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Sarasota-Manatee
Business Observer Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2020 1 week ago

Entertainment giant lays off large chunk of workforce

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Company relocated production headquarters to region in 2012.

PALMETTO — One of the largest employers in Manatee County, Feld Entertainment, has laid off a large chunk of its workforce in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Stephen Yaros, Feld’s senior vice president of media and global communications, declined to provide a figure on the total amount of people the company let go. Yaros, in an e-mail response to questions, said no Feld executives would be available for interviews, as “we begin the process of restructuring the organization.”

“Over the past few weeks the world has been racing to contain the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak,” the statement adds. “This has resulted in unprecedented and widespread government-mandated closures of public gatherings that forced us to shut down all Feld Entertainment tours. Although we hope to resume operations soon, there is no assurance of when that will happen. Therefore, we made difficult decisions to reduce the size of our workforce through company-wide layoffs.”

Through 2019 Feld had some 600 employees working out of its north Manatee County facility, according to the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. website. That makes it the fifth-largest employer in the county. The company had around 2,300 employees worldwide at the end of last year.

Feld Entertainment has also been one of the region’s corporate stars since it relocated its production headquarters to the region eight years ago from Virginia. Company executives, including CEO Ken Feld and COO Juliette Feld Grossman, have often boasted about the region’s strong talent base for a host of positions it has filled.

The company bought the former General Electric Co. turbine plant in Palmetto in 2012, a 580,000-square-foot complex on 46 acres, for $8.35 million. Over the next three years it then spent at least $20 million developing a full-scale production headquarters capable of housing a diversity of shows that range from monster trucks to ice skating princesses.

The company also reached a performance-based incentives deal with county and state officials worth $3.3 million over five years for 235 jobs. The firm’s hiring commitment for that deal was met early, Juliette Feld Grossman said when she spoke at the EDC’s 2019 annual update event, held at the sprawling Feld campus last November.

In addition to hires, Feld Grossman said the company generates significant business for Manatee County from show rehearsals, surpassing 700 rental cars and 10,000 hotel room nights a year.

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