MANATEE COUNTY - With so much talk about the economy and job creation during this election, it's clear that money is on the minds of many. So where do things stand in Manatee County?
While the Suncoast's main industries typically revolve around the housing market and tourism, change is on the way. Local officials saying there's a new industry sweeping Manatee County, and we'll all reap the benefits.
“We call it advanced manufacturing. It’s one of our targeted sectors. The reason we go after that target is because we already have a significant concentration of advanced manufacturing in Manatee County, well over 300 manufacturers here,” says Sharon Hillstrom, President & CEO of Manatee Economic Development Corporation.
She says after the recession, the EDC had to focus on Manatee County's assets, and make the most of them in order to provide a more secure future. “We want to be sure that we are not going to lose our momentum and rely again on those two industries, which have been great industries traditionally, for our area; one is residential housing, and tourism…great, great sectors to have, but we need to balance and diversify our economy. So that is why we're going after those high-impact companies and helping those already here to stay here and expand as well.”
And along with some help from Manatee County government, the EDC recruited three manufacturing companies that will be opening their world headquarters in Manatee County next year.
“One is called Iriss, and that company manufactures infrared technologies. And they moved their global headquarters from the United Kingdom to Lakewood Ranch, and they're under construction right now,” says Hillstrom.
“The other one is called ISPG, which is a medical device manufacturer. They relocated here from Connecticut, and they're also under construction right now. Air Products is another company that was a great win for Manatee County. They've purchased some property directly across the street from Port Manatee.”
Air Products will create over 200 jobs in Manatee County over the next five years, and that's just the beginning. “When you hear us talk about projects like Air Products, there's a lot of indirect positions that come of a big company like that. Meaning if Air Products needs certain types of equipment or pieces of things they need for their different product, they might buy it locally, or we'll allow for other smaller businesses to spring up in the area,” says Cheri Coryea, Director of Neighborhood Services for Manatee County.
Beginning next year, the Greatest Show On Earth will also be manufactured right in Manatee County. “It'll be global headquarters of Feld Entertainment, so our entire worldwide operation, which operates in 70 countries around the world every year, will be headquartered out of this location, says Casey Rodgers with Feld Entertainment.
She says all of the company's offices will be at the old Siemens plant in Ellenton. That is where all of the shows Feld produces will be manufactured, rehearsed, and stored.
The company is in the process of a complete renovation totaling over $20 million. Phase One of the project will be complete in January, creating over 200 jobs within the next five years -- with the bulk being in 2013 -- and paying in excess of 200% of Manatee County's average wage. “We sell to China, we sell to South America, we sell to Africa, Australia, Europe, 70 countries every single year…we bring all that money back here to Manatee County,” says Rodgers.
And things don't end there. Hillstrom says Manatee County's economy is finally on the upswing. “I think we're finally realizing what our full potential could be and we're going after it in a big way. I would expect things to continue moving in an upward direction, and then our economy slowly coming along, as it is now.”
County officials say they still have an expectation to create 4,000 new jobs in Manatee County over the next 5-7 years, and they say they are all 115% above the average wage.