Mayor Teresa Jacobs and FlBlogCon Founder Bess Auer take an #ussie with the room of  conference participants at Full Sail University.
Mayor Teresa Jacobs and FlBlogCon Founder Bess Auer take an #ussie with the room of
conference participants at Full Sail University.

Orange County Welcomes Hundreds to annual Florida Blogger
and Social Media Conference

Orange County recently welcomed hundreds of bloggers to Full Sail University for the annual Florida Blogger and Social Media Conference, one of the largest conferences of its kind in the southeast. Now in its fourth year, the Florida Blogger and Social Media Conference, known as FLBlogCon, takes place annually in September and boasts more than 350 attendees from across the state.

Mayor Teresa Jacobs joined the festivities and took several #selfies with conference attendees before providing the welcome remarks at the sold out event at Full Sail LIVE.

 “The amazing reach and impact of social media, bloggers has truly redefined how the broader community views their news,” Mayor Jacobs said. “Today, with the obvious bias of so many networks and news outlets, the independent voices from the blogosphere are increasingly important. Social media and blogging has demonstrated that bloggers are credible. From breaking news in troubled spots around the world, to social issues, you are frequently driving the conversation and today’s media coverage.” 

Bess Auer, founder and organizer of FLBlogCon, is a fourth generation resident of Winter Park.  Auer got her blogging start as the founder and first editor of the Central Florida Top 5, which was awarded “Best Neighborhood Blog” by the Orlando Sentinel in 2009. Bess also taught for 17 years at Park Maitland School.

“The blogosphere in Central Florida has grown into a major force. From parent and education bloggers to business and fitness bloggers, our attendees this year alone reach over 9 millions readers a month,” Auer said. “We see this is a win-win for bloggers as well as those companies and organizations that harness our power. For example, we were proud to unite our social media channels to spread awareness about the work of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, and look forward to blogging continuing to benefit Central Florida.”

A highlight of the FLBlogCon opening occurred at the end of Mayor Jacobs remarks when she asked Auer to join her on stage to take an #ussie, a lexicon used in social media to describe a self portrait accompanied by several individuals. The Mayor’s #ussie included the entire room of conference attendees and trended on Twitter, engaging hundreds of conference attendees and social media enthusiasts.

Earlier this year, Auer joined other Orange County citizens as a Social Media Ambassador during the 2014 State of the County. She is also part of the County’s new Technology and Social Media Workgroup,  which operates as a think-tank to advance new technologies, social media and mobile applications supported and developed by Orange County Government. The workgroup will also collaborate on how to best enhance online public engagement and support the growing technology and digital community in our region.

“We’re especially proud that other areas of Orlando’s tech scene are recognizing blogging as a positive addition,” Auer said. “We are involved in both the upcoming Orlando Tech Week as well as November’s Global Entrepreneur Week.”

Ted Murphy, CEO and chairman of Winter Park-based IZEA, a social sponsorship pioneer that connects brands with creators who blog, tweet, pin, and post on their behalf followed Mayor Jacobs remarks and said he’s excited about the growth of Central Florida’s blogging community.

“I have the privilege of working with bloggers around the globe and I have to say that the content creators right here in our own backyard are some of the most creative, authoritative and impressive in the country,” Murphy said. “I am so excited to see the rapid evolution of our media and tech scene and can’t wait to see what’s next.”


Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Director of Global Outreach at the Florida Chamber of Commerce Alice Ancona spoke at the Orlando Region’s Trade & Logistics Plan Rollout.

Orange County hosts Florida Trade and Logistics Institute for Regional Trade and Logistics Plan Rollout

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Director of Global Outreach at the Florida Chamber of Commerce Alice Ancona spoke at the Orlando Region’s Trade & Logistics Plan Roll out. Orange County recently hosted the Florida Trade and Logistics Institute at the Orlando International Airport for a presentation on the Orlando Region’s Trade & Logistics Plan Rollout, which ended with a tour of maritime seaport hub Port Canaveral.

The event showcased the regional efforts to secure Florida’s future as a global hub for trade and achieve the goals identified in the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Trade and Logistics Study. The Study builds on the state’s plan to transform Florida’s economy through trade, logistics and export-oriented manufacturing activities and identifies a potential of 150,000 new trade and logistics jobs that can be created over the next five years.

“We understand the impact that international trade has on our economy, and are proud to partner with and support the efforts of the Florida Chamber and the Florida Department of Transportation,” said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs at the conference. “Together, we provide the framework to move products, goods and cargo to the marketplace. In addition to infrastructure, studies like the one being rolled out by the Florida Trade and Logistics Institute provide insight and expertise for the benefit of our entire region.”

The Orlando Region’s Trade & Logistics Plan Rollout is the implementation phase of the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Trade & Logistics Study 2.0. The study convened public, private and civic partners to examine the state’s progress toward a global vision with particular emphasis on workforce, economic development and business climate strategies.

