In the courtrooms and under the political spotlight, the entertainment giant Disney is locked in an epic battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over control of the vast amusement zone in central Florida. Disney’s secret weapon? An economic impact of nearly $40.3 billion, an economic power that reverberates throughout the state and is now at the center of an unprecedented legal battle.
According to a study commissioned by Disney and conducted by Oxford Economics, the company has generated a whopping 263,000 jobs in Florida, over three times the number of workers directly employed at Walt Disney World. This economic dominance doesn’t just involve Disney’s direct employees, but also the supply chain and employee spending. It’s a financial ripple effect that spreads like magic throughout the state.
Despite the 82,000 workers directly employed by Disney in Florida, their impact reaches far beyond, with Disney Cruise Line in Port Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, as well as a resort in Vero Beach. In the heart of central Florida, Disney is directly responsible for one in eight jobs, and each direct employment supports an additional 1.7 jobs statewide, according to Oxford Economics.
However, this study refers to a period prior to DeSantis and his appointees taking control of Disney World. The move came after Disney publicly opposed a state law banning discussions of sexuality and gender identity in early-grade classrooms. This law is vehemently supported by DeSantis, who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.
Disney has stated plans for an additional $17 billion investment in central Florida over the next ten years, which could result in the addition of another 13,000 jobs. However, the company has also shown a willingness to scale back investments in the Sunshine State. This year, Disney scrapped plans to relocate 2,000 employees from Southern California to work in digital technology, finance, and product development, an investment estimated at $1 billion.
Despite the four theme parks, over 25 hotels, two water parks, and a retail and dining district spanning 10,117 hectares of land, Disney is locked in a legal battle with DeSantis and his appointees, both at the federal and state level, for control of the district that governs Disney World.
Previously known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the district has been renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District after DeSantis’s appointees took control. Created in 1967 by the Florida legislature, the district was tasked with managing municipal services such as firefighting, road repairs, and waste collection and was controlled by Disney supporters until this year.