Another manufacturing facility for Patterson, boosting jobs for Stanislaus County

A new manufacturing plant in western Stanislaus County will provide more space to make office furniture for high-tech firms and will increase the company’s workforce. HPL Contract of Patterson is proposing the 128,800-square-foot facility in the West Patterson Business Park, according to plans submitted to the city. HPL, based in a facility on Baldwin Road in Patterson, plans the two-story building with robotic equipment on eight acres at 2501 Keystone Pacific Parkway, east of Haggerty Drive.

The project will increase HPL’s workforce in Patterson to between 50 and 80 employees. Founded in 1997, HPL makes office furniture for Silicon Valley businesses and global companies including Facebook and Google. Plans for the new facility call for hours of operation Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The development plans were submitted to City Hall in February. The size of the facility triggers a city requirement for 273 parking spaces, according to city planning reports, but the City Council is considering new parking standards for manufacturing facilities.

If the council approves the new parking standards of one space per 1,000 square feet, the HPL facility will have 152 parking spaces, including 24 for electric vehicles. If the City Council does not approve the parking standard amendments, HPL will need to work 273 spaces into the development plan. Keith Schneider, the applicant, said a fewer number of parking spaces makes sense for the manufacturing plant. “Manufacturing today is more highly sophisticated and more automated with high-skilled employees,” Schneider said. Patterson is looking at updated parking requirements for automated and robotic manufacturing facilities, which employ fewer workers than traditional factories.

A survey found that some other cities have more lenient standards than Patterson’s one parking space per 500 square feet. Fresno’s standard is one space per 1,500 square feet of floor area. Merced and Turlock require one space per 1,000 square feet, while Tracy requires one per 600 square feet. Patterson’s planning commission approved an architectural review of the HPL facility Thursday. The city hasn’t set a council hearing on the parking standards.

After city permits are approved, construction of the HPL facility is expected to be completed in 12 months. The company will move its operations from two locations in Patterson to the new building, Schneider said. HPL’s website says the business is committed to sustainable work environments and business practices based on sound economics, environmental protection and social responsibility.

Carbon business park planned in western Kern could bring 22K jobs, $88M in tax revenue

A new analysis has found a giant carbon management business park envisioned in western Kern could go a long way toward replacing local jobs and tax revenues expected to be lost as state and federal climate action continues to erode the county’s oil and gas industry.

If the proposal is able attract the estimated $1.3 to $2.5 billion in private investment needed for construction, and assuming it clears environmental hurdles, the proposal would be expected to create at least 13,540 jobs and more than $41 million per year for local cities and county government.

A less conservative estimate suggests the potential benefit could be much higher: as many as 22,014 new jobs and up to $88 million in local tax revenues, according to the county-ordered report by Yorba Linda economic consulting firm Natelson Dale.

The assessment raises hopes the range of climate-friendly activities proposed for the carbon management business park, from production of so-called green hydrogen and green steel to biomass carbon removal and storage, will generate economic opportunity to a degree the county’s massive solar and wind energy installations alone have not.

“The CMBP promises to be a significant economic driver that will further enhance and complement our region’s incredibly diverse and dynamic energy portfolio,” President and CEO Richard Chapman of Kern Economic Development Corp. said in an email Friday. He serves on the park’s executive steering committee along with representatives of local industry, higher education, government and environmental justice groups.

Kern County’s chief administrative officer, Ryan J. Alsop, explained the county’s intentions in an email:

“The development of a Carbon Management Business Park, and the board’s consideration of this agenda item, is in line with our adopted five-year strategic plan to prioritize the development and continued growth of a thriving, resilient regional economy, which means promoting and supporting our county’s position as a national energy leader, and further strengthening our position as the alternative energy technologies and solutions leader among all other counties in the state of California.”

Planning of the business park has been spearheaded by Director Lorelei Oviatt of the Kern County Planning and Natural Resources Department and largely funded by a technical assistance grant last year from the U.S. Department of Energy. Its conceptual development has run concurrently with progress by local oil and gas producers on related proposals for capturing and burying carbon dioxide.

Permanent burial of greenhouse gases is the various projects’ common link. Incentivized by state and federal tax credits and driven in part by potential revenue from the market for private carbon credits, carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS, would deploy a set of advantages unique to Kern. These include vast underground reservoirs in areas suitably far from residential development, existing energy infrastructure, business-friendly permitting and local industrial and underground injection expertise.

