Orlando: The City Beautiful Has Every Reason 'To Be.' (Orlando, Florida)

Nation's Cities Weekly, July 19, 1993 | Go to article overview

Orlando: The City Beautiful Has Every Reason 'To Be.' (Orlando, Florida)


Orlando. The very name conjures up thoughts of family fun, business prosperity and the type of year-round weather most people dream of.

Imagine that this very city was once characterized as the "city with no reason to be."

That characterization has changed dramatically since the city was officially chartered in 1885. In fact, the world-renowned city of Orlando was originally called Jernigan, named after the early settlers, brothers Aaron and Isaac Jernigan. The delegates at the 1993 National League of Cities Annual Conference in Orlando from December 2-5 will see, first-hand, all the many reasons this city has prospered.

But back to 1885 and the dim prognosis for Orlando. It was simply a sleepy agricultural town, with its beginnings as a military outpost during the Seminole War. Its obvious lack of waterways and railroads earned the region the dubious distinction of having no good reason to exist. What a difference a century makes. The determination of those early settlers set the foundation for the path of history in Orlando, which is marked by visionary leaders who saw many, many good reasons for Orlando to succeed.

Today, with a regional population of 1.1 million and the distinction as the world's most popular tourist destination, the Orlando area is thriving on all fronts. Agriculture still plays an important role in the economy, with dairy farming, foliage and other agricultural production, processing and marketing operations supplying goods throughout the U.S. and overseas.

High-tech and manufacturing are also backbones of the local economy. The corporate roster in Orlando includes such giants as Martin Marietta, Harcourt General, AT&T, Harris Corp., and Westinghouse. Just as significant is the region becoming a hotbed of small businesses and entrepreneurial endeavors, earning Orlando a reputation as a leading location for the very segment of the economy credited with keeping the U.S. economy afloat.

Many of these companies support NASA and the space industry at nearby Kennedy Space Center. It was 1961 when President John F. Kennedy announced that the U.S. would place a man on the moon within 10 years, launching yet another industry in the Orlando area.

And then there is tourism. In 1965, the future of Orlando was forever changed with the startling announcement by Walt Disney that he would build his Magic Kingdom in this little known region. With the opening of his first theme park in 1971, Orlando entered a dynamic new era. …

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