Local economy recovering at year-mark of pandemic

Residential, industrial and commercial activity is on the rise as Tulare County is ready to spring forth from sickly economic shutdowns

TULARE COUNTY – After a year of the governor playing with the on/off switch for sectors of the economy, more businesses seem to be optimistic heading into this spring.

Visalia is experiencing a rise in residential building permits, renewed interest in downtown spaces, revving up of new businesses and rebranding for one of its most recognized names in the past year.

Hospital launching new name
What started as Visalia Municipal Hospital became Kaweah Delta District hospital in 1961. Now Kaweah Delta has decided to again change the name recognizing its growth as a multi-community regional medical center. The hospital is launching its rebranded name Kaweah Health this spring. A media campaign will be carried out over the next few months to get people used to the name and its significance. The logo will be on signs and buildings, as well as their web site and paperwork. Hospital administrators say the new name reflects its significantly broader scope of services and significantly higher quality of care and patient experience than just a few years ago. The district has been expanding geographically in the past few years forging a joint powers authority with Porterville’s Sierra View District Hospital and expanding its clinic outreach, with plans to open a new specialty clinic in Tulare and at the Sequoia Gateway highway commercial center under development at Highway 99 and Caldwell Avenue.

The rebranding was first announced on Sept. 23, 2019 meeting, when the board of directors was presented with a new logo to rebrand the Visalia-based Kaweah Delta Health Care District to simply Kaweah Health. The name change comes with a new blue and orange logo and simple type style. The healthcare nonprofit would keep its phrasing: “More than medicine. Life.” The cost for the rebranding is in the range of $1.2 million plus considering the district has more than 50 buildings.

Building boom
Residential building activity in Visalia is up so far this year. Single-family home permits are 12% higher through the first two months of 2021 and some 86 multi-family permits were issued compared to none over the same period in 2020. Residential remodels are up 12% as well.

This year could be a big one for multi-family construction. With 86 units permitted so far-last year there were none last year and in the past decade—only 550 units were constructed in town. This year a number of large projects are moving to construction in what should easily be a record year.

Smee Builders wants to construct Oakwood Ranch, a 102-unit multifamily complex at dearer and Houston Avenue.

Industrial expansion
An 80-acre parcel of ag land at Riggin Avenue and Shirk Road next looks to be the future expansion of the industrial park land. Recently the county planning commission approved the division of an 80-acre parcel into four, 20-acre parcels. The proposed parcels lie on the south side of Riggin and the west side of Road 92 (Shirk). The site, now zoned agriculture, has a dairy which is no longer operating. The parcel is located within the Visalia Urban Development Boundary with the land use designation of “Service Commercial/Light Industrial.” The land may soon be annexed into the city as this part of the industrial park booms with new industries like UPS and Amazon.

Speaking of Amazon, the online retailer has posted jobs for at least $15 per hour at its new fulfillment center in Visalia. Just down the road at Dinuba Boulevard, the new In-N-Out location is looking to add over 100 employees at a starting wage over $16 per hour. Competitors wanting to attract talent for their warehouse jobs and fast food operations are also making similar offers. Supporters of higher minimum wages argue companies can count on less turnover in these jobs benefiting their bottom line.

Auto news
Tommy’s Express Wash has filed preliminary plans to build a new location next to the new In-N-Out at Riggin and Dinuba Highway on land being developed by Donahue Schriber. The nationally franchised Express Wash employs 15 processing about 80 cars per hour during busiest times. Hours of operation are scheduled for 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.

Also Omni Land Development LLC in Visalia is expected to receive a conditional use permit approving the operating hours of a new car wash within their approved master-planned development. The project site is located on the northeast corner of North Dinuba Boulevard and West Shannon Parkway.

In other auto related news, a new AutoZone is being planned at the southwest corner of Caldwell and Demaree. It would be the third AutoZone in Visalia.

Downtown openings
Downtown Visalia continues to see activity as before, during and as the area pulls out of the pandemic. Del Prado has opened a new Mexican restaurant in the former Las Palmas spot in Downtown Visalia in the past few weeks. Las Palmas, a landmark in the Downtown, closed in 2018 after being in business for 70 years. Developer Mario Cellio has filed a preliminary plan to remodel the 10,000-square foot building at 500 W. Main into a combo retail/restaurant. It’s been a bank for a long time but empty now and was last used by Citizens Business Bank.

Start typing and press Enter to search