Disney Cancels $1B Office Plan for Florida

Iger had suggested company could cut back during feud with DeSantis
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 18, 2023 6:05 PM CDT
Disney Cancels $1B Office Plan for Florida
Bob Iger speaks Disney Imagineering in Glendale, California, in 2011. Department employees won't have to move to Florida.   (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, file)

After CEO Bob Iger hinted last week that the company might do something like this, given what it sees as the hard time Gov. Ron DeSantis is giving it, Disney dropped its plans to build a $1 billion office complex in Florida. Josh D'Amaro, the head of theme parks, told employees in a memo Thursday that the Lake Nona Town Center project is off, the New York Times reports. Two years ago, D'Amaro credited "Florida’s business-friendly climate" for the project. But for the past year, Disney and DeSantis have been battling, a confrontation that's included a lawsuit, threats, and a struggle over a special tax district that includes Disney World. D'Amaro's memo acknowledged the "changing business conditions."

Not everyone at Disney was thrilled with the original plan, which included moving more than 1,000 employees from California to Florida. Most workers in company's celebrated Imagineering department would have had to relocate. Part of Disney's incentive was a Florida tax credit that would returned as much as $570 million over 20 years to the company for carrying through on the project. Iger's resistance apparently also was a factor; when he came back as CEO, Iger said he didn't see the point of having Imagineering thousands of miles from Disney's movie studios, per the Times.

D'Amato's memo cited Iger's return as a reason and added that employees who'd already moved to Florida can go back, per CNBC. Florida had estimated that the office project, which would have been built near Orlando International Airport, would have brought 2,000 jobs at an average salary of $120,000. Disney still plans to spend $17 billion on construction at Disney World over the next decade, which it says would generate another 13,000 jobs. Iger, who reassumed his old job last fall, suggested last week that making that investment isn't guaranteed. "I hope we're able to,” D'Amato said. (More Walt Disney Co. stories.)

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