MERCED — The Castle Commerce Center has been known for years as an aviation asset, but officials want to tap into its potential for shipping goods all over the region, country and, perhaps, the world.
County supervisors approved a $15,000 market analysis this week to evaluate the former Air Force base's potential for entering the logistics industry.
"As we go out and try to market and grow the facility, we need to better ascertain what our strengths and weaknesses are," said Mark Hendrickson, Merced County director of community and economic development.
"What it will do is give us an opportunity to actually determine how and where Castle fits into the world of logistics, if at all," he said.
The analysis will be led by Global Logistics Development Partners and will review Castle's air, ground and rail infrastructure. The contract is slated for one year.
The former base houses 65 businesses, Hendrickson said, but there's a portion of its 1,912 acres that can be utilized to attract even more.
"The reality is we have about 450 acres of prime space that can be used as a means to jump start economic activity in this region," Hendrickson said.
Officials said the groundbreaking of the Atwater-Merced Expressway Project last week, which aims to improve ground transportation to and from Castle, will further aid in moving commodities through the county.
Merced Mayor Stan Thurston, president of Gemini Flight Support, said Castle hasn't been utilized to its full potential since the closure of the Air Force base.
The market analysis will help officials better market Castle's facilities to new businesses, he said.
"I think one of the objectives of this study is to try to determine who Castle's customers are," Thurston said. "So we know who to go after and not waste a lot of time and money going after potential customers that will never be there."
The consultant will give the Board of Supervisors regular updates on the assessment's findings, Hendrickson said, to help provide a clear perspective on Castle's future.
County officials did not release a "Request for Proposal" for a consultant, but selected Global Logistics Development Partners because of the firm's specialized expertise working with former military installations.
The consultant will meet with stakeholders over the next few weeks, including community members and business leaders. Global Logistics also will look at data and determine what commodities are appropriate for shipment from Castle.
Merced County District 3 Supervisor Linn Davis, whose district includes Castle, said the study will provide an overall picture of one of the county's most valuable assets.
"What I'm looking for out of this is to identify the attractiveness and dynamics of Castle," Davis said. "I'm hoping we'll gain some insights on Castle's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats."
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.