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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.)

ORLANDO, FL-Kaplan University plans to open a new online student support center in a two-story, 124,000-square-foot office building at Central Florida Research Park, 12650 Ingenuity Drive. The center is an expansion of the college’s existing facility in South Florida.

Davenport, IA-based Kaplan considered 20 cities across the US before announcing Monday that it will place its center in Orlando with plans to hire up to 750 area residents over the next four years. The news was timed especially well for local officials, who chose to make the announcement during this week’s CoreNet Global Summit at Walt Disney World.

“We were very much on the cusp of not even getting this project, but after having them in to look at some of our work-force numbers we were able to convince them that this is a good community for them to be in,” Rodney Hughes, business development director of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, tells GlobeSt.com. He adds that Kaplan sought an inland location in Florida that is less vulnerable to hurricanes and other potential weather disasters.

Lease arrangements are still being negotiated between Kaplan and Central Florida Research Park, which takes up at least 1,000 acres near the University of Central Florida. The Orlando center is set to open in January and will include admissions advisors, financial aid officers, human resources and information technology representatives.

Kaplan currently has 1,500 employees in two 100,000-square-foot buildings near West Cypress Creek Road in Fort Lauderdale, where the school has had a presence since 2000 and expanded last year. Approximately 60 employees will be transferred from other Kaplan support centers to get the Orlando office up and running.

“We enjoy doing business in Florida and look forward to building upon our presence in the state,” Andrew Rosen, Kaplan president, stated in a release. He described Kaplan’s “explosive growth over the last several years” as the reason for adding to its other support centers in Chicago and Phoenix.

Kaplan claims 37,000 online college students, plus another 4,000 at campuses in Iowa and Nebraska, making it one of the largest universities in the US. It offers master’s, bachelor’s and associate degrees in more than 100 programs.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, in a prepared statement, called Kaplan’s new lease “a major score” for the Orlando market as well as statewide efforts to advance its stature as an academic leader. “By bringing this project to fruition, we have greatly enhanced efforts to maintain a business climate that nourishes the growth of educational institutions that are developing the talent and skill base needed for tomorrow’s economy,” Crist said.

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