2021 State of Orange County: Five Things You Need to Know
Although the past 12 months have been challenging for families and businesses, Orange County’s future remains bright. That is the message Mayor Jerry L. Demings delivered during his 2021 State of the County address. In his speech, the Mayor highlighted the challenges Orange County faced during the global pandemic but also focused on looking toward the future and building a community that works for everyone.
The Mayor gave the address on Friday, June 4, 2021, at the Orange County Convention Center to a hybrid audience of in-person and virtual attendees, a welcomed change from the virtual-only address during 2020 and a sign that the community is recovering from the effects of COVID-19. If you missed it, here are five key takeaways:
- Triumph Over Defeat
In 2020 (during the pandemic), the region’s unemployment rate peaked at 22.6 percent, and flights to the metro area plummeted by 97 percent. Today, unemployment is estimated at 5.6 percent, and Orlando International Airport is once again one of the top five busiest airports in the nation. By rethinking budget priorities, Orange County Government is maintaining long-term financial health. Fitch Ratings ranked the County with its highest credit rating – a AAA designation.
- Orange CARES
More than 90 percent of Orange County’s $243 million of federal CARES Act funds went back into the hands of residents, including $69 million for small and home-based businesses, $67 million for individuals and families, $11 million for social-service agencies, $8 million for emergency food assistance, and $7 million for job-training programs. Additionally, the County distributed more than 25 million face masks and 1 million bottles of hand sanitizer throughout the community.
- Economic Recovery
Orange County’s future is bright. KPMG’s and Amazon’s recent expansions are a positive indicator of the appeal Orange County has to investors. The County established the first Housing Trust Fund to invest $10 million annually in public-private partnerships focused on the development of affordable and workforce housing. Madison Landing and Hawthorn Park are two examples of successful affordable developments. Additionally, the County launched its Industry Diversification Cluster Initiative as part of its economic stimulus strategy to spur job creation in industry sectors beyond tourism and hospitality.
- Community and Culture
Throughout the pandemic, Orange County continued to focus on the tone of the times and promoting diversity, inclusion and equity. The County’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Initiative provided year-round programing focused on social reform, personal and financial health, literacy and volunteerism. Additionally, more than $3 million was allocated to local arts organizations to help safely reopen performance stages and welcome back patrons.
- Public Safety
Orange County has proven it can host world-class events while keeping residents and guests safe. In the third quarter of this year, revenues for the Orange County Convention Center are projected to be the highest since the pandemic began. The Convention Center has booked 84 shows with 930,000 attendees and more than 1.3 million in room nights. The County’s rapid deployment of COVID-19 tests and vaccines was made possible by nurturing strong, collaborative partnerships. It also was one of the first Florida counties to lower the COVID-19 vaccine age requirement in response to growing demand, as well as create a mobile vaccination program for underserved communities.
Watch the full 2021 State of the County address:
Photo Caption: Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings presents the 2021 State of Orange County address inside of the Linda Chapin Theater at the Orange County Convention Center to in-person and virtual guests on Friday morning, June 4, 2021.