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SMR CEO/president earns Builder magazine 'Legend' award

Rex Jensen
Rex Jensen
Photo by Lori Sax
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With the announcement on Friday that he is being honored by Builder magazine with its "Legend Award," Schroeder-Manatee Ranch CEO and President Rex Jensen said the award needs to go to Lakewood Ranch.

"This is a prestigious award," Jensen said Friday from the company's headquarters in Lakewood Ranch. "But I view it as going to the community. It shows that people are noticing, and it indicates the brand is what I thought it is. There is a fine line between hallucination and this."

It certainly has not been a hallucination that Lakewood Ranch has been the No. 1 selling, master-planned, multigenerational community in the country for the past five years, and the first half of 2023.

Builder magazine is owned by Zonda, which informs, advises and connects housing industry experts. Zonda is hosting its Future Place event at the JW Marriott in Tampa and will honor Jensen at the conference on Monday.

“The Legends Award honors those who have made outstanding contributions to the planned-community sector,” said Jeff Meyers, chief executive officer of Zonda, in a release. “Rex Jensen’s career (he began working for SMR in 1990) is an inspiration for everyone in the industry, let alone the tens of thousands of people who have built their lives in his communities.”

“Rex has played a crucial role in ensuring Lakewood Ranch stays innovative and up to date with the latest design, development, styles, trends, and business models – reflecting his dedication to delivering high-quality, modern, and desirable communities,” said John Cannon, president of John Cannon Homes, in a release.

Jensen pointed to "lifestyle" as the top factor that has lifted Lakewood Ranch to being No. 1 in the nation in sales for such an extended period of time. He also said the underpinnings of the community have set it apart.

Part of those underpinnings has been SMR's financing arrangement with builders who pay part of their land purchase up front but aren't required to pay off the purchase until after their first home is sold.

Jensen said it creates a win-win situation because builders can invest more into the building of the new community. 

Many of those builders have worked with SMR for more than 20 years.

"If you have a good relationship, why trash it?" Jensen said.

Jensen also noted that SMR could have been successful just creating a retirement community.

"But we elected to be more than that," he said.

With Manatee County commissioners voting this week to reduce its wetland protections, Jensen said SMR always has been environmentally conscious.

"Protecting the environment, we just did it," Jensen said. "It's not hard. If you stop and think about it, we were dealing with square miles. We've preserved from Day One. If we hadn't done it that way, it would have looked like a plowed under corn field in Iowa. We leave (wetlands) in place and develop around them. In many cases, we have restored them to pristine state.

"Nobody needs to lecture me on protecting and maintaining the environment," he said. "That is something this community was built on."



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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