A representative for Walt Disney Co. stated Wednesday that the firm has postponed the migration of some employees to Florida to coincide with the planned completion of the company’s new campus in the Orlando community of Lake Nona. In July 2021, the firm announced plans to relocate 2,000 employees to central Florida, including numerous theme park designers and consumer goods professionals, to take advantage of $570 million in tax benefits.
The transition was projected to take 18 months, according to the corporation at the time. However, the new offices have taken longer to complete than anticipated, and Disney expects them to open in 2026, a three-year delay. While many employees have already relocated, Disney spokesperson Jacquee Wahler told The New York Times in an email that the corporation intended to “continue to provide flexibility to individuals migrating, especially given the estimated completion date of the campus is now in 2026.”
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“As a result, we’re synchronizing the relocation time with the campus completion whenever possible,” Wahler added. The postponement comes amid a fight between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over the state’s divisive Parental Rights in Education Act, which critics have labeled anti-LGBTQ. In kindergarten through third grade, the legislation prohibits the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity.
It’s been dubbed a “don’t speak gay” measure by homosexual and trans activists. After facing rising pressure from employees to speak out, Disney CEO Bob Chapek opposed the measure. The Florida Legislature moved to withdraw Disney of its exceptional self-governing privileges in the district that contains Walt Disney World after DeSantis lambasted the firm as a “woke” corporate.
DeSantis has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2024. When asked if the relocation snafu had anything to do with the DeSantis feud, a Disney representative stated it didn’t. However, Disney’s explanation did not prevent many observers from concluding that the action was politically motivated. Former Disney Imagineer Jim Shull tweeted that the postponement appeared to be Disney “sticking it to” DeSantis and an “effect of Californians expressing they won’t move to Florida.”
The delay was initially reported by WDW News Today, a Disney theme park publication. Disney employees were provided relocation aid when the plans for the move were finalized. Those who refused to relocate ran the risk of losing their jobs. According to people familiar with the situation, some people, especially theme park designers known as Imagineers who work in Glendale, were unhappy with the possibility of leaving, and the controversy in Florida made the move even less appealing.
In an open letter, a group of employees protesting Chapek’s handling of the “don’t mention gay” controversy asked that “no employee will be sacked when denied migration” to Florida. At the same time, the delay is likely to cause additional problems for some employees who have been planning to relocate and sell their California homes. Not only will Disney be able to take advantage of Florida’s business-friendly tax benefits, but it will also allow the company to concentrate its activities in the state and boost collaboration.
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