Disney Abandons Plans for New Campus in Florida, Costing State 2,000 Jobs

FILE - People visit the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., April 18, 2022. Ongoing strength at its theme parks and an improving streaming business propelled The Walt Disney Co. to higher profits and revenue in its fiscal second quarter in 2023. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

By Isabel Soisson

May 18, 2023

Florida’s largest employer announced on Thursday that it is abandoning its plans to open up a new employee campus in Lake Nona, near Orlando, costing the state roughly 2,000 new jobs that would have paid $120,000 on average.

In a memo sent to employees, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney’s parks, experiences, and products division, cited “changing business conditions” and the return of CEO Bob Iger as reasons why construction will not be moving forward, according to CNBC.

The project was supposed to involve the relocation of more than 1,000 employees from Southern California, including most of a department known as Imagineering, which works with Disney’s movie studios to develop theme park attractions.

Any formerly California-based employees that have already relocated to Florida “may be able to relocate back to California,” according to D’Amaro. No further information was given about what that may mean, however.

This latest announcement from Disney comes amid an ongoing feud with Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The governor has targeted Disney’s special district, formerly called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, after the company publicly criticized DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which became law last year and limits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms.

DeSantis appointed his own political backers to a new board that oversees much of Disney World’s operations earlier this year. During the ceremony where the five appointees were announced, the governor also signed legislation that gave the board authority to run the special district, which Disney previously had the authority to self-govern.

In April, the company filed a lawsuit accusing the governor, and new board members of its special district, of “carrying out a campaign of political retribution.” This came after the new board voted to undo development contracts that the company said it struck to secure its investments. The lawsuit has since been updated to include a complaint about newly-passed legislation that targets Disney’s monorail system, which the company believes is further evidence of retaliation by DeSantis.

In addition to these moves, Iger has also publicly denounced DeSantis’ actions, as well as the Florida government as a whole.

In D’Amaro’s memo, he stated that Disney still plans to invest $17 billion in Florida over the next decade, including the addition of around 13,000 jobs.


  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

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