© 2023 90.7 WMFE. All Rights Reserved.
Public Media News for Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New report shows uneven distribution of success in Orlando

coin stacked up with leaves sprouting from the top of each stack.

The Orlando Economic Partnership and Brookings Institution recently released the Orlando Prosperity Scorecard looking at how prosperity has been distributed in the city.

OEP CEO Tim Giuliani tells WMFE's Talia Blake the report shows good and bad news for the City Beautiful.

Listen to the full conversation in the player above.

Tim Giuliani landscape is the CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership.
Orlando Economic Partnership
Tim Giuliani landscape is the CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership.

Talia Blake: What did you all find in that report?

Tim Giuliani: We worked with Brookings Institution to create this scorecard to really understand by location within our region, by demographic, gender, race, and we want to understand what's going on. It helps inform not only our strategy, but it helps companies to understand what's going on in the market. It helps elected leaders understand where investments are needed, and what we have found — double edged sword. There's more opportunity being created in Orlando. We've seen increase in the middle wage jobs. We've seen more people living above the poverty line. If you want to look at asset limited income constrained employed people - that's people that are working, but still struggling to pay the bills - we actually have less people in that category now. However, as you look at these positive impacts, you could not say that they are an equitable distribution of that opportunity. And so we continue to have, and I think most places in the United States fall into this category, certainly our peer metros do, but there's challenges when you get into income and child poverty gaps. Those have widened between demographic groups, women in the workplace, we see a big hit on that since the pandemic. So it's quite interesting, but it's quite nuanced.

Talia Blake: I want to touch on something you just talked about. The report found that growth in Orlando continues to be highly inequitable. Why is that?

Tim Giuliani: As a region we rank low when it comes to income levels. And the pandemic seems that it has widened the income gaps across the different demographic groups, even as the unemployment gaps within those groups have narrowed. So it tells us that maybe Black and Hispanic minorities are being employed more in essential worker occupations, sort of statistically speaking. But there's just differences in the things we've seen nationally, such as wages for women. The employment and participation in the labor force by women has decreased, and in some cases, it's been a little worse here in Orlando than in our peer markets.

Talia Blake: What do you think is contributing to it being worse here in Orlando, compared to maybe other parts of Central Florida or peer markets, like you just mentioned?

Tim Giuliani: I think one thing that we need to pay attention to is that overall our economy is more diverse than it used to be. And even over the last three years, it's diversified more. That's a really good thing, and I think has helped our community weather downturns in the economy, or threatening clouds over the economy, which we felt for maybe a year/year and a half at this point. Other places in the country, have taken that worse than we have. However, while that's a good thing, as it looks to the diversity of job types, we have less of that here. More people in service occupations. So I think that limits some of the upside potential of the growth that happens here because of that impact on our economy.

Talia Blake: And because our economy is so diversified. Do we see one demographic being hit worse? Or is this pretty spread evenly ,this gap?

Tim Giuliani: If you look at different measures there, you're gonna find different things. For instance, we have the income gaps widening, we don't want to see that. On the other hand, when you look at educational attainment levels in Orlando, that's actually increasing and quite a bit in comparison to our peer metros. So at 17%, the gap between White and Black educational attainment in Orlando is now the third largest among the comparable metros, after we experienced the second largest increase between 2016 and 2021. So I think that's important for our education institutions to look at. And going further, when you look at third grade reading proficiency. You can see that the gaps did narrow across different population groups, but it was largely due to a greater decrease in reading scores among white students than among Black or Hispanic students. So I don't think it's one large demographic group. I think within here, you're noticing, challenges for reading scores, you're seeing challenges for women. And there's clearly things in here that need to be addressed within our community.

Talia Blake: Historically, since you all have been doing these reports for some years now, historically, has anything stayed the same? Are we seeing growth in most areas in Orlando, or is there still some really problematic areas that need to be addressed?

Tim Giuliani: The answer is that income levels they continue to be low. I think they plague us and our overall economic potential. That's just an area where we really haven't seen growth from 2017 to 2022, when you adjust for inflation. We keep diversifying the economy and adding different types of jobs. We just need to continue on that path and try to accelerate that so that we can see changes as it relates to our income levels.

Talia Blake: What are the solutions to make sure that our economy is more equitable here in Orlando

Tim Giuliani: I'll give you three examples of what we're involved in and helping to lead. So the first has to do with women. There's an All Women Empowered program that we have in partnership with so many others in our community. There's a lot of effort that goes in and a lot of activity that goes into promoting women, helping them develop in their careers. And yet, there's not a lot of coordination, or storytelling, and understanding of what these programs can do and who they can impact. So I'd encourage any female listeners, look into the All Women Empowered program, and it really is a connector of everyone else in the community that's doing work in this area to elevate women and their careers. Another is Upskill. We are working throughout the region, maybe most heavily in Osceola County, and this is a new trend that we're trying to take advantage of here in Central Florida, of how you promote, how you hire based on skills. So this takes away some of the barriers that have limited Blacks and Hispanics, in particular, being promoted or being considered for hiring based on background that maybe wasn't as traditional on a resume. Looking at skills, allows companies to diversify the workforce but also creates more opportunities for more people. Also, as it relates to our nonprofits that try to provide the safety net, promote more opportunities and more access. We've worked to create theBlackboard Room Leadership Institute, which seeks to put, identify, cultivate more black leaders for nonprofit boards, and help nonprofit boards become more inclusive and welcoming of different types of opinions. So that the people at the table making the decisions are more informed and more reflective of our community. In fact, since we started the program, the percentage of Black board member serving on boards increased from 11% to 17%. So we are seeing some movement there. I think these three areas are just examples of what can be done to better create broad based prosperity in Central Florida.

Talia Blake: What does this report mean for people living and working in Orlando?

Tim Giuliani: So the Prosperity Scorecard is publicly available, orlando.org, you can find the scorecard. I think making sure employers are aware of this scorecard and can see how their investments and their decisions can impact the community. I think nonprofits and elected leaders understanding the scorecard, you know. This is really a tool for understanding and creating some transparency in our economy, so that organizations and those maybe with resources that are looking to make a difference can use that money in a very smart, strategic way. And putting it where there are disparities, and helping raise all boats, which ultimately is to the benefit of everybody. But I think being more intelligent about what's going on, seeing the data, understanding what others are doing, what programs are out there, and then how figuring out how you can participate in moving in moving the needle.

After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to WMFE, the station that grew her love for public radio. She graduated with a double-major in Broadcast Journalism and Psychology from the University of Central Florida (Go Knights!). While at UCF, she was an intern for WMFE’s public affairs show, Intersection. In her spare time, Talia is an avid foodie and enjoys working out.
Related Content
90.7 WMFE relies on donors like you. Your support allows us to provide independent, trustworthy journalism and fact-based content. Show your support today by contributing on a monthly basis or making a single online donation.