Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida’s population is growing rapidly and shows no signs of slowing down. In Central Florida, as Orlando’s urban core approaches build
out, surrounding counties have an opportunity to harness this continued growth for economic impact.
Already the third-fastest growing county in the state, Lake County experienced a 4.2% population growth rate over the last year and expects to reach nearly 453,000 residents by 2030, explained Tracy Garcia, director of Lake County’s economic development arm, Elevate Lake.
Lake County leaders are all-in on attracting new residents and businesses to congregate around its “strategic corridors,” where partners will concentrate efforts to aggressively grow jobs while improving the area’s quality of life and unique character.
“All four corridors will play significant roles in the economic growth for Lake County as more companies and residents move out of urban cores into suburban areas looking for unique opportunities.”
More on plans for each of these corridors is detailed below.
One of the county’s largest corridors, Wellness Way, is projected to make great strides to promote health sciences, diversify the local economy and encourage innovation thanks to capitalizing on a confluence of nearby academia, industry and community resources – including the National Training Center and South Lake Hospital – which have created increased demand for healthcare-related services in the region.
Additionally, another unique opportunity coming soon to Wellness Way is Project Olympus, a master-planned development for sports, wellness, entertainment and residential development. Further development opportunities will continue to arise in this strategic corridor as roadway infrastructure projects provide more connectivity throughout the region.
Wellness Way also benefits from the nearby Health Sciences Collegiate Academy (HSCA) at Lake-Sumter State College’s South Lake Campus, which opened its doors in 2017 after a survey of local businesses revealed a growing need for health care workers. Resulting from a partnership with Orlando Health South Lake Hospital, the University of Central Florida and several other educational partners in Lake County, HSCA offers an accelerated learning path for local high school students with a passion for health care and a willingness to commit to a program of higher education.
According to Director Michelle Crozier, Ph.D., MPH, CPH, this learning community maximizes the likelihood of student success in a rigorous STEM curriculum, exposing them to high tech science labs, medical simulation technologies and more. Having helped nearly 230 students earn their associate degree before going on to study fields such as nursing, biology and biochemistry, the four-year-old program exemplifies the power of partnership and the potential for strategic corridors to meet critical needs of the region’s economy.
Wolf Branch Innovation District
Elsewhere in Lake County, the Wolf Branch Innovation District operates as a primary high tech industry cluster in the county. Built to offer an environment like Downtown Orlando’s Creative Village, this strategic corridor includes a 1,300-acre mixed-use employment center focused on education, innovation, research and development, and technology.
Christopher C. Ford Park
Christopher C. Ford Park is the county’s largest industrial park. Located strategically on Highway 27, it houses a number of distribution centers for well-known brands, including Niagara Water Bottling Company, Dunkin’ Donuts and Domino’s, and will soon welcome Kroger’s robotic customer fulfillment center and Amazon’s last-mile delivery station. The City of Groveland’s plans to continue developing this corridor include diversifying the types of businesses located here, and goals to reduce carbon emissions from daily work commutes by connecting new and planned residential developments.
The Minneola Interchange’s 4,000 acres will soon be home to four mixed-used developments with 8,000 residential units and more than 3 million square feet of retail, office and industrial space. Just 20 minutes from Downtown Orlando, and 30 minutes from the Orlando International Airport and major interstates, Minneola Interchange provides an ideal location for transplants who expect visitors from out of state or business professionals who anticipate frequent work travel.
As they continue to grow, Elevate Lake’s four strategic corridors will surely help fulfill its vision to create a local economy supported by a wide range of career opportunities, a diversified tax base and an exceptional quality of life.