Another factor seen as critical to continued state and federal support is the damage that climate action does to Kern’s employment and tax base. Policymakers have acknowledged weaning California off internal combustion engines will eliminate thousands of good local jobs and cost county government many tens of millions of dollars per year in property tax revenue.

Natelson Dale’s assessment, released Thursday as part of a county staff report previewing a presentation scheduled for Tuesday to the county Board of Supervisors, provides the clearest picture yet of how much the local economy may stand to gain if the carbon management business park proceeds as planned.

The report contained the caveat that the CMBP proposes to include new types of industries that, so far, have not built installations of the scale the county envisions. It noted property valuations the tax revenue projections are based on assume industrial zoning will be applied across 4,000 acres, with an additional 30,000 acres set aside for commercial-scale photovoltaic solar arrays to power the business park. Also, extensive environmental reviews subject to scrutiny by skeptical advocacy groups would have to be approved before development could begin.

That said, the consultancy’s most conservative guess was that the county would receive almost $24.2 million in property tax revenue per year as a direct result of the business park’s development, plus $4.3 million in sales tax income. Local cities, it said, would annually get more than $4.5 million from property tax and $8.4 million from sales tax.

The more optimistic view was that county’s annual property tax revenue would grow by more than $56 million if the CMBP comes to fruition, while sales tax receipts would rise by almost $8 million per year. For cities, the figures were $8.4 million and $15.6 million, respectively. The report’s new-employment projections included wage estimates of between $1 million and $1.8 million, led by jobs in a steel micro mill with between 500 and 1,501 positions, green hydrogen (368 to 1,228) and a research-and-development incubator site (325 to 876).

A broad jobs category called ancillary clean energy industries was expected to add a total of between 11,682 and 15,575 new positions.

Suzanne Noble, senior director of production operations at the Western States Petroleum Association, who serves on the CMBP executive steering committee, said in a statement that the trade group is proud to be part of the effort. “These types of partnerships show the importance of the oil industry today and for the future,” she wrote. “The county, with the support of the Department of Energy, is taking the lead in energy innovation.”

Wonderful Company Inks Million Square Foot Lease with Fortune 500 Food Manufacturer at Wonderful Industrial Park

SHAFTER, CA; Sept 13, 2022Wonderful Real Estate Development, one of the most active industrial real estate developers on the West Coast, has leased its most recent 1 million-square-foot speculative building to a prominent Fortune 500 American food manufacturer. The building is located at 3800 Fanucchi Way and features 1,063,000 square feet, 40 feet of clear height, 215-dock high doors, and parking expandable to 1,000 stalls to accommodate trailers and employee spaces. The facility is located on a 70-acre site with a building-to-site coverage of 35 percent. The food manufacturer intends to use the facility as a distribution center to sort and ship goods across the western region, including California, Nevada, and Washington. More than 150 jobs will be created with operations expected to begin in Q1 2023.

“With over 10 million square feet of occupied space in Wonderful Industrial Park by some of the best-known brands in America, our park has become the premier logistics and distribution business park in the Western U.S. that reaches a population size and market that is comparable to New York and New Jersey’s. In terms of demand, we see no let up from tenants that require very large and efficient industrial real estate. In fact, we’re already underway with another 1 million-square-foot speculative building and have two tenant proposals in hand, as well as a speculative 400,000-square-foot building that will likely be leased before the building shell is completed,” said Joe Vargas, SIOR, and President of Wonderful Real Estate Development.

In the recent lease to the American food company, the landlord was represented by Phil Lombardo. Cruise Adams, and Andrew Starnes at Cushman and Wakefield and the tenant was represented by Lynn Reich, Suzanne Serino, and Steve Bellitti at Colliers.

Over the last 4 years, Wonderful Industrial Park has delivered three 1 million-square-foot warehouses and over 4 million square feet in industrial space including both build-to-suit and speculative projects. In 2021, Amazon leased a 1 million-square-foot building on 72-acres located at 4500 Express within Wonderful Industrial Park. Other large occupiers in the park include Ross Stores with +3 million square feet on 130 acres, Target’s 2 million square feet on 80 acres and, Walmart at 630,000 square feet and 80 feet of clear height on 60 acres. Walmart’s prototype state of the art grocery-focused distribution center incorporates the most sophisticated automated sorting equipment and systems in the industry. Other WIP occupants include Essendant (Staples, Inc), American Tire Distributors, Formica, and Hillman as well as other 3PLs who have found WIP’s location and amenities extremely profitable.

