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County puts $12M towards Crows Landing Industrial Park
crows landing industrial park 1

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a set of spending priorities for $17 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

In May of 2021, the board approved a set of spending strategies for the $107 million it received in ARPA funds to deal with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic: $50 million was allocated for community infrastructure, $30 million was positioned for economic development, $5 million was pointed toward supporting families and individuals, and another $5 million was earmarked for investment in a community development corporation.

The remaining $17 million was held in reserve for additional consideration.

The supervisors opted to increase by $5.8 million the investment in community infrastructure, bringing that total to $55.8 million. 

The board also made clear how it intends to divvy up the $30 million prioritized for economic development.

Crows Landing Industrial Park map
The Crows Landing Industrial Business Park, located at the former airfield on the county’s west side, will be developed in multiple phases, and, upon completion, feature more than 14 million square feet of vertical building space and a 370-acre public-use airport.

In January, the board approved the use of $10 million to support a bio-industrial manufacturing strategy included in the Stanislaus 2030 blueprint. In March, the board approved initial support for all other Stanislaus 2030 initiatives — a potential future investment of up to $8 million, with specific investment strategies to be considered over the following 10-12 months. Included in this amount are all other items previously approved for Stanislaus 2030 and a pending proposal to invest $1 million with the Central Valley Opportunity Center to support farmworker training programs — also approved Tuesday.

With the potential to support up to $18 million, it was recommended that the remaining $12 million be used to fund infrastructure support for the Crows Landing Industrial Business Park at the former airfield on the county’s west side.

“This always comes to the top of my priority list because there’s not enough shovel-ready land in Stanislaus County,” said District 2 Supervisor Vito Chiesa, who represents Turlock. “If someone says, ‘I want to put in a bio-manufacturing facility and I need 200 acres,’ you’re extremely limited in the county. So, getting this ready with water, sewer and roadways is a high priority. It’s not in my district, but it’s priority No. 1 for me.”

The Crows Landing Air Facility was commissioned in 1942 as an auxiliary airfield to the Naval Air Station in Alameda. The airfield was identified for closure in the 1990s and Stanislaus County took ownership in 1999.

Ever since, the county has sought opportunities to revitalize the west side’s economy through the reuse of the former airfield.

The county has pursued development of a locally based, regional employment center on the 1,528-acre former military property to improve its jobs-to-housing balance and to provide sustainable-wage jobs that will not require long commutes outside of the county. 

The project will be developed in multiple phases, which may take up to 30 or 40 years. Upon completion, there will be more than 14 million square feet of vertical building space and a 370-acre public-use airport.

The project’s first phase is estimated to cost $36-$42 million. To date, the board has dedicated $20 million of General Fund reserves for the project. The investment of the additional $12 million in ARPA funds will bring the project closer to fully funded status.

“We’ve got 40,000 people in the county going (to the Bay Area) everyday, we’ve got air-quality problems, and we’re trying to create jobs here,” said Chiesa. “The Crows Landing money has been a topic of discussion since I got on this board; it’s heated.

“Getting it shovel-ready for jobs is an opportunity to keep people from leaving our county. We have a thousand acres of usable land, plus the airport land, and getting it shovel-ready for jobs is an opportunity to keep those people from leaving our county. I don’t see it as people coming from the Bay Area to work here. I think we maintain our workforce here in the county, which helps out in a multitude of ways.”

Maria Arevalo, a farmworker advocate, was concerned by what she called a “lack of transparency” into how the Crows Landing decision came about.

“I think these are really exciting times, that we actually have this kind of money to do something to help our community,” Arevalo told the board. “I have been asking about what was going to happen with the surplus money from ARPA. … On Friday, you finally gave a (board agenda item) that explains what the surplus money is going to be spent on. It’s a complicated item, there’s lots of information in there.

That’s not enough notice.”

Arevalo then quoted from the county’s 2021 economic impact report, which stated that “funded strategies will incorporate community and partner input to ensure services are delivered to areas of greatest need.” 

The EIR also recommended bringing together public and private stakeholders.

“It may be a great plan, I just don’t know about Crows Landing to know whether that’s an appropriate recommendation,” Arevalo added. “And this certainly wasn’t an open and transparent process, about how you decided to put $12 million into Crows Landing. How did that decision get made? Who gave you the input? Who’s going to benefit from that?”