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Executives Speak Up for Disney Expansion Plan : Economy: New theme park's thousands of jobs are stressed at breakfast sponsored by group of corporations.


NEWPORT BEACH — A well-heeled crowd of Orange County business executives rallied in the main ballroom of a Newport Beach hotel Thursday morning in support of Walt Disney Co.'s proposal to build a second theme park and three hotels next to Disneyland.

Unlike past presentations about Disneyland Resort, the breakfast assembly at the Four Seasons Hotel was sponsored not by Disney but by Partnership 2010, an organization of Orange County corporations that footed the bill for the breakfast of sausage and waffles and the marching band that greeted the 300 sleepy-eyed executives at 7:30 a.m.

A series of speakers urged the assembled business leaders to write letters to elected officials and newspapers, and do whatever else they can to promote the Disney project.

Chapman University's president, in one of the first evaluations independent of the project, said the Disneyland Resort could add half a percentage point to Orange County's annual growth rate in the next few years and create more than 20,000 jobs. And that, the university's James Doti said, could lift the local economy out of recession.

Because of its size, Doti said, the $3-billion resort would be the first project with the potential for such a dramatic effect on the county economy.

Disney has said that the project would eventually create 27,900 permanent jobs. Doti said he sees the potential for 22,000 new jobs by the end of 1997--almost 30% more than would be created without Disneyland Resort--and a return to an annual growth rate of 5.3% that prevailed during the boom years of 1972 to 1990.

Another speaker, Fluor Corp. Chairman Les McCraw, drew a standing ovation after describing the state's listless economy and portraying the Disney project as a tonic.

"I believe Orange County and California are in deep trouble. I think it's deeper trouble than anyone wants to admit," McCraw said.

"We track all the projects of the world. There is no project in the world that creates this kind of economic advantage," said McCraw, whose company operates in 44 states and 80 nations. "There is no other project that creates 27,000 jobs. . . . I find it (incredible) everyone does not get behind this."

Though there has been little organized opposition to Disneyland Resort, Anaheim residents have raised questions about increased traffic, noise and other adverse effects. And nearby cities including Orange and Garden Grove have expressed concern that a population boom from workers moving to the area to take jobs at the Disney expansion would result in overcrowded schools, congested roads and a drain on municipal revenue.

The biggest obstacle for the project, in fact, has been figuring out who will pay for what. Disney is pushing for public funding for the necessary transportation, utility and other improvements, and for a shortcut through the regulatory procedure.

Ken Wong, senior vice president of Disney Development Corp., said at Thursday's rally that, unless the lengthy planning process can be shortened and necessary infrastructure ensured, the project may never be built. About $1 billion would be needed, he said.

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