Exciting things are happening in Osceola County.
Long known for its ties to agriculture and tourism, Osceola County is building a foundation of high-tech, high-wage jobs with the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center. A collaboration between Osceola County, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, and the University of Central Florida, the center is a $70 million, 100,000-square-foot facility that could create 20,000 jobs over the next decade.
The center could also house a national Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute for Manufacturing Innovation, a $200 million project being sought by the University of Central Florida that could generate an additional 30,000 photonics-related jobs.
By mid-2017, an expected 2,000 commuters will climb aboard SunRail daily and travel to downtown Orlando and beyond on the $186 million expansion of the commuter rail system. The system is expected to drive development along three stops in Osceola County – Tupperware Brands Corp., downtown Kissimmee, and Poinciana. Tupperware is planning a mixed-use retail and commercial development on the 500 acres surrounding its corporate campus, and a residential and commercial complex is being planned near the Kissimmee station.
The Kissimmee station will be walking distance from the Kissimmee lakefront, which was upgraded by a 10-year, $34 million project that officially ended in late 2014. Traffic was redirected to improve pedestrian access to the park, and new pavilions, playground equipment, and walkways were added. The city is planning more improvements at Brinson Park along the northern section of Kissimmee Lakefront Park. That project – expected to include improved walkways, streetscaping, and a fishing pier – is expected to be completed sometime in 2018.
There are other projects in the pipeline to improve mobility on four wheels. The 10-mile, $150 million Poinciana Parkway will make it easier to travel from Poinciana to other parts of the region. The City of Kissimmee and Osceola County are looking to improve travel in the southern part of the city, and the Osceola County Expressway Authority has a vision for a beltway that would eventually stretch from Florida’s Turnpike east to St. Cloud and finally looping west back to Interstate 4.
With an eye on future development in the northeastern section of Osceola County, Deseret Ranch is working with the county on the North Ranch Sector Plan on 130,000 acres that the company owns. The study area is located near the Northeast District, which could be home to about a half of a million residents by the end of the century.
Much of that proposed development is near Medical City in Lake Nona, which is home to a growing biotech community that includes Sanford-Burnham Research Institute, Nemours Children’s Hospital, Veterans Administration Medical Center, and the University of Florida Academic & Research Center.
Osceola County appears poised to be able to provide the skilled workers necessary for jobs that will be created by all of this development. Valencia College is partnering with the University of Central Florida on degree programs, and the Osceola County School District’s graduation rate of 78 percent is higher than the state average. In Spring 2015, every graduating senior received an acceptance letter from Valencia College. The School District announced during its 2015 State of Education that students are being offered EA Sports gaming programs at Osceola, Harmony, and Poinciana high schools, and other specialty programs like lodging operations, horticulture, and construction.
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