Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has watched the city’s economy undergo multiple transformations since his first election in 2003.
Sometimes, it’s a matter of necessity.
As the coronavirus battered Orlando’s tourism industry the previous three years, he turned his attention to economic diversification.
At the same time, he noticed the tech industry thriving, even as COVID-19 completely hamstrung the city’s 500-plus hotels.
So, among other things, he leaned into the Orlando tech industry.
He famously held his 2022 State of Downtown address in virtual reality in December.
Then, in May, he threw his support in early to announceMetaCenter Global Week during his annual State of the City.
As that weeklong celebration and showcase of Orlando’s tech community approaches – as the major tech event in Orlando next month – Orlando Tech News caught up with him to get his thoughts on the industry and the upcoming event.
What is it about MetaCenter Global Week that has you excited?
It’s a great opportunity to raise the profile of Orlando’s reputation as a tech community. We have a thriving tech ecosystem here with both big companies and small ones but I don’t know that the world is necessarily aware of it. The whole notion of the MetaCenter (Global Week is) having all the people come to Orlando and expose them to what we have to offer.
What could it mean to Orlando’s tech community?
It gives our companies and entities the opportunity to meet with people they might eventually collaborate with, perhaps. It lets the outside world know about the educational and various industries and how well we have parlayed our industry clusters. These include military, simulation and training, Creative Village, Lake Nona and some of these tech-focused businesses at incubators like Starter Studio.
Can you talk about the significance of Innovate Orlando becoming its own thing recently?
The whole notion of having an entity like Innovate Orlando break out of the Orlando Economic Partnership and stand on its own is certainly significant in terms of demonstrating where we stand as a tech community. We have gained notoriety around the country in terms of what we have to offer here. That’s continuing to get exposure by having a week focused on Orlando’s innovation and tech offerings.
The industry we are known for is actually one of the original tech industries.
If you think about this in terms of our tourism industry, some of the high-tech aspects of the theme parks absolutely go hand-in-hand. These are some of the forebearers of these technology innovations. Modeling, simulation and training and the live experiences offered at theme parks go hand-in-hand in terms of the type of people that would have that expertise and it’s transferable between industries.
Global Week is a combo of offerings. What could the future of the event bring?
Combining Synapse and the summit into one week was a big deal. What we need to do is look around us. I think this will grow. It might be reminiscent of South by Southwest, which didn’t really know what they would become in the early days. I am hoping in 2043 we can say, ‘Gosh, remember what this was like in 2023?’
Can you talk a little more about Innovate Orlando’s presence now?
I think it’s a big deal that it happened. It’s not unlike the fact that Visit Orlando was once a part of the chamber a long time ago and then came out to stand on its own. In some sense, this is a similar move. It’s cool to see. Visit Orlando was there to help a growing economy and has since become a huge part of our economy. I believe Innovate Orlando could serve that same purpose.
How big was it that Orlando had a thriving tech community during the pandemic while COVID hammered tourism?
The growth in our tech community continued during the pandemic as if it weren’t a pandemic. We always talk about diversifying the economy and having a segment that can continue to grow and thrive while other pieces are impacted. Having that is important to the overall health of the community.
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