It’s a Bird? It’s a Plane?—Almost? It’s the Zellwood Apopka Airport Proposed Feasibility Study and Mechanical Aviation Training Program
From District 2 Orange County Commissioner Rod Love
Back in July, I issued a memo to Mayor Teresa Jacobs and my fellow County Commissioners bringing to their attention a segment of the Apopka community that continues to be negatively impacted by blight which has also been compounded by a disproportionate amount of crime, violence and poverty of which I will acknowledge the ultimate resolution lie within the community itself. Nonetheless, as the surrounding area continues to grow and prosper, this area continues to regress. In an effort to take an aggressive approach to address the root cause of poverty, the lack of socio-economic opportunity, I had requested support for the partnership and development between Orange County Government and the Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) to construct and develop an infill community based vocational training facility. I am grateful to Mayor Jacobs and the Board of County Commissioners for the unanimous approval of the partnership with OCPS of my request to utilize District 2 INVEST funds for the construction of the South Apopka Vocational Training Facility which is pending a community-driven renaming for the benefit of any Orange County children and families with the desire to obtain vocational skills to improve their individual or family socioeconomic status.
I share this with you (again) to introduce two new initiatives that I am working on in partnership with area decision makers: A feasibility study of aviation and passenger rail as well as a vocational training program for mechanical aviation/aeronautics at the Zellwood Apopka Airport. To bring this initiative to fruition, I am working in partnership with Orange County Government, the City of Apopka, Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce, West Orange Airport Authority (WOAA) and other local stakeholders in an effort to secure resources that will enhance the metropolitan Apopka corridor. Through these local partners and with the support of local community stakeholders, it is hoped that this area is eligible to receive funding from the discretionary transportation, infrastructure, and education budget through the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).
The mission of the WOAA is to develop and promote the existing Orlando Apopka Airport within the Apopka Enterprise Zone, a designated economically distressed area and one of only 59 in the State of Florida. A WOAA 2013 feasibility study showed that a General Aviation Airport would be an economic engine of quality business growth leading to increased employment with high paying jobs. This unique multimodal area provides access to air, rail and the nearby Wekiva Parkway with prime frontage to US 441. The initiation of a feasibility study and creation of a training program for aviation mechanics/aeronautics (as part of the vocational training facility in South Apopka) would surely open the door for creating more jobs, promoting economic growth, encouraging more utilization of aviation services, and establishing opportunities for higher learning in blighted communities.
In working to make these initiatives a reality, I have not only provided the impact they would have on the area around the Zellwood Apopka Airport but surrounding areas that will be impacted based on increased jobs and business opportunities. With the successful establishment of a vocational training program in aviation mechanics/aeronautics, in partnership with local higher-learning institutions, my goal is to create not a “program”, but a mindset that offers opportunities for growth to those living in surrounding communities that are experiencing the effects of blight, while opportunity blossoms all around them. As previously mentioned, the root cause of regress in some communities while surrounding communities continue to grow and prosper is not only the lack of socio-economic opportunity but the lack of seizing the opportunity. Thus, the development of the South Apopka Vocational Training Facility is open to all who choose to take the steps to improve their lives. A vocational training facility in aviation at the Zellwood Apopka Airport will expand this effort by making an impact on constituents locally and in neighboring communities. However, in order for this goal to be fulfilled, I would encourage residents to take advantage of these opportunities and resources.
Last week, I, along with several local stakeholders came together for a roundtable discussion from a business perspective on these two initiatives. Each of the stakeholders came from both the public and private sectors. I was very pleased and impressed with the spirit of collaboration and relationships that were extended during this meeting, and am hopeful that this progress will continue after my departure as District 2 Orange County Commissioner.