Disney commissioned a study from Oxford Economics about the company’s economic impact in the state of Florida and released the results this week, during the IAAPA Expo 2023 and amid their ongoing legal battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
Disney in Florida Economic Impact Study
In a Disney Parks Blog post, Disney highlighted some of the most significant results of the study, including that the company generated $40 billion in total economic impact in Florida in the fiscal year of 2022.
“The new attractions and experiences Disney has debuted in recent years have led to more prosperity for the region and greater opportunity for the millions who call Florida home,” Tajiana Ancora-Brown, Director of External Affairs for Walt Disney World Resort, wrote in the blog post. “The $40 billion economic impact figure has grown exponentially over the last decade amid all the expansion that has taken place at Disney World.” Ancora-Brown specifically pointed to Pandora – The World of Avatar, Toy Story Land, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Disney’s Riviera Resort, and Disney Skyliner as important expansions.
“Disney is an economic catalyst to the state of Florida generating billions in economic activity, either directly, or indirectly through its supply chain and the spending of employees,” Adam Sacks, President of Oxford Economics division Tourism Economics, said. “Disney is also vital to the funding of public services, as it generated taxes of $6.6 billion in 2022, including state and local taxes of $3.1 billion.”
Between Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, and other divisions, the Walt Disney Company accounts for over 250,000 jobs in Florida. One in every 32 Florida jobs can be attributed to Disney, the study states.
The blog post states that Florida’s unemployment rate would jump from the 21st lowest to the second highest among the 50 states without Disney.
The post also notes that Walt Disney World works with 2,500 small businesses in Florida for work like painting Cinderella Castle, making Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge popcorn, or constructing large props; Walt Disney World has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to Florida non-profits and Cast Members have spent more than 233,000 hours volunteering through the Disney VoluntEARS program; and more projects are underway as Disney plans to invest more than $60 billion in Disney Parks updates “including new and refreshed lands at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom Park!”
“I am incredibly proud of how Disney has created meaningful change and benefited people’s lives in Florida for generations, not just in establishing our area’s theme park industry, but also in how we have worked with other sectors across the state to do the same,” said Jeff Vahle, President of Walt Disney World Resort. “The numbers speak for themselves on why Disney is so important to fueling jobs, the economy and tourism throughout our region, and the future investments we’re looking to make will continue to provide even more opportunities for Floridians.”
Disney’s Legal Battle in Florida
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company initially clashed over the corporation’s opposition to a much-debated and controversial Florida law regarding classroom instruction and discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, alongside various other recent state laws and proposals in a similar vein.
Now-former CEO Bob Chapek initially remained silent and passive on the issue — until massive internal criticisms from Cast Members, the LGBTQ+ community, and controversy over Disney making hefty political contributions to campaigns and individuals allegedly against their own stated human principles came into focus. Former and future CEO Bob Iger also condemned the law.
After Chapek finally denounced the law, Governor DeSantis moved forward with various verbal and legal assaults on Disney, including the attempted dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Ultimately, the District was renamed and DeSantis appointed his own Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors.
After the CFTOD Board attempted to declare Disney’s final agreements with RCID null and void, Disney filed a federal lawsuit against the Board and DeSantis, calling their actions a violation of their constitutional rights.
In the lawsuit, Disney cites “A targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech—now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”
The Board then filed a state lawsuit against Disney and Disney is now countersuing on the state level, arguing that because RCID was never actually dissolved, the CFOTD is essentially the same entity and is going back on its word.