Bob Chapek, chairman of Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products for the Walt Disney Company, gave the keynote this year’s International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) expo in Orlando. While talking the company’s investments in new attractions around the world, he highlighted the pivotal role of the local business climate to those investment decisions:
“In fact, over the last several years, we’ve invested billions of dollars toward the development of attractions, transportation systems, hotels and more. And we’re only able to do that because Central Florida has been one of the most hospitable business environments in the country. At Disney we have many choices as to where we invest around the world, and it certainly makes these choices easier when your partners are like-minded. As a result of our relationship with the local government, we’ve been able to deploy capital in ways that not only enhance the visitor experience, but benefit the community through construction jobs, permanent positions, increased revenue through visitation and more.
In fact, last month’s announcement of an all-new major themed resort coming to Bay Lake, we now have four major hotel projects under construction here in Orlando.”
Disney is building projects in Orlando and cancelling them in Anaheim. Orlando provides a hospitable business environment, while Anaheim for the last two years has been governed by an adversarial majority continuously searching for opportunities to stick it to its largest employer and taxpayer.
Providing a friendly business climate can be as simple as ensuring some stability and communicating, through word and deed, that investment is welcome. Unlike the Central Florida region, for the last few years, Anaheim has done neither.
The Tait-Moreno majority was intent purging those seen as “too loyal” to the old majority. The result was the creation of “Unstableheim” as the chaos spurred the departure of experienced staff. At one point this year, Anaheim had an Interim City Manager, an Acting Police Chief, an Acting City Attorney, an Acting City Clerk, an Acting Human Resources Director and an Interim Deputy Planning Director.
This has somewhat worked itself over the last few months with the hiring of a new City Manager, City Attorney and Police Chief. But the chaos and instability tarnished Anaheim’s reputation, which needs mending.
It’s on the rhetorical side is where the real damage has been done. The tone and posture of Tait-Moreno majority has been antagonistic toward Disney and Resort businesses – attacking multi-billion dollar investments that would create thousands of good jobs as being exploitative, poverty- generating schemes that exacerbate social ills. The core of the outgoing majority’s leadership, Tom Tait and Jose Moreno, were hostile to the Resort. They made statements like “Anaheim would be better off without the new Disney Hotel” and “Disney and the Resort pay poverty wage jobs that place a huge burden on City services.” The Mayor actively conspired with a group of small hoteliers on Harbor Blvd to throw roadblocks in the way of Disney’s shelved Eastern Gateway expansion. He viewed a technical modification of the location of Disney’s 4th Anaheim hotel as an opportunity to pounce, not a problem to collaboratively solve.
Looking for opportunities to break good-faith contracts and demonizing the the city’s principal job creators and tax payers is hardly a stance that tells the world, “Come invest in Anaheim!”
Is it any wonder Disney cancelled the Eastern Gateway and their 4th hotel?
Disney has said that they cancelled their economic incentive agreements because they had become a source of controversy in the City, and that they would not seek new ones regardless of the Council elections. With this on the table, and a new majority in charge which seeks to use investment in the Resort to pay dividends in the neighborhoods, maybe we’ll see Bob Chapek praising the hospitable business environment in Anaheim.