Supervisors express confidence in local economy

District Supervisors Amy Shuklian, Larry Micari answer questions about business development in Visalia which could bring unemployment rates even lower in the Valley

VISALIA – Despite inflation reaching record highs Tulare County Board Supervisors Amy Shuklian and Larry Micari gave encouraging forecasts for the local economy at the Visalia Chamber of Commerce’s state of the county.

District 3, Shuklian’s district, covers the majority of Visalia. District 1, Micari’s district, covers only a portion of Visalia. But both supervisors expressed their confidence for the local economy at the July 21 event.

They noted that unemployment rates in Tulare County have the potential to decrease even further with the expansion of medical facilities, commercial and retail businesses in Visalia.

With the viability of the Visalia Industrial Park, and the development of more commercial and retail businesses, unemployment rates are among the lowest they have ever been in Tulare County. According to the Employment Development Department, unemployment rates dropped to 6.5% in May 2022, a half percent lower than the previous May. The goal to get the number even lower could be achieved with the advancement of the Sequoia Gateway project, a project that will extend medical and business facilities to Visalia.

According to the Sequoia Gateway Commerce Center website, the Sequoia Gateway project would feature the development of a new Valley Children’s Medical Group Specialty Clinic and highway commercial services, hotels, restaurants and shopping opportunities. Shuklian said the project could also yield the developments of a Great Wolf Lodge Water Park resort, an additional surgery center for Kaweah Health, commercial businesses like Dutch Bros. Coffee, gas stations and larger retail businesses like a potential Bass Pro Shops.

Supervisor Shuklian described the project as the biggest economic development happening in current time.

“Most of district three is ‘city of Visalia’ territory. It’s not often that I can say we have a project happening.”

Supervisor Micari said this project is a huge benefit to the county. With the highest ever property tax revenue to come to Visalia this year, he said the funds could help provide more services to constituents in the community.

“We’ve kind of been stagnant on some development, this is an enormous jump,” Micari said.

Micari addressed other topics as well. In regards to the three-year drought of the Central Valley and protecting local wells from drying out, Micari said a lot of the solution will fall on rainwater and groundwater sustainability agencies. Despite the state putting guidelines and mandates on the board, Micari said the state’s “one fix approach” does not work for the valley.

“What works in San Francisco and Los Angeles is not working in Tulare County, because we feed the world,” Micari said. “Let’s face it, that’s our economy. If our agricultural economy crashes here, then everybody’s going to suffer, all the businesses, and it’s going to be devastating.”

When the issue of homelessness in Visalia was brought to discussion, Shuklian said Visalia has increased its progress over the last three to four years in aiding people without homes. It began with California’s project roomkey, which leased hotels/motels so the most vulnerable in the homeless community had shelter, and is now expanding with a more permanent approach with project homekey. 

“This year, homelessness has come in at a 7% decrease throughout Tulare County. So that’s a good thing,” Shuklian said.

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