Written By Donald A. Promnitz
For more information on the fastest growing companies in the San Joaquin Valley, please see The Business Journal’s annual list on page 10.
According to Tom Howard, the owner of Lee’s, this uptick in business can be largely attributed to customer service and reputation, along with upgraded software to connect with customers. Another big factor, however, has been the improvement of the economy, both nationally and locally.
“It allows homeowners to make upgrades that they haven’t been able to make before,” Howard said. “I think that the economy is doing a lot better in the Central Valley than it was in 2009 and 2010 — that definitely helped fuel the growth.”
Howard isn’t alone in his observation. According to Fresno State economist Ernie Goss, the Central Valley — which has previously lagged behind the rest of the state — has been making rapid progress in recent years.
“Now the catch up is really [sped] up, meaning the rate of growth has been positive for quite some time,” Goss said. “But the rate has definitely increased and relative to the U.S., it’s certainly stronger.”
In Goss’s research, he found that overall job growth in the Central Valley over the past 12 months has been 2.6 percent compared to the national average of 1.7 percent. Howard said that his own company has expanded its employment roster from approximately 26 in 2015 to about 50. Meanwhile, expanded business has given Lee’s the ability to pay tuition for his employees who are in college, along with their books.
Goss added that construction and manufacturing are two other sectors to watch. Construction is surpassing the national average with 8.3 percent job growth in the region, while in manufacturing, its 5.1 percent. Delano Construction, LLC of Fresno, which currently has a roster of 26 employees, saw a revenue growth of 208 percent.
The last three years have also proven successful for the solar companies in the region. Topping this industry has been Energy Concepts Enterprises, Inc., which went from revenues of $4.2 million in 2015 to $9.8 million in 2017, a rate of 132 percent. SunPower by Quality Home Services also saw growth of 90 percent in the same time frame, while in Visalia, CalCom Energy was up by 47.46 percent. According to Ryan Gutierrez of Energy Concepts, this has largely been the result of higher utility bills.
“Rates are continually going up,” Gutierrez said. “Solar offers a way for a customer to avoid rate increases by covering their own quest for energy.”
Goss said that tariffs on imported solar panels would further help domestic manufacturers.
Meanwhile, a law passed earlier this year mandating solar panels on new homes could also be good business when it goes into effect in 2020.
For some companies, however, growth isn’t necessarily facilitated by a growing economy. For example, BCT Consulting, Inc. of Fresno, provider of technology solutions, tends to be busier when there’s a dip in the market. This is because their company deals in the outsourcing of technology and helping clients find solutions that are more cost effective.
Nonetheless, BCT has grown by 27 percent. Eric Rawn, president and founder, credited this to acquisitions and mergers, along with community outreach and customer service.
“We don’t want to grow just to grow,” Rawn said. “We want to grow because it makes sense for everyone involved.”
In the months and years to come, Goss added that he has optimism for the future of the San Joaquin Valley. Though he stated concerns about immigration and the agricultural exports being impacted by the current trade war with China, he said the region has become increasingly appealing to the rest of the state.
“So there is the ability of some of those companies coming to Fresno and enjoying many of the benefits of California, but not many of the costs that we’re seeing in San Francisco, for example,” Goss said.