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Turlock is open for business

Turlock is open for business

The final roof beam is lifted into place at Blue Diamond’s new Turlock factory.

POSTED February 26, 2013 5:27 p.m.

From Blue Diamond —a new 88-acre almond processing plant being built in the regional industrial park on the west end of town —to the extremely popular Dust Bowl Brewery Tap Room, serving up Turlock-crafted beers and pub food to scores of visitors in the heart of downtown, new growth and expansion is blooming in Turlock.

Over the past year, businesses large and small have chosen to open up shop in Turlock — or expand their operations in town.

Another Turlock Regional Industrial Park tenant, U.S. Cold Storage, is now implementing its 300,000 square-foot phase two development, and Volvo Rents opened up in the industrial area of South Avenue.

Monte Vista Crossings has also seen a rebirth as Old Navy replaced the long-shuttered Borders  and Ulta Beauty replaced Fashion Bug.

And MVC began to expand as well, finally kicking off construction on a long-awaited southern expansion with the opening of the Olive Garden.

Downtown, too, bounced back strongly, with a bevy of new businesses from restaurants to martial arts studios and home furnishing shops opening up in once vacant storefronts.

"At the height of the recession, the downtown vacancy rate was over 30 percent. It's now under 10 percent," said Maryn Pitt, director of economic development for the City of Turlock.

All these new businesses bring much-needed sales tax dollars — and jobs. More than 400 new jobs were created over the past year.

The City is doing what it can to encourage development, through streamlined planning processes, community input from the Development Collaborative Advisory Committee and financial help through the incentive program, said Debbie Whitmore, deputy director of development services for Turlock.

The Turlock Business Partnership Incentives Program offers $1,000 cash to small businesses that open up shop in vacant storefronts and meet certain criteria, such as submitting a business plan.

In the first year of implementation, 26 jobs were created by businesses who were part of the incentives program, and 24 in the second year.

"The Business Incentive Program is pretty popular, especially with smaller businesses," said Pitt. "It's not a make-it-or-break-it, but it really helps."

Along with making it easier to open up shop in Turlock, the City planning and development departments are also taking steps to encourage the type of growth outlined in Turlock's General Plan update — more compact with a focus on in-fill.

"We're revamping downtown zoning for a mix to specifically address what businesses we want to see come in," Whitmore said. "We're expediting the planning process and loosening up the height restrictions for office/residential mixed use areas.

"It came through the General Plan process pretty clear; we're trying to make it a little easier to do residential property in the downtown area. We're sending a message through zoning this is what we'd like to see, multi-story properties."

Bringing more high-density developments into downtown won't happen overnight, said Whitmore.

"We're in the infancy stage right now; we'll see what the market is going to develop in the downtown," she said.

These steps are just the beginning. The City Council has made economic development a priority and called on staff to create a Five Year Economic Development Strategic Plan.

"Zoning is a passive way of drawing businesses to town; the City Council has a more aggressive outlook," Whitmore said.

There are already big projects in the works for the coming months. The expansion  of Sunnyside Farms by a third, opening of a Walmart Neighborhood Market in the old Mervyn's building, a second Prime Shine car wash at the corner of Monte Vista and Crowell, and the construction of a new 38,000 square-foot medical office on Golden State Boulevard and Christoffersen by Sutter Gould.

Whitmore and Pitt see every new business as a way to encourage even more development — and the City has already seen that philosophy in action.

"Blue Diamond is sending a positive message of doing business in the city," said Whitmore.

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