The battle between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and The Walt Disney Company raises some interesting possibilities. The most extreme is what would happen if Walt Disney decided to close Walt Disney World temporarily. Disney World employs over 70,000 people at its Florida resort. It’s the largest single-location employer in the country and the largest employer in Florida.
Just for fun, consider what would happen if Disney World shut down for a month. 70,000 employees would go on unemployment. Florida pays about $250 a week per out-of-work citizen. That would cost the state $17,500.000 a week in direct unemployment costs. That’s far from all. Disney World attracts over 50 million visitors a year, about one million a week. 92,500 of these people fly in and out of Orlando Airport a day. Let’s be generous and assume that only half are brought in by Disney. That’s 46,000 people. This translates to about 250 flights a day. The airport employs 18,000 people. At least half would have to go. That’s another $2.25 Million a week. You can see that the direct impact alone is to the tune of $20 Million a week.
The indirect costs have to be much more than that. The other theme parks in Orlando depend on Disney to attract visitors. Hotels, restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, and all sorts of retail businesses depend on Disney to survive. Florida’s economy could be badly hurt if Disney closed even for a short time.
Closing would certainly hurt Disney too. Disney World brings in an average of $55 Million a day in revenue. Only a portion of that is profit. However, Disney World is not Walt Disney Company’s largest profit center. It makes more from movies and TV, as well as continued revenue from its other theme parks, cruise lines, and resorts. In other words, leaving Florida would hurt but not put the company in any danger.
Such a drastic move would almost certainly kill DeSantis’ chance of becoming president. It would also damage the lives of thousands of people, not to mention disappointing millions of guests who had to cancel their plans. Without a doubt, businesses large and small would go bankrupt if the interruption lasted more than a few months. The state treasury would be badly dinged by the economic crises caused by the closure.
can you move disney world?
Some consider the possibility that Disney could uproot its Florida operations unthinkable. It would be expensive but could happen. If another state, say, South Carolina, decided to attract a new Walt Disney World, it could. It would take about ten years to build the resort again in a new location. During that time, the Florida operation could keep going, so its revenue wouldn’t be lost. The new location infrastructure, including the airport and roads, would have plenty of time to be built.
It would be expensive. State and local bond issues could cover infrastructure and low-interest loans to Disney. There is nothing sacred about the Orlando location. I don’t know anyone who would refuse to visit the resort if it were in another state. I’m sure that Disney doesn’t want to make such a drastic move, but it can and will get a lot of help from its new home. When you consider a resort that attracts 50 million visitors a year and generates over $70 Billion, a lot of help is available for a move.
Orlando is dependent on the Disney money machine for survival. Like it or not, the health of Disney World is critical to Central Florida’s survival. De Santis claims that Disney has a private arrangement that no one else has. That’s not true. There are hundreds of other special tax districts in Florida, including Daytona National Racetrack and a huge retirement home complex. Disney’s special district has a fifty-year track record of providing excellent husbandry to the Disney World property. No one, not even DeSantis, has pointed to any mishandling of civic responsibility. The Disney World theme parks have fantastic safety records. The roads are in excellent condition, and guests love to visit the resort.
Disney has filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the governor. The New York Times quoted a legal authority that chances are good that Disney will win the suit. The problem is that DeSantis wants blood. He’s challenged agreements between Disney and the old board and is threatening additional safety inspections for Disney attractions that other operators don’t have to endure. He’s also threatened to build a state prison next to the complex.
As I see it, if DeSantis succeeds and Disney’s business is hurt, Orlando will be the big loser. Disney, on its own, brings over $55 Billion into the state. Well over 150,000 people depend on the resort for their living. Why would a governor and his pet legislature want to break this money machine? He might be upset that the former Disney CEO criticized the anti-gay law passed in the state. I can understand that. But what he did is like killing your cow because it kicked over a milk bucket. The Walt Disney Company is a global enterprise. It doesn’t depend on its Florida operations to stay in business.
Would you elect the man who tried to kill his own state’s economy as president of The United States? DeSantis makes Trump look good