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It doesn’t take an economic genius to understand what will happen next in Manteca.
Over the next few years you will see an increase in service-based jobs, restaurants, and distribution center employment jobs. Retail will grow but it will be tempered by the click economy. Lathrop will mirror Manteca to varying degrees.
What will happen here will not be a clone of the Bay Area but that region has everything to do with economic growth patterns here being much more vibrant than perhaps anywhere else in the San Joaquin Valley except for Tracy.
The reason is simple. As the shift from brick and mortar to Internet shopping continues it won’t mean traditional retail is dead — not by a long shot. We are morphing slowly into more of a Bay Area suburb than simply a bedroom community. And the Bay Area’s has an insatiable and growing appetite for e-commerce means retail growth and job growth.
With 300 to 400 homes a year being built in Manteca and no lid in sight plus another 300 plus a year next door at River Islands at Lathrop that represents nearly 3,000 additional consumers. Toss in Manteca’s growing muscle as a regional draw through the likes of Big League Dreams, Bass Pro Shops and even places like Showplace 16 that draws a consistent number of Stockton residents and Kohl’s that lures Tracy patrons the retail and restaurant opportunities will keep growing instead of struggling as they are doing in many other communities of similar size.
The Bay Area market and expanding Internet shopping habits plus the fact we are virtually equal distance to San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento makes the South County ground zero for Internet Age distribution centers. No longer are they the old model of taking delivery from suppliers and then filling orders for shipment to stores. Such a model could fudge more on location. But now the outgo process incudes shipping directly to consumers seven days a week location becomes a prime concern. Amazon.com — the firm that is turning the world of retail upside down — picked Tracy and Patterson for a reason. It also helped that we have Stockton Metro Airport next door that even with passenger growth is destined to function primarily as a cargo hub.
It is why last year Fed/Ex opened a hub in Tracy and United Parcel in Lathrop.
Toss in intermodal yards — one  for Union Pacific Railroad sandwiched between Manteca and Lathrop and one for Santa Fe Railroad 10 miles northeast of Manteca — and you’ve got the perfect marriage with Interstate 5 and Highway 99 coming within six miles of each tied together by the 120 Bypass and Bay Area access via Interstate 205. And, for good measure, toss in California’s easternmost port — the Port of Stockton.
While there is nothing new about Manteca’s location and the unparalleled transportation infrastructure for the movement of goods that converges here, it should be noted that before 2017 it has already worked to the area’s advantage. Drive around the east side of Tracy, on the edge of the Altamont west of Tracy, Lathrop along Interstate 5 and in the southern part of the city, around Stockton Metro Airport and a smattering of distribution centers in Manteca’s Spreckels Park.
What is new in 2017 is the “squeeze.”
The heart of the Bay Area for all practical purposes is devoid of land where traditional single family homes can be built. And while price for years have sent those with pumped up Bay Area checks east over the Altamont to buy or rent a home they could afford, apartment renters are now joining the housing refuges.
Tie in the fact Tracy tops out at 750 homes a year under its growth cap, Manteca’s cap is inching up toward 1,000 homes and Lathrop has no constraints with River Islands positioned to add 4,000 plus homes before further expansion of the super levees to allow another 7,000 homes and the Tracy-Lathrop-Manteca triangle is posed to ride the economic bullet train powered by the Silicon Valley.
This will not happen overnight. But given the fact Manteca kept building 300 homes a year during the Great Recession it is clear the economic rules are slightly different here. The 300 annual average was higher than the combined housing starts in all of the rest of the three-county Northern San Joaquin Valley. It was made possible largely by development agreements that most out-of-town Manteca developers want to now eschew that gave sewer allocation certainty which in turn encouraged lenders to fund infrastructure loans knowing the borrower could actually built the homes. When the recession hit, lenders were motivated to get the roughly $40,000 sunk into each lot back so they worked with developers to make it possible to keep building and selling homes.
It is important to understand the shift in retail, economic forces that influence the region from west of the Altamont Pass, and how residential growth in Manteca and Lathrop is a different animal than in places like Modesto, Stockton, Lodi, Turlock, and Patterson to name a few.
The fact Lathrop has more than 12,000 housing lots approved and infrastructure extension plans in place and Manteca has 9,700 more lots in various stages of the approval process with the sewer and water to supply them makes Manteca-Lathrop ground zero for residential growth as well as expansion of the distribution center triangle anchored by Tracy.
In short, it would be foolish to bet against growth — economic, population and otherwise — in Manteca or Lathrop for that matter.