ORLANDO-At least two high-tech firms and one bank are mapping out new space needs for next year, as Orlando winds up another solid resort tax collections year and retailers chip away at increasing their year-end sales.

Bank of America Corp. plans to add 60 workers to its 99 branches in Central Florida and open two new outlets. They will be near the affluent Islesworth community in southwest Orlando and near the equally affluent Lake Forest subdivision in Seminole County.

Statewide, the Charlotte-based institution is increasing its work force by 400. The company has made no formal announcement on how much new space it will require for its expansion program.

In the high-tech sector, MeshNetworks Inc. of suburban Maitland, will be stepping up its development of new wireless phone technology after receiving $27 million in venture capital. The company expects to grow its 40-person staff and plans to reconfigure or add to its existing space.

MeshNetworks backers are Redwood Ventures, ITT Industries Inc., BancBoston Ventures, Patricof & Co. Ventures and 3Com Ventures.

Another high-tech firm, AirNet Communications Corp. of Melbourne,Fl, 50 miles southeast of Downtown Orlando, is also growing after going public last year. A new agreement with ArrayComm Inc. will provide special technology for AirNet’s IntelliCell, a newly-designed wireless-communications base station. The company’s office and development space requirements are in the early planning stages.

As local retailers begin their final push for robust year-end sales, the metro Orlando retail scene itself is in good shape, according to October data from First Data Corp. and the Telecheck Retail Index. Orlando was ranked fifth in the top 10 markets in the country, gaining 4.1% in overall sales. Pittsburgh, Pa. and Tulsa, OK were tied for No. 1 position with a 4.5% growth rate. Austin, TX and New Orleans were tied for the No. 2 spot with a 4.2% gain.

Other gainers, in order of ranking, were Oklahoma City, OK, 3.9%; Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, 3.8%; San Antonio, TX and Tampa, FL, both at 3.7%; and Cleveland, 3.5%.

Area hotels are hustling as tourist development tax numbers for September, the most recently-audited period, show a 30.7% gain of $1.81 million for a monthly collection total of $7.71 million. That compares with $5.9 million in the same 1999 month, according to the Orange County Comptroller’s office. Year-to-date collections are up 9.1%, to $108.2 million from $99.2 million in the same period last year.


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