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Jobs: Build infrastructure & they will come

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Jobs: Build infrastructure & they will come

Millard Refrigeration Services in Spreckels Park.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED March 8, 2012 12:49 a.m.

Landing industrial employers and head-of-household jobs takes more than just a zoning map and wishful thinking.

That was what the Vision 2020 Task Force concluded in 1998 when it came to luring more private sector jobs in Manteca. A series of recommendations by the 26-member citizens committee to a large degree mirrored what the council had put in place just several years earlier in order to get the conversion of the 362-acre site of the shuttered Speckles Sugar plant into what ultimately would become the economic engine that drove Manteca’s job growth at the dawn of the 21st century.

Manteca used an $8 million redevelopment agency loan - that was paid back with interest ahead of time - to complete infrastructure such as streets, storm systems, sewer and water lines, and sidewalks within the Spreckels Park development.

AKF had managed to get users on the edge of the site along Moffat and Yosemite but no one would consider interior parcels because they weren’t able to build quickly on them.

The success the developer and the city experienced in landing big employers such as Ford Motor’s distribution center, Millard Refrigeration and Dreyers Ice Cream became the cornerstone of Manteca’s development strategy.

Spreckels Park, to date, ha generated nearly 2,000 jobs.

It’s the same approach the city used in developing the Manteca Industrial Park in the 1970s.

The struggle to extend infrastructure is key to making projects work regardless of their location in Manteca. The decision by Sunnyvalley Meats and Dirksen Freight located next to each other on West Yosemite Avenue made it more cost effective for them to extend sewer and water lines from nearly a mile away.

Development agreements will allow the firms to be reimbursed by other landowners as growth occurs. But in the struggle to land bigger firms especially when other communities have industrial parks with infrastructure in place, Manteca realized it had no choice but to make improvements in order to land jobs.

Economic enticements are also part of the game. The task force noted some cities give tax breaks while others used RDA money to “buy down” fee costs for new employers building in a community.

One of the first things the city did was restructure the Public Facilities Improvement Program (PFIP) fee cap as recommended by the Vision 2020 Task Force. Instead of uniformly applying a fee cap across the board for industrial projects, the city adopted a sliding scale that makes it more enticing for firms to locate in Manteca that generate large numbers of job per gross acre, have higher pay and benefits than standard jobs, significantly increase property values and have relatively little demand on infrastructure.

The other major recommendations the Vision 2020 Task Force made for economic development and their status included:

• anticipate the demand for industrial growth by developing sites in advance of business and industry interest as the city did with RDA funds at Spreckels Park.

• restructure the PFIP fee cap to encourage favored business.

• collect economic development data.

• establish a specific economic development marketing plan for Manteca.

• expand the business development loan program.

• increase the awareness of economic and redevelopment programs available through the city to assist local businesses.

• promote a “can-do” attitude among city staff when working with new and existing business,

• determine the need for and establish, if necessary, a business incubator.

Most of the recommendations have been implemented although the state pulling the plug on redevelopment agencies has rendered some city strategies impotent.

And although the city gets strong marks for working on having a “can-do” attitude the city still draws criticism that it hasn’t gone far enough to reduce processing delays for business and red tape.

Task Force Vision 2020 member Tom Wilson is among those who give the city credit for making improvements but believes they still have a ways to go to be truly business friendly.

The business incubator idea was toyed with but essentially dropped.

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