Confirmation arrived Friday that Seattle-based e-commerce giant Amazon will convert the former Kmart store on Wilson Road into a “last-mile delivery station” as part of a $20 million renovation project expected to create 200 new jobs when the facility becomes operational later this year. The project, first reported by The Californian in December, elicited praise from city officials who view it as a community asset sure to improve service to residents while also beautifying what some have described as blighted property along a major commercial corridor in south Bakersfield. “This innovative local facility means our community gets even better service when they order their packages online,” Mayor Karen Goh said in a news release sent out Friday. “This announcement also lets business leaders know that Bakersfield welcomes industries and innovators ready to grow and expand in California.”
Paperwork filed with the city called for a majority of the former shopping center property’s 128,150-square-foot footprint to remain in place. But it said the shopping center’s eastern portion would be bulldozed to accommodate driving access and parking. The demolition was expected to take out several small businesses that had been operating on the property. The paperwork also said the proposed facility would receive and sort six truckloads of consumer goods per day. Products would then be loaded onto 20 delivery vans and shipped out in staggered departure times to avoid causing congestion.
An Orange County public relations firm that issued Friday’s news release on the city of Bakersfield’s behalf said the property has been purchased by Greenlaw Partners, an Irvine real estate developer. Greenlaw had also been negotiating to buy a separate series of properties near Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, and people involved in those talks said Amazon was the intended operator. It was unclear whether the company remains interested in those additional properties. The PR firm that issued the news release declined to say whether Amazon expects to open additional last-mile stations in Kern. Greenlaw and Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment. The news release said renovations to the Wilson Road site will benefit the local neighborhood and improve Wilson Road by adding a new parking lot, lighting and attractive landscaping. It said there will be a new roof and bay doors will be installed to accommodate delivery service.
Bakersfield Assistant City Manager Jacqui Kitchen called the project an “outstanding opportunity for Bakersfield.” “Amazon’s new facility will revitalize an empty building in the city that no longer served our residents,” she stated in Friday’s news release. “The conversion of this former big box site into an innovative last-mile e-commerce facility aligns with the changing needs of local consumers and the city looks forward to working with Amazon to help integrate the new operations into our city and provide a significant boost to our local economy.”
Kmart closed its store at the shopping center just west of Highway 99 in early 2017. That was followed by the closure of a Big Lots store located next door. Since then, the owner of an apartment complex to the south has complained that the mostly vacant center has attracted transients who sometimes hop a fence onto its property.
MODESTO, Calif. — Alejandro Alcazar had worked as a digital marketing coordinator for about a year when he discovered an interest in coding.
“I grew really interested in computer programming through messing with our (company) website and learning a lot about data science,” he said.
Alcazar has a degree in business administration, but he wasn’t using those skills in his job. Still, he didn’t know enough about web development to secure a position in the industry. That’s when he learned about classes at Bay Valley Tech, a Modesto-based coding school.
The 24-year-old enrolled in early 2020, and, after completing the seven-month program, got a job as a business intelligence analyst for a winery.
In his new job, Alcazar said he uses skills he developed at Bay Valley Tech to work with the company’s internal dashboards that show product and demographic data, as well as its search engine. His pay also increased by more than 30% in his new role.
Workers like Alcazar aren’t the only ones wanting to capitalize on the benefits of the tech industry. If a city can retain its tech workers, it can usually count on a boost to the local economy and an influx of other businesses and professionals such as lawyers and accountants.
But keeping tech workers local requires innovation and incentive, as leaders across Stanislaus County in California’s Central Valley are finding out.
Compared with other industries, the tech sector has remained competitive in the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote work has become the new normal, and the tech industry was quick to adapt, expanding flexible work policies into post-pandemic times.
Now, office parks sit empty and cities and corporations must grapple with the changing nature of office work and all the possibilities it brings.
Less than two hours east of the Bay Area, the Central Valley isn’t exactly known as a tech hub. Agriculture, logistics and manufacturing dominate the area; the region is home to the world’s largest commercial winery and farms that feed the nation.
The workforce reflects that too — only 17% of Stanislaus County residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, Census data shows. Given that, it may not be surprising that Modesto, the county’s largest city, has no four-year university of its own.
The “skills gap” in the workforce is only widening. Local high schools and colleges have struggled to keep up as the economy evolves to favor more tech-forward industries.
Tech firms bypass Central Valley
As local talent pools dry up, Silicon Valley companies looking to expand have often picked other states. such as Texas and Idaho, instead of the county next door.
“There’s such a shortage of tech workers in the Bay Area right now that virtually every large tech firm has already expanded out of state looking for more talent,” said Phillip Lan, co-founder of Bay Valley Tech, a local coding academy. “Unfortunately, the vast majority of them have stepped over the Central Valley, just because they don’t feel like there’s enough of a technical workforce here yet.”
