Can you keep a secret? No? Good, because Orlando wants you to tell everyone you know just how good it is to entrepreneurial businesses. That's no surprise to us--this small-business haven, which has had a top 10 finish four years running, shares top billing this year with Dallas as the No. 1 city for entrepreneurs.
Historically noted for its tourism--fed chiefly by Walt Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios--Orlando is much more than a one-trick pony. It's also a high-tech mecca nurtured by an attractive climate, a reasonable cost of living and of doing business, and a world-class international airport.
As a technology hub, Orlando is a certified sleeper. Though its relative obscurity has hurt tech businesses searching for capital, its leadership in the simulation and information high-tech industries and its proximity to NASA are finally attracting attention--and helping the area weather the technology slump. Add a new campaign to heighten awareness of the area as a technology stronghold, and Orlando is likely to reach star status in tech circles before long.
Of course, growth comes with its own set of problems, and in Orlando those include lack of affordable housing, a labor shortage and inadequate mass transit. O-Force--the Orlando Regional Workforce Development Partnership--is creating programs to meet the region's labor needs.
Improving mass transit is on the drawing board, and while the county commission recently rejected plans for a light-rail system, residents approved a constitutional referendum in the November 2000 election to create a high-speed rail system that will connect Orlando with Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa. Many locals believe that will lure workers and even capital to the area.
All those efforts, combined with the area's entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to extend its Southern hospitality to all who come to Orlando, should keep the region on the list of business hot spots for years to come.
Chris Sandlund is Entrepreneur's "Management Smarts" columnist.