In addition to its industrial developments, WIP recently introduced the Wonderful Career Center, a 98,000-square-foot office project that includes office space for several Wonderful Company brands as well as a vocational tech training center, that features three classrooms, four labs with dock doors, and an expansive conference room that is available for use by both The Wonderful Company teams and WIP tenants. The vocational school’s current offering is the Wonderful Technical Operator Program, with a curriculum that prepares students for high-paying roles through mechanical and electrical training.

About Wonderful Industrial Park

WIP is a fully entitled 1,625-acre, world-class distribution center located approximately 100 miles north of Los Angeles. The park is a rail-served industrial development, entitled for 26 million square feet, with nearly 10 million square feet completed and under operation to date. WIP provides tenants with access to a workforce population of over 700,000 residents within a 30-minute drive from the park.

WIP’s central location in California gives companies access to a robust transportation infrastructure. The property is minutes from Hwy-99, I-5 and Hwy-58 and offers convenient port access to the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Oakland. The industrial park’s location allows access to 14 percent of the U.S. population within 300 miles and same-day delivery to 30 million Californians. It has a FedEx Ground hub onsite and is near a UPS ground hub in Bakersfield, CA with Meadows Field Airport located only seven miles away.

The park features an onsite rail yard with more than 17,000 feet of track able to accommodate unit trains with direct access to Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s mainline. WIP is equipped with an in-place high speed fiber optics network with 10 gigabytes in place with a capacity of 40 gigabytes.

About Wonderful Real Estate

Wonderful Real Estate is a professional real estate development and property management company owned by The Wonderful Company that develops, manages and invests in a diversified portfolio of real estate, with a particular focus on office and industrial properties. Leveraging over 30 years of experience in commercial real estate, Wonderful and its affiliates currently have over 10 million square feet of real estate holdings, consisting of owner-occupied industrial and commercial real estate for its operating businesses and approximately 7 million square feet of actively managed office and industrial properties occupied by third parties located mainly in Southern and Central California.

Wonderful Real Estate and its affiliates have invested almost $2 billion since 2008 for commercial real estate development, facility improvements, processing equipment and real estate acquisitions. Wonderful and its affiliates are also currently developing three business parks totaling over 1,865 acres for office and industrial use in California’s Central Valley, a number of parcels of which have already been sold or leased to Fortune 500 companies and other high quality anchor tenants.

Great Wolf Lodge Resort, Waterpark to Break Ground Near Visalia Next Year

A new Great Wolf Lodge luxury resort planned for the south valley is expected to generate nearly $2 billion in economic output, Tulare County officials say. The nationwide family attraction is scheduled to break ground in late 2023 and open in the fall of 2025 at the southeast corner of Highway 99 and Caldwell Avenue. It would be the third GWL in California, following Garden Grove (near Disneyland) and Manteca, which opened in 2021. The proposed 35-acre, 525-room hotel would include an indoor water park — a GWL signature. County planners tell GV Wire “the project is on track. Great Wolf is working on financing for the project. GWL is working with the city of Visalia on a sewer agreement which is expected to be approved by the end of the year.”

$33 Million Economic Impact

Tulare County officials say the resort hotel will generate 995 new jobs and 600,000 annual visitors. One-time economic output from construction is estimated at $1.7 billion, with labor earnings adding another $149 million. The county estimates revenue for the first 15 years at $33 million. That figure includes total economic output and labor earnings. An economic analysis — paid for by the county — also expects retail to expand in the area around the resort in the years ahead. “Retail spending is attracted to locations where other retail spending occurs because of the gravitational pull generated by existing successful retailers,” an analysis from Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. said. That could be as high as $28 million for Visalia and the surrounding area.

The county agreed to some incentives to seal the deal with Great Wolf Lodge last July, including sharing room tax revenue and deferral of development impact fees. For the first five years, GWL will keep all room tax revenue. The split is 75/25 for years 6-10, then 50/50 for years 11-15. The county also agreed not to give financial incentives to another large water park for 10 years. “Without these incentives, Great Wolf Resorts would not be able to move forward with financing the construction of the proposed development project,” a county staff report said.

