What We’ve Learned and What We’re Doing Now

The Partnership started surveying local businesses in early 2023 to better understand economic conditions in Orlando.
We’ve since learned that what is actually happening in the local economy is often at odds with what’s being reported nationally.
The need for timely local evidence has become clear, so we’re announcing a partnership with Stetson University to further advance this more robust and proactive approach to understanding Orlando’s economy.

Economic development organizations too often fail to include timely local evidence when seeking to understand their local economies and develop strategy. This approach is often necessitated by a lag in local economic data but can result in overreliance on national trends and strategic missteps. It also overlooks the privileged position organizations such as the Partnership enjoy at the heart of their business community.​

In early 2023, as a response to this reality, the Partnership launched the Orlando Business Conditions Survey – a survey mechanism to help us monitor local business performance and sentiment in near real-time. Partnership investors are asked just five questions twice a year on a rotating basis.

Uncovering Resilience and Optimism in Challenging Times

The disconnect between local experience and national narrative became apparent almost immediately.

As talk of possible recession and layoffs dominated national headlines in early 2023, Partnership investors were displaying a resilience that ran counter to national sentiment. The share of Partnership investors reporting increased revenue began at 56 percent and has barely fallen below 50 percent since, even as wider economic uncertainty has dampened hiring and investment.

Economic uncertainty has also shaped how local companies are approaching opportunities. With inflation above 6% in early 2023, many respondents were noting ill-defined growth ambitions. Fast forward six months, and with the outlook less uncertain, these ambitions have become more specific. One in four respondents in the three months ending September cited expanding services or locations – both undertakings that require a degree of planning and/or confidence – among their biggest opportunities.

We’ve also learned more about the difficulties faced by area businesses. Staff recruitment and retention has been the most cited challenge since the survey’s inception in February but has not eased as the labor market now cools locally. Although not unique to Orlando, this is clearly a structural issue that will require coordinated action in the months and years ahead.

Above all, we’ve discovered that local company sentiment is driven by both lived experience and external influence. Optimism among respondents has increased throughout 2023 as businesses continue to see sustained growth locally while the perceived risk of national recession recedes. This dynamic alone reinforces the need to accurately capture both local and national trends.

A New Partnership

The first six months of the Orlando Business Conditions Survey have highlighted the value of local evidence. We are therefore delighted to announce a partnership with Stetson University’s Center for Public Opinion Research (CPOR) to strengthen and expand our survey research capabilities. The partnership will see Stetson provide sophisticated technical and analytical survey support to help us build on this early work and expand our local evidence. Initially set up as a 12-month pilot, the partnership includes the maintenance of a Partnership Panel (of Partnership investors) as well as the creation of a wider Orlando Business Panel to deepen and extend our reach.

Looking Ahead

Results from the partnership will be reported both monthly (within the Partnership’s signature Orlando MSA Market Update) and quarterly with the launch a new flagship report debuting in January (covering the final quarter of 2023 and featuring some timely evidence on how Orlando businesses are currently approaching remote and flexible working).

In announcing this partnership, the Partnership is pioneering a more robust and proactive approach to research that combines economic data AND local intelligence. Our work will help us identify and act on opportunities and challenges as early as possible and allow the Partnership to become evidence-led and insight-driven. Partnership teams will develop programs in response to the insight we generate.

The wider Orlando Business Panel is launching this month, and we encourage businesses located in Lake, Orange, Osceola, or Seminole counties to participate in this new effort by signing up here.