Editor's Note: This is a part of a series of stories on how mayor and council hopefuls would address various municipal issues
Vince Hernandez is the quintessential educator.
Campaign questions about the Manteca Redevelopment Agency are a teachable moment for the eight year Manteca City Council member.
“There are people behind those three little letters,” noted Hernandez who oversees psychological services at the San Joaquin County Office of Education.
One of them is Steven Aguilar who works as operations manager of Milliard Refrigeration Services in Spreckels Park. His is one of over 2,000 jobs that an initial Manteca RDA loan of $8 million - that was paid back ahead of schedule with interest - helped make possible after the Spreckels Sugar refinery was shuttered costing the community 120 jobs.
The 1996 Manteca High graduate had been commuting to a job in Tracy. But as Hernandez noted Millard allowed Aguilar to also work where he lives.
Hernandez is one of four candidates vying for two council seats in the Nov. 2 election. The others are fellow incumbent John Harris as well as challengers Samuel Anderson and Richard Behling.
“We had to have sites that were ready to develop if we wanted to get employers to locate here,” said Hernandez. “That’s where RDA came in.”
No one wanted to take a chance on the project because of concerns about possible soli contamination and the expense of demolishing the factory and the four 15-storyconcrete silos. There was also concern about the need to rework the land that included enough lime - that was used to extract sugar from sugar beets - to meet San Joaquin County agricultural needs for 75 years. The developers invested more than $1 million in their own money in tests and were able to pay for the demolition and some initial infrastructure but banks still weren’t willing to loan money on the project. That’s where the RDA loan came into play.
Hernandez grew up literally next door to the sugar plant in the Powers Tract neighborhood.
Seeing Millard and other employers instead of a vacant and blighted shuttered sugar plant is proof- as far as Hernandez is concerned - that RDA money is being spent effectively.
Millard started Manteca operations in August of 2005. They have 50 employees working out of a 325,000-square-foot cold storage distribution center on DuPont Court that can keep food as cold as 28 degrees below.
“It (the landscaped berms along Spreckels Avenue) was designed so you can’t even tell what’s behind them when you drive by,” Hernandez added.
Millard uses both rail and trucks with some 57 dock doors.
As such, the RDA investment created secondary jobs in the trucking industry.
There are about 300 trucks a week moving up to 7 million pounds of frozen food in and out of the facility. Next month is the busy time when approximately 125 trucks per day will make their way to Millard due to Foster Farms storing and shipping over 22 million pounds of frozen turkeys.
Other products and manufacturers include ice cream (Berkeley Farms, Baskin-Robbins), poultry (Cargill, Foster Farms, Zacky Farms), vegetables (Cebro Frozen Foods), baked goods (Dawn Foods, Otis Spunkmeyer), fruit (Dole), cheese (Lepino, Little Caesars), and seafood. A partial list of customers includes Food 4 Less, Costco, Safeway, Sysco Corp., Save Mart, Lucky, FoodMaxx, and Wal-Mart.
Next door to Millard on former Spreckels Sugar land is Terrill Transportation.
The company has 99 employees with 42 residing in Manteca.
They are in the rear half of the same massive tilt-up that also houses ADPS Packaging that packages a variety of food items including wines.
Terrill Transportation sends about 300 trucks a month out of Manteca. They handle non-perishable and perishable (frozen and refrigerated) packaged goods for the grocery and drug store industries plus candy for school fundraisers.
Among their customers are C&S Wholesale, Costco Wholesale, CVS, Del Monte, Safeway, Vons, Super Store Industries (SaveMart and Raley’s), Walgreen, WinCo Foods, and Target.
Their trucks cover Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada and California.
“These are businesses and jobs that would not have located in Manteca if it hadn’t been for the RDA,” Hernandez noted.
He added the property tax increment from businesses such as Millard and Terrill Transportation made it possible for the RDA to finance the infrastructure needed to access the Stadium Retail Center as well as much of the Big League Dreams project.
That in turn freed up money to develop Woodward Park as well as allow the city to funnel funds into older parks such as Lincoln Park and Northgate park instead of trying to finance a softball complex like the one Tracy has in place.
Hernandez said without RDA and the investments made to date Manteca would be in worse shape than nearby communities instead of being in a better position financially. He added Manteca would lack many of the amenities it has today.