Disney Cancels $1 Billion Campus and Thousands of Jobs in Florida Amidst Feud with Governor DeSantis

Disney has announced that it is cancelling its plans to build a $1 billion campus in the Lake Nona area of Orlando, Florida, as well as its plans to relocate thousands of jobs to the state.[0] This decision comes amidst a long-running culture war feud between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Last year, Disney publicly opposed DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prevents teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues or people, and has claimed that the governor and his Republican allies have orchestrated a campaign of political retaliation. DeSantis maintains that he is ending the company’s long reign of operating in Florida with special privileges.[1]

The dispute between the governor and Disney dates back to last spring when DeSantis signed legislation that restricted the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity for kindergarten through third grade, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The measure is part of his targeting of cultural issues and his campaign against “woke” diversity, equity, and inclusion policies.[2] However, the governor’s clash with Disney, a huge firm that appeals to millions of mainstream Americans and has sought to become more inclusive in recent years, could hint at difficulties DeSantis might have in selling such policies towards more moderate voters in a general election.[2]

DeSantis has used his attacks on Disney as a way to shore up conservative support for his anti-woke agenda in Florida and nationwide.[3] However, his strategy has shown signs of wear, and Disney has been counterattacking in increasingly aggressive fashion, especially since last fall when Bob Iger, who had personally objected to the Florida law, came out of retirement and snatched the CEO crown back from Bob Chapek.[3] At the beginning of the year, DeSantis confidently declared that he would remove the board of Disney’s unique tax district.[3] However, when the DeSantis-approved board reconvened, it emerged that the outgoing board had stealthily passed a measure hamstringing its replacement.[3] The disagreement between the two committees is currently entangled in a legal battle.[3]

Last week, Disney CEO Bob Iger said an ongoing dispute with DeSantis raised questions about the company’s continued investment in Florida.[4] During a conference call with analysts, Iger expressed that the actions of DeSantis and Republican legislators were a form of “campaign of government retaliation” against Disney.[1] Disney still has $17 billion worth of development planned for Disney World over the next decade, which would create some 13,000 jobs.[5]

The cancellation of the Lake Nona Town Center project will have a significant impact on Florida’s economy, as the state has lost 2,000 jobs and millions in additional revenue. The Mayor of Orange County, Jerry L. Demings, said that it is unfortunate that Disney will not be moving forward with construction of the Lake Nona campus and that these are the consequences when there isn’t an inclusive and collaborative work environment between the state of Florida and the business community.[6]

In conclusion, the long-running feud between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has had significant consequences for the state’s economy. The cancellation of the $1 billion campus in the Lake Nona area of Orlando and the relocation of thousands of jobs will likely have a ripple effect on the state’s economic growth and development. It remains to be seen how this feud will play out in the coming years and how it will impact the state’s political landscape.

0. “Disney canceling $1B campus project for Orlando’s Lake Nona. Here’s why” WKMG News 6 & ClickOrlando, 18 May. 2023, https://www.clickorlando.com/news/local/2023/05/18/disney-canceling-1b-campus-project-for-orlandos-lake-nona-heres-why/

1. “Why Disney pulled out of a $1 billion investment in Florida amid DeSantis feud” Vox.com, 19 May. 2023, https://www.vox.com/politics/2023/5/19/23730119/ron-desantis-disney-florida-investment-2024-election

2. “Disney rocks DeSantis ahead of expected White House bid announcement” CNN, 19 May. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/19/politics/desantis-disney-feud/index.html

3. “Mickey Mouse Is Starting to Get Revenge on Ron DeSantis” New York Magazine, 18 May. 2023, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2023/05/disney-is-starting-to-get-revenge-on-ron-desantis.html

4. “Disney cancels plans for $1 billion Florida campus” NPR, 18 May. 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/05/18/1176931662/disney-cancels-plans-for-1-billion-florida-campus

5. “Disney’s Lake Nona project canceled amid fight with Gov. Ron DeSantis” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 18 May. 2023, https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/politics/2023/05/18/florida-gov-ron-desantis-disney-world-fight-dooms-lake-nona-project/70233055007

6. “Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office, Orlando leaders sound off after Disney nixes Lake Nona campus” The Business Journals, 18 May. 2023, https://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/news/2023/05/18/disney-lake-nona-campus-state-local-leaders-react.html

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