A ‘textbook example of successful economic development.’ How Feld is helping shape Manatee

Feld Entertainment properties has grown and prospered since consolidating its operations in Palmetto in 2013.

So said Juliette Feld Grossman, Feld’s chief operating officer and the keynote speaker Thursday night during the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation’s annual update.

A key to the company’s relocation to Palmetto was a 2012 economic development incentive agreement with Manatee County and the state for a combined $3.3 million paid over five years.

The agreement required Feld to make a capital investment of $20 million and create 235 jobs at 200 percent or more of the average annual Manatee County wage, the Bradenton Herald previously reported.

The company has bloomed since consolidating its operations in Manatee County, adding programs such as Monster Jam, Sesame Street Live, Trolls the Experience, Marvel Universe LIVE and Jurassic World Live Tour.

“There is no substitute for live entertainment. Everyone in the family gets to take part. It’s really accessible to folks,” Grossman said.

Among those trying on some of the Feld Entertainment wardrobe were, from left, Sharon Hillstrom, Chris Ciaccio, Mark Evans, Amber Green, Dom DiMaio, Tim Novak, and Mark Barnebey. The event was part of networking before the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation annual update. James A. Jones Jr.

Those new programs, along with older programs such as Disney On Ice and Disney Live!, helped the company reach 30 million people in 75 countries on six continents, with as many as 5,000 shows each year.

“It’s a great opportunity to show how appreciative we are of the community support,” Grossman said.

“We have exceeded all of our economic incentive requirements,” she said, adding that Feld’s Palmetto facility now has a creative workforce of about 600 locally and 2,300 worldwide.

Also, the company contributes 700 rental car dates and 10,000 hotel room nights a year in Manatee County, she said.

Feld’s economic impact over the next 20 years is estimated to reach $7.8 billion, Grossman said.

Sharon Hillstrom, left, and Juliette Feld Grossman had an onstage dialogue about the entertainment giant Thursday during the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation annual update. James A. Jones Jr.

Another factor in the company’s success has been the friendly, warm embrace from Manatee County in general, Grossman said.

“It’s about expressing our appreciation for how being here has helped us grow,” she said. “Consolidation has allowed the company to align itself and increase collaboration. It’s amazing to see the company come together.”

The economic incentives provided to Feld Entertainment and the results they produced are a textbook example of successful economic development, Bradenton Area EDC president and CEO Sharon Hillstrom said.

Feld has “knocked it out of the park,” Hillstrom said.

Feld also has helped the EDC make the argument that the Bradenton area is an excellent business location, she said.

Rex Jensen, president & CEO of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch., received the 2019 Rick Fawley Economic Development Award of Distinction Award. Shown above are, from left, Sharon Hillstrom, Jensen, Stu Henderson and Brian Volner. James A. Jones Jr.

“We are building the Bradenton brand as the business destination for the south Tampa Bay area. Economic development is a long-term process and not for anyone looking for instant gratification,” Hillstrom said.

Since 2009, the EDC and its partners have assisted 159 active and completed business projects, and more than $2 billion in expansions and business relocations, she said.

On Thursday, the EDC presented the 2019 Rick Fawley Economic Development Award of Distinction to Rex Jensen, president and CEO of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.

Stu Henderson of Fawley Bryant Architecture said the bold, confident, powerful vision that produced Lakewood Ranch also has produced the fastest-selling community in the United States.

Sharon Hillstrom, right, and Juliette Feld Grossman had an onstage dialogue about the entertainment giant Thursday during the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation annual update. They are sitting under a giant screen showing iconic Feld traveling shows. James A. Jones Jr.

Jensen, who became president of SMR in 2002 and CEO in 2005, deserves much credit for spearheading the success of the fully integrated, master-planned community, Henderson said.

For his part, Jensen said the award, named after Rick Fawley, was one of the most significant he has received.

“It’s a very high honor,” Jensen said.

Fawley, co-founder and partner in Fawley Bryant-Architecture, Interiors and Design, died at age 65 in 2015.

“Rick’s mark is all over Lakewood Ranch. He designed many of our most iconic buildings,” Jensen said.

In addition, Fawley was often a sounding board for SMR officials, as they developed their plans for the new community, Jensen said.

In other business, Kirk Boylston, president of LWR Commercial, who served as chair of the EDC for the past two years, turned over the gavel to new chair Brian Volner, senior director of Sarasota Private Trust Company.

For more about Feld Entertainment, visit

For more about the Bradenton Area EDC, visit