By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
TULARE COUNTY – Tulare County’s economy ranked in the top 2% in the nation for short-term growth and 64th overall in a recent listing by an industry publication.
In its annual study of 100 Leading Locations, Development Magazine described Tulare County as “hot” when it comes to short-term economic growth, defined as a net increase in employment driven by manufacturing and an increase in the overall value of goods and services.
Tulare County, listed as the Visalia-Porterville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), ranked 5th in terms of 2017 Year-Over-Year Growth which measured net employment growth as a percentage of population, local area unemployment change, manufacturing/goods-producing employment net change as a percentage of population, and per capita increase in teh reate of real gross metropolitan product (GMP).
According to the study, “these indicators are useful in identifying those cities (and their industries) that are ‘hot’ in terms of economic growth.”
In terms of 2017 Economic Strength Indicators, which include per capita real gross metropolitan product (GMP), manufacturing/goods-producing employment, employment net growth, and local area unemployment rate changes, Visalia-Porterville ranked 32nd making it the top-ranked Central Valley area.
MSAs were ranked based on their performance in four key categories: “Prime Workforce”, “Economic Strength”, “Year-Over-Year Growth” and “Five-Year Growth.” Overall, Visalia-Porterville MSA (Tulare County) ranked 64th (out of 394 across the country), a vast improvement from its ranking of 289th in 2016 and 342nd in 2014. In comparison, Fresno ranked 105th, Modesto ranked 152nd, and Bakersfield ranked 374th.
In addition, Visalia also ranked higher than these other regions in terms of Prime Workforce Indicators which include the number of workers aged 18-44, their education level, total inward migration of these high-value workers into the community, and wages. The labor force in Visalia is more than 210,000 strong according to 2017 numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Tulare County’s unemployment rate hovered around 9% last year, more than double the state and national average, indicating that there is available labor for companies interested in locating here.
Area Development Magazine, according to the publication, is considered the leading executive magazine covering corporate site selection and relocation. Area Development Magazine study: www.areadevelopment.com/Leading-Locations/Q2-2017/leading-metro-locations-full-results-2017.shtml
Devon Jones, economic development director for the City of Visalia, said local industries continue to report record quarters for the second half of 2017. Growth is being fueled by companies in several different industries. Valley Agricultural Software (VAS), which has developed a herd management software that is used to manage about 60% of the cows in the United States, will be moving to a new 31,000-square foot office space in the City’s Business Research Park off of Plaza Drive and Highway 198. VWR International, a global distributor of laboratory supplies, opened a 500,000-square foot distribution center in 2012 and hired around 100 employees. The 260,000-square foot California Dairies plant in Visalia is the single largest powdered milk producing site in North America. Ruiz Foods in Dinuba is the leading frozen Mexican food manufacturer in the United States through their El Monterey and Tornados brand names.
Visalia’s Industrial Park is ripe with economic potential. Two new industrial shell buildings near the southeast corner of Plaza and Goshen are currently in the site plan review process. Both new buildings are proposed at 16,124 square feet. American Inc. is currently in the site plan review for an 8,800-square foot building for Breck’s Electric Motors and has constructed shells on two commercial pads of 5,000 and 10,000 square feet. Jones expects another 100,000 square feet of industrial space to be completed sometime in the next year. In September, UPS (United Parcel Service) purchased 58 acres in the Industrial Park to build a major distribution center. Since 2010, more than 1.2 million square feet of industrial space has been permitted in Visalia.
Both Visalia and Porterville are centrally located between the State’s industrial hubs in Southern California and Bay Area. Visalia claims companies can efficiently distribute to 99% of California overnight, reaching a population of more than 35 million within just a 300-mile radius.
Jason Ridenour, economic development and housing manager for the City of Porterville, said the biggest news was GreenPower Motor Company commitment to construct an electric-power bus manufacturing facility at the Porterville Airport Industrial Complex. The facility will be approximately 145,000 square feet for the assembly of their all electric transit buses, including 10 for the City of Porterville to be delivered early this year.
Ridenour said Porterville has seen bigger jumps in retail development. Porter’s Crossing on Henderson Avenue was recently approved for a 12,000-square foot commercial center with six tenants. Located at the corner of Henderson and Prospect Street, the developer has announced two of the tenants will be Chipotle and The Habit Burger Grill. Tractor Supply Co. opened a location on Henderson last year.
At the end of November, Smart and Final Extra opened a new 31,000-square foot store on Olive Avenue. Just last week, Aldi grocery store chain was approved for a 22,000-square foot store at the northeast corner of Jaye Street and Highway 190.
Now that litigation is over, Walmart is planning to build a 161,000-square foot Supercenter a the Riverwalk Shopping Center later this year. Already home to a Lowe’s, the shopping center has more than 203,000 square feet of retail pad space available in Phase 1 and another 41,000-square foot space available in Phase 2. Another major employer will be the South County Detention Facility. The 510-bed jail on Scranton Avenue east of Highway 65 is expected to add 100 jobs to the area.
“It was a great year for our community and we believe 2018 will be even more prosperous,” Ridenour said.
Ridenour said the City of Porterville continues to have strong partnerships with award-winning education providers, Workforce Development Board and the development community to provide a great environment to develop in as well as a qualified workforce to met the needs of the businesses locating in Porterville.