Manteca is part of the grocery store revolution once again.
Twenty years ago, JDS Uniphase manufactured some of the world’s first supermarket scanners in the Manteca Industrial Park. The industrial park also hosted a handful of electronic firms such as Indy Electronics.
As the use of scanners exploded, competition heated up. By December of 2002, the Manteca plant was closed with the jobs sent overseas to Singapore.
Since then, the 1970s-era industrial park has become primarily a small distribution and service company center.
The times, though, are a changing.
Manteca is again part of the cutting edge of grocery store technology.
And it means jobs are coming to Manteca.
Ecologic Brands is marking the opening of their new 60,000-square-foot Manteca facility today in the Manteca Industrial Park, just around the corner from the former JDS Uniphase location.
It is a big thing on many levels.
The Eco Bottle that company founder Julie Corbett introduced in 2008 is the greenest among green packaging. The Eco Bottle is essentially a molded paper bottle with a plastic pouch inside. This has led to an incredible 85 percent recycling rate for the containers compared with 10 percent for plastic overall.
The outer shell is made of 100 percent recycled cardboard and newspaper. Besides being able to be recycled up to seven times, the shell is compostable. The inner pouch consists of No. 4 LPE plastic that uses 70 percent less plastic than conventional plastic jugs. The No. 4 plastic is typically recycled with plastic bags and therefore reduces volume waste.
It also helps food processors, such as those bottling milk and juices, save a lot of green since they are no longer paying to truck air.
Shipping air is problematic for firms that need to package what they make.
Conventional plastic containers take up just as much space empty as they do after they are filled with juice or milk.
Ecologic Brands has solved that problem with unique containers that are shipped in pieces as a kit that are then quickly put together to become sturdy, user- and environment-friendly containers. After the bottles are emptied they are easily compacted, taking up significantly less space in the recycling collection system.
Initially this means 30 jobs in Manteca. That could hit 100 jobs as production ramps up from 6 million to 60 million containers a year.
Ecologic Brand chose Manteca for several reasons. There was an existing building available that allowed them to get production going within months. Manteca is also close to the Highway 99 and Interstate 5 freeways — the two key West Coast freight corridors — as well as being within 15 minutes of two major truck-to-train railroad operations. Plus, there’s the Port of Stockton.
That said, the Oakland-based firm has been more than pleased with how nimble Manteca municipal staff has been to help them get up and running. Company marketing manager Jack Wei in April noted how impressed the firm was with Manteca’s business-friendly approach compared to various cities in the Bay Area that they explored for possible plant sites.
Credit that to the wisdom of the Manteca City Council not to shed the job of economic development specialist during the Great Recession. Much larger cities jettisoned their economic development staffs in the wake of the state’s decision to pull the plug on redevelopment agencies as well as declining municipal revenues.
Dom Smail, the city’s economic development specialist, acts as a business ombudsman of sorts. The idea is for firms looking to locate in Manteca or expand their operations to contact him first. That way he can identify the right steps they need to take when dealing with city departments, as well as to suggest ways they could move projects forward quicker and cheaper.
“Time is an important commodity,” Smail said in regards to the opening or expanding of a plant. Delays cost money. And then there is the need for firms to get up and running as quickly as possible to serve their clients.
Smail also works at trying to attract business to Manteca. He is playing a role in the $200 million Great Wolf Resort project that could come to Manteca. He has also helped with the relocation of firms impacted by the Highway 99 widening.
And then there is the critical role of working with developers trying to bring jobs to business parks. One example is an effort by Union Pacific to establish a beach-head in Manteca for the packaging of fresh produce grown in the region for shipping to markets year-round back East. Such operations near Fresno have generated solid, year-round employment.
Smail sees Ecologic Brands as a unique opportunity for Manteca.
Firms that are either clients or prospects will be sending representatives to the Manteca plant from as far away as Switzerland. Smail says it puts Manteca on companies’ radar for future expansion.
Getting key people to physically see what Manteca has to offer is a much more effective way to snag future employers than just looking at Manteca on a map.
And given the trend toward green products, Smail noted Ecologic Brands could give Manteca’s oldest business park new life as a haven for cutting edge eco-friendly product manufacturing.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209-249-3519.