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By TERRANCE WINTERS
NAI Benchmark Turlock/Merced Market Specialist
There is little doubt that California’s Central Valley is on track to economic recovery. Falling unemployment rates, increased consumer activity and new construction are just a few of the many indicators that point to a light at the end of a long and difficult tunnel.
Aside from the economy’s natural ability to stabilize, the Central Valley and the cities within it are making significant strides toward ensuring themselves a bright and prosperous future.
Cities like Turlock, that embrace and invest in what makes them unique, are on the cusp of fundamental change. The vision to recognize and invest in core competencies was not lost on Turlock’s City Council and is the driving force behind one of the most creative real estate endeavors to date: the Turlock Regional Industrial Park.
In 2006 the Turlock City Council adopted a plan to make a long-term investment aimed at providing an environment conducive to industrial and commercial growth. Initially referred to as the Westside Industrial Specific Plan (WISP), the Turlock Regional Industrial Park (TRIP) project sought to attract businesses that would promote regional synergy and add to the industrial cluster. More than 2,600 acres in west Turlock were designated for the project, and allocated more than $14 million toward infrastructure to provide shovel-ready parcels.
The plan was based on a brilliant yet simple business idea: core competency. The Council recognized the unique agricultural strengths of Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties — yet it also recognized that Turlock is not, nor should it pretend to be, Silicon Valley. Instead, through the incorporation of science and technology the project presents Turlock with the unique opportunity to become the agricultural and food processing hub of the Central Valley.
“Based on our strengths, we have no business in going after companies like Amazon. Nor should we pretend that we are the Silicon Valley. However, what we are interested in is becoming the Silicon Valley of Food Processing,” said Turlock’s Assistant to the City Manager for Housing and Economic Development Maryn Pitt.
Attracting the type of industry that could develop synergistic relationships with valley-based food
processors was, and continues to be, TRIP’s goal. Though the city cannot directly provide cash on the table for incoming businesses, what it has done is create an enticing environment in which start-up risk and economic boundaries are minimal.
The city of Turlock has successfully completed a number of preemptive environmental impact reports – an arduous process that can usually take months or even years. Eliminating this barrier saves time and expenses for prospective businesses.
The effect of this approach is evident, as it took California agricultural cooperative Blue Diamond Growers just one year and three days to begin production after breaking ground in April 2012.
Quick startup, minimal risk and the opportunity to develop synergistic relationships with regional strengths is what the TRIP aims to help with – a goal it has accomplished, and continues to build upon eight years after its implementation. With companies like U.S. Cold Storage, Blue Diamond Growers and Hilmar Cheese leading the way, it’s not difficult to see why the industrial park is attracting attention from non-regional food processors as well as those companies vital to the food production industry.
“Companies will want to be near big producers like Blue Diamond and Hilmar Cheese,” Pitt said. “We’re hoping to also attract industries that have synergies with base-sector employers.”
Local job creators like Foster Farms and Sensient Flavors are affirming the city’s aspirations, as they look to expand in size and employment. Businesses vital to food production are also experiencing the benefits of local industrial growth, with many exceeding expected growth numbers – one even reaching its 10-year projections in just three years.
Though still recovering, the future of the Central Valley is beginning to look like a bright one. With thousands still out of work and struggling to get by, it is the hope of many that the Turlock Regional Industrial Park will continue to be a catalyst for growth and employment.
Through the careful leverage of regional-unique strengths, the city has managed to create an industrial cluster that is both effective and synergistic. Continued growth in the industrial park and base-sector employers has not only inspired confidence in the local market, but attracted the attention of non-regional industry. With a rebounding economy and a thriving industrial hub, Turlock is, indeed, beginning to look like the Silicon Valley of food processing.