“Central Florida’s assets took center stage today at the Orlando Region’s Trade & Logistics Plan Rollout,” said Alice Ancona, Director of Global Outreach, Florida Chamber of Commerce. “A strong partnership between both private and public leaders positions the region for success. There’ are opportunities to diversify our economy and expand into European and African markets.”Florida is uniquely positioned in the center of the hemisphere. According to research from the Florida Chamber Foundation, the shift in the nation’s population to the south, the Panama Canal widening and the resurgence of Latin American and Caribbean trade creates an opportunity for Florida to excel as a global logistics hub. The Central Florida region, including Orange, Seminole, Brevard, Lake, Osceola, Volusia and Sumter County has a gross domestic product of $138 billion and is home to nearly 3.5 million people.

Orange County’s Economic Development Team, the Central Florida Trade Office, Port Canaveral and the Orlando International Airport coordinated efforts to present the final action plan. Strategies include opportunities for businesses to expand into international markets, infrastructure expansions and capitalizing on Port Canaveral’s new international cargo operations.


Orange County Marks Hispanic Heritage Month with Communitywide Celebrations

Vice President of the Hispanic Heritage Committee of Greater Orange County Roberto Acevedo (left) and Mayor Jacobs, are joined by the local artists whose work is displayed in the atrium of the Orange County Administration Center through October 15.

Vice President of the Hispanic Heritage Committee of Greater Orange County Roberto Acevedo (left) and Mayor Jacobs, are joined by the local artists whose work is displayed in the atrium of the Orange County Administration Center through October 15.

Orange County recently celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with a reception on the north lawn of the County Administration Center that featured musical performances, delicious food and an exhibition highlighting the works of talented local Hispanic artists.

The event, coordinated by the Hispanic Heritage Committee of Greater Orange County (HHCGOC), was attended by Orange County commissioners, constitutional officers, employees and more than 150 citizens.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs was the keynote speaker at the event and acknowledged the many accomplishments of Hispanics in Orange County. “We are so proud to partner with the Hispanic Heritage Committee to recognize and celebrate the many achievements and contributions made by citizens of Hispanic descent in Orange County and throughout American history,” said Mayor Jacobs. Several community leaders attended the reception including Mayor Jacobs, Orange County Commissioner District 1 Scott Boyd, Orange County Commissioner District 6 Tiffany Moore Russell, Clerk of the Courts Eddie Fernandez, Property Appraiser Rick Singh, Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles and City of Orlando Commissioner Tony Ortiz.

“We’re so lucky to live in a country that embraces diversity,” said Roberto Acevedo, Special Assistant for Constituent Relations and Hispanic Outreach for Mayor Jacobs, who currently serves as  the vice president of HHCGOC. “Hispanic Heritage Month gives us the opportunity to share with the rest of the world our traditions, music, and of course, our amazing food.”Hispanic Heritage Month 2014 is celebrated from September 15 through October 15. This month-long observance of Hispanic traditions and influence in the United States was enacted into law in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan. As a part of this effort, Orange County Government and the Orange County Parks and Recreation Division will host several events organized by HHCGOC throughout the month. All activities are free and open to the public.

“Orange County is a richly diverse community, serving as home to people with roots leading back to many places from around the globe,” said Special Assistant to Mayor Jacobs Emmanuel Tormes, who currently serves as president of the HHCGOC. “Latinos have made innumerable contributions serving as entrepreneurs, community leaders, and public servants, among many other roles.” The reception showcased the month-long exhibition of unique artwork by local painters, highlighting the influence of Hispanic culture in Central Florida. The art pieces will be featured in the Administration Center’s atrium through October 15. The atrium is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The HHCGOC’s next celebration, Orange Fiesta in the Park, will take place on Saturday, September 27, at 11 a.m. in Downey Park, at 10107 Flowers Ave. (the intersection of E. Colonial Dr. and Dean Rd.), in Orlando. Guests of Orange Fiesta in the Park may enjoy a variety of treats from food truck vendors, live musical performances, and access to resources from our community partners and service agencies. Children are invited to play in one of the inflatable bounce houses or cool off at Downey Park’s splash pad.

As a part of Orange Fiesta in the Park, Mayor Jacobs will lead a special tribute honoring the newest recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal, the veterans of the U.S. Army 65th Infantry Regiment, known as the Borinqueneers. Festivities will also include an awards ceremony for winners of HHCGOC’s student art contest.The Hispanic Heritage Committee of Greater Orange County is a volunteer-based organization founded in 2000 with the purpose of providing opportunities that promote and highlight the contributions made by individuals of Hispanic descent in the community. The Committee has about 15 members who work throughout the County. 


Orange County Experience Program Engages Citizens in Local Government

Participants in the Orange County Experience discuss County services during the first meeting of the 12-week program.

Participants in the Orange County Experience discuss County services during the first meeting of the 12-week program.  

For the third year, local citizens eagerly signed up to join the Orange County Experience, a program that enables residents to become more engaged in local government and teaches them how to navigate County services.

