Terra Business Park in the early 1990s was envisioned at the Northern San Joaquin Valley’s answer to the venerable Hacienda Business Park in Pleasanton.
Pleasanton had managed to draw high-tech stalwarts such as PeopleSoft and AT&T by creating an employment center on top of a high profile interchange on Interstate 580 and surrounding it with high density housing and retail.
Manteca was hoping to do the same thing just south of the future interchange of McKinley Avenue at the 120 Bypass.
They had gone as far as specific planning on a map with a conceptual plan having an employment center at the heart of a massive oval surrounded by retail and high density residential before fading into traditional single family homes. The theory was it would appeal to high-tech employers.
Twenty-five years later, the Hacienda Business Park model per se is a no go.
In 2010, then Mayor Willie Weatherford noted, “the city can plan all it wants but it is really what the private sector can do with it.”
And the private sector determined Manteca is best suited for distribution to take advantage of being within 100 miles of 18 million consumers.
In June of 2011 the City Council approved Terra Ranch with its 212 single family homes and a 200-unit apartment that is on land that originally was a cog in the Terra employment center.
Several dozen acres were left for a smaller business park. But whatever develops it won’t be on the utopia scale that planners and developers once envisioned. At one point they fiddled with the idea of running electric trams down dedicated byways much like the separated bike paths to ferry employees from the heart of the business park to the Lathrop-Manteca Altamont Commuter Express passenger station.
Reshaping Terra also reflected a hard reality. High-tech jobs that power the Silicon Valley aren’t coming to the valley any time soon. And those that do come aren’t that stable.
A prime example was Indy Electronics that opened in the Manteca Industrial Park in 1980. At its peak, the firm employed 700 workers in basic production line work with most work barely better than minimum wage. A succession of electronic component assembly plants opened in the building including Alphatec and Turnkey Solutions. In each case, operations closed when companies were able to secure lower cost production sites in Mexico or overseas. The building on Industrial Park Drive has now stood vacant for more than 15 years and has been gutted of copper valued at an estimated $750,000 by transients and others.
The goal behind Terra was to employ large number of people in head-of-household jobs. But in reality, the Indy Electronics experience showed that wasn’t practical in Manteca. Meanwhile distribution centers came in with stable jobs — although in much lower numbers — plus expanded employment in the trucking industry. And in some case — such as the Ford Small Parts Distribution Center for the Pacific Coast — the jobs are definitely head of household with United Auto Workers scale compensation.
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