Even if you are typically a “glass half full” person, it is certainly been tough to stay optimistic over the last year. The European debt crisis and high US Unemployment continues to send the world stock markets into turmoil and has consequences for any of us with retirement plans or trying to save for our children’s college education.

There is however some very good news happening right here in Central Florida that promises to bring thousands of jobs to the region and put Central Florida on the map for something other than the mouse.

Health Village, located in East Orlando has already created 8,000 jobs and by 2026 there will be 20,000 people working there providing health care comparable not just too anywhere in America but anywhere in the world.

Florida Hospital opened its doors in 1908 with just one doctor and grew steadily through to the 80’s when it started purchasing land on the site where Health Village will stand.  Florida Hospital will be selling and leasing parts of the development to strategic partners, there will also be retail units, hotels and housing.

Why Orlando? Well Mr. Jody Barry the Administrative Director of Strategic Development for Florida Hospital pointed out just how perfect Orlando is for such a facility, “Orlando’s central location makes it the ideal place, flying in from Europe and South America is easy with great infrastructure”.  In addition to its proximity to the airport, the proposed Sunrail will also be stopping at Health Village.

Mr. Barry has been involved from the beginning and it was very apparent when speaking to him that Health Village and Medical City are going to ensure that Orlando will be THE medical destination.

Dr. John Francis is the director of the Florida Hospital Thrombosis research and a British expatriate.  Dr.  Francis joined Florida Hospital from Southampton University Medical School in 1994 and like many of us he grabbed the opportunity to live and work in Central Florida and enjoy all that if offers.  Dr. Francis is highly sought after for speaking engagements across America as the work his department is doing here in Orlando is leading the way.  Dr. Francis is rapidly helping the hospital achieve international recognition for his work here in bleeding and clotting disorders at the Cancer Research Center.  Due to his department’s success, his team here is virtually self-sustaining due to major pharmaceutical companies sponsoring his work for product testing and FDA approval.

I had the pleasure of meeting face to face with Dr. Francis and it was very apparent that he strongly believes now that America is still the land of opportunity as much as he did 17 years ago when he first arrived.  I asked Dr. Francis to outline the differences between working in a private health system versus working for the National Health Service in the UK.   Once again the word “opportunity” arose, the commercial aspects of the American health system create the opportunity to raise capital to push projects forward and to keep innovation and science at the forefront at all times.   My question to Dr. Francis was basically, “are there that many sick people in Orlando?” It seems as though there is very much a build it and they will come attitude towards Health Village.  Florida Hospital is confident that patients from across America and indeed, from across the world, will come to Orlando to take advantage of the world class facilities and physicians.

For those of us whose medical knowledge has only been gleamed from watching episodes of House and Casualty there is certainly a lot to take in as to what is being created in Health Village and Medical City located just down the road.   The incubator type environment which is bound to occur will mean that scientific and like minded individuals working in such proximity are going to move treatments and technology forward at a startling pace.   One of Dr Francis’ main goals is to continue to elevate the status of Florida Hospital globally and achieve worldwide recognition for being pace setters in research.

When Dr. Francis relocated 17 years ago two other Brits came with him, Debby Sutton is the Assistant Administrative Director of the Center for Thrombosis Research and Dr. Amirkhosravi is the Principal of Science. Both have been very successful here in the States and also moved across from the Southampton University Hospital.

It was very refreshing when talking to Dr. Francis to hear someone so upbeat about a profession and give such a positive long term prognosis (excuse the pun).  Dr. Francis’ view was very much that unless there were any major legislation changes, certainly the outlook for Health Village and indeed Medical City is a very good one.

When putting this article together, one thing that was initially unclear was how Health Village and Medical City could both survive in such close proximity, potentially offering the same services.

Although both Medical City and Health Village will offer hands on patient care, the emphasis on Medical City will be very much towards training and research.

According to a study by Arduin, Laffer & Moore Econometrics, The University of Central Florida (UCF) College of Medicine is projected to create 30,000 local jobs and over the next decade add an additional 7.6 billion the local economy.   One question I posed to Jody Barry is that Medical City seemed to achieve more press to date then Health Village to which he agreed.  Health Village will this year be promoting its facility vigorously and start making some noise of their own.

As the second largest college in the nation, UCF certainly brings a lot of clout to Medical City. The campus will include the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, a Medical Library, and other UCF health science programs.  The university is already very strong in biomedical sciences modelling, simulation, optics and photonics.

This year the University of Florida (UF) will open a 100,000 square-foot research facility in Medical City adjacent to the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute enabling direct collaboration with the both institutes top scientists.

It’s a well known fact that the Medical Industry is a very defensive one and will not be impacted as greatly during economic downturns but to see such expansion is certainly going to be a huge benefit to the Region.  Since 1955 and the opening of Walt Disney World, Orlando has been known predominately for its theme parks.  It is hard to imagine one thinking about Orlando without Disney being the first thing that comes to mind, but it certainly seems that the medical community is here to stay and the innovation and expertise is perhaps reminiscent to that of the undoubtedly great visionary that was Walt Disney.

I hope I will never need an annual pass to Health Village or Medical City but it is certainly refreshing to know that the world’s preeminent medical facilities are on the door step and the opportunity for employment for future generations.  If you were to look as Florida of business, Health Village and Medical City are offering real diversification, which is the key to riding out future economic rough patches.

I spent five years living and working in Dubai where the rulers there placed a heavy emphasis on real-estate which has led to a once thriving economy to experience the same difficulties as many other places.  Hopefully in the not too distant future, we will see a return to an investment in the space program, giving the east coast another much needed shot in the arm (again…no pun intended).

On the face of things, there certainly seems to be a fairly positive outlook for the future of Central Florida which will benefit all industries and most definitely Health Village and Medical City will play a major part in that.