November 30, 2016
Orlando’s long been known as the theme-park capital of the world, but with amusement-based companies moving operations here and others considering the same, it could also become a development hub.
Ride developer Dynamic Attractions opened a design and creative center in Central Florida this year — and already plans to more than double its square footage. International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions will relocate its headquarters to Orlando next year.
Dynamic’s center wouldn’t be as successful in any other location, said Guy Nelson, chief executive officer of the company based near Vancouver. The company has 400 employees total, 24 of which are based in Orlando.
“This is the business,” he said. “This is where it’s at. I don’t think it could be elsewhere.”
A key component of the industry is networking and scheduling face-to-face time with others, said Duncan Dickson, professor at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen School of Hospitality Management.
“I think it’s the synergy you can build off of each other,” he said. “All of sudden all of these ideas start to spark.”
Knowledgeable employees also can draw companies to Central Florida.
“I think what they’re seeing is there’s a wealth of talent locally,” Dickson said. “This is talent they can utilize.”
IAAPA just staged its 98th annual Expo at Orange County Convention center, with 35,100 in attendance. One of the biggest reasons the organization wanted to move from Washington, D.C., was to be closer to year-round action, director of media relations Colleen Mangone said.
“… This is the epicenter of the industry,” she said. “We have quite a few members that are located right here in the Central Florida area.”
IAAPA can facilitate more in-person events and provide more educational opportunities by making Orlando its home, Mangone said.
Plans for Dynamic’s 25,000-square-foot facility, its first in Orlando, were announced a year ago with hopes to accommodate the planning process and collaborate with partners here. Just a year later, Nelson and vice president of creative development George Walker said they were expanding that space.
“We are basically reacting to client demand,” Walker said during IAAPA Expo. “The big idea is people are working and people are liking it.”
It’s common for attractions or amusement businesses to employ Orlando-based consultants. Some growing companies, though, will face decisions to expand in Central Florida.
Canada-based Triotech, a company working on attractions for Legoland Florida and other Merlin Entertainments brands, is among them.
Ernest Yale, Triotech’s chief executive officer, said the company has one locally based employee who commutes between Montreal and Orlando. If the company continues to expand, that list of Orlando employees could grow.
“That’s something we can look at maybe in partnerships,” Yale said. “But we’re a Montreal-based company and it’s very important for us to have all the team in one place.”
Since the start of the year, Triotech has grown from about 120 employees to an estimated staff of 180 before the year ends, said Yale. He expects the company’s presence in Central Florida to expand as the company gains more clients.
“I see we have a big future in Orlando,” he said.
Dickson said he doesn’t know why it’s taken companies in the industry so long to expand their physical presence in the region. Dickson said a carrier recently added at Orlando International Airport can enable growth involving international businesses.
“Accessibility with the Emirates air connection to Dubai, you’re one stop to Mumbai,” he said. “Just with that one connection, you’re one hop from so many places around the world here.”
And increased business in building attractions naturally extends Orlando’s label of theme-park capital of the world, he said.
“I think it’s certainly following suit that we’re the development capital of the world,” Dickson said.