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Sweet deals have taken Manteca ‘to the next level’

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POSTED December 22, 2009 1:39 a.m.

Taking Manteca to “the next level” over the past 100 years has taken vision and ingenuity.

It also took a bit of gumption surrounding communities seemed to lack for whatever reason. It also took willingness on the part of Manteca residents to tax themselves as well as to back leaders who were willing to make shrewd deals that critics blasted as giveaways.

The first bold move was creating not just the county’s first irrigation district but one that secured and developed superior water rights on the Stanislaus River.

The formation of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District literally gave birth to Manteca. The SSJID built dams and canals without a penny of state or federal money, a rarity in California. Farmland that could be irrigated drew thousands of people to the sandy plains.

That set in motion the deal of the 20th century. Sugar magnate Claus Spreckels had shipped 28,000 pounds of sugar beet seed from Germany in 1916 to South San Joaquin County. More than 50 farmers with access to irrigation planted in excess of 7,000 acres in sugar beets.

The sugar beets were of such a strong quality that Spreckels – after receiving shipments from Manteca at his other factories – sent a representative to San Joaquin County to pick a location for a factory. Spreckels’ people preferred two sites – one at Mossdale Crossing and the other in Stockton. The reason was simple. They could access both water and rail shipping.

Manteca’s leaders on the Board of Trade – the precursor to the city council form of government - made an offer Spreckels couldn’t refuse.

They gave up 449 acres – the site of the present-day Spreckels Park development – for the building of a factory. Stockton and Lathrop figured that they didn’t need to offer any enticements.

Manteca prevailed. It was the start of more than 75 years of prosperity for thousands of Manteca residents.

The same forward thinking came in the 1980s to 1990s with three critical decisions that were ahead of their time – at least for other cities in the Northern San Joaquin Valley region.

First, a majority of Manteca leaders declined to let developers dictate growth patterns. The decision to just say no to Yellow Freight set the stage for the current development patterns along the Highway 120 Bypass.

Second, the SSJID teamed up with Manteca and two out of district cities (Tracy and Lathrop), and secured arguably the most precious commodity in California: water.

The Nick DeGroot Surface Water Treatment Plant will assure Manteca a water supply equal to enough to serve 160,000 plus residents. Not many California cities have secured enough water to more than double their population.

Third, was the sales tax sharing deals that brought Bass Pro Shops and Costco to Manteca.

Just like the 449 acres offered up to Spreckels Sugar to get them to build here, the sales tax split has – and will – bring Manteca retail and the accompanying jobs and sales tax it would not have obtained.

Costco is a straight forward split for 10 years. It essentially stopped $600,000 in sales tax from going into the coffers of the cities of Modesto and Tracy where Costco has other stores. That is a statistic based on tracking Costco conducts every time a member using their card. Manteca’s Costco has also retained more sales tax as they are drawing from Ripon, Lathrop, and elsewhere. Even if the Manteca Costco is just getting $6 million annually in taxable retail sales, that generates $600,000 in sales tax that would have gone to Modesto or Tracy. That means for the next 10 years Manteca will receive half of the amount collected that would have gone to neighboring cities. After that it all stays in Manteca.

In addition Costco is generating a half cent for Measure M to pay for police. If sales are at least the minimum of what Costco projected, that means three officers are on the streets today thanks to Costco being in Manteca.

The 35-year split of sales tax with the developers of Orchard Valley is even more forward thinking. Most other cities such as Tracy or Roseville used redevelopment agency money or permanent sales tax splits to lure such retail from locating elsewhere.

Bass Pro Shops isn’t like a Wal-Mart. There isn’t one in virtually every town. Its 100-mile draw means little money spent there comes from Manteca consumers. Add the upscale outlet stores that will start opening in 2010 and you have a mega regional draw with more muscle than the Vacaville Outlets thanks to being paired with Bass Pro Shops and the 16-screen Kerasotes Showplace Theatre.

That means non-Manteca residents will be paying for general services in Manteca not to mention argument police and fire through the Measure M public safety tax.

Leaders who dare to aggressively think out of the box and a community willing to spend money to secure long-term prosperity has been a sweet deal for Manteca.


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