The decision is not independent of the political tension that prevails between the American giant and the leadership of the state of Florida
Amid a bitter political clash with Florida Gov. Ron DeSandis, Disney announced it is abandoning plans to build a $900 million complex near the Walt Disney World theme park it operates in the US state.
The US entertainment giant, which has embarked on a cost-cutting drive, cites the unfavorable business climate in Florida following the announcement of the 2021 plan and the evolving economic climate, according to the memo sent to employees.
For these reasons, we have decided not to proceed with the construction of the campus, writes Josh D’Amaro, head of Disney theme parks, in the memo, referring to the plan to relocate thousands of employees of the group from California to Florida.
The decision is not independent of the political tension that prevails between the American giant and the leadership of the state of Florida.
State officials led by Ron DeSandis have considered the company too progressive since, in 2022, Disney management publicly denounced a state bill that would restrict teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida elementary schools.
In response, Florida’s governor and a rising star on the American right who has launched an attack on alleged “woke” culture, in February stripped Disney of the special status it had enjoyed in the state of Florida since the 1960s, a status that included administrative facilities, self-administration of the theme park zone, preferential lending, etc.
At the same time, Ron DeSandis publicly announced his plan to build a prison near the Disney World park and to impose additional taxes on the park’s hotels, which employ 75,000 workers and attract 50 million tourists a year.
Disney responded with a lawsuit considering that this is “targeted revenge” against it, as a punishment for exercising “freedom of expression”.
“Does the state want us to invest more, employ more and pay more taxes or not?” said Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger.
A figure of the populist right in the USA, Ron DeSandis is considered the most serious competitor of Donald Trump for the nomination of the Republican Party and, according to the American media, he is likely to announce his candidacy in the coming days.
In a sign of the political significance of the conflict with Disney, Donald Trump accused Ron DeSandis in a statement that he “single-handedly” lost the Disney group’s investment because the governor is “too weak to fight for his state.” “Ron DeSandis’ losing battle with Disney didn’t help his shady and lame campaign.”
Already, criticism is escalating within the American right, as many Republicans speak of a battle against business that runs counter to their party’s tradition.
Republican Carlos Curbelo, a former Miami representative in the House of Representatives, said the Florida governor is tarnishing his own record and preventing businesses from coming and investing in Florida.
“It is a first negative consequence of the openly aggressive approach to governance and politics,” said Carlos Curbelo.
In the Democratic camp, the manager of Orange County – which includes the city of Lake Nona, where the Disney complex was to be built, regretted the group’s decision. But “it’s the consequence that can be expected when the environment of cooperation between the State of Florida and the business community is not open and constructive,” said Jerry Demings.
Florida Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart said the state’s job losses are “disappointing.”
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