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County invests $650K to grow bio-industrial manufacturing jobs
Stanislaus 2030

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday spent the first of what potentially will be a $10 million investment in bringing bio-industry manufacturing operations to the region.

The five-member board voted unanimously to allocate $650,000 to support the formation and operations of BEAM Circular, an organization that will serve as the tip of the spear in an effort to reimagine and reinvigorate the local economy.

According to the Stanislaus 2030 Investment Blueprint, a 55-page deep dive into county economics prepared by diverse local workgroups with advisors from the Brookings Institution, more than half of the county’s population — about 214,000 people — struggle to make ends meet.

The county’s current job base does not provide the opportunity for many of these residents to support themselves.

Only about 13 percent of jobs in the county can be classified as “good” jobs, while another 22 percent are considered “promising.” The remaining 65 percent — nearly two of every three jobs — fail to meet the standards for ensuring self-sufficiency, the report states.

To halve the number of children in struggling families, the region will need to create 40,000 more “good” jobs than currently exist.

“I believe that we have to aspire and we have to set goals for ourselves,” said District 2 Supervisor Vito Chiesa, who represents all of Turlock. “Sometimes, we don’t attain those goals, but it shouldn’t stop us from trying, continually, to improve. It’s called a blueprint for a reason. A blueprint is a model we’re aiming toward. And we can do course corrections along the way.”

BEAM Circular, in its mission statement, says in part that the company intends to “expand inclusive access to family-sustaining jobs and advance environmental solutions by building a vibrant regional ecosystem for bio-industrial manufacturing in the North San Joaquin Valley …”

In other words, BEAM Circular — working under the auspices of Modesto-based non-profit Opportunity Stanislaus — will be the conduit that helps bring those 40,000 “good” jobs to the region, many in the bio-industrial manufacturing sector.

“BEAM Circular will make sure our local region is situated to develop these businesses,” said Jody Hayes, Stanislaus County CEO. “They’ll also make sure we’re front and center on the national and international stage for any company doing business in the bio-industrial manufacturing field to know where Stanislaus County is and what we offer.”

One such company already targeting Turlock is Divert Inc., a technological firm focused on transforming tons of wasted food from local grocery stores and other food retailers into renewable energy.

In May of 2021, the Board approved a prioritized list of spending strategies for the $107 million it received in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Of that $107 million, $30 million was earmarked for economic development and job creation. After agreeing to spend $650,000 on Tuesday, $9.35 million remains of the $10 million that was earmarked for bio-industrial manufacturing job creation. Any future disbursements of the remainder will require Board approval.

“I’m going to support this,” said Chiesa during Tuesday’s meeting. “We have a lot of work to do, but how far we’ve come in less than a year is pretty amazing to me."

Year One of the Stanislaus 2030 projected included coalition building and program design, research and data analysis, engagement and reporting, strategy development and publication of the Investment Blueprint. Year Two will focus on implementation/team development and activation/investment plans.

According to Karen Warner, the CEO of BEAM Circular, Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties — collectively known as the North San Joaquin Valley — are uniquely situated to handle a project of this magnitude.

“These are the only counties in the entire country that have the combination of these three criteria: We have large-scale agricultural production, a high concentration of manufacturing activities, and we are driving-distance to a center of innovation and start-up activity, including leadership in bio-technology,” Warner said. "What’s exciting is that we are not only interested in leading in this space, we are the best region in the country to do so. I think when we started this analysis and started to explore this industry, we had no idea the degree to which we were going to discover how well-positioned we are for this industry."

Bio-production is expected to reach $2 trillion globally, on an annual basis, by 2040. That bio-based materials market alone — things such as plastics — will grow 26.5 percent by 2026.

“There’s a lot of state and federal resources that are being mobilized to support and catalyze the market development around this industry,” said Warner. “It’s a great time for communities like ours to put our hands in the air and demonstrate that we’re ready to lead in this space.”