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Manteca aims for construction, then permanent jobs within city
Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford, center, and his wife Sherilyn celebrate with well wishers on Nov. 2 after his election to a third four-year term. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Manteca could - in 2011 - become ground zero for construction jobs thanks to an aggressive effort by the city to move three projects forward in a bid to position the city to catch the first wave of the economic rebound when it occurs.

“No other city in the region has moved projects forward of the magnitude that Manteca has during the downturn,” City Manager Steve Pinkerton said last month.

Those projects include the:

•The $175 million Center Point business park being financed by the California Public Employees Retirement System in northwest Manteca adjacent to the Union Pacific intermodal yard. It will consist of four million square feet of distribution and is expected to yield 600 permanent jobs. That is in addition to 800 construction jobs. The project could start this year.

•The 1,037-acre Austin Road Business Park project just annexed to the southwest part of the city that is generally south of Highway 99 saddling Austin Road. Developers hope to be positioned within 18 months to take advantage of renewed interest of firms for expanding and consolidating distribution centers. Ultimately the project could create up to 13,000 jobs or close to 50 percent of the existing employment opportunities in the city.

•The proposed Great Wolf Resorts that could ultimately have a 600-room hotel, 70,000-square-foot indoor water park, and 60,000-square-foot convention center immediately west of Costco along the Highway 120 Bypass in addition to an adjoining 110-acre family entertainment zone. The Great Wolf Resort project is expected to create 500 permanent jobs plus 1,000 construction jobs. Developers hope to break ground by April.

“It was important that the city kept looking forward to generate jobs in the community,” Weatherford said of the past several years while staff was being reduced and the city was reigning in spending to eliminate a projected $11.9 million deficit.

The mayor credits the city’s “keeping the eye on the ball” - which is job generation - as one of the reasons all three incumbents were returned to office at a time the public’s mood was decidedly against incumbents from coast-to-coast.

 Weatherford said moving the two major employment centers plus a water park project forward was his motivation to seek a third term. He noted in all likelihood it will be his last four years on the council.

Also high on his immediate list is getting Manteca Police back up to 70 sworn officers. He is confident at least some of the positions will be restored this year thanks to a stabilization of property and sales taxes.