Disney Cancels $1 Billion Campus Plan in Orlando amidst Feud with Florida Governor

Disney has canceled its plans to construct a $1 billion campus in the Lake Nona area of Orlando, as well as relocate thousands of jobs to the state of Florida.[0] The planned campus would have brought 2,000 high-paying jobs to the region. However, Disney abruptly announced to its employees earlier this week that it would not be moving forward with the construction of the campus. The decision has been attributed to changing business conditions, but the move has been widely seen as part of a feud with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The battle between Disney and DeSantis began when Disney publicly opposed DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.[1] DeSantis has been accused of orchestrating a campaign of political retaliation against Disney, while the governor maintains that he is merely ending the company’s special privileges in Florida.

The dispute between the two sides has been ongoing since last year, with Disney filing a broad lawsuit against DeSantis in April alleging “a targeted campaign of government retaliation.” DeSantis has not attempted to disguise his motivations as anything other than naked political revenge, and the company appears to have a strong case. Last week, Disney CEO Bob Iger said that actions by DeSantis and Republican lawmakers amounted to a “campaign of government retaliation” against Disney.

The planned Lake Nona Town Center was expected to create more than 2,000 jobs in the region, with an average salary of $120,000.[2] A significant number of workers may have originated from Imagineering, a department based in Southern California that collaborates with Disney’s filmmakers to design amusement park rides and activities.[2] Several buildings in the Lake Nona complex were planned to house 2,000 Disney employees who were being relocated from California to Florida.[3] However, the company is now telling California-based staffers they will no longer have to relocate.[4]

While DeSantis has not commented publicly on Disney’s announcement, his press secretary said in a statement that it was “unsurprising” that Disney would cancel the project “given the company’s financial straits, falling market cap, and declining stock price.”[5] However, cooler heads may need to prevail, as Scott said in an interview, “This is the biggest or second-biggest employer in the state.[6] Half the tourism that comes to our state comes to visit Disney.[7] It’s a reason people come to our state.[6] After they come there, people move there.[7] So I think cooler heads need to prevail.[7] My view is we have to do everything to help our businesses grow.[7]

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. “Disney asks court to dismiss DeSantis board’s lawsuit in fight over special tax district” CNBC, 16 May. 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/05/16/disney-asks-court-to-dismiss-desantis-boards-lawsuit.html

2. “Disney dumps $1B Florida project set to bring in 2000 jobs (NYSE:DIS)” Seeking Alpha, 18 May. 2023, https://seekingalpha.com/news/3973178-disney-dumps-1b-florida-project-set-to-bring-in-2000-jobs

3. “Disney is pulling out of a $1 billion investment in Florida amid DeSantis feud” CBS News, 18 May. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/disney-ends-1-billion-florida-investment-desantis-lake-nona/

4. “Disney cancels nearly $1 billion Florida campus amid DeSantis feud” The Washington Post, 19 May. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/05/18/disney-florida-desantis-lake-nona

5. “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

6. “GOP senators unsettled by DeSantis’s escalating fight with Disney” The Hill, 20 May. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/4012889-gop-senators-unsettled-by-desantiss-escalating-fight-with-disney

7. “Florida’s GOP Senators Issue Warnings to Ron DeSantis” Newsweek, 20 May. 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/floridas-gop-senators-issue-warnings-ron-desantis-1801594

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