissimmee is by no means just a pretty face. The city has it all and, thanks to its latest port expansions, even its cruise line industry is doing well, in turn, creating a healthy tourist trade and a happy community.
In Kissimmee’s strong economic climate, investment begets investment, and as its multimillion development projects come closer to fruition, local business is also reinvesting even further. The city is hardworking, and without the typical bureaucracy to slow essential development and dedicated people keeping the cogs turning, it comes as no surprise at all that its smart, methodical approach to growth is making Kissimmee fly.