MODESTO -- Last week's meeting on the second go-round for an ambitious job-creation project in western Stanislaus County attracted mostly construction firms and consultants, some of whom said they were looking for work in a slow economy.
But a few prospective bidders were represented at the table. Besides county staff members, about 15 people attended the meeting on Nov. 16, which was mandatory for prospective developers.
Two vocal participants were Fresno real estate brokers who said they represented the Texas-based Matthews Southwest development company. Donald Hatch of Grubb & Ellis Pearson Commercial said he expected Matthews Southwest will bring a proposal for developing the 1,531-acre site near Crows Landing into a regional job center.
The Kamilos Cos. also was represented at the meeting, even though the Sacramento firm lost its role as master developer for the project in August. Representative Ken Allred said Kamilos would consider making a bid.
A participant from Florida asked if the county would entertain proposals from investors outside the country. County staff said no problem, the request for proposals had gone out internationally. The woman declined to talk with The Modesto Bee after the meeting.
The county returned to square one this fall after supervisors gave up on developer Gerry Kamilos' dream for an inland transportation hub to employ 13,000 people and include a rail link to the Port of Oakland.
The county wants to see fresh ideas for developing the former Navy airfield into an industrial center with thousands of good-paying jobs.
Formal proposals from developers are due by Feb. 1. The schedule calls for the county to choose a developer by April 16.
The Web site for Matthews Southwest, based in Lewisville, Texas, says the company has acquired, built and managed development of hotel, office, retail, residential and industrial projects. The site shows an array of sleek hotels and commercial buildings in Texas and cities in Canada, including a 58-story office tower in Calgary, Alberta, that's slated to be finished this year.
Hatch said he had no details on what the Texas firm might propose. But he called the Crows Landing site "a diamond in the rough," noting its proximity to Interstate 5 and the county's urgency to restart the project.
Lou Ginise, also of Grubb & Ellis, was less optimistic than county officials about how fast the site would breed distribution centers and other businesses. Citing the sluggish economic conditions in the San Joaquin Valley, Ginise said after the meeting that he predicts a 30- to 40-year "buildout" for the center.
Keith Boggs, a county assistant executive officer, said a large amount of development should occur over 10 years based on Patterson's success with its industrial complex near I-5. "It's a gorgeous opportunity," Boggs enthused.
County staff outlined the expectations for the project and the ground rules for potential bidders. Boggs said the county doesn't intend to repeat mistakes the second time around.
Modesto Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.