Mayor Teresa Jacobs assisted in kicking-off the citizen engagement program, a 12-week series encouraging citizen participation in their government. With more than 30 participants, the current class has the largest number of attendees since its inception in 2012.
“I’m always excited when people share my passion in wanting to learn about local government,” Mayor Jacobs said. “This 12-week program will help citizens to learn more about who we are as a county, including our services and the technology that’s available to help navigate our system.  Equally important is the opportunity to meet our talented county staff, and to witness their dedication to their jobs, and to serving our citizens.”

With an estimated 1.2 million residents and 59 million visitors, Orange County is one of the largest counties in Florida. Orange County is home to world-class theme parks and the second largest university in the nation, the University of Central Florida. Orange County Government operates with an annual budget of more than $3.4 billion, with 80 divisions and 7,445 employees.
“It is important to me to learn more about how Orange County and the government functions,” said Demetrius Smith, one of the attendees who is also serving on the Orange County Citizens Commission for Children and the Parks & Recreation Advisory Boards. “I serve on two boards so some of the information I’ve already been exposed to, but I wanted to learn more, in greater detail, about what each division specifically does.”

Over the 12-week course, participants will meet staff members at Orange County and take tours of the Orange County Convention Center, Fire Rescue, Parks & Recreation and more. They will also get to see a behind-the-scenes facilities tour of the world-famous reality television series “Dr. G: Medical Examiner.”

“This is our biggest class to date,” said Orange County Experience Director Carol Burkett. “This is an exciting opportunity for me to interact with our citizens from such diverse backgrounds.”

Sharon Warner is also one of this year’s participants. Over the summer, Warner won the 2014 Mayor’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year award. Warner is the founder of Family & Friends United, Inc., a program that was started locally more than 20 years ago. The program gives children the tools they need to better deal with challenging situations they may encounter at school and outside the home.

Over the years, hundreds of children have participated in Warner’s program and many have graduated from college or entered the military after their time with Family & Friends United.

“I’ve lived in Orange County all of my life,” Warner said. “I wish I could have learned about our government earlier, but this is a great opportunity to learn about Orange County’s government. I want to know everything there is to know about the government and community where I live and raise my children.”

The 12-week class lasts through December 12. For more information on the Orange County Experience visit


Orange County’s Back-To-School Events Benefits Local Students

unnamed (2)Orange County Convention Center employees Renee Wawrzaszek and Marina Butler sort through items collected for their annual school supplies drive.

Hundreds of local children and families benefited from several back-to-school events coordinated by employees at the Orange County Convention Center, members of the Board of County Commissioners, and community partners continuing the tradition of Orange County’s “neighbors helping neighbors” philosophy.

“We hope the children gain self-confidence knowing that they have everything they need to make it through the new school year,” said Marina Butler, guest and community relations administrative specialist at the Convention Center. “We want them to understand that they are not alone and that they do have an extended family in us who cares about them and their success.”

Since 2008, employees from the Convention Center have delivered school supplies to the children of Great Oaks Village (GOV), a residential foster group home for children, 6 to 18 years old, who have been removed from their homes by the State of Florida due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. This year, employees rallied to collect pens, pencils, paper, locks and sidewalk chalk totaling $932 for GOV.

For the second year, District 3 Commissioner Pete Clarke hosted a backpack and school supplies giveaway at Orange County’s historic Cypress Grove Park. More than 250 backpacks and supply kits were distributed to the numerous families that attended the event.

 “It is important to me that our kids have the necessary materials to start the school year off right,” Commissioner Clarke said. “Aside from materials provided, it is also important that families are aware of the resources available through Orange County and surrounding community agencies that could benefit them now or in the future.”

District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Thompson and her team of volunteers filled 850 backpacks with supplies for families in need. This is the fourth year that Commissioner Thompson has organized a back-to-school supply event for residents in her district.

“No matter how much the economy continues to improve, there are still families who are struggling to make ends meet,” Commissioner Thompson said. “Being able to provide help is a testament to our community and our collective desire to lend a hand to those who need it.”

Commissioner Ted Edwards of District 5 hosted two wildly successful back-to-school events over the course of two back to back weekends in Bithlo and the Goldenrod communities. Local children and families who attended the event received backpacks full of school supplies. Families also received weather radios and enjoyed an array of refreshments.

This year, an especially meaningful contribution was made to Orange County’s Neighborhood Centers for Families by two dozen of the original Tuskegee Airmen and their families who were visiting Orlando for their national convention. The airmen collected $820 at the convention in less than 20 minutes. They provided these funds to the Citizens’ Commission for Children to purchase supplies for distribution at various NCFs including locations in the City of Apopka and the Town of Eatonville. In addition to school supplies in their new backpacks, students also received historical information on the brave and courageous Tuskegee Airmen, who served the nation during World War II and led the charge to desegregate the U.S. military.
“The Tuskegee Airmen have been generous to our country throughout their military careers,” said Tyra Witsell of the Citizens’ Commission for Children. “We salute them as they continue to demonstrate their heroism through their charitable giving.”