Tulare County Wins Over Other Locations

The county said Great Wolf Lodge was also looking at locations near Bakersfield and the High Desert area of Kern County. “Tulare County reached out to see if they would also consider going up the road. Great Wolf took the meeting as a courtesy and ended up finding the infrastructure associated with the Sequoia Gateway Development was further along than any sites in Kern County and that Tulare County staff was ready to begin working on its own incentive plan,” the county said. “We processed the plan much quicker and were able to secure them coming to Tulare County instead of Kern County,” said Mike Washam, associate director of the county’s Resource Management Agency.

Federal officials visit Fresno to launch ag initiative

FRESNO, Calif. – A local coalition aimed at creating new agricultural innovations in the Central Valley was recently awarded $88.1 million in federal funds.

The Fresno-Merced Future of Food Initiative, also known as F3, was the only recipient in the country out of more than 500 applicants to get two federal grants aiming to provide sustainable food production in the Central Valley. “It’s a land of contrasts, largest food production in the country, maybe the world but yet extreme poverty and challenges with food deserts,” says Congressman Jim Costa.

The day started with a tour of the Yo’ville Community Garden and Farm, which provides residents in this neighborhood access to land so they can eventually sell their produce and have a source of income. “Unfortunately, there are a lot. Access to land is a huge problem with that, and also the resources you need to get something like this really going,” says Rasheed Hislop, a farm-to-market specialist at Community Alliance of Family Farmers (CAFF).

Officials also toured the old Bank of Italy building in Downtown Fresno, which will be the official site of iCREATE, the headquarters of F3. “In this building, you’re gonna see the services and information being provided,” says Senator Alex Padilla. The 45,000-square-foot building will house a food hall, conference room, and robotics incubators which are expected to be completed by the end of next year. “The location is not a coincidence, right in the heart of Fresno, not too far from where the high-speed rail that will be coming,” says Padilla.

More jobs announced as Turlock’s new Amazon fulfillment center opens. How much do they pay?

The new Amazon fulfillment center in Turlock opened Thursday morning with big smiles and news of more jobs.

The massive 1.1 million-square-foot warehouse was built from the ground up at Fulkerth Road and Fransil Lane over the last year and a half. The grand opening celebration included the announcement of some 500 more jobs than previously predicted to staff the facility once fully operational. Initially, the online retail giant said it planned to hire some 1,000 workers in Turlock, but now expects to employ 1,500. “This is huge!” said Turlock Mayor Amy Bublak, who was among a handful of dignitaries and their representatives at the ribbon-cutting for the center. “It was just a dream that we get this area together and that we start to bring big businesses here, big opportunities for jobs. …. This will be a benefit for decades for our community.”

Turlock Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Gina Blom, left, and Yosemite Community College District Chancellor Henry Yong, Amazon Turlock Senior Operations Manager Steve Ramirez and Turlock Mayor Amy Bublak cut the ceremonial ribbon Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, to open the new fulfillment center on Fulkerth Road in Turlock, Calif.

The new facility, the first for Turlock and only the second in Stanislaus County from the e-commerce company, received its first shipment Sept. 25 and has been slowly ramping up production as it works to get fully staffed. The fulfillment center, which began construction in April 2021, had to push back its original projected opening date of “mid-2022” to late September. Like its smaller counterpart in Patterson, which opened in 2013, the new Turlock facility is a so-called nonsortable fulfillment center, meaning it stocks, picks, packs and ships large, bulk or otherwise unusually sized items.

Inside, the floor is filled with 40-foot-high rows that are being filled with everything from patio furniture to outdoor grills, mini-fridges and area rugs. Senior Operations Manager Steve Ramirez, a Modesto native turned Turlock resident who previously worked in a Tracy Amazon site, said the new center is only about 7% stocked. Inventory is expected to be at 30% by the holidays, with the facility stocked at full capacity by February. A worker sorts items inside the new Amazon fulfillment center in Turlock, Calif. Oct. 20, 2022.

Already, Amazon has hired hundreds of workers to begin filling its shifts. The facility operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has 12 shifts across its schedule. Hundreds of more openings are expected, with new workers joining daily, Ramirez said.

