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Central Florida basks in warm business climate

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Orlando is not all Mickey Mouse.

The city, long synonymous with Walt Disney World and other theme parks in the eyes of the public, has been gradually diversifying its economic base.

The proportion of its work force engaged in manufacturing is smaller than that of the national work force: 12.6 vs. 22 percent. Orlando's theme park industry gives its work force a large service sector.

But Orlando's manufacturing sector is increasing. The Orlando Sentinel Star newspaper estimates manufacturing will employ 14.3 percent of the Orlando work force by 1990. And that level might be reached even sooner because a whole string of corporate expansions or relocations in the Orlando area has recently been announced.

Orlando, in fact, is part of a larger trend. Florida's business climate was ranked first in the nation recently by Alexander Grant & Co., a Chicago-based national accounting firm specializing in plant locations.

Florida, according to the survey, ranked among the highest because of the low level of state and local welfare expenditures, its growing population, its high percentage of population enrolled in vocational schools, and its low level of unionization.

Orlando certainly has seen its share of corporations set up shop here. Martin Marietta Corporation has decided to spend $152 million on a new engineering, manufacturing, and office complex that is to eventually employ about 4,000 people. Martin Marietta Aerospace already employs 9,000 in Orlando. (Martin Marietta's commitment to Orlando is contingent on extension of a freeway to its new facility. Currently the state and country are arguing over who should pay for it.)

Westinghouse Electric Corporation has also announced plans to consolidate in Orlando its steam-turbine generating division, now based in Philadelphia, and its power-systems division, now located in Pittsburgh. This move is expected to add 850 new people by the end of 1983.

And, Roy Harris, executive vice-president of the Industrial Development Commission of Mid-Florida Inc., says Western Electric still intends to build a $ 400 million semiconductor plant in Orlando. After spending $25 million, Western Electric ''postponed'' construction of the plant, citing the depressed state of the semiconductor industry. Hans Tews, president of Sun Bank, says he thinks Western Electric will still use the facility, though not for manufacturing semiconductors. If built, the plant will employ about 1,100 persons.


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