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Disney Shelves $1 Billion Florida Campus Project, Affecting 2,000 Jobs

Walt Disney Co announced on Thursday the suspension of its almost $1 billion corporate campus project in central Florida. This move affects approximately 2,000 jobs amidst the corporation's ongoing legal battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Disney logo
Disney logo

Unexpected Change in Business Conditions Fuels Decision

Josh D'Amaro, Disney's parks chief, cited evolving business conditions as the primary reason behind the company's decision. Disney's initial 2021 plan aimed to relocate several employees to a new Lake Nona campus, including the Imagineers in charge of theme park ride design.

Disney's Investment and Future Plans Under Scrutiny

The Orlando Sentinel reported that Disney intended to allocate nearly $864 million to the project. The campus was to serve as a hub for Disney Imagineering and the Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products division. However, the decision to relocate California-based Imagineering staff to Florida met resistance from many employees unwilling to make the move.

Disney CEO Questions Florida's Investment Intentions

Disney CEO Bob Iger recently questioned Florida's commitment to the company's ongoing investment in the state. He highlighted Disney's substantial presence in Florida, employing over 75,000 individuals, attracting millions of visitors to Walt Disney World annually, and having ambitious $17 billion expansion plans for the resort in the coming decade.

Florida Government's Doubts About the Project

Jeremy T. Redfern, DeSantis's press secretary, expressed that the plans for a Lake Nona campus were speculative, and the state doubted the realization of the project. Redfern noted that Disney's current financial situation made it unsurprising for them to reconsider business operations and cancel unsuccessful initiatives.

Ron DeSantis
Ron DeSantis

Tensions Rise Between Disney and Governor DeSantis

Disney and Governor DeSantis have been embroiled in an intensifying conflict since March 2022. It started when Disney's former CEO, Bob Chapek, criticized a Florida law limiting discussions of gender identity and sexuality in elementary schools.

Political Repercussions and Public Response

DeSantis, anticipating announcing his presidential candidacy for the 2024 Republican nomination soon, has argued against granting Disney special treatment in Florida. However, critics of his approach, such as Democratic State Senator Linda Stewart and former Congressman Carlos Curbelo, express concern over potential job losses and discourage businesses from establishing or expanding in Florida.

Disney's Optimism for Future Investments in Florida

Despite the decision to cancel the campus project, Disney Parks chief Josh D'Amaro expressed optimism about Disney's future business prospects in Florida, sharing plans to invest $17 billion and create 13,000 jobs in the next decade.