Lan and his team are trying to change that. Bay Valley Tech offers free and low-cost coding classes to students in a variety of web-based development languages, providing hands-on training through lessons, events like hackathons, and networking opportunities.
So far, Lan said, Bay Valley Tech has trained more than 150 students and is on pace to reach 300 in 2021. But his goals are set higher.
“Our strategy is that if we train enough people here in the Central Valley, that’ll start to get the attention of these larger tech companies like Uber, Airbnb and Google,” he said. “We’re looking to build out Bay Valley (Tech’s) expertise sector by sector.”
In the past, tech hub development depended in part on the physical infrastructure a city could provide — like Silicon Valley’s history of making computer chips and Austin’s decades-long infrastructure support for its tech industry. But with the pandemic’s new normal and the majority of Silicon Valley’s big tech firms building virtual products, physical space is no longer at a premium.
Focus is on training workers
Instead, Bay Valley Tech and other organizations in the Central Valley are focusing on training employees who can accept remote jobs from Bay Area-based companies or work in satellite offices closer to home.
Daisy Mayorga leads the local chapter of Google’s Women Techmakers, aimed at providing community and resources for women in the industry. She said it’s critical that women and other underrepresented groups in tech are seen and heard by potential employers.
“When people start to see that, you’ll see more businesses start to open and more people start to want to start their own software companies,” she said.
In addition to jobs related to software, Modesto is trying to attract employers who build hardware. The VOLT Institute, a trade school focused on maintenance mechanics and mechatronics, recently acquired new equipment to train workers.
Kevin Fox, director of marketing and student engagement at VOLT, said the pandemic has taught the staff that improving workers’ skills is crucial, especially when employers are “desperate to bring anybody who is qualified with the proper skill set on to fill those positions that are vacant.”
He said the Central Valley has plenty of residents who are hungry for these kinds of opportunities.
“There are young people here that are just dying to get a good job and try something creative and useful,” he said. “Something that benefits a community.”
Source: Kristina Karisch covers economic development for The Modesto Bee. This dispatch is part of a series called “On the Ground” with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Follow her on Twitter: @kristinakarisch
Why is the Valley so attractive? “If you’re going to be doing commerce or e-commerce, you’re going to be distributing to both ends of the state, it centers you right here in the middle. Secondly, the cost of property and availability of property,” Kahn said. These Projects could bring Jobs and added tax revenues. Madera County says it’s working on projects and partnerships, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens next. Overall, the Central Valley seems to be in the right place to help companies and e-commerce growth in the future.
Amazon has filled yet another major order. The king of online sales signed a lease for a 1 million-square-foot distribution center in Central California. It will be the anchor tenant at one of the largest industrial commerce complexes in the Western U.S., according to the landlord, Wonderful Real Estate. The massive industrial park is in the city of Shafter, bordering Bakersfield, and also includes major tenants like Walmart, Target, and Ross Stores.
Amazon’s continued expansion comes as online shopping and e-commerce consumer activity surges in the U.S., further demonstrating the persistent need for warehouse and industrial space. Amazon will use the 72-acre property at 4500 Express Avenue to sort and ship items including apparel, accessories, and footwear. The site will create more than 1,000 full- and part-time jobs that pay a minimum of $15 per hour. The deal also comes shortly after the owners announced that Walmart signed a lease to occupy a 630,000-square-foot, grocery-focused distribution center at the same Wonderful Industrial Park (WIP). The 1,625-acre distribution center complex is approximately 100 miles north of Los Angeles. It is entitled for 26 million square feet, and nearly 10 million square feet are leased and under operation following the Amazon lease.
The park’s location allows access to 14 percent of the U.S. population within 300 miles, and same-day delivery to 30 million Californians, according to Wonderful Real Estate. The site also boasts access to the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Long Beach, and the Port of Oakland. The property features a FedEx Ground hub on-site, and is near a UPS ground hub in Bakersfield, where Amazon opened another distribution center last August. Ross Stores occupies more than 3 million square feet of space, while Target is signed to 2 million square feet of space at WIP. Other occupants include Essendant (Staples), American Tire Distributors, Formica, and Hillman, as well as other third-party logistics companies. “Despite COVID-19, the commercial real estate story of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 continues to be how hot the industrial market is, with tenants like Ross, Walmart and now, Amazon, choosing to locate these major mission-critical facilities at WIP in consecutive years,” said Joe Vargas, president of Wonderful Real Estate Development, in a press release.
Amazon has been busy around the country, and throughout the state of California. The firm recently announced another new delivery center in Silicon Beach in L.A., and in November, Amazon acquired the Orange County Register’s former printing location for $63.2 million, and plans to demolish it and build a new last-mile distribution warehouse. In the first quarter of 2021, Wonderful will also break ground on its latest speculative development, a 1.1 million-square-foot property at 3800 Fanucchi Way in WIP, which is set to be complete before the end of the year.
