For one local business, which has played a huge role in the development of one of the fastest-growing communities in Central Florida, a recent name change has a lot to do with popular entertainment – and Disney.
That’s because Tony Iorio is frequently asked why the company that he works for as vice president of development decided it no longer wanted to be known as Avatar.
The reason, Iorio said, is far too many people associate the word Avatar with a hit movie and now one of the region’s largest theme parks, and not with a home builder in Poinciana.
“AV Homes Inc. is our new name,” Iorio said. “But we will continue to be a community builder.”
AV Homes, previously known as Avatar, has for decades been the main developer in Poinciana, a community that’s celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The developer has definitely watched this community grow over the last few decades.
Twenty years ago, there were only about 20,000 people living in Poinciana, which is still technically classified by the federal government as a rural community.
Today, though, Poinciana’s 10 villages are home to more than 84,000 people, including 52,000 in the villages and developments on the Osceola County side, and 31,000 living on the Polk County side. More people live in Poinciana than in some area cities, like St. Cloud, Haines City and Bartow, although the land it sits on is still unincorporated.
“I’ve been with the company for almost 17 years now,” Iorio said, as he spoke to a group of residents at the Poinciana Library on Doverplum Avenue on Monday. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be in this community and watch it grow.”
And not just in terms of bringing new residential developments like Solivita to the community, he said. AV Homes, Iorio added, has also been instrumental in attracting commercial developers to Poinciana, lobbying to convince the Florida state government to provide a certificate of need so the Poinciana Medical Center – the community’s first hospital – could get built, and convincing the county governments in Osceola and Polk to build a new expressway to make it easier for residents to get in and out of the community.
“It wasn’t just the homes for us,” he said. “When I first came on board, one of the things I wanted to get into was getting involved in the community. In all the years I’ve been here, there have been 10,000 homes built here. But you have to build schools along with it, and you have to build roads along with it. Avatar has been involved in getting things to happen. We are so unique in a positive way. We bring things to the table that other communities don’t have.”
So why change names now, after so many years of being well known simply as Avatar?
“We went out and ended up doing a strategic research plan with our corporate office,” Iorio said. “They recommended a name change due to the new Disney attraction.”
“Avatar,” of course, is the name of a hit movie released in 2009, a science fiction epic directed by James Cameron and starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Stephen Land. The saga is set in the mid-22nd century, where humans are mining a precious mineral called unobtanium on Pandora in the Alpha Centauri star system.
The movie was a huge hit and an Academy Award winner, and Cameron is now working on the second and third installments of “Avatar,” to be released in December 2014 and December 2015.
Last September, the Walt Disney Co. said it had an exclusive deal to build attractions based on Cameron’s “Avatar” at its theme parks, starting with Animal Kingdom. Construction on the new rides is expected to start in 2013.
Iorio said AV Homes decided the company didn’t want to be confused with a 3-D movie about a race of blue-skinned Na’vi who defend the moon they live on from invading humans.
“That was a strategic plan,” he said.
Iorio said he also likes getting out into the community and speaking to local residents to keep them informed about what’s happening — and to put an end to any negative rumors that might be floating around.
“One thing I like to do when I come to any meeting is squelch the rumors,” he said.
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