Disney's $40 Billion Impact in Florida Faces Uncertainty Amidst Legal Battle
By April Fowell
Disney issued a report on Tuesday that estimated its economic effect in Florida at $40.3 billion, as the business battles Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his appointees over their control of the district that administers the entertainment company's huge theme park resort in central Florida.
(Photo : by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
Disney issued a report on Tuesday that estimated its economic effect in Florida at $40.3 billion, as the business battles Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his appointees.
According to Oxford Economics research commissioned by Disney and covering the fiscal year 2022, Disney accounted for 263,000 employees in Florida, more than three times the actual workforce at Walt Disney World. The analysis linked the company's multibillion-dollar effect to indirect influences in addition to direct employment and consumption.
The positions include both Disney workers and jobs supported by tourist spending outside of Disney World. Disney employs 82,000 people in Florida, including employees at Disney World outside of Orlando, Disney Cruise Line in Port Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, and a resort in Vero Beach.
According to Oxford Economics, Disney directly supports 1 in every 8 employment in central Florida, and for every direct job, another 1.7 jobs are supported across the state.
Corporate Strategy Shifts and Political Dynamics in Disney World's Governing District
The research takes place before DeSantis and his appointees took over Disney World's governing district earlier this year, when Disney openly opposed a state legislation prohibiting classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades. DeSantis, who is competing for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, championed the legislation.
Disney executives have stated in the past year that the corporation wants to invest an extra $17 billion in central Florida over the next decade, potentially creating an additional 13,000 jobs. However, the corporation has shown a readiness to reduce its investment in Florida. Disney canceled plans earlier this year to move 2,000 people from Southern California to work in digital technology, finance, and product development, a $1 billion investment.
On 25,000 acres (10,117 hectares), Disney World now features four theme parks, more than 25 hotels, two water parks, and a retail and eating center.
Legal Battles and Corporate Fallout
Disney is suing DeSantis and his appointees in federal and state courts over the seizure of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District after DeSantis appointees took control. The district was established by the Florida Legislature in 1967 to manage municipal services such as firefighting, road maintenance, and rubbish transportation, and it was formerly controlled by Disney loyalists.
Before the district's leadership was transferred from Disney sympathizers to DeSantis appointees, the Disney supporters on its board signed agreements with Disney giving the firm influence over design and construction at Disney World.
The new DeSantis appointees said the "eleventh-hour deals" weakened their authority, and the district filed a lawsuit in state court in Orlando to have the contracts nullified. Disney has filed counterclaims, including a request in state court that the agreements be declared legitimate and enforceable.
Disney has also sued DeSantis, a state agency, and DeSantis appointees on the district's board in federal court in Tallahassee, claiming that the governor and Republican lawmakers targeted the company for opposing the law dubbed "Don't Say Gay" by its opponents.
In an earnings report issued last week, Disney stated that while operating income at its theme parks worldwide increased year over year, it decreased at the Florida theme park resort due to costs associated with the closure of its immersive Star Wars-themed two-night experience and lower visitor spending due to a decrease in hotel rates.