Entrepreneurs in Orlando are not run-of-the-mill Muggles. With construction of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park scheduled for late 2007 at the Universal Orlando Resort, hopes are high that it will pump $250 million to $500 million into an economy that's been seeing park attendance level off.
About 40 small business owners who lend their own wizardry to theme parks stand to benefit. "There is a role for us to play, and it will come to us when [Universal's] project ideas are a little more polished," says Toni Brown, applications engineer for Gilderfluke & Co., a seven-employee, $3 million company that designs control equipment for rides. "There is no doubt that the Harry Potter development will result in work for our member companies," says Craig Hanna, president of the Themed Entertainment Assn. in Burbank, Calif. Most of its 500 members are small businesses that create special effects for amusement parks. The 20-acre Harry Potter park, expected to be completed in 2009, will contain a replica of the Gothic-style wizard academy Hogwarts.
The details, however, are as secret as the ending of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was before the book, the last in J.K. Rowling's seven-volume series, came out in July. Bill Nassal Sr., whose 135-employee, $30 million Nassal Co. designs faux rocks and other props, had to sign a confidentiality agreement just to talk with Universal. Says Nassal: "We can't say a word about any of this."
Edited by Jeremy Quittner