When you think Orlando, chances are, you think tourism. The City Beautiful has been a tourist hot spot ever since Walt Disney came to town, and now attracts families from around the world to visit the growing city and its suburbs situated in the heart of Central Florida. Unlike other places, our major export isn’t cotton or coal, but something a bit less tangible yet no less powerful: happiness. Those visitors, of course, make a major impact on our economy. In 2016, tourists spent an estimated $109 billion, a number that’s up from the also impressive $108.8 billion from the year prior. Tourism also allowed for 1.4 million jobs, a number also up from 1.2 million in 2015.

Just last year, the Orlando International Airport (OIA) welcomed over 40 million travelers in a 12-month reporting period–a first for the bustling airport. Note that this growth is only expected to intensify if the current trend continues; 2016 saw an increase in tourists by 5.9%. With these numbers in mind, it should come as no surprise that OIA is looking to get bigger and better in the coming years. The attractions keep growing, as do the number of tourists, and to facilitate that growth, Baker Barrios is proud to work with HNTB Corporation, architect of record on the project, Fentress Architects, design architect, Schenkel Shultz, general consultant, and MLM Martin and Rhodes+Brito on Phase 1 of the new South Terminal C. The project’s focus? Helping welcome and bid farewell to the guests who are the backbone of our Central Florida’s economy.

The 2.7-million-square-foot terminal, upon its scheduled completion in 2020, will be tech-forward but surrounded with natural elements, such as gardens, and artistic touches. The entire structure will be connected in a central hub, featuring beautiful architecture and ample room to decompress and soak in the sights that South Terminal C is set to provide. We understand that some people see airports as a place of hassle and anxiety. Why not, with the mad dash that’s sometimes required when running late for a flight, the checking and double checking of itineraries and pacifying children with short attention spans and shorter tempers. We get it, but have full confidence that this OIA expansion will truly change the way we travel for the better.

To sweeten the pot, this OIA expansion project has already received praise from The Chicago Athenaeum, winning their 2017 American Architecture Award. It’s an incredible honor to have a project that we have partnered on get such attention even before it has become a reality. We sincerely cannot wait to help be ambassadors to one of our hometown cities and welcome millions to the Sunshine State every years through our role in this project. We have no doubt that OIA, and our standing among the most desired tourist destinations, will continue to fly high for years to come.