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Turlock, Patterson experience industrial evolutions
Turlock industrial park pic
The Turlock Regional Industrial Park, formerly known as the Westside Industrial Specific Plan, offers businesses like United States Cold Storage shovel-ready land. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

Turlock has been experiencing significant economic growth in recent years and while it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly when the resurgence began, the Turlock Regional Industrial Park has certainly played a role.

The City of Turlock invested millions of dollars into the 2,600 acre master-planned TRIP and its “shovel ready” sites equipped with water, sewer, and electric hookups. Boasting clients such as U.S. Cold Storage and Blue Diamond, the TRIP has proved an economic fortress in Turlock, but it seems the tide is turning. With more businesses interested in occupying buildings that already exist, the allure of empty space with which to create a facility to fit a business’ unique needs seems to be fading.

“Industries are in expansion mode, but they want to go into existing spaces and we don’t have any,” said Maryn Pitt, assistant to the city manager for economic development and housing. “Expansion mode means you want to be up and running in six months.”

With expansion comes distribution sites, meaning businesses want to get their product to consumers as fast as possible and are more likely to take residence in an existing structure since they are the most generic, noted Pitt.

Roughly 15 miles to the west of Turlock, Patterson is becoming a town known for its distribution facilities with Amazon’s established “fulfillment center,” as well as a Restoration Hardware distribution center which is presently being built. However, contrary to the current trend, both of these businesses have built their own facilities, or rather had them built.

The Amazon facility was built by a United States Armed Services insurance company and the Restoration Hardware site is being built by Georgia-based Weeks Robinson, a private real estate and development company. While there is likely a financial benefit to a company not building its own site, it also creates a vague sense of uncertainty.  

The Amazon and Restoration Hardware distribution centers each exceed a sizeable 1 million square feet, something that Patterson City Planner Joel Andrews concedes causes minor concern. With the closure of the Patterson Vegetable Company in recent years, which led to the dismissal of roughly 500 employees, Patterson is well aware of the effect that large scale businesses – or their potential closure – can have on a town like Patterson with a population of about 20,000 people.

“It is a concern because they are both really big buildings, but I know there is an interest in really big building across the state,” said Andrews.

This statewide interest has led to the potential development of speculative building within the TRIP in Turlock. Speculative building is when developers create buildings without a particular buyer in mind, but with the hopes of selling or leasing the facility. Shell buildings could also be on the horizon for Turlock which is even less involved than a “spec building” as it does not have an interior build-out or even flooring, thus providing the potential resident more involvement in the development of the site. While building these facilities contains some amount of risk for the developer, according to the CEO of the Stanislaus Business Alliance they can give towns “a step up on your competition” as far as prospective businesses are concerned.

“I think it’s a good thing,” said White, noting that the buildings often allow business occupants to bypass several permitting steps.

White noted that states like California with “vibrant regulatory processes” can also create an element of uncertainty for businesses, driving them to circumvent lengthy processes by occupying existing sites. Similar to Turlock, Andrews said that Patterson does not have any vacant buildings “but I regularly field calls about that.”

 With the potential of spec and shell buildings in Turlock, the recent economic activity that has furthered Turlock towards former Mayor John Lazar’s vision of the town as the “Silicon Valley of Food Processing” could very much make it a reality in the near future.

 “Time to market is very important for businesses,” said White. “Delay is the enemy to economic development.”