Disney, a theme park and entertainment giant, has pulled the plug on its $1.6 billion campus in Lake Nona (Florida), which is located in the greater Orlando region. The investment was supposed to create 2,000 jobs. Many of these would be workers who were transferred from California because “Florida has a business-friendly climate.”
You could also say that the California business climate was unfriendly.
It is curious that the announcement was made on May 25, when DeSantis will likely file his paperwork to declare his presidential candidacy for 2024. Disney is trying to sabotage the governor’s campaign before it even starts.
Josh D’Amaro, the head of Disney’s Parks, Experiences, and Products Division, said that the decision was hard:
D’Amaro wrote: “While I understand that some people were excited by the new campus, others have found it difficult to accept this decision. We have decided to not move forward due to the significant changes that have taken place since this project was announced, such as new leadership and changed business conditions.”
Disney and Bob Chapek began their spat in 2022, when Bob Chapek, then CEO of Disney, tried to force Florida to adopt laws that Disney deemed appropriate.
Disney (DIS), and DeSantis, have been sparring over a controversial law signed by the governor that restricts sexual orientation and gender identification in schools. The law has been dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics. [It is important to note that the name “don’t says gay” can be misleading because the language used in the law does not use this phrase.]
In recent months, the fight intensified after DeSantis took over Disney World’s special tax districts that set rules for Disney World. DeSantis tried to install his own hand-picked board as the supervisor of the district. Disney and the incoming board had agreed to limits on the power of DeSantis’ appointees before the Florida government chose the board in February.
Now, lawsuits are being filed almost every day.
California Governor Gavin Newsom was quick in his gloating, noting the cancellation of the project was due to “bigoted policy”:
Turns out, bigoted policies have consequences.
That’s 2,000+ jobs that will be welcomed back with open arms to the Golden State.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) May 18, 2023
The crowing Governor wrote in his letter that “2000+ Jobs would be welcomed with open arms back to the Golden State,” but he did not answer the question as to why Disney wanted to move the jobs. It’s possible that California’s high cost of living, rampant crime, homelessness, drug epidemic, skyrocketing taxes, huge budget deficit and drug epidemic contributed to Disney’s original plans.
DeSantis’s influence is not the sole reason for Disney to cancel the Lake Nona Campus. A spokesperson for the Governor said that it is not surprising “given that the company’s finances are in dire straits and that its stock price has been declining.” I reported back in February that CEO Bob Iger had announced that he would be laying off 7,000 employees, or three percent of the workforce, to save over $5.5 billion on the operating budget. The company announced on Thursday that its expensive “Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort” at Disney World would be shutting down less than a year after it opened due to low occupancy. The writer’s strikes are only adding to the woes of the content creator.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is shutting down at Walt Disney World on September 30. pic.twitter.com/bjfo6C8Qck
— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) May 18, 2023
DeSantis has been criticized by many, including presidential candidate Nikki Haley. I would tell them that Disney started the fight, and DeSantis was only responding. He did not back down and demonstrated that he was willing to fight for his beliefs, regardless of how large the corporation that attempted to tell him how he should run the state.
Many will criticize, including Gavin Newsom, but Disney’s financial problems and costly mistakes may have played a part in their thinking.
Overall, the House of Mouse has not had a particularly magical year.