After 2 years of construction activity United Parcel Service (UPS) plans to open their new 450,000sf distribution hub on Plaza at Riggin in the Visalia Industrial Park early next month. UPS spokesperson Kim Krebs says when it opens the “new Visalia package sortation and distribution center will create more than 625 new full-and part-time well-paying jobs.”
Contractors are packing up now after erecting the 88 acre complex that includes several outbuildings, a truck maintenance facility, fuel center, customer service center and entrance station besides the main tilt-up concrete building with its advanced package sorting conveyor system. UPS bought the land in summer of 2017 from CapRock Partners adding 30 acres last fall from the same party. But wait,as they say ..there’s more.
Right next door to UPS there is some surprise news from another mega-shipper. Amazon is the unnamed mystery logistics center that is now under construction with a 1.3 million square ft distribution center of their own – one of their “fulfillment centers” that typically employ 1000 or more. Amazon has not announced the Visalia project but the contractor on the job Gray Construction based in Kentucky is an Amazon contractor and at the job site today.The company secured the city building permit.
Blake Steel with Gray Construction says this will be the third Amazon center he has worked on and says they will be complete in 11 months. Some 300 construction workers will be needed during the busiest months of the Visalia project.
A typical scenario played out in Fresno with the distribution center built and open in less than a year. In Fresno’s case “During peak times, the fulfillment center ships over 1 million packages per day and has created over 3,500 jobs within the immediate area” says a report. If Fresno has one, Bakersfield too now has seen completion of a 4-story Amazon complex near their airport, expected to open September 6,according to the Bakersfield Californian.
The new general manager told the press there “This is one of the most advanced buildings that Amazon has,” he said, adding that the building — four stories, each about the size of 11 football fields — is the company’s 26th “fulfillment center” in California.” Make that the 27th – counting Visalia. Like UPS, Amazon is not just hiring robots to do the work. Amazon has more than 110 active fulfillment centers in the US and more than 185 centers globally. Now we are on the map
Property owner Newport-based CapRock Partners has been working on this 1.3 million “spec building” for over a year and just received City of Visalia approval to begin construction with grading of the empty site starting last week. Electric power to the site for construction is being added this week to the new address- 3315 N Kelsey.The building has a million sf at ground level and a 300,000sf mezzanine.
CapRocks’ President Patrick Daniels said he could not comment who the tenant was for the big building, what will be by far Visalia’s largest – almost 10 Costcos for comparison. Daniels has been working on their 640 acre industrial park – they call it the Visalia Logistics Center – since 2006 when he first visited Visalia drawn by developer Richard Allen and his successful effort to bring in VF Corp to Visalia in 2005. VF, a major local employer, is another big UPS customer who came to town because UPS ships by ground from Visalia to most of California in less time than almost all other competitive locations. Scores of other firms have suggested that is why, they too, chose Visalia.
With the coming of these two new shippers, the City of Visalia already is planning to widen Riggin from Plaza to Shirk in coming months as well as punching Kelsey north that will allow Amazon street access.The Riggin and Kelsey intersection will now be signaled. Riggin is already busy with truck traffic with the new connection to Highway 99 ( Betty Drive Interchange) that fully opened in the past year.
As for jobs at Amazon the Bakersfield location is a close model, offering warehousing jobs paying $15 to start, the company says, and full-time employees immediately qualify for comprehensive health benefits as well as a 401(k) program with a 50 percent company match. Amazon also offers to pay 95 percent of tuition for college courses in in-demand fields, regardless of whether that education relates to their current job with Amazon.
Amazon.com also said last week it received federal approval to establish a fleet of drones and will begin limited tests of package deliveries to customers in the U.S., although a number of key steps remain before widespread use of the technology will be allowed. Besides drones, both UPS and Amazon promises a green fleet of delivery vehicles based in the Visalia Industrial Park.
What will be the impact on government of a new Amazon logistic center here? A summary of Amazon’s 2019 U.S. taxes they reported includes:
•Over $1 billion in federal income tax expense.
•More than $2.4 billion in other federal taxes, including payroll taxes and customs duties.
•More than $1.6 billion in state and local taxes, including payroll taxes, property taxes, state income taxes, and gross receipts taxes.
•Last year alone, Amazon collected and remitted nearly $9 billion in sales and use taxes to states and localities throughout the U.S. The recent enactment of “marketplace laws” by 40 states allows Amazon to legally collect state and local sales and use taxes on behalf of third-party sellers who sell their goods on their platform.
If Amazon is the golden boy company, UPS and their stock has been on a tear recently as well, propelled by a surge in e-commerce activity this year as a result of COVID. UPS stock has doubled since May.