Starting salary for the new floor positions start at $18.75, or $39,000 a year for full-time workers. The Turlock starting wages are just shy of the new $19 average hourly wage the company announced in September that it was rolling out for most of its front-line warehouse and transportation workers across the country. But Amazon spokeswoman Natalie Banke said wages vary “city by city,” and the $19 was a national average, not the national minimum starting salary. The Turlock salary is the same as Patterson’s, which employs about 600 workers. A worker moves items Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, inside the new Amazon fulfillment center in Turlock, Calif.

The company also plans to hire an additional 200 to 300 seasonal workers in Turlock, starting now, who will help with the holiday rush. Ramirez said he expects it to take six months to a year for the new Turlock center to be fully staffed. Banke said about 92% of employees so far live in Stanislaus County. On the warehouse floor, a small armada of red hydrogen-powered forklifts zip along rows and rows of 40-foot racks. Associates are lifted 30-plus feet into the air to stock and pick items, with others sorting and shipping on the floor of its two levels. Items then go from the warehouse directly to Amazon delivery vehicles or third-party package carriers for delivery.

A worker drives a power lift inside the new Amazon fulfillment center that recently opened in Turlock, Calif Oct. 20, 2022. “People are very excited about the opening,” said senior site safety manager Myranda St. John, a Modesto rsident who previously worked in one of the company’s Stockton facilities and has seen her commute time cut in half. “Amazon has provided a lot of opportunities for myself and for the larger community. I’ve been able to go from an hourly employee to a salaried employee in less than five years.”

In March of this year, Amazon announced its partnership with Turlock’s California State University, Stanislaus, and Modesto Junior College for the company’s Career Choice program. Hourly employees at the new Turlock facility are eligible for free tuition at both institutions. Full- and part-time employees are eligible, but only full-time employees will have all their tuition paid (part-time workers receive half). The entrance to the warehouse floor inside the new Amazon fulfillment center in Turlock, Calif. is seen Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022.

The new facility, like all Amazon distribution centers, is named after a nearby airport. The Turlock site is named MCE1 for the Merced Regional Airport, which is about 30 miles to the south. “We are very blessed being here in Turlock and we have had amazing response to our hiring and have had no constraints there at all,” Ramirez said. “We will continuously be on-boarding a few hundred associates throughout the remainder of the year.” Amazon Senior Operations Manager Steve Ramirez inside the new large and bulky item fulfillment center that has opened in Turlock, Calif., on Oct. 20, 2022.

Job seekers interested in applying for full-time, part-time or seasonal work at the Turlock Amazon facility can find open positions and applications online at Job seekers can also sign up for text alerts for upcoming Amazon jobs in the region. To sign up, text “AMAZONJOBS” to ” 77088 ,” and then you will receive a series of texts asking you to opt-in for jobs in your ZIP code.

Irvine farm technology company may set up operations center in Bakersfield

An ag-tech startup in Irvine is considering establishing operations in Bakersfield in coordination with city government. M8 Systems, founded by the executive credited with inventing cashier-less retail stores for Amazon, proposes to locally engineer, assemble, test and sell automated irrigation systems that would use sensors and control systems to help farmers use water more efficiently.

No agreement has been finalized to bring the company to Bakersfield, but founder and CEO Max Safai said he hopes to employ six people in the city by the end of this year. By the end of 2024, he said, nearly 20 M8 workers could be working locally — three-quarters or more of its workforce. He said the company’s headquarters would to Bakersfield. “We want to have a close relationship with the city of Bakersfield, and we also want to be where the action is in the Central Valley,” Safai said.

Director Paul M. Saldaña of Bakersfield’s Economic and Community Development Department said companies like M8 are “exactly the type of innovative companies that we’d like to see come to Bakersfield.” He pointed to a $150,000 deal the city recently struck to attract another tech startup, North Carolina battery company SineWatts Inc. “There are a number of innovative companies that we continue to have conversations with, and we hope … to see similar opportunities in the very near future,” Saldaña said. He said the city might offer a financial incentive to M8.

