Disney feud could completely undermine Florida’s non-diverse economy – a historical overview

The War on Disney is performative theater for Governor DeSantis, somehone who has regularly proved he is not in tune with Florida’s culture or history. But this battle is going to have terrible tangible impact on our economy.

Irrespective of how it is minimized by DeSantis backers, Disney’s presence in the Sunshine States is the single-biggest driver of our economy. And while any talk of Disney moving out of Florida is poppycock, further investment in the state could be halted. Dosney iconic CEO Bob Iger who returned to the job a few months ago has taken the rhetorical battle directly to DeSantis. In last week’s earnings call Iger made it clear Disney may not invest further in the state, costing us a potential $17 billion in economic impact.

Last month, Iger correctly said about DeSantis:

And that just seems really wrong to me, against any company or individual but particularly against the company that means so much to the state that you live in,”

By Cuauh34 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36749876

Florida History was completely altered by Disney’s decision to put an amusement park in Central Florida. A secondary factor was the space program, whose central staging ground was 40 miles down the road from Disney. But in time the tech and aerospace boom this state enjoyed in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s subsided. In fact, Florida could have rivaled California and Texas in terms of tech at one point, but eventually we had political leadership in the state less interested in these industries. The PC (Personal Computer) was in fact invented here in Florida, by Jacksonville native, that was a UF graduate and working in Boca Raton. But in time, Florida’s diverse economy retrenched and we were reduced to tourism and (over)development as our main drivers.

The state has always had beaches and from the 1920’s onward Miami became a bit of a cultural and tourist hub. Our citrus industry was our main economic driver from the 1880’s onward, and freezes in 1895 and 1983 were killers. But honestly, becahes became a bigger tourist attraction BECAUSE OF DISNEY (beaches alone didn’t attract a critical mass of outside tourists spending dollars here, but once you could package that with a Disney stay, things changed) . Foreign tour operators have been able to attract tourists to southern Florida on both coasts by packaging visits with trips to Central Florida amusement parks. Same for the Tampa Bay Area.

And does anyone really believe Universal, Legoland and whatever other amusement parks populate Polk, Osceola and Orange Counties would exist or be as viable without Disney? We did a Florida History Podcast not long ago about all the defunct amusement parks in Florida – Before Disney they came and they went with alarming regularity.

Disney has driven Florida forward especially in an era where citrus, tech and aerospace industries have fallen away. Not beaches. Not low-wage McJobs. Not phony tech schemes pushed by Crypto-obsessed Mayors. This is a deadly serious issue for Florida. Our economy lacks the high-end employers who invest billions like Texas or California have. Disney’s impact isn’t limited to who they employ or who visits their facilities. The entire economy of the state perhaps with the exception of the panhandle is directly or indirectly tied to Disney. It’s not an accident Florida took off economically in the early 1970’s after the Magic Kingdom opened. Disney’s presence impacted every other aspect of Florida, positively. A direct correlation to Disney coming to the state exists to us becoming a more vibrant, commercially-successful place.

A continued war against Disney could kill this state.

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