The Mayor’s Economic Task Force will take a break in August and unite again in September to discuss the final draft of the 2014 Economic Development Strategic Plan for Turlock.
Approved for creation by the Turlock City Council on July 23, 2013, the task force was made in an effort to create more jobs, support business growth, and “identify strategies to make Turlock a stronger economic competitor” according to the Plan.
Consisting of private citizens, local government, members of the business community, and other economic professionals, the task force is intended to provide a variety of voices from the community to focus on business retention, expansion, and recruitment.
According to Mayor John Lazar “there is a new attitude at City Hall” as new ideas are emerging in what he describes as a “new day dawning” in Turlock. Lazar, whose term will end come January, is trying to finalize ideas in the Strategic Plan that now also acts as a guide for the City’s Legislative Platform used in Turlock’s representation at a state level.
“Economic development is more than just infrastructure, jobs, and buildings,” the Message from the Mayor reads in the plan. “It is a pathway to self-sufficient neighborhoods and a fiscally sound City. As the economy continues to improve in the coming years it is essential that Turlock is recognized for its assets and is known as a welcoming and effective city in which to conduct business. Our Turlock Regional Industrial Park is a unique asset with which we can uniquely market ourselves as the Silicon Valley of Food processing.”
Lazar explains that the Economic Development Strategic Plan is made to achieve this vision with use of the City’s resources. The plan is divided into four sections:
- Section 1: Report Objectives and Scope, which includes a summary of existent findings and recommendations for the future.
- Section 2: Economic Profile and Competitive Assessment, which presents a review of Turlock’s economy in relation to understanding and assessing impediments to and needs for economic growth and development in Turlock. Competitive strengths and weaknesses are also identified and evaluated in Section 2, including review of assets and attributes that make Turlock an attractive location for economic growth and review of liabilities and shortcomings that may hinder the City in attracting and sustaining economic growth.
- Section 3: Economic Development Opportunities and Targets, which identifies and profiles several types of business and industry for which the Turlock area is well suited and can become more competitive.
- Section 4: Strategic Goals, Objectives, and Action Plan, which presents long-range economic development goals and objectives and a short-term five- year action plan.
The task force believes that the plan sections can be implemented in coordination with the neighborhood specific strategies involving residents, property owners, businesses, CSU Stanislaus, the Chamber of Commerce, Turlock Visitors and Convention Bureau, and the Stanislaus Alliance. It draws on background information from the Economic Development Element of the Turlock General Plan 2013 as well as the 2003 Economic Development Plan.
According to the plan, Turlock’s strengths include:
- Competitive power costs
- Proximity to Highway 99
- Water availability
- Recycled water availability
- Regionals serving parks, including the Turlock Regional Sports Complex and Pedretti Park
- Unique and inviting downtown
- Mainline rail service
- Wastewater capacity
Turlock’s weaknesses include:
- Distance to Interstate 5
- Few available buildings
- Lack of basic skills and employability
- Location (Its ideal location qualities are shared by its neighboring cities including Modesto, Manteca, and Lodi and it has limited access to Interstate 5.)
One main idea at “the heart of the plan” is the concept of the potential in Turlock for industry clustering. The theory of industry clustering looks at economic development on a larger scale where companies converge in areas that offer a whole spectrum of opportunity in one place. According to the plan, these can include research activities, educational programs, infrastructure, and talent. By locating near like businesses, companies have to compete for talent– but this draws a larger pool of employees in to choose from. It also keeps wages competitive, can improve productivity, inspire a faster pace, and fuel new startups.
The Strategic Plan presents Turlock’s proposed industry clusters as being health care, education, and most of all agricultural processing.
Four “to-do” type of bullets offered in the plan include to: update the Strategic Plan every five years, increase linked activities and businesses (industry cluster), attract jobs for local residents, and bolster a sports tournament industry to boost visitor revenue.
The “2014 Vision” reads, “We will support an economically and socially diverse population, and a vibrant business community through partnerships and by fostering development that offers people the ability to live and work in Turlock” with the overall goal being to “Continue to develop Turlock as a great place to live and work.”
Broken down, the final goals are:
- Goal 1: Fully improved sites and buildings will be available for businesses to start up, expand and relocate in Turlock.
- Goal 2: The Turlock economic development partners will work in a coordinated manner to increase job opportunities in the city through the agriculture, manufacturing, logistics, and medical services clusters.
- Goal 3: Downtown Turlock will be the business, cultural, and civic center of the city.
- Goal 4: The community will host a wide variety of tourism, community and sporting events, and activities .
- Goal 5: The City of Turlock will support entrepreneurial and small business activities.
- Goal 6: Our educational system will build a citizenry which is prepared for the 21st century workforce.
- Goal 7: Turlock will be a leader in the Central Valley in access to art, music, and other cultural events.
Under the words “Five Year Implementation Plan” the final lines of the 27-page draft read, “Who is charge of doing what and when?????”
The Mayor’s Economic Development Task Force will meet again in September to review the final draft.