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Manteca fast tracks project in third of time
Supervisor Eddie Valles works on filling up the newly constructed pallet racks with flooring products inside the BR Funsten & Company’s expanded distribution center. Additional photos on page 3. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Call it the miracle on Industrial Park Drive.

An 86,430-square-foot expansion of BR Funsten & Company’s distribution center took less than five months to go from plan submittal to final inspection.

In the process the City of Manteca saved 130 jobs, protected a major source of sales tax, and got the attention of contractors and developers alike who have long cursed what they have called an “unresponsive” and “obstructionist” city hall bureaucracy.

But as Ron Helder – vice president for corporate strategy – will tell you, it’s a new day in Manteca.

“I’ve had employees who have dealt with the city before who have been nothing but frustrated,” Helder said. “This is an entire new experience.”

It is so impressive that the contractor, Balach Enterprises, that had avoided working in the Northern San Joaquin Valley like the plague for years due to the reputation of valley cities for being extremely hard to work with can’t wait to do another project in Manteca.

Typically, a project on the scale of the distribution center expansion would take a year or more to go through the Manteca review process in order to reach the point of completion. Community Development Director Mark Nelson and City Manager Steve Pinkerton pledged to help make sure it could be done by mid-December or in about a third of the usual 18-month time frame. The city beat that aggressive target by two weeks.

“It was a complete team effort of everyone involved at the city,” Nelson said.

All of the departments from fire to public works were brought together. The city looked at ways to expedite the project ranging from the environmental impact process, plan checks and permits as well as inspecting racks being assembled in the expansion area two rows a time instead of waiting until all were completed to allow the company to move in products.

Firm moved to
Manteca in 1997

BR Funsten was established in 1957 in San Francisco. They moved to Manteca in 1997 into the 108,000-square-foot building that originally housed Dana Auto Parts at South Main Street and Industrial Park Drive.

 The firm also owns the Tom Duffy Co. that includes a distribution center in Fairfield and a series of retail centers that cater to those who install flooring products.

Helder said the company wanted to take advantage of the economic downturn to consolidate distribution operations since construction costs were down.

They initially had a contractor drop by city hall to see what the costs would be to expand on the current site. When the engineer told them what the fees would be – in excess of $1 million – BR Funsten started looking at available buildings on Arch Road next to Lever Brothers in Stockton and put up a for sale sign.

Second Harvest Food Bank Executive Director Mike Mallory was driving to work when he noticed the for sale sign. Mallory mentioned it to his wife Suzanne who happens to serve as Manteca’s municipal finance director.

She knew how devastating such news could be – B.R. Funsten & Co. is in the top 10 for sales tax generators for Manteca and provides 120 local jobs. Suzanne Mallory relayed the information to Pinkerton who in turn called on B.R. Funsten to see if there was anything they could do to help convince them not to leave Manteca.

The city quickly determined misinformation had been given to the contractor and found the real fee costs were less than $400,000. Helder ran the city’s figures past an architect and determined it would cost less to stay put and expand.

Firm had tight
schedule to meet

The firm had a tight schedule, though. They needed to be out of the Fairfield location prior to year’s end when the lease expires. They also were renting 30,000 square feet on Moffat Boulevard in Spreckels Park that they didn’t want to extend a lease on into 2010.

Manteca broke the project down into various components. Grading started on July 15. They started trucking inventory from Fairfield to Manteca a week ago and expect to have everything in place by mid-December.

Work will finish by mid-January on an expanded office area that includes a 6,500-square-foot addition. The company is now planning to paint both the existing and new strictures to make them seamless in appearance.

“We have a phenomenal employee base here in Manteca,” Curt N. Thompson, president and chief operating officer for B.R. Funsten & Co., said during ground breaking ceremonies in June.  “Being able to stay in Manteca is great.”

Helder echoes Thompson’s observations saying they have a capable work force that is loyal and in his estimation better than what was available in Livermore.

That’s why when they contemplated moving they didn’t want to go too far as they didn’t want to lose their Manteca employees. He noted dependable employees are critical in a service orientated business that requires knowledgeable and on-time deliveries.

Thompson praised Manteca’s location that gives distribution centers a logistic advantage. Not only are is the city on the six-mile Highway 120 Bypass that connects with California’s so-called “Main Street” Highway 99 and the key north-south West Coast route in Interstate 5 but it also connects with direct freeway access to the Bay Area. Two major intermodal stations – Union Pacific next door in Lathrop and Santa Fe Railroad nine miles to the north are near Manteca as well. Although it isn’t a need for Funsten, there is also the Port of Stockton and Stockton Metro Airport for freight service within nine miles as well.

“Manteca is great for logistics,” Thompson said in June

As for the record time for moving the project along, Nelson said it is the new standard city staff will be shooting for.

“You can’t just say you are business friendly you have to be business friendly,” Nelson said.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail