Will Orlando Push Miami Out as Florida's Most Economically Important Metro Area?

Back in 1987, writer T.D. Allman declared in the title of his book that Miami was "The City of the Future," and over the next two decades, our metropolitan area largely made good on the moniker through impressive growth and increasing economic importance. Twenty-four years later, though, Miami is looking like the city of the past, and now analysts point to signs that Orlando might be Florida's new growth capital and might someday be the economic heavyweight of the state.

Today newswire Reuters is carrying a story proclaiming Orlando the new city of the future and a glimmer of light in Florida's troubled dark economy. The story declares that O-town is "poised to push aside Miami as the state's fastest-growing metropolis for at least a generation."

Just as we know it's silly to write off Miami as just a town of beach resorts, nightclubs, and good Cuban food, it's a mistake to view Orlando as just that landlocked Mickey Mouse town four hours north.

"People think I'm gushing about Orlando," Mark Vitner, senior economist specializing in regional economies for Wells Fargo Securities LLC, tells Reuters. "But I've got to believe the city will be one of the fastest-growing cities in the country over the next 25 years."

According to various economic indicators, Orlando's economy is now the strongest in the state, and job growth in the area is picking up faster than any other area in Florida. In fact, the metro area represented nearly half the job growth in Florida between February 2010 and 2011.

Orlando might also be better poised than South Florida to take advantage of growth in the biomedical and technology industries:

Orlando's economy is becoming more diverse than Miami's, according to Vitner. It has greater ties to the global economy compared to Miami, which is primarily a conduit to business in Latin America.
Reuters may be a bit quick to dismiss Miami's ties to Latin America, especially as that area's economy continues to grow, but Orlando might have its economic eggs better spread over various baskets. It also has more opportunities for development and growth.

Growth in Orlando will affect South Florida as the two metro areas vie for political and economic power in the state. It might be a long time, if ever, before Orlando (which has a metropolitan population of about 2 million compared to South Florida's 5.5 million) pushes the larger Miami metropolitan region out of Florida dominance, but it appears the area is already doing the heavy lifting in getting the state's economy back on track.

Orlando's growth doesn't necessarily mean doom for Miami, though. It's not an either-or game. However, if Orlando is looking to become the city of the future, Miami has to make sure it doesn't become the city of the past.

[Reuters: Orlando economy pushes to head of line in Florida]

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Kyle Munzenrieder