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Orlando is an adolescent living in the shadow of The Mouse. Growing fast, simultaneously unsure of herself and cocky, The City Beautiful struggles to embrace a cohesive identity apart from international tourism. Her leadership believes that a widely celebrated local identity would further diversify the economy and help Orlando stay ahead of her explosive population growth.
Between 1970 and 2010, the four county area known as Metro Orlando has seen a net gain in population of 88 people per day. Since 1900, when the majority of her twenty-two thousand residents were black, the population has increased a hundred fold to over 2.2 million people—16% of which are black and 28% Hispanic. This rapid expansion of Orlando’s populace is the primary source of both her prosperity and her woes. Warm weather, air conditioning, and business friendly policies have sparked the growth that became a brush fire in the 1970s as Walt Disney established his east coast Magic Kingdom.
As the largest resort in the world and the largest single site employer in the United States, the weight of Walt Disney World clearly tips the scale of local industry towards hospitality, a fickle line of business that tends to contract quickly when the economy falters as it has in recent years. Orlando’s challenge is for her to embrace who she is while simultaneously expanding her base of talents and ensuring greater opportunity for everyone. Two key strengths suggest success: adaptability and vitality. The increasingly youthful and creative population, the constant influx of a wide range of people with new ideas, new cultures and new dreams has yielded a welcoming spirit.