Safai said M8 started in March 2019 after avocado farmers he knows in San Diego County expressed concern about rising irrigation costs. After some tinkering, he performed two “proofs of concept” in his garage that demonstrated the viability of a system to measure water use precisely, detect leaks and then turn off valves as appropriate before issuing a digital alert that a problem has been found. The idea now is to combine irrigation-control equipment — new or already installed in ag fields — with satellite and drone imagery, weather information and cloud-data technology in what Safai called a new application of “smart ag.”

M8’s system would sense changing conditions, including potentially adverse events such as wind that could waste irrigation water, and make automated suggestions around the clock to save farmers money. Any water leaks would automatically result in pressure shutoffs to specific pipes, along with the transmission of text messages to nearby farmworkers. The system would take into account soil status, relative humidity and temperature readings.

The company’s biggest test yet is expected to take place during the next two weeks as M8 brings 23 San Diego County farmers online to test out the system. Safai said the company is also negotiating its first large investment of outside money. While orchards would benefit, Safai said the best application of the technology might be row crops such as the carrots grown in and around Kern. He noted the Central Valley produces revenues of about $17 billion per year, or about a quarter of the U.S. food supply. “This is a very big market for us,” he said.

It will be important to show M8’s customers the company is responsive to their concerns and near enough to do something about them quickly, Safai said. For that reason, he hopes to find a local home for not only product assembly and testing but also procurement, logistics and repairs ready within 24 hours. There will need to be local electrical engineering and mechanical engineering labs, as well as an area for working with fluid flow technology. A small presence would remain in Irvine to perform tasks such as software engineering, human resources management, some sales and finance, partly to serve customers in San Diego County. Eventually the company may lease its products to farmers, as a way of helping them fix their costs, but Safai said the initial plan is to sell the systems directly to farmers and charge them for the company’s data plan. Safai noted he has come to Bakersfield to meet with people about the proposal to set up a local operation. Once here, he found the people he met were “amazingly wonderful, motivated people.”

Looking for a new job? This California program will pay women to work in construction

State and local officials are doubling down on efforts to support women in California’s central San Joaquin Valley who want to pursue careers in the construction trades. California Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, a Democrat who represents the Fresno area in California’s 31st district, presented a $3 million check to the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board to support its ValleyBuild construction training programs. The “program that has done such tremendous work” said Arambula during a Wednesday news conference. “Those who are under-employed and unemployed, who have barriers to employment, are given opportunities and a pathway to success.”

Earlier this year, the Workforce Development Board partnered with Tradeswomen Inc. and ValleyBuild — a 14-county collaboration between workforce boards that prepares workers for construction trades — to launch ValleyBuild NOW, or Non-traditional Occupations for Women, a pre-apprenticeship training program for women. The two-month program prepares women for careers in construction and related trades and connects them with employment opportunities. Participants also receive stipends to cover their living expenses and help with transportation and childcare costs.

The first cohort launched in August with a group of 13 women. Recent graduate Sarai Ayala said she learned about the opportunity on Instagram. The 27-year-old Ayala said she was initially in disbelief that the program would pay her to learn. Ayala worked at a local warehouse but said she was looking for something more. “I thought it was crazy,” she said, laughing. Through the training, Ayala said she was able to experiment with different construction career paths. Next week, she starts a new transitional job with the local plumbers and pipefitters. “I’m so grateful,” she said “This type of support doesn’t come around as often as it should.” Another ValleyBuild NOW Fresno cohort is planned for May 2023; a co-ed ValleyBuild training program will start in January 2023. Construction a man’s job? ‘We want to change that’

After nearly 16 years working in animal shelters Crystal Wiggins, 36, knew she needed a career change – but wasn’t sure how to navigate the transition. She already dabbled in things like welding and building cabinets as hobbies, but it wasn’t until a friend saw an advertisement on the ValleyBuild NOW training program that she decided to seriously pursue a career change. The Rosie the Riveter-inspired image caught his eye, said Wiggins. “He stumbled across it on Facebook and saw it and said, ‘this is for Crystal.'”

But Wiggins was on the fence about joining the apprenticeship. “I’m the only person who financially supports my household,” she said. Wiggins has two sons, ages 19 and 11, and cares for her mother, as well. She has three car payments for the three adults and recently purchased her home. “Losing that (stable) paycheck was scary,” she said. But ultimately, she made the decision to make the switch “because of the mileage, because of the stipend.” Women and non-binary individuals make up around 3.5% of active apprentices in the building and construction trades, California Labor Secretary Natalie Palugyai said in a statement on Tuesday. “When we stop to think about why, it’s in large part because construction is widely viewed as a man’s job. We want to change that,” she said.

