LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Walt Disney Co. is delaying by more than three years the opening of a campus in central Florida to which 2,000 workers were being relocated from Southern California to work in digital technology, finance and product development.
Despite being targeted in recent months by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature, Disney officials said Thursday the delay had nothing to do with tensions with state officials. Instead, more time was needed to build the campus in the Orlando area and the company wanted to give workers additional time to adjust to the transition.
The new opening date for the Florida campus will be in 2026. The company’s giant theme park resort, Walt Disney World, will be located about 20 miles away.
“While a growing number of our employees, who will ultimately work at the campus, have already made the move to central Florida, we also want to continue to provide flexibility to those relocating, especially given the anticipated completion date of the campus is now in 2026,” Disney said in a statement. “Therefore, where possible, we are aligning the relocation period with the campus completion.”
In April, DeSantis, a Republican, signed into law a measure that dissolves in a year the private government Walt Disney World controls on its property. Passage of the legislation was viewed as punishment for the entertainment giant opposing a new Florida law that critics call “Don’t Say Gay.” The law forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
As the bill made its way through the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, Disney, a powerful player in Florida politics, suspended its political donations in the state, and LGBTQ advocates who work for the company criticized CEO Bob Chapek for what they said was his slow response speaking out against the bill. Some walked off the job in protest and called for a halt to the relocation plans.