IAAPA, I/ITSEC provide late-year energy to Orlando Technology

Orlando technology has long benefited from a 1-2 punch of energy in the late stages of the year.

That will happen when two of your most prominent and lucrative industries celebrate themselves.

First, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, or IAAPA, hosts its annual convention here, usually in early to mid-November.

For a week, the Orange County Convention Center essentially becomes its own theme park, with roller coasters, food services and other staples of the industry packed into the huge building.

Not long after that, the playful theming makes way for the military critical.

The largest defense industry group in the world, the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference, or I/ITSEC, comes to town, bringing with it the top brass from all military branches to meet the community.

Again, for one week, the convention center turns itself over and becomes the centerpiece for a billion-dollar industry.

Now, most years, the shows come and go, with businesses connecting within their industry, planning follow-up meetings – where the real deals happen – and leave the convention center empty, ready to host the next event.

However, this year, it felt a little bit different for a couple of reasons.

First, both conventions felt the sting of the coronavirus pandemic last year and, perhaps unpredictably, that set the stage for a high-energy rebound.

I/ITSEC leads the defense industry every year.

More than one person at each convention told me that this year’s versions of the conventions were as exciting as ever because they featured two years’ worth of development.

See, the year gave businesses that could navigate the pandemic an opportunity to complete work on projects that perhaps had been put on the back burner.

It became one of those “don’t know what you have got until it’s gone” situations, even in industries that have known for a very long time that it was a behemoth.

Second, as Orlando technology community sets its sights on becoming known as the MetaCenter and makes a play for Metaverse-related clout, there appeared to be a much more cohesive message across Orlando companies that I had ever seen in the past.

Now, mind you, I’ve only been to about five IAAPAs and exactly eight I/ITSEC conferences so perhaps there was more back in the day.

But during my time in Orlando, at least, it was an interesting emergence.

I am not sure why the Orlando Economic Partnership skipped out on having a booth at IAAPA, though I’m not privy to booth pricing or their thought process so perhaps there is a good reason.

But their showing at I/ITSEC – complete with a perfectly executed “local companies map” – more than made up for that. To their credit, at least one person I spoke with said they planned to return to IAAPA in 2023.

I have long said that Orlando has been a siloed community.

Even when I arrived in 2014, I believe there was a decent amount of depth to the community’s technology scene.

However, few industries and companies seemed very willing to work together for the betterment of Orlando’s technology reputation, at least in the public eye.

That seems to have come down a notch, which is great.

Now, to be clear, some of that remains, with some companies I ran into saying they have not connected with economic leaders for one reason or another.

But the separation appears to be something the community wants to eliminate.

Only time will tell if that happens, but I really hope it does because the tech community has the ingredients to become a force.

I think it will.

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