STOCKTON — The Port of Stockton Commission has a new chairman. R. Jay Allen, a five-year member of the commission, was unanimously elected at the beginning of March. He brings his knowledge of the port and decades of business acumen to the chairmanship, the commission said.
Allen is a partner with Stone Troger-Allen Investment, a private real estate developer and investment company headquartered in Stockton.
“Jay’s extensive knowledge of leasing commercial and industrial properties as well as lease negotiations have furthered development at the port, which has contributed to making our facility an important part of the economic foundation of our community,” said Stockton Port Commissioner Stephen Griffen.
During Allen’s time on the commission, leasing has increased and the port now boasts a warehouse occupancy rate of 97 percent, an all-time high. According to figures from the port, it now has more than $2.5 billion in private capital investment that has generated more than 2,000 new jobs for the local economy over the past five years.
“The port’s future appears to be quite good with expansion and continued growth that will provide jobs,” Allen said. “We want businesses to come in and hire locals. As in real estate, it’s location, location, location. By and large location is very important and that’s the principle at the port: we have water, rail, freeways and air transportation.”
Add excellent customer service and, Allen says, the formula is in place to ensure the success of any business.
“The port is a two-headed animal: maritime and real estate,” he said. “In maritime, the export and import business is strong and cement’s coming back in those areas.”
About half the Port of Stockton’s business is real estate. Manufacturing, energy and warehousing businesses are the port’s main tenants.
After acquiring his degree from Brigham Young University and subsequent law degree from the JR Clark School of Law, Allen practiced law in Seattle but decided he didn’t want to be a practicing attorney. He then came to Stockton to work for the men who became his business mentors.
“Max and Merrill Stone, the Stone Brothers, had been in business since 1948,” said Allen. “Their real estate and business knowledge have been invaluable to my career.”
Allen said his legal and real estate background helps his service on the port commission because it is a very collaborative board with a membership that functions together and understands the challenges that face the Central Valley.
“If you look at California you see the coastal areas booming, driven by technology,” he said. “But the Central Valley economy is much, much different. We have to work hard to draw businesses to areas that are viewed as ‘C-type’ markets.”
However, Allen believes the Central Valley is a microcosm of what California will be: ethnically diverse, eager to participate more fully in the state’s economy with a business sector that focuses on and speaks to the needs of different and diverse groups.
Allen said he feels three topics present the most pressing challenges for the Central Valley business sector: jobs, income levels and education. Allen said education needs to include job training and career technical training, so the population is properly trained for jobs that exist.
“It’s a synergistic circle with CTE stepping in for those students who don’t want a traditional college education but want to enter the workplace via the vocational route,” Allen said. “College isn’t necessarily for everyone but tech training for available jobs in industries looking for qualified workers would open new doors.”
Allen believes California has to remove barriers that make it difficult to maintain a powerful business climate.
“We have a very regulation-based business environment in California,” Allen said. “Clearing away regulations and other hurdles would greatly improve the ability of businesses to be successful and provide more jobs for their communities.”
Allen pointed to the Delta’s water hyacinth problem and said it should be handled by the state instead of leaving it to local agencies, business organizations and the port.
“The water hyacinth certainly presents a challenge to shipping because the radar on vessels in the channel can’t differentiate between the plant and solid ground,” he said of the plant’s channel-clogging characteristics.
“As a leading port we’re continually trying to do our part to keep opportunities for business open in the Central Valley,” Allen said. “It has many attributes including its job force, infrastructure, educational opportunities, more reasonable cost of living, climate and a host of other positives.”