Central Valley

Turlock eager to attract industry

There's always a folder in the back seat of Heidi McNally-Dial's car.

Turlock's economic development manager wants to be prepared anytime she gets a chance to talk about the city's Westside Industrial Specific Plan.

The plan, known around town as the WISP, encompasses 2,600 acres west of the city roughly bordered by Highway 99, Fulkerth Road, North Washington Road and Linwood Avenue. Of that land, 1,800 acres is vacant or underused.

In this economy, the WISP competes with industrial land throughout the region, much of it developed by businesses that have closed up shop and left.

McNally-Dial touts the "shovel ready" parcels in the WISP, its proximity to Highway 99 and train tracks, and its completed environmental review process.

"You build on a certified (environmental impact review)," she said. "We had a cold-storage business come in that went through the approval process at the staff level in eight weeks."

That process can take a year or two.

City Manager Roy Wasden said that with the WISP's location and low energy rates available from the Turlock Irrigation District, "we believe Turlock's efforts have created the best location for new industrial growth in the entire San Joaquin Valley."

The city's Redevelopment Agency has spent $8 million on water and sewer construction, and has an additional $6 million planned.

Wasden said the city will work "to get the word out about the Westside Industrial area and provide world-class service to those companies that decide to expand or locate here."

The city hopes to attract agricultural and "green" companies, such as Peninsula Plastics. The company, a subsidiary of Merlin Plastics of Canada, recycles plastic bottles, turning them into flakes or pellets, or other food containers. It started with recycling the 200,000-square-foot building that housed Varco Pruden, a sheet metal manufacturing company.

Tom Sponder, chief operating officer for Peninsula Plastics, said his company is thrilled with the service it's gotten.

"We like Turlock," he said. "We got the sense they want us here, making sure things went smoothly for us.

"Every step of the way they have been a part of the process."

More people to be hired

Thirteen people work at the plant now; Sponder said he'll be hiring an additional 100, starting early this year, as the processing machines come online.

Other companies that have opened up shop in the WISP include:

Sensient Dehydrated Foods, a 227,000-square-foot warehouse showroom on Walnut that employs about 20 people

US Cold Storage, being built in two phases totaling 470,000 square feet and employing 25 to 30 people

Nelson-Jameson, a business that expanded into a 30,160-square-foot warehouse and offices on Humphrey Court, creating eight new jobs.

Several projects have been approved and are preparing to build:

A 348,000-square-foot cheese plant on 23 acres next to US Cold Storage

Two 109,000-square-foot warehouses with office and bays on Kilroy Road

A 20,450-square-foot warehouse and distribution facility on Spengler Way

A 101,000-square-foot shopping center on nine acres at West Main Street and Kilroy

Space for a variety of needs

Several companies, including Kozy Shack, Sunnyside Farms and SupHerb Farms have expanded recently, McNally-Dial said.

She said the variety is representative of what the city can house at the WISP — "a new, large company, a large expansion of an existing company and a reuse of an old building."

"We realize that job growth is essential to a healthy economy," Wasden said. "The Westside Industrial area represents a tremendous opportunity for job growth for all residents of Stanislaus County."

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.