The Walt Disney Company has canceled plans to build a $1 billion installation in Florida amid an ongoing legal and political fight with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The project, known as the Lake Nona Town Center, included plans to build office space for the company near Orlando, Florida, and would have created upwards of 2,000 jobs with an average salary of $120,000 a year, according to the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity. Its cancellation was announced in an email to employees by Disney’s chairman of Parks and Resorts, Josh D’Amaro, on Thursday.
“Given the considerable changes that have occurred since the announcement of this project, including new leadership and changing business conditions, we have decided not to move forward with construction of the campus,” D’Amaro wrote in his email, according to Reuters. The email comes at a time when relations between Disney and the state of Florida are bitter, with the company having sued the state in federal court in April.
It is unclear whether Disney decided to cancel the project as a result of the feud with Disney, though the timing suggests that the company’s issues with Florida and collaboration with the state government may have played a role. The state was selected as the site, costing $46 million, for the project after it promised generous tax incentives to the company, worth up to $570 million over 20 years, according to the Orlando Business Journal.
In a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation, DeSantis’s press secretary, Jeremy Redfern, said that “[g]iven the company’s financial straits, falling market cap and declining stock price, it is unsurprising that they would restructure their business operations and cancel unsuccessful ventures.” He added: “[n]othing ever came of the project, and the state was unsure whether it would come to fruition.”
After Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek publicly criticized Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law in 2022, DeSantis lobbied the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to pass a law to abolish the Randy Creek Improvement District, a special jurisdiction that covers the territory of the company’s Walt Disney World resort complex, granting the state the municipal power over the resort.
The Legislature later revised its plans and passed a bill to make members of the district’s board appointable by the governor, rather than abolish it in its entirety. Still, Disney sued to invalidate the law on First Amendment grounds, with CEO Bob Iger calling Florida “anti-business” because of DeSantis’s move and saying that it had “ruined a terrific relationship” with the company.
DeSantis, who was reelected as governor of Florida in November by a wide margin, is expected to launch a campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination as soon as next week, according to The Wall Street Journal. Former President Donald Trump has criticized DeSantis, writing that “[Disney] could announce a slow withdrawal or sale of certain properties, or the whole thing. That would be a killer…this is all so unnecessary, a political STUNT!”
Former Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina encouraged Disney to move to her state instead, tweeting, “Hey @Disney, my home state will happily accept your 70,000+ jobs if you want to leave Florida.” Florida’s two Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott have previously also expressed hesitation over the law.
Rubio, Scott and The Walt Disney Company did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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