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Economic Plan addresses need for workforce training, industry partnerships
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ADE found Turlocks retail sector is an important contributor to the quality of life in the community, by providing a variety of goods and services for local and visitor consumption, and also serving as a major source of tax revenues that support local municipal services. - photo by Journal file photo

The Turlock City Council accepted an updated Economic Strategic Plan on June 27, the first of a three-pronged approach to make the City of Turlock more attractive to businesses, visitors and new industry.

Consulting firm Applied Development Economics presented the Council information gathered over a six-month period, along with recommendations to focus future development efforts.

“A lot of our focus was on developing new retail and industrial market information for Turlock. At the same time, we went through a process to solicit business and community input and engagement throughout the process,” said Doug Svensson of ADE.

ADE found Turlock’s retail sector is an important contributor to the quality of life in the community, by providing a variety of goods and services for local and visitor consumption, and also serving as a major source of tax revenues that support local municipal services.

The consulting firm conducted an extensive analysis of retail demand and existing sales in Turlock and determined that the City serves a large market area within Stanislaus County with nearly $1.2 billion in purchasing power, and draws from a larger regional market that extends outside the county with another $1.56 billion in purchasing power. This spending power includes households, business-to-business and visitors. While many retail store types are already represented in Turlock, the analysis identified several areas where further expansion should be possible, including auto sales, apparel, some specialty retail, appliances, electronics, restaurants and upscale grocery items.

When it comes to job creation, Turlock is estimated to have about 25,600 jobs in 2015, about 14.7 percent of the county total. Turlock has a higher than average proportion of manufacturing, health care and education jobs, and the dollar value of the city private sector economy is estimated at $6.8 billion, or 16.8 percent of the county total. Of concern, however, is that the City has had a slower rate of job growth between 2010 and 2015 (5.6 percent) than has the county (8.1 percent).

It is anticipated that although there will be continued challenges to maintaining farm jobs due to increasing labor costs and water supply issues, demand for food products will continue to grow. Opportunities for expansion of food processing industries will likewise continue, particularly in products prominent in Turlock and Stanislaus County such as cheese, other milk products and nuts. Similarly, there are business opportunities in the buyer/supplier networks for food processing.

The analysis of industrial supplier gaps in Stanislaus County suggest that additional firms in fabricated metal product manufacturing, professional services, paper manufacturing, administrative support services, and primary metal manufacturing could be successful in Turlock. In addition, there continues to be an opportunity to attract agricultural technology firms to Turlock.

ADE did a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis that identified more than 50 factors for the City to build upon or to address as liabilities in its economic development program.

Under strengths, ADE listed the City’s strong standing in the region. Turlock draws what cities two times its size do, especially for retail. Incomes, wages, home prices and other demographic indicators indicate more affluence than other communities in Stanislaus County.  Turlock is positioned to really shine if enough momentum and cooperation can be developed, according to ADE.

Labor shortages, especially in technical fields and a lack of marketing its strengths is listed under Turlock’s weaknesses.

Constrained housing opportunities, the rising state minimum wage and the cost of power are “threats” to Turlock’s economic growth.

Under opportunities, ADE listed good City planning, expanding the Downtown improvement district and increased partnerships for workforce training.

A few of the recommendations are:

Establishing a regular Economic Development Task Force or advisory committee to work on key issues, with business and citizen voices heard regularly. The City actively promote its current permit philosophy to the local business community. The improvements already made will enhance Turlock’s business friendly reputation. Recruit doctors and medical services to Turlock. This will help employers provide better health insurance and care. Identify and develop specific retention strategies and programs by the City, the Chamber of Commerce, and Stanislaus Alliance to ensure that an effective business retention plan is in place. Efforts shall include the development of a “Rapid Response” type of team to address potential risks in either the closure or potential relocation of an existing employer. Find ways to increase internship opportunities for young workers. The City in fact could help facilitate opportunities for workers to find out about internship opportunities among local employers.

“I think it gives us a lot of thoughts and ideas towards how we can make it better. Obviously, Turlock has tremendous economic play in Stanislaus County, and so I personally will take a lot of this to heart,” said Council member Amy Bublak.

In addition to this analysis, the City has also commissioned a marketing/branding study and a tourism development strategy, which will be completed later in 2017. When combined, these plans and strategies will comprise a comprehensive work program for the City to pursue its economic development goals over the next five years.