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Distribution will keep Manteca jobs truckin’

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POSTED August 12, 2010 2:03 a.m.
Manteca’s future is in distribution.

That is not a bad thing.

High tech electronic jobs - that many people tend to clamor for Manteca to land - are “glamorous” but they aren’t realistic for the valley and neighboring communities.

History has proven that.

If you doubt that, drive east on Industrial Park Drive from South Main Street past the building that once housed Uniphase (the makers of retail scanning tubes) until you get to the copper mine on your right.

The only economic activity in this building for the past decade or so has been the homeless who have stripped it of virtually all of its copper wire. It once housed upwards of 700 electronics workers. The names of the companies with operations in the building changed constantly with the likes of Olin Interconnect, Indy Electronics, and Alphatec.

Manteca was essentially picked by all of those firms to take advantage of lower valley wages. Then, as the world became more competitive, Manteca just became an interim step to shipping those jobs off shore to Third World countries.

Even though the jobs were in Manteca, the vast majority of those filling positions were from Stockton and Modesto.

Pay wasn’t all that decent except for supervisors and management. Of course any job should be appreciated for what it brings to the community. However, electronic jobs that Manteca could make a pitch for are so fickle that it is like rolling the dice when it comes to longevity being more than a year or so. Today’s bottom line is even more blunt. The type of electronic jobs that once employed hundreds in Manteca isn’t being done much - if at all - on United States soil.

Manteca and Tracy might be able to snare one or two small start-ups or suppliers but not much more. There has been a lot of jaw-boning about synergy and lower labor costs but the jobs powering high tech today are in places where those driving the market changes want to gather which includes the Silicon Valley and Colorado. It is much about the lifestyle needed to keep and attract the whiz kids that power firms today as it is about feeding off synergy.

As much as anyone likes Manteca and the surrounding communities, it isn’t exactly on the top 10 list of where young research and development techies would want to live.

Companies such as Hewlett-Packard, NEC, and Intel went to the Sacramento area to get higher levels of production out of the Silicon Valley where people in good times would cross the street for 25 cents more an hour. Again, those jobs aren’t exactly expanding in the United States today. Roseville and Folsom - where those firms ended up providing thousands of jobs - were attracted by the lifestyle and location - similar calling cards Manteca has - but they also had an ace in the hole in the form of less expensive public power than PG&E offered which is also the case of the Silicon Valley.

And if that isn’t enough to convince you that electronics firms should be taken off any potential wish list of Manteca employers, just look around at what the market is saying.

Distribution rules the roost. That is why two major business parks than can offer footprints for a million square foot distribution centers  are moving through Manteca’s approval process.

Yes, there are some vacant buildings when it comes to larger spec building spaces. But firms don’t move ahead to add inventory in this day and age without concrete market research.

In terms of distribution, Manteca has it all: Quick access to three key California freeways, two intermodal rail yards within 10 minutes including Union Pacific that is quadrupling its truck to train yard, a nearby seaport, and Stockton Airport right next door.

It also helps that those freeways - Interstate 205, Interstate 5, and Highway 99 - allows Manteca-based distribution centers to access 17 million consumers within a 100-mile radius.

Distribution operations pay decent wages. They also offer better stability although they flow and ebb with the economy just like the trucking industry. They also don’t cost a ton of public infrastructure to support. Water use is virtually nil save some restrooms, break rooms, and landscaping.

Manteca can wish and hope all they want but the job future in this community is anchored to distribution and its cousin employer - the trucking industry.
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