ORLANDO, Fla. – Since he was elected in 2003, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has seen the City Beautiful grow significantly, but that growth is creating a few challenges as thousands of people move to the area every week.
Dyer joined News 6 anchor Justin Warmoth on "The Weekly on ClickOrlando.com" to discuss his vision going forward.
Here is a portion of their one-on-one interview:
Warmoth: "You just had your State of City address a few weeks ago where you talked a lot about the growth and the future. Give us your thoughts on how Orlando has grown over the years."
Dyer: "For the last few decades, we've been one the leaders of growth around the country and have been averaging about 1,000 new residents every week. Now we're averaging about 1,500 new residents moving to the Central Florida area every single week, so you think about that and you think about our affordable housing crisis. It's exacerbated by the fact that we've had that much growth, we're coming out of the recession and homebuilders were building higher-end homes because that's where the profit was, and then we're a somewhat low-wage economy. But I can tell you this: I'd rather have the growth challenges than some of the challenges that cities that are retracting are having. I look at managing growth as a great opportunity for us."
Warmoth: "You call Orlando a smart city. That's the goal, right?"
Dyer: "Future-ready is what we're saying now."
Warmoth: "Future-ready, OK. So is that the pitch to new companies coming here and looking for a place to set up shop?"
Dyer: "You're going to have cities that are future-ready and you're going to have cities that are not. If you're not a future-ready city, you're not going to be able to continue to thrive and attract the young and smart kids that are going to make your city successful. A lot of it is about attracting companies, but it's more about attracting the talent to your community. If you have the talent and you have the workforce and talent pool, then companies are going to come here. We also grow our own companies. We have more small business start-ups than just about anywhere. We're always ranked high for entrepreneurs and a great place to start a business, so growing businesses are just as important as attracting them."
Warmoth: "I know having 5G throughout the city is highly important to you. Why is it so important to get that integrated in Orlando?"
Dyer: "Everything we're talking about in the future, whether it's autonomous vehicles or other companies that will help you with that type of mobility, they're going to need that type of technology. Think about where we were 10 years ago and where we are today with the communication devices that we have. Being a city that is able to adapt to 5G and do it quickly is important. It takes so many nodes to build out a system. What we have been first in the country to set up a permitting process where a company can show us all the different types of applications that they would have and we'll go ahead and give them a general permit related to that type of application. Then all they have to do is come in and get the location permitted. We want to accelerate our ability to have 5G technology."
Warmoth: "People have a few concerns with 5G. I know scientists and doctors have debunked those concerns. What would your message be to them?"
Dyer: "I don't put a lot of credence in that. We had the leader of our country tell us that windmills were going to give us cancer, so there's a lot of people with misinformation out there."
Warmoth: "Let's move on to the opening of UCF and Valencia's downtown campus. It's crazy that we're just one month a way."
Dyer: "It's terribly exciting to have 7,000 students that will be in our downtown. That's going to change the complexion of downtown forever for the better."
Warmoth: "What kind of effect will the entire Creative Village have on the surrounding Parramore neighborhood?"
Dyer: "The location of Creative Village is one of the important components of it because it's in a neighborhood that not too long ago didn't have a lot kids going to college. To have a college campus in your neighborhood and actually see people going to college every day, plus the K-8 school is adjacent now, so you're going to have that interaction. It's an intentional location."
Warmoth: "When it comes to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings' plan to insert a penny sales tax for transportation needs, do you think people will see noticeable change if they voted for that?"
Dyer: "Absolutely, but the plan is not fully formulated. We need to go to the community and understand what people want and what they think the transportation needs are. We do know for certain that the Lynx bus system needs improvements. We probably need twice the amount of buses. We would like to get SunRail to the airport. That would be a total game-changer. I-4 is going to be done, but Colonial Drive is still sitting in all types of congestion, so there's a lot of work there that needs to be done. And then pedestrian and bicycle uses as well. But again we want to hear what the residents want."
Warmoth: "I think a lot of people would like to see SunRail be more than just a way to get people to and from work. I think they want to see it on the weekends, later at night, maybe take it to a Magic game or something along those lines."
Dyer: "And when we take it to the airport we're going to have to go seven days a week. That would be part of the penny tax."
Warmoth: "We have the MLS All-Star game coming up, too."
Dyer: "It's coming up at the end of this month. We're going to be the first city in America to have hosted the Pro Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game and MLS All-Star Game. That's pretty cool."
Warmoth: "Yeah it is. What about FIFA World Cup games?"
Dyer: "We're in the queue for that. It's in 2026. There are 17 cities left in the running and they're probably going to pick between 10 and 12."
Warmoth: "Do you they have a timeline on when they would announce those cities?"
Dyer: "A couple of more years. Part of that is going to come down to how they do it geographically. What I would hope that they would do is to create geographic nodes for the groups, like a Miami, Orlando and Atlanta. That way if you come from somewhere in Europe and you're trying to follow your team, you can have games in those cities versus something like Orlando, Seattle and Boston."
Warmoth: "One final message to the people of Orlando?"
Dyer: "I would say their future is bright. I'm excited about the next four years in Orlando and I couldn't be prouder to be mayor of this city."