This month’s podcast special guest is Phoebe Fleming, Director of Research at the Orlando Economic Partnership. She shares economic development tactics and programs that her organization has adopted to promote their goal of broad-based prosperity:

We have new opportunities and we take hold of new opportunities too, I feel like every week we’re talking about something new or something else that we could be doing, but what we really started to focus in on is, you know, it’s not a new idea to have targeted industries, right? You have those clusters that you go after. We’re looking at piloting some new research just on emerging technologies and how do we decide what those technologies of the future are going to be? You know, we talk about 5G, the internet of things, block chain and trying to understand those and where we can plant a stake in the ground and really say … Kind of realize what our strengths are maybe from that tourism infrastructure explanation that I mentioned before.

One example of that really is an autonomous vehicle technology. We’ve kind of come to understand that Orlando and central Florida is a great place to test autonomous vehicles, because we have the scalability of that infrastructure and because we’re so used to moving people around from place to place. You have a whole population of people. We get 72 million visitors a year in the region and that means that you have people coming here to visit who are more willing to maybe try that technology. Being able to say, “Hey, I’m on vacation. I’ll test out an autonomous vehicle or an autonomous shuttle that will take me from the airport to my hotel or to the theme park.” So we have that infrastructure along with a really friendly legislative environment that allows us to kind of test some of these new and emerging technology.

That’s one way we kind of see combining technology with advancing broad-based prosperity, because if we can create those jobs and jobs within the middle wage or jobs out on those frontier industries, then we kind of foster an ecosystem of innovation and spur start ups and things along those lines. Then we really combine that as well with kind of our regional talent initiatives. I have amazing colleagues that work with me on our foundation team who run our young professionals advisory council. We just started an intern retention program as well who show interns exactly the other half of Orlando and talk about what else is here and kind of retain that talent that comes to our companies for the summer, but then decide maybe they want to be in New York or Atlanta or something along those lines, because they just didn’t get a chance to get out and see all of the cool things that we have to offer here

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