ORLANDO – Around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, just as darkness was setting in, it happened: a massive fireworks show over City Hall.
Mayor Buddy Dyer was on hand for the show, along with a huge crowd gathered at City Commons. But just in case anyone walking by assumed that some city officials had gotten their instructions wrong and were hopelessly late for the New Year’s Eve bash, that wasn’t the case. In fact, the fireworks were perfectly timed for the start of a year-long celebration in downtown Orlando, focused on both a single business and, more importantly, an economic success story.
In a city battered by the collapse of the housing market and the national recession, and now slowly building back to stronger economic health, Mayor Dyer joined Jim Seneff, executive chairman of CNL Financial Group, to celebrate CNL’s 40th anniversary.
The leading financial investment firm, headquartered in the building next to City Hall, opened its doors here in 1973, and for the past four decades has managed to survive and thrive in changing economic conditions.
“CNL has indeed met a milestone that few companies reach – 40 years and counting,” Seneff said.
“There aren’t many companies that reach 40 years,” Dyer added. “But CNL has been more than just a business entity in the city of Orlando.”
As part of the celebration, Dyer and Seneff marked the occasion by lighting CNL Center’s iconic cupola in ruby red, the traditional color of 40th anniversaries. Then they watched the fireworks show over City Hall. Dyer even issued a proclamation declaring January 8 2013 as “CNL Day in the City of Orlando.”
“So let the celebration begin,” the mayor said as the fireworks show kicked off.
CNL Financial Group Inc. is at 450 S. Orange Ave. in downtown Orlando, and is a leading private investment management firm providing global real estate and alternative investments.
Seneff noted that he recognized the great potential in downtown Orlando decades before the city had become a major metropolitan area.
“I always thought Orange Avenue would be a great place to do business, but I never thought we would be the terminus on Orange Avenue,” he said.
Originally CNL was located across the street from City Hall, but the city decided it wanted that spot for construction of the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which is now being built. So CNL moved across the street and has since been inside the massive building next to City Hall.
“This was the first new office building constructed in downtown Orlando, and it was a catalyst and seemed to spur economic development,” Dyer noted.
The building, Dyer noted, is well known for its signature towers, which he said have “enanced the downtown skyline.”
Seneff agreed, saying it is “a modern building with classical features.”
The celebration also happens at a time when Orlando is not only constructing a new performing arts center in downtown, Dyer noted, but also celebrating the new Amway Center located a few blocks away, and starting to move forward on a $185 million enhancement of the aging Citrus Bowl – all projects that will help revitalize the downtown neighborhood and help make Orlando a first class city, the envy of other metro areas, the mayor said.
“I’m so glad to be here as we kick off this year-long celebration of CNL’s 40t anniversary,” he said.
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