If you peruse EMSI’s vast reservoir of case studies, you might notice that many highlight regional practitioners who understand the need for a well-diversified economy. Yet Orlando, the focus of this article by Richard Reep at newgeography.com, has largely focused on the tourism industry and is now suffering.
As Reep outlines, the Central Florida city, among other resort towns, has been blacklisted by the federal government to host meetings and conferences because the government wants to avoid sites that “give the appearance of being lavish or are resort destinations.” A new public-sector emphasis to meet in locales such as Chicago and St. Louis hurts places like Orlando and Las Vegas, but Reep brings up another point:
Orlando cursed itself by growing around a single specialty, rather than a diverse set of interests. Favoring theme parks over agriculture was certainly an opportunistic decision, but reinforcing tourism and ignoring all other investment has proved a vast miscalculation. The Sunshine State could have been #1 in solar energy research by now, making it Obama’s darling. So Central Florida, without any other true industry, now grovels at the government’s feet to restore itself into good graces and allow a National Park Service meeting to take place at the Ramada Inn again. It is likely that Orlando will be shut out of this closed circle for some time to come.