While it is true that Disney was given a lot of leeway by Florida government, and the corporation basically has rule over two municipalities and "improvement districts," is the cost/benefit analysis really so one-sided?
For another look at Disney's contribution, I refer to a piece released last month by the Progressive Policy Institute. The PPI styles itself at the "'idea mill' for Bill Clinton's New Democrats," so we're not exactly talking about a strongly right-wing or pro-corporation think tank. In July the PPI published its list of Investment Heroes. These "Heroes" are the companies investing the most to build and expand in the U.S. As the report points out, "domestic business investment generates growth, raises productivity, increases wages, and creates jobs for Americans." Here is the list:
But you'll see that Disney comes in at a respectable 17th, investing about $3 billion domestically. The paper states that of that amount, $2.3 billion was spent on its U.S. theme parks. Granted, we know a good chuck went to revitalizing Disneyland (think Cars Land). Still, we're talking about over a billion dollars being spent in central Florida in 2011 alone. How many jobs did that create?
Yes, Professor is Foglesong is correct that Disney has been a lot of power, but nothing on the scale of WDW could be built (from the ground up, on otherwise unusable land) without that power. But as Disney has spent, and continued to spend--and build, and employ--it is difficult to argue that its neighbors have only been taken advantage of.