By William Perry
Fifty years ago a visionary came to Florida and foresaw a future for our State that no one else could have imagined. In November 1963, as Walt Disney flew above the lakes, swamps, and pastures of central Florida, he did not focus on prevalent cattle and agriculture below him. Instead Disney saw a well-developed road network (including the planned Interstate 4 and the Florida Turnpike), multiple airports (i.e., Kissimimmee Field and McCoy Air Force Base – later Orlando International Airport), and an opportunity to change the world. In that moment, Walt Disney found the location for his “Florida Project” which would later become the location of his dream.”Disney World”.
The State of Florida supported Disney’s vision in a number of ways:
- The statutory creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District allowed bonds to be issued to build infrastructure,
- FDOT and various turnpike, expressway and aviation authorities built and expanded the roads and airports necessary to serve the new development.
As a result, Walt Disney World transformed both Orlando and Florida in its wake. Orlando is now the most visited city in the world. Florida welcomed 90,000,000 visitors last year and has created a tourism industry that is second to none.
Who are Florida’s next visionaries? What will be Florida’s next great industry? Will Miami become one of the great cities in the world? These are just a few of the questions that the Seven50 Committee has explored during this planning process. The answers are not readily apparent and may be subject to debate.
Two final questions come to mind:
- What do you think are the keys to Florida’s future?
- What would Walt Disney say?