A commitment letter could set the stage for the creation of 9,134 more jobs to chip away at Manteca’s 10.1 percent unemployment rate.
The letter from a major firm indicating it will be the seed project for the Austin Road Business Park and provide 600 jobs is a key? piece of the city’s application for a $3 million Economic Development Administration grant to make critical improvements to South Austin Road from Highway 99 south to handle heavy truck traffic.
Mike Locke, the former CEO of the San Joaquin Partnership instrumental in bringing 26,752 jobs to San Joaquin County cities since 1992, told the Manteca City Council during a special meeting Monday that the prospects are strong a firm will make a commitment to locate in the Austin Road project by sometime in January.
Locke is a consultant working with the Manteca-based Austin Road Business Park Partnership.
The partnership led by Bill Filios and Toni Raymus has employed two brokerage firms and another development company in a bid to secure companies to locate in the industrial/business park that is in the extreme southeast corner of Manteca’s city limits and several miles from downtown Ripon.
Several possible users have already been vetted by Manteca’s community and economic development personnel as part of the site selection process by companies. One specific user apparently has put Manteca on the top of its site selection list prompting the possibility of a letter of commitment being hammered out.
The partnership is specifically targeting distribution and related cluster industries, advanced manufacturing, and foreign import concerns.
The council on Monday approved making an application for the EDA grant designed to stimulate job development. The overall project at build-out is expected to create 9,134 direct jobs or an amount equal to about a third of the existing jobs in Manteca.
The letter of commitment, though, is needed for that application to get traction. If the letter is obtained within the next few weeks, the application could be processed by the EDA office in Santa Monica as part of the current quarter of applications. If not and it is obtained early next year, it can be part of the next round of applications that are screened in March.
Manteca leaders have already shared the Austin Road Business Park project with key EDA officials in Washington, D.C., during last years’ One Voice lobbying trip.
If the letter of commitment is obtained and the application obtains support from the Santa Monica Office it would then be vetted in Seattle in a bid to obtain final approval.
Locke said if the $3 million grant is obtained in the current round, construction of South Austin Road improvements could start by the fourth quarter of 2014.
The initial phase of public improvements such as streets plus sewer, water, and storm pipe systems to provide access and service to the business park is estimated at $6,264,590. It will cover work on Austin Road from the railroad tracks south to the actual business park portion of the 1,050-acre project.
Austin Road Business Partners will put up $2,433,800 to augment the $3 million grant being sought. That leaves under $800,000 that will come from development fees already collected on growth for the purpose of financing major streets and other infrastructure.
Those improvements are in addition to work that will start with the railroad crossing on Austin Road near the Highway 99 interchange in early 2014.
The widening of the railroad crossing is part of $10.4 million in upfront improvements to the Highway 99 interchange at Austin Road as well as South Austin Road that are being made to start development of the job-rich Austin Road Business Park in southeast Manteca.
The timeline calls for modifications to the Highway 99/Austin Road interchange ramps to start in early 2014. Work on the railroad crossing will be a separate project as well the upgrading of South Austin Road to federal standards to accommodate 53-foot long truck trailers. Breaking the road work into three segments allows the work to proceed faster.
The interchange modifications will cost $3.9 million. It includes traffic signals at Austin and Moffat, the off ramps that connect to Moffat, as well as the Austin and freeway ramps on the northeast side. The traffic lights at Moffat and Austin will be tied into the railroad crossing much as they are at Industrial Park Drive/Spreckels Avenue and Moffat.
Moffat will be widened to four lanes between Austin and Woodward Avenue.
The South Austin Road project will cost $6.4 million.
The investors will also be spending $13.9 million to put infrastructure and roads in place within the business park portion of the project.