Just a few years ago Florida appeared to be an economic wasteland. Long the state with the highest foreclosure rate in the country, Florida now leads the country in job growth. So what’s driving all of this growth? A lot of Floridians would attribute it just to one person: Harry Potter.
Instead of scaling back during the Great Recession like so many businesses, tourist operations in Florida expanded and took advantage of below-rate construction and land prices.
“Historically speaking,” says Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Aaron Task “the depression was when HP and Disney and some other major corporations started. It’s often a great time to build or start a business during really bad downtimes because you can get stuff cheaper; you can get land cheaper; you can get workers cheaper and you can build out for the recovery.”
Universal Studios opened the Harry Potter theme park in the spring of 2010 as well as a $100 million Transformers ride and an 1,800-room resort. According to The New York Times, Harris Rosen, a Floridian businessman spent $130 million to renovate seven hotels in 2008. And it paid off—Orlando received 59 million visitors last year, up nearly 47% from 2009.
Related: Secrets of Disney’s Top Franchises
Harry Potter is clearly a big deal for Orlando. Universal is about to expand the park with an estimated $400 million extension. But there’s more to the recovery than theme parks. There’s also dividend income—it makes up 27% of income in Florida and was up 25% in 2013.
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