Walt Disney World Resort announced on Thursday that it is abandoning its plan to build a new campus in Orlando, Florida, citing several reasons for its decision, which it said “was not easy.”
The project, which was expected to serve the Lake Nona region, was announced in 2021 with a plan to host employees from Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products division, according to ABC News. The company has previously asked around 2,000 of its employees based in Southern California to relocate to work at the 60-acre campus. The Lake Nona project was supposed to open in 2026.
In a letter to community leaders, Walt Disney World President Jeff Vahle said that several dynamics have changed since the project was announced, including a change in company leadership and evolving economic and business conditions.
Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings called Disney’s decision “unfortunate” and said that this is a result of the lack of cooperation between the company and the state of Florida.
“It is unfortunate that Disney will not be moving forward with construction of the Lake Nona campus. However, these are the consequences when there isn’t an inclusive and collaborative work environment between the state of Florida and the business community. We will continue to work closely with our valued partners at Disney,” Demings said in a statement on Thursday.
Florida has been the center of an ongoing feud between Disney and Republican Governor Ron DeSantis that began last year after the Parental Rights in Education bill was signed into law, banning the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in certain school grades in the state. Disney condemned the bill and said at the time that it plans to help revoke it. In an effort to push back against Disney, DeSantis signed the HB 3C bill, stripping the company of its special government agency rights and tax privileges in Florida.
Disney filed a lawsuit against DeSantis last month, accusing him of launching a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” against the company. The company also argued that the governor and other Florida officials breached the First Amendment by “retaliating” against Disney for opposing the Parental Rights in Education bill, also dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“In America, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind,” Disney’s lawsuit read. In response, DeSantis’ communications director, Taryn Fenske, said in a statement, “We are unaware of any legal right that a company has to operate its own government or maintain special privileges not held by other businesses in the state. This lawsuit is yet another unfortunate example of their hope to undermine the will of the Florida voters and operate outside the bounds of the law.”
Still, Disney vows to bring thousands of jobs as it continues to invest in Walt Disney World over the next decade.
“Our plans currently call for us to invest $17 billion in Walt Disney World over the next 10 years and create 13,000 new jobs to continue doing our part as a leading employer in the hospitality and themed entertainment industry. We hope those plans will become a future reality,” Vahle wrote in the Thursday letter. “For decades, we have operated our business responsibly and being the region’s largest taxpayer, we paid and collected over $1.1 billion in state and local taxes during last year alone.”
Newsweek has reached out via email to the Lake Nona Information Center for comment.