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Manteca-Lathrop’s next economic boom is coming down the tracks

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POSTED March 28, 2013 1:43 a.m.

They’ve been working on the railroad – and for good reason.

America is in the midst of a railroad boom. It has everything to do with the economic recovery, rising overseas production costs, the shale oil boom, efficiencies in fuel and goods movements, and reducing carbon footprints.

Railroads this year alone are expected to pour $14 billion into infrastructure to make train movements more efficient from coast to coast. Freight demand is projected to double railroad revenues to $27.5 billion by 2040.

And positioned to take full advantage of the economic benefit from the surge in rail traffic are Manteca and Lathrop.

Union Pacific is moving forward in the coming months with a major expansion of the intermodal train-to-truck facility wedged between the two cities on Roth Road. The project will increase container movements 2.5 times to 700,000 a year. Just 10 miles northeast of Manteca on Austin Road is the Santa Fe intermodal facility.

This means increased train movements. It also means more truck traffic taking containers to and from the intermodal yards.

That doesn’t sound advantageous at first glance. It will translate into more train crossings being blocked by trains as well as more trucks on the road.

But that’s only half the story.

The surge in rail is being driven by the economics of on-time delivery and reducing transportation costs. Trains can move a ton of goods 500 miles on one gallon of fuel. That’s three to four times more efficient than trucks. It is one reason United Parcel Service and even Federal Express are shifting more and more of their package movements to rail.

Companies that specialize in taking apart and repackaging goods, assembling inventory for distribution to stores, or even take fresh produce and repackage such as salad kits can reduce transportation costs substantially by locating near intermodal operations.

It is why CenterPoint in northwest Manteca being developed across the tracks from the Union Pacific intermodal facility is attracting significant interest. Work has already started to get infrastructure in place so that when deals are made construction can start immediately on parts of the planned 3.1million square feet of distribution-style operations. CenterPoint is being bankrolled by CalPers and has the promise of 600 permanent jobs.

It won’t just be a boom to CenterPoint.

Remember why Bass Pro Shops picked Manteca? It was due to two major factors: It is the third-largest 100-mile radius market in the United States with 18 million consumers within 100 miles topped only by Los Angeles, and New York-Long Island. And it has direct connections to the three key freeways that access those 18 million consumers.

Add 35 million consumers accessible within eight hours by truck from San Joaquin County. For good measure you can add the Port of Stockton that will soon have significant container movement from the Port of Oakland via the Maritime Highway employing barges through the Delta. Then there’s Stockton Airport.

All of that will help fill Austin Business Park with its promise of up to 13,000 jobs, fuel business park development along the Airport Way corridor, and bring additional distribution to Lathrop and around Stockton Airport.

This is all happening due to long range planning on the part of cities and the private sector. Simply having the location and transportation modes isn’t enough. You need to secure water and you need to have sewer and such to support business park development.

All of this will help Manteca and Lathrop strengthen the regional economy by relying on three major components – Bay Area commuter dollars, agriculture, and distribution.

In short, Manteca and Lathrop are positioned to be on board when the next major economic surge pulls out of the station.



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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