Disney Cancels $1 Billion Expansion in Florida after Spat with DeSantis
Disney just announced the cancellation of their $1 billion construction complex in Florida in response to their ongoing battle with Governor Ron DeSantis (R). The project would have included a new office compound that would relocate 2,000 jobs from California to Florida and would substantially advance the development of Orlando’s Walt Disney World and the surrounding areas.
Disney’s recent decision is a continuation of the feud between Disney and DeSantis that’s gone on for over a year. The war began when the entertainment giant criticized the Parents Rights in Education bill passed by DeSantis, even going so far as to host marches and protests defending the LGBTQ+ community. DeSantis responded to their public resistance by signing a bill to take over Disney’s self-governing authority to operate as an independent entity in Florida.
In 1967, the Reedy Creek Improvement District was created, giving the Walt Disney Company governmental control over the land within and around their theme parks. This has been in effect for the last 50 years, as the organization has employed their own sheriffs and operated under autonomous rules regarding taxes and zoning variances. DeSantis retaliated against their political activism by taking back state-ownership of their property. “They’re not going to have their own government” DeSantis stated in a press conference, “they’re just trying to pursue an agenda and trying to pursue a narrative.”
Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, sued the Florida governor in return for his decision to strip them of their powers and pulled out of their construction plans in Orlando as retaliation. Between lawsuits and a public war of words, the two powerhouses have made their disapproving opinions about the other known.
Disney’s political involvement has resulted in a substantial decline in customers and subscribers. In this latest cancellation, Disney is not only affecting their relationship with DeSantis, but also their relationship with their employees and customers at large. Many Disney workers have already made the cross-country relocation, unaware of the reversal plans. In an email from the theme park and consumer products chairman, the cancellation was blamed on “changing business conditions.” Several employees are unhappy with the switch-up, but Disney is standing firm in their resolution regardless.
“Was Disney just counting its losses in Florida and cynically blaming DeSantis?” Chris Gacek, senior fellow for Regulatory Affairs at Family Research Council asks. Gacek believes that this decision might have been the final blow for the relationship between DeSantis and Disney, and that the real bone of contention was in the taking away of their self-governing privileges in Florida.
Now, the company is taking steps to expand in California, mapping out how they would enlarge their site in Anaheim over the next 30 years. California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) praised Disney’s decision and called it a “victory” for his state. Knowing that California will be more agreeable on core beliefs, Iger wants to invest where his LGBT activism will be welcome.
In the meantime, the rivalry between DeSantis and Disney is something worth watching. With the 2024 election on the horizon, the Republican candidates are becoming increasingly vocal about issues they wholeheartedly believe in. Disney’s recent decision to withdraw its expansion from the Sunshine State is reflective of the divergent social views in America, of future economic impacts in both Florida and California, and of business laws for American companies everywhere.
With DeSantis’s announcement that he’s entering the 2024 presidential race, the DeSantis/Disney skirmish could take on a more national flavor. “This is a national thing, not just a Florida thing. This could be positive for DeSantis if anything,” Gacek concluded.