A culmination of several months of hard work from the Mayor’s Economic Development Taskforce, the Draft 2014 Economic Development Strategic Plan recently released by the City of Turlock was at the center of the 25-member group’s meeting on Tuesday as they continue to build upon previous goals and develop new strategies that will keep Turlock’s economy strong for years to come.
Focusing on their assessment of Turlock’s 2003 economic plan, the taskforce identified what they saw as the best parts from the City’s previous plan before taking those aspects of economic development and making multiple changes to better suit where Turlock is today.
Noting the important role that agriculture and ag-related industries has continually played in Turlock’s economy in addition to the City’s central location in California, members of the taskforce strongly encouraged the City to persistently seek bringing new food processing industries to town as they continue to attract new businesses to the Turlock Regional Industrial Park. The industrial park was a project that was identified by the taskforce as one of Turlock’s greatest assets in being a strong economic competitor within the region due to its shovel-ready ground that has so far brought companies such as Blue Diamond and Hilmar Cheese Company.
Having a strong existing food processing sector with large employers such as Foster Farms, Sensient Flavors, Supherb Farms, and Mid-Valley Dairy, is a strength that not only taskforce members believe the City needs to continually leverage, but also Mayor John Lazar.
“It is essential that Turlock is recognized for its assets and is known as a welcoming and effective city in which to conduct business,” said Lazar. “Our Turlock Regional Industrial Park is a unique asset with which we can uniquely market ourselves as the Silicon Valley of food processing.”
Other strengths that members of the taskforce identified as helping attract new businesses to Turlock included: having California State University, Stanislaus in town, which has seen growth in disciplines such as business, health sciences and services, agriculture and biomedical science – providing Turlock with a well-educated workforce for potential employers; competitively priced electricity, as Turlock Irrigation district offers power at significantly lower rates than many other providers – a significant asset for large industrial users; an active Chamber of Commerce that facilitates networking and business opportunities amongst its members while working closely with the City of Turlock; available water and wastewater treatment capacity that has been position to accommodate future growth for residential, commercial and industrial sectors; plenty of land available at a considerably lower cost than in coastal California of the edges of the Bay Area; close proximity to Highway 99; and mainline rail service in addition to many other positive characteristics.
Focusing greatly on the City’s resources to help serve Turlock’s overall economy, the draft economic plan also lists several weaknesses identified by the taskforce and local business community, many of which taskforce members believe the City can eventually overcome as they continue find answers to help eliminate some of the various problems found in Turlock such as an unskilled workforce that often lacks basic skills and employability. While taskforce members agreed that this particular weakness could be helped through workforce training efforts and partnerships with the Stanislaus Alliance and local schools, other identified weaknesses might not have any foreseeable or immediate solutions such as Turlock’s distance from Interstate 5.
Although the 2014 draft economic plans includes several various strategies, goals, and objectives, the overall vision – as developed by the taskforce, city staff and elected officials – is clear: “To continue to develop Turlock as a great place to live and work.”
“We will support an economically and socially diverse population, and a vibrant and strong business community,” said taskforce vice-chair and planning commissioner Mike Brem, reviewing the group’s vision for the 2014 plan, “through partnerships and by fostering development that offers people the ability to live and work in Turlock.”
To view the 2014 Economic Development Strategic Plan, visit the City of Turlock website at www.ci.turlock.ca.us.