As the Turlock City Council continues to figure a way out of its financial struggles, an update on the city’s economic development highlighted both positive growth and challenges.
Maryn Pitt, Assistant to the City Manager for Housing and Economic Development, said the good news is the most recent sales tax numbers saw a 29.4 percent increase in second quarter revenues over the same time as last year, which was also higher than the state of California increase of 20.8 percent. From March through June, Turlock brought in $3.73 million of sales tax — but the city only receives a small portion of that revenue for its General Fund.
Turlock’s unemployment rate was 5.1 percent in August, down from 5.3 percent in July.
Pitt also talked about where Turlock residents work.
“About 45 percent of all the people who live in Turlock, work in Turlock. About 75 percent of people who live here work inside Stanislaus County. So, unlike other communities like Lathrop and Manteca and Tracy that has a lot of people traveling over the Altamont, we have a pretty high what they call jobs to housing balance. And it helps make us somewhat recession resistant in terms of the kinds of sectors of employment we have here in terms of ag tech and ag manufacturing,” she said.
Turlock’s rental housing vacancy remains very tight at 1.7 percent. Part of that can be contributed to Stanislaus State being currently enrolled at 109 percent of their capacity with 11,000 students.
Pitt said the city is in conversation with the university about a development that could bring 400 to 800 additional student housing beds to town within the next 24 months. Additional student housing is critical, as the university is expecting to reach 20,000 students by the year 2030, according to Pitt.
“It’s an opportunity because it changes our demographics. Companies like to be around college students…But we have one chance to get the development around the university correct, so we’re spending a lot of time on what do we want that to look like, what does the university want that to look like and how do we make all those pieces fit together in a vision,” she said.
There’s also a huge need for more residential development in general.
“We’re not going to be able to spur additional commercial development without more rooftops,” said Pitt.
Pitt sits on the Stanislaus County Workforce Investment Board and is part of a commuter study task force. She said a 2006 survey found that 90,000 people between San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties traveled over the Altamont Pass every day for work.
The task force is trying to find out in Stanislaus County, who exactly is commuting over the mountain, why they were going and whether they could determine any specific trends in terms of industrial clusters. Using that information, the task force aims to lure Bay Area companies back over the hill, where the majority of their workforce actually lives.
Looking ahead, Pitt said businesses set to open soon include the remodeled Rite Aid in the Turlock Town Center on N. Golden State Boulevard and Ace Hardware on Geer Road, in the old Orchard Supply location.
Under construction is Harbor Freight Tools, across from Costco, and Smart&Final in the Turlock Town Center. Pitt said that Costco is also planning a parking lot expansion.
Pitt said she and Police Chief Nino Amirfar will also start reaching out to local retail shops in preparation for the holiday shopping season and the craziness that brings.