When Osceola County commissioners approved the master plan for its 500-acre NeoCity tech district, they envisioned a potential 50-year buildout.
But a pending $500 million deal with South Korean technology giant LG could jump-start development and lure other global players to the region.
“Having a household name like LG involved in the project, to me, just speaks volumes to the fact that we’re on the right track,” Osceola Commission Chair Cheryl Grieb told GrowthSpotter. “Having the smart city here in Osceola County -- and having it branded as an LG design -- just brings a lot more credence to what we’re trying to create here. We’re just at the very beginning stages of being able to glimpse at all the potential.”
Yoon Won Suh, Executive VP, LG Technology Center of America, has led two South Korean delegations to visit and tour NeoCity. The company is schedule to return July 8 with members of Future City Open Innovation Center (FOIC), a division of the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) to finalize a deal to develop up to 30 acres as a town center in NeoCity, making it one of the world’s first cities to be designed and constructed as a Smart City from the ground up.
Osceola County has been wooing LG and other South Korean tech firms for years, and last year took the step of bringing in a consulting firm -- NeoCity Links -- specifically for that purpose. Partner Mark Miller was the longtime owner of the Arabian Nights tourist attraction on Kissimmee’s W192 corridor and formerly chaired the W192 Development Authority. He had business contacts in Korea through the equestrian world. He partnered with Hong-Hyum “Hunter” Kim to form the consulting business that ultimately landed the county contract.
“No one loves Osceola County more than I do,” Miller said. “And I have always wanted to balance the economy between tourism and the kind of jobs that BRIDG and NeoCity can bring to us.”
The proposed NeoCity core innovation zone has the working title of “LG Smart Town Center”. This development would showcase LG Electronics Smart Sustainable City technology and serve as a test bed for LG’s latest innovations.
Earlier this month, three senior architects from Haeahn, South Korea’s largest architectural firm, joined Suh and four other leading LG executives in meetings with county officials. Executive Director of Architectural Design, Kyuhwan Jhin, headed the Haeahn team.
“Being in a room with these guys is a treat,” Miller said. “They’re so smart and creative.”
LG Electronics’ major components of “Smart Sustainable City” development include:
Smart Social Service
Digitalization to Governance
Digital Architecture, and
Grieb and Jeff Jones, the county’s director of strategic services, were among local leaders who traveled to Seoul in April to sign a memorandum of understanding with LG to develop the digital master plan for NeoCity. During that visit, they toured recently completed $3.74 billion, 250-acre LG Sciencepark in Magok, South Korea. The 11.9-million-sq.-ft. campus, which opened in 2018, can accommodate up to 25,000 employees across eight different divisions of the company. They toured the campus in an autonomous vehicle, one of the technologies in development by the corporation.
“When you go to one of their labs, it looked like BRIDG -- just many times over,” Jones said. “You had people working on robotics, which was interesting. Then there was another lab where people were working on large-screen TVs that could roll up like a roll of paper towels and store away in a wooden box."
LG Sciencepark provides state of the art research and welfare facilities and to support collaborative research with leading overseas companies, small and medium-sized venture companies, and academia in order to create an environment where the boundaries between technologies blur and groundbreaking research can be performed.
Osceola County’s unwavering commitment to NeoCity and the county’s new $80 million STEM magnet high school at NeoCity have been a key factors in attracting LG to the site, according to Miller. Another big selling point is the location within an opportunity zone.
“Being in an opportunity zone means there are tax incentives for them,” Grieb said. “I thought the opportunity zone would be more beneficial for them as far as building a new building and holding onto it for 10 years. But it could actually be more beneficial for them if they create a new company that’s located at NeoCity.”
She said the company could also qualify for job tax credits as a qualified target industry, and likely a discount on the land acquisition.