When Sonny Dhaliwal came to Lathrop in 1996, the Starbucks where he often holds court when he meets with constituents was nothing more than a dirt lot.
Now, just two decades later, the popular coffee shop is just one of a handful of businesses inside of the Harlan Road shopping center that also brought the community its first chain grocery store and the first store of its kind since Delta Market – founded by the Lum Family – was sold more than a decade ago.
As he sips on his coffee after meeting with two residents on a Monday afternoon, Dhaliwal – who was just reelected to the mayor’s seat for the second time to extend his service on the Lathrop City Council beyond the decade mark – is optimistic about the city’s bright future and its emergence as one of San Joaquin County’s economic drivers thanks his work and the work of the council and city staff.
“You look at Lathrop and Manteca and Tracy and the South County is really the economic driving force of San Joaquin County with all of the growth,” Dhaliwal said. “We’ve seen a lot of big things come to the community in recent years, and there are still big things on the horizon.”
In the last two years that Dhaliwal has been at the helm, the City of Lathrop has added a Kraft Heinz Distribution Center – located in the old Pilkington glass manufacturing facility on Louise Avenue that was shuttered in 2013 – as well as a UPS Distribution Center that could bring as many as 800 jobs when all of the hiring is completed.
When coupled with Tesla Motors – who reclaimed an old Mopar Distribution Center and has plans on expanding the facility to keep up with demand for the affordable Model 3 Sedan – and other businesses who appreciate Lathrop’s location in relation to the Bay Area, I-5 and Highway 99, the city continues its push to bring jobs that will cater to the growing community.
And when it comes to houses, Lathrop is on the verge of a growth explosion.
With more than 6,000 homes slated to be built as part of the recently approved Central Lathrop Specific Plan, and more than 11,000 homes coming to River Islands, the number of homes in the city will more than quadruple when everything is built out.
All of that growth, Dhaliwal said, means that the retail that people often tell him they want to see in their city will be coming, and remains a priority of the council.
“Most of the people who shop need to do so out of the community, and with the growth that we have coming we’ll be able to attract retail opportunities,” Dhaliwal said. “When I go to these retail conventions the one thing that these companies always tell is that we need more rooftops, and they are coming.
“We remain committed to bringing retail opportunities to Lathrop, and we’re going to focus on expanding he Target shopping center and other places in the community as well.”
According to Dhaliwal, plans to bring a Home Depot location across the street from Target may still come to fruition, and other priorities are also being looked at.
With the city’s expansion raising its profile from an economic standpoint, Dhaliwal also said the city plans on using its enhanced position to ensure the city gets its fair share of regional transportation project funding that just recently went to build the two at-grade crossings on Lathrop Road to ease congestion on the thoroughfare. Two projects that will require funding, he said, will be the redesign of the Louise Avenue and Lathrop Road interchanges on Interstate 5 – which could require federal funding as well because of the magnitude of the work involved.
And while it’s not necessarily an issue that the city planned for, ensuring the safety of the students that walk underneath the interstate to get to Lathrop High School every day, he said, remains a priority.
“It wasn’t something that we expected having to deal with, but it’s something that we are committed to,” said Dhaliwal – noting that students were being bused to the campus when it opened. “We’ve spent city money putting in a sidewalk down Harlan Road and a sidewalk under the freeway to ensure the safety of the students, and we’re hoping to work with Manteca Unified School District to ensure that it remains a priority.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.