Wednesday, January 6, 2016

An In-Depth Look at Walt Disney World's Impact on Central Florida

By Keith Mahne

When Walt Disney began his search for the right place to make his dreams come true, he used a variety of criteria to make his decision. Among them was the need for a place that promised a strong future. That place just so happened to be Central Florida. Believe it or not, with or without Walt Disney World, Central Florida's growth was inevitable, making this location the prime spot for Walt's dream. Let's explore and look back at Walt Disney World's impact and the close relationship Central Florida and the Mouse have had in today's new article that you won't want to miss...

Walt Disney walks on Walt Disney World property

Among the variety of criteria Walt used to make his decision for his next dream was the need for a place that promised a strong future. According to the Urban Land Institute, the Interstate 4, you know the one that's always PACKED with tourists and locals that runs along the south of WDW property, that corridor from Tampa to Daytona was expected to become one of six megalopolises by the year 2000. Boy was that prediction spot on!  It was an ideal place where millions of people would share the vision and the fun.

Roy O. Disney looks over a map of WDW

The prediction of future stability and tremendous growth in Central Florida was corroborated by two additional separate studies conducted by Central Florida groups. The Orange-Seminole Joint Planning Commission study of 1965 predicted that the population of the area could reach one million in the 1990s - even before anyone knew about Walt Disney's "Florida Project." How prophetic they were...

Central Florida Population Growth Chart

An independent study done by a Washington, D.C. group for the East Central Florida Planning Council supported the idea. Their study showed that East Central Florida had the potential for more than doubling its employment, population and personal income in the 17 years between 1963 and 1980. They listed manufacturing, retail trade, services and government as the driving forces behind the growth. Tourism was not even considered part of the picture. You might be surprised to know that growth was inevitable in Central Florida - with or without the Walt Disney World Resort.

Some believe tourism is the best industry an area could hope to have. Tourists visit for a short time, they don't require schools or many typical government services, and they leave behind a clean environment and a considerable amount of money.

Walt Disney laid the groundwork for a strong tourism economy in Central Florida when he announced his plans for Walt Disney World...

(For your viewing pleasure, please be sure to pause the Disney Avenue Music Player in the top left-hand corner of the page if you are on the desktop version of the site.)

I have lost count of how many times I've watch the video above and can tell you that it never gets old. Walt told state and local government officials and business leaders what he wanted to build in Florida:

  • A theme park
  • Hotels and motels for tourists
  • A large recreation area 
  •  Residential developments
  • An industrial park
  • An airport of the future
  • EPCOT, a community of tomorrow
  • A 30-story hotel and convention center
  • A high-speed rapid transit system across the property
  • Theaters
  • Shopping areas
  • Office buildings - for area business as well as for Disney personnel

Most important to Walt and his plans for the Florida property was a MAJOR goal he had. Walt wanted to ensure that taxpayers would not be burdened with the costs of providing and maintaining essential public services and infrastructure required to operate the Walt Disney World Resort. State and local governments agreed a special taxing district would be beneficial, so Reedy Creek Improvement District was created. It is an independent governmental entity which collects taxes from property owners in the district. Everything was falling into place to make Walt's EPCOT city a reality, the real reason for Walt Disney World...

Walt Disney's dream was born in his belief that private industry could successfully develop a large area of land with responsible planning procedures that would protect the environment and ensure that development would complement its natural surroundings. My God, if he only lived 10 more years. Could you imagine the things he would have done? Although Central Florida was destined for growth, Walt's decision to build his next dream has, without a doubt, affected the reason as to why Central Florida is so beloved today. It's because the world knows that this location is where Walt Disney's final wish resides and, for that one reason alone, Central Florida has been positively impacted for eternity.

For more insight and history into Walt Disney World's impact on Central Florida, we have a tremendous program to share with you. In it we'll see some wonderful, vintage shots of the Resort and hear from the actual men and women who made it possible in Florida. Friends, please enjoy this Disney-produced 1981 television special that was broadcast in Florida and that chronicles WDW's origins and first ten years...

(For your viewing pleasure, please be sure to pause the Disney Avenue Music Player in the top left-hand corner of the page if you are on the desktop version of the site.)


Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true everyday.

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