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Tracy & Lathrop are cleaning Manteca’s clock

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POSTED July 17, 2017 1:12 a.m.

So why is Tracy, Stockton, Lathrop cleaning Manteca’s clock when it comes to landing distribution jobs?

The real question should be why is Manteca worried about Tracy, Stockton, and Lathrop getting more truck traffic?

Booster-ism aside, who really cares where the jobs go in the South County as long as they are in an easy 20-minute commute of Manteca? 

There is a little touted fact about “jobs” and who fills them. Indy Electronics back in the late 1980s was Manteca’s biggest employer with 750 workers. The building in Manteca Industrial Park today is vacant. But in its heyday the vast majority of the workers came from not Manteca but Stockton. Ask around. You may be surprised at the number of your neighbors that work at Tesla, United Parcel Service, JC Penney, Orchard Supply Hardware, Safeway, Fresh Express and other firms in Tracy, Lathrop, and Stockton.

Manteca’s elected leaders — at least several of them — are irked the San Joaquin Partnership that they chip in $35,000 a year in local tax receipts to help lure jobs to the county haven’t managed to bring a significant number of jobs to Manteca. Call me wild-eyed, but if the Partnership brings jobs to Stockton, Lathrop, and Tracy that provide Manteca families with paychecks, isn’t that a big win for Manteca?

I am also a little confused.

Councilwoman Debby Moorhead is one of the architects of shaping Manteca’s current direction.

Let’s recap what that direction is based on the general plan the city adopted and actions the council has taken.

uThe city council dropped plans for an “A” level office complex — think Hacienda Park in Pleasanton — southwest of the future interchange of McKinley Avenue and the 120 Bypass. In its place, the city created zoning for more homes.

uInstead of pursuing a business park on city-owned land next to the wastewater treatment plant the city is pursuing a family entertainment zone.

uThe City Council has invested six years and more than $8 million in a bid to land an indoor water park, conference center as many as 750 hotel rooms, and amusement touches such as go-carts.

Unless there is something I’m not seeing, it would appear that Manteca’s leaders have placed their big bet on landing family entertainment jobs that are bullet proof from Internet-based commerce. Jeff Bezos may be good but not even he can deliver a family resort vacation via a United Parcel truck.

That’s not to say Manteca shouldn’t pursue business park style jobs. It is just that Manteca has a funny way of showing how high of a priority such job generation is in the overall scheme of things.  Manteca has six freeway interchanges — and adding a seventh. Not one of them directly serves a proposed business park. 

Before anyone gets on their high horse and says Manteca can add business parks elsewhere, take a quick look at Yosemite Avenue and Spreckels Business Park. Isn’t it just grand what it is like combining truck traffic, retail traffic, and residential traffic?

Manteca has a 30-year track record that makes it clear where industrial-style development stands. The infamous 3-2 Manteca City Council vote in 1989 that killed Yellow Freight’s attempt to build a major terminal on the southeast corner of Main Street and 120 Bypass interchange made it pretty clear what the city wanted south of the 120 Bypass and it wasn’t truck traffic.

Yellow Freight rejected an option to locate at the Airport Way and 120 Bypass interchange and located in Tracy instead. Ironically, a Bulletin reporter in the mid-1990s doing a story on Yellow Freight found that the largest share of drivers assigned to the Tracy terminal resided in Manteca.

The council majority at the time thought mixing truck traffic with planned residential development — this was before the first home was built in Woodward Park — would be a big mistake. They were right.

Manteca’s elected leaders need to stop trying to do the Texas Two Step and live with their decisions.

The Great Manteca Job Mecca — based on the hype elected leaders gave the Austin Road Business Park project that had a third of its 1,050 acres set aside for a business park with large distribution centers — is dead. That’s what happen when elected leaders stand by while the bureaucracy smothers a private sector investment plan by shifting into snail underdrive. It can still be revived but don’t count on it happening anytime soon.

That leaves the Airport Way corridor near the Union Pacific intermodal yard as Manteca’ best mouse trap to snag business park jobs tied into logistics and distribution. And as that shapes up, it looks more and more like it is going to rub residents the wrong way.

Tracy — pardon me for saying so — is doing it right. The Mountain House Parkway south of Interstate 205 does not have residential development. The McArthur Boulevard and I-205 interchange primarily serves distribution centers. The only “mistake” is the outlet center that is paying a big price for where it located. 

Lathrop has issues but its business parks for the most part are on top of Interstate 5. 

And in case no one hasn’t noticed, Manteca’s city leaders have given their blessing to at least 9,000 homes with a couple more thousand now being proposed.

Can Manteca justify committing $35,000 to the San Joaquin Partnership to try and bring jobs to the county even if the bulk end up in Tracy, Lathrop, and Stockton?

Let’s put it this way. Manteca residents have to work somewhere. It might as well be close to home.

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