UPS is developing more so-called super-hubs across the US handling more shipments using highly automated technology.The trend is continuing as demand for same-day service accelerates fueled by more internet shopping and door-to-door delivery. The company is gearing up for the holiday shipping season 2020 in Visalia a year earlier than Amazon will do here – for the holiday season of 2021. With all those internet orders a recent analysis expects that e-commerce will require more than 3x the logistics space of brick-and-mortar sales, according to 2019 data.
Global e-commerce sales are projected to more than double to $6.5 trillion by 2023, according to Statista. The Boston Consulting Group estimates U.S. e-commerce sales will double too, to $1 trillion, growing at six times the rate of all retail transactions.
Those projections came before the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted an explosion in online shopping by people avoiding brick-and-mortar stores because of stay-home orders or fear of being infected by the virus. Best Buy recently reported that e-commerce sales grew 242% from the year-ago quarter and now represent 53% of total sales. VF Corp recently posted e-commerce earnings enjoying a surge as well.
The side-by-side locations of UPS and Amazon in Visalia may encourage a mutual feeding frenzy in our future. Amazon is UPS’ largest customer, accounting for almost 12% of UPS’ $74 billion in revenue last year. Besides taxes, payroll and the job impacts of the double powerhouses of UPS and Amazon, the developments will clearly draw more companies to Visalia say officials. Already 5 more spec buildings are nearing completion within a country block of the two centers.
CapRock itself has 300 more acres just to the north of the Amazon/UPS sites and Fresno developer John Brelsford ,who already has a dozen tenant-filled big buildings in the industrial park, has 150 acres at the NWC of Plaza and Riggin. CapRock too has plans to build another 500,000sf spec building just north of Amazon.
The coming of all this new industry along the city’s northern edge is going to further juice homebuilding in this area and spur other development along Riggin that now ties to Hwy 99 – a continuous 4-lane artery.To the west of Plaza, Brelsford plans several million square feet of new industrial space and sources say Tevelde has long range plans to annex land not yet in the city north of Riggin,plenty more land almost to Hwy 99.
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August 5, 2020
The County of Madera Board of Supervisors approved a Small Business Pandemic Assistance Grant program to help support small businesses located in Madera County, including the City of Madera and the City of Chowchilla. The County will partner with the Madera County Economic Development Commission (MCEDC) to disperse over $3.8 Million in the form of small business grants. The County received the funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, Economic Security Act (or CARES Act) from the State of California originating from the United States Government. “This program affirms the Board’s commitment to use available resources to help ensure businesses in the County see a path to recovery from this crisis,” said David Rogers, Board Chairman.
By state mandate many businesses that had just recently reopened were forced to shut their doors for a second time. “Small businesses employ a significant portion of our community, especially in the hard hit sectors like tourism and hospitality. The action taken by the Board of Supervisors will give our local economy a chance to weather this pandemic,” said Jay Varney, Madera County CAO. “So many of our small businesses throughout the County have been devastated by the COVID- 19 Pandemic we felt this was a great way to help them survive during these unprecedented times,” said Bobby Kahn, Executive Director of MCEDC. “It has been the absolute worst nightmare come true for so many industries.”
Eligible businesses with 50 or fewer employees can apply for grants in the amount of $5,000 or $10,000 depending on the size of their business. They will be able to obtain applications by going to mcedccountybusinessgrant.com or call the MCEDC office at 559-675-7768 for assistance.
STOCKTON – There were smiles all around Tuesday as the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors approved a lease with e-commerce giant Amazon to develop property at the Stockton Metropolitan Airport, creating hundreds of jobs and bringing significant new activity to the region. “This is great for the county, great for jobs and great for the airport’s expansion,” Supervisor Tom Patti said following a presentation of the lease proposal by Airport Director Russell Stark at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Stark said the development is expected to generate 240 jobs for Amazon.com Services LLC, the company that will support Amazon at the airport. Amazon already has several large distribution centers in the region, making it the largest private sector industrial employer in San Joaquin County. The services company will lease 9.569 acres from the county-owned airport in order to build a $10-15 million, 56,000-square-foot building, along with parking for trucks and employees. The building will allow Amazon to more than double the current capacity of cargo that can be processed at the airport.
Amazon began operations there in 2016, using multiple air cargo service providers to transport products to and from it site in a temporary 20,000-square-foot sprung structure. To date, Amazon has moved 205,830 tons through the airport, according to Stark.
The initial term of the lease is five years, with nine five-year options for a total of 49 years providing the airport with $54,187 in annual revenue, or $270,937 over the first five-year period. The agreement includes a 5% escalator every five years until year 21, and, if the options are exercised, a fair market value assessment will be conducted and the rent will be adjusted according to the assessment findings. In addition, the airport will see an estimated $300,00 in annual revenue generated through increased fuel flowage fees and landing fees. The future calls for expanding daily aircraft capacity to eight large cargo jets.