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Is Manteca economy warming up?

Signs spring up showing private sector confidence is growing

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Is Manteca economy warming up?

The vacant Mervyn’s store is being prepped to reopen this fall as a Burlington Coat Factory Store.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED February 23, 2012 12:34 a.m.

It’s not exactly the roaring early 2000s but there are signs Manteca’s economy is starting to pick up steam.

• Woodbridge Apartments - a 128-unit garden apartment complex with a 3,800-square-foot community center with swimming pool and spa is in the approval process for the northeast corner of Lathrop Road and North Union Road east of the Woodbridge Shopping Center.

•Burlington Coat Factory and Dollar General are getting ready to open stores in buildings that have been vacant for years.

• F&M Bank is moving forward with plans to break ground on a new branch building at Alameda Street and North Main Street.

• Taxable retail sales are up.

• Small retail is showing signs of bouncing back. The center with the former Mervyn’s store on South Main Street has been a virtual ghost center since 2008 when the retailer shut its doors leaving only a handful of businesses.  In the past year, though, new businesses have opened including Main Street Doughnuts, Manteca Computer Service, and Toni & Guy’s Hair Academy with Burlington Coat Factory opening this fall.

• The shuttered Indy Car Wash at Cottage and Yosemite is being reopened soon complete with expanded parking and a bakery.

• There is only one vacant space left in the Stadium Retail Center.

• McDonald’s is preparing to build two new locations - one at Airport Way and Daniels Street and a replacement location for its East Yosemite Avenue store that will be built at Commerce and Yosemite.

• Chick-Fil-A will be opening a fast food restaurant later this year at Airport Way and Daniels Street.

Mayor Willie Weatherford, while noting the economic malaise of unemployment at just fewer than 14 percent in Manteca and foreclosures that have yet to move through the system and re-sales are still serious drags, said he is cautiously optimistic that 2012 will be the year that things start moving.

“There’s a lot of election year talk that the economy is out of recession but we still have a ways to go,” Weatherford said.

Weatherford, though, is optimistic when it comes to Manteca’s future.

“Investors know where Manteca is,” Weatherford said of the growth of the past 10 years that included landing Bass Pro Shops, a Del Webb community, and Big League Dreams.

Other area elected officials have repeatedly told Manteca that they are impressed with how the city has weathered the past four years and had positioned Manteca for when the economy starts moving forward.

Among them was Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston. During a presentation on Delta issues last month, she lauded Manteca for the amount of investment from the private sector they had managed to attract compared to other cities in the region. Manteca, for example, has continued to build about 300 new housing units a year while cities such as Stockton have been at a pace less than half of Manteca’s numbers.

Weatherford views Burlington Coat Factory’s decision to open a Manteca store in the former 55,000-square-foot Mervyn’s building on South Main Street as a particularly encouraging sign.

“We’ve had a lot of inquiries about it but it is too small for a box and too large for a smaller box store,” the mayor said.

Complicating the outlook was the abundance of developable retail space along the 120 Bypass. There was a concern that the center would slip into blight as growth occurred. Now with Burlington Coat Factory opening up, there will only be three vacant store fronts left in the center.

Dollar General is opening in the vacant Walgreen’s store at Alameda and North Main Street later this year across the street from where the F&M Bank will break ground.

“It’s definitely encouraging,” Weatherford said of Burlington Coat Factory and other positive retail developments.

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