This is the first in a series of Market Commentaries, timely analyses produced by the Orlando Economic Partnership’s Market Intelligence team. Commentaries are typically associated with a major data release or cover areas key to advancing the Partnership’s goal of Broad-based Prosperity®.
|✓||Orlando’s tech ecosystem employs approximately 91,000 people across tech and non-tech sectors – 7 percent of the region’s workforce.|
|✓||These jobs generate approximately $43 billion in economic output – 16 percent of Orlando’s economic output.|
|✓||Orlando’s tech ecosystem can play a key role in advancing Broad-based Prosperity® in the region but there is work to do to improve workforce diversity in the sector|
Awareness of Orlando’s tech economy, long a crucial part of the region’s economic development strategy, intensified in 2022. The region’s bold move into the Metaverse early in the year ignited a momentum which has since accelerated with the unveiling of the region’s digital twin and the growth of the Orlando Tech Community.
There have been previous efforts to quantify the size of Orlando’s tech economy – but always a suspicion the results generated have underplayed the sector’s overall reach and influence.
A More Comprehensive Approach
Any analysis of Orlando’s tech economy requires a full accounting of the area’s tech ecosystem.
Traditionally, data has been generated based on a determination of those industries whose output may be considered ‘tech’ in nature. However, an industry-focused definition fails to capture the cross-cutting economic contributions of a functional role whose success permits the broad growth of many industries. Tech is no longer the product of a few select industries, but a skillset woven throughout the economy and embedded in tech and non-tech companies alike. Replicating a methodology and list of tech-oriented occupations used by New York City, we can begin to gauge the true size of Orlando’s tech ecosystem.
Tech employment in the Orlando economy is not limited to tech firms. Rather, it is spread across three domains: tech jobs in tech industries, non-tech jobs in tech industries and tech jobs in non-tech industries. A web developer in a large corporate environment is no less tech-oriented than a web developer in a digital media startup.
Approximately 91,000 jobs in Orlando, or seven percent of the 1.3 million people working within the region, are enabled by, produce, or facilitate technology. That number includes 35,000 jobs outside of traditional ‘tech’ industries and far exceeds total current employment at the United States’ largest single-site employer, Walt Disney World. Expect that number to also grow. Over the last decade, employment in Orlando’s tech ecosystem expanded by almost 24,000 jobs, growing at a faster rate (36 percent) than total Orlando employment (26 percent) and many of the region’s more traditional sectors. Orlando’s tech ecosystem contributed close to 10 percent of Orlando’s total job growth between 2011 and 2021.
Expansion of the region’s tech employment is key to Orlando’s high-skill, high-wage economic development strategy. Spread across all sectors, Orlando’s tech employment is concentrated disproportionately in high-wage sectors. That includes 34,000 in the professional & business services sector (16 percent of all employment, $71,325 average annual wage) and 13,000 in manufacturing (26 percent of all employment, $73,075 average annual wage).
Orlando’s tech ecosystem generates significant economic impact for the region. The 91,000 direct jobs in the tech ecosystem contribute 120,000 multiplier jobs in Orlando (for a total employment contribution of 211,000), and the tech ecosystem’s $24 billion in direct economic output contributes an additional $17 billion in multiplier effects (for a total output contribution of $43 billion). Every 1 tech ecosystem job creates 1.3 additional jobs and every $1 spent in the tech ecosystem supports an additional $0.76 in local economic output – considerably higher multipliers than many other industries in Orlando.
Generating Opportunity for All
The financial rewards of working in Orlando’s tech ecosystem can be significant. Workers across the three components of the Orlando tech ecosystem earn on average 33 percent more than the average region-wide annual wage. Tech workers in tech firms earn 55 percent more, tech workers in non-tech firms earn 34 percent more, and non-tech workers in tech firms earn 20 percent more.
Many of these are educated workers. Yet the tech ecosystem brings just as much opportunity to those less educated. More than 40 percent of all jobs in the tech ecosystem do not currently require a bachelor’s degree, and so the potential of the tech ecosystem to advance Broad-based Prosperity® in the region is huge.
The wage difference holds for those with lesser education. Jobs in the Orlando tech ecosystem that do not require a bachelor’s degree pay 30 percent more in wages than jobs with the same educational requirements in other industries.
A Mandate for Action – But Also Progress
In both reach and opportunity, few areas so clearly demonstrate the potential to generate regional prosperity in Orlando as the tech ecosystem.
Yet much work remains. Orlando’s tech ecosystem does not currently reflect the region’s racial and gender diversity, with women and minorities both underrepresented in the sector’s workforce. Just 28 percent of all tech workers in Orlando’s tech industries are women, and just 11 percent are Black – and these gender and racial disparities are even more acute in certain occupations.
Regions across the country can always do more to grow and nurture their tech ecosystems. For Orlando, that means working to increase access to capital for innovators, building a sustainable talent pipeline by aligning education to industry, and merchandising existing assets and strengths into a compelling proposition that attracts new companies and workers. Yet, we should also make sure the opportunities generated by growth in our tech ecosystem are accessible to all.
Orlando’s tech evolution in recent years – now highlighted by our ambition to be the center of the Metaverse – is clear and owes much to ongoing political support and a newly coordinated regional effort. Proactive policy and targeted actions, such as those laid out in the Orlando Tech Community’s 5-Year Vision, can help sustain this momentum and yield significant opportunity for its residents.