In addition to the funding for the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board, the 2022-2023 state budget includes $15 million to support the Women in Construction Priority Program at the Department of Industrial Relations. The state is also accepting proposals for $25 million in funds to support apprenticeship programs that target women, non-binary and underserved populations entering building and construction trades. As for Wiggins, she’s preparing to start her transitional job in sheet metal apprenticeship as she waits to join the union. “I know in the long run, it’s going to be 10 times better,” she said. “This program has been absolutely amazing for me.”

Funding for the training programs comes at a time that the Central Valley region is set to receive billions of dollars in public infrastructure spending, said Blake Konczal, executive director Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board, in an interview with The Bee on Tuesday.

According to a report prepared by Applied Development Economics, Inc. for the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board, over the next ten years, the Central San Joaquin Valley and its surrounding counties are set to receive over $47 billion dollars in funding for everything from transportation, the High-Speed Rail, buildings, canals, broadband, and more. The study also estimates this funding led to over 41,000 jobs in construction labor, engineering an design in 2021 alone. According to EDD wage data from the first quarter of 2021, the mean annual wage for Fresno County construction laborers was $55,052. “With all this construction happening in our Valley, if we do not prepare our neighbors to access these jobs,” said Konczal, “workers will be imported from other parts of the state or other parts of the country to do this work.” “The opportunity is there,” he said.

Chowchilla leaders herald new $150M AutoZone distribution center, will create 300 jobs

Valley leaders say an empty dirt lot on Highway 99 in Chowchilla will soon be an important center of economic growth for the city, as well as the Madera-Merced County region. Those officials teamed with AutoZone representatives Friday morning to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new $150 million distribution center that will be built in Chowchilla. Chowchilla City Administrator Rod Pruett called it the biggest project to come to the city in decades. The 560,000 square foot facility will serve close to 300 AutoZone stores in Northern California, Oregon and Nevada. There are more than 6,000 AutoZone stores located in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, according to the company’s website.

The project is expected to create close to 300 full-time jobs. The site of the distribution center will be along Chowchilla Boulevard, near Highway 99. “This is a huge day,” Pruett said. “This is the biggest project that’s come to Chowchilla in decades. It brings close to 300 jobs to our community which is a huge deal for us. It’s been over two years in the making.” “These are careers, not just jobs,” Pruett added. “High school kids can stay here in the community. They don’t have to leave. It keeps families intact here. It brings even more to our community as well.” AutoZone officials chose Chowchilla over several sites they were considering. “We were looking for somewhere to expand our presence in Northern California and we looked all over this region,” said Bill Rhodes, who is the AutoZone President and CEO.

Rhodes said he and other AutoZone representatives were impressed with the commitment of the Chowchilla city leaders drive to economic development in their community. “It’s going to take a couple years for us to build the facility,” Rhodes said. “We’ll put $150 million or more into the building. It’ll be 560,000 square feet, housing at least 300 Auto Zoners (employees) and it’ll probably grow pretty extensively beyond that as the years go. We’ll be servicing at least 300 stores and probably get to 500 or 600 stores over time. We’ll have a big fleet of tractor trailers that are coming in and out of here every single day.” Officials say they expect the facility to open near the end of 2023. “It stands for an opportunity (for) growth in a small community,” said Chowchilla Mayor John Chavez. “It stands for sustainable jobs where we reside. It stands for a solid future of development in our industrial area. It stands for a huge milestone for Chowchilla. This is probably the biggest thing to happen in Chowchilla since I’ve been here.”

State senate passes Gaming Compact Agreement for Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tejon

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KERO) — The California State Senate passed the Gaming Compact Agreement for the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tejon on Wednesday night in Sacramento.

The hotel and casino, which will be built just south of Bakersfield, are expected to bring 5,000 direct and indirect jobs, adding over $60 million in payroll every year, as well as making the area a tourism hub for the region. The project is expected to create 400 guest rooms, several restaurants, and entertainment venue, and a convention center. The land on which the resort will sit will become the Tejon Indian Tribe’s first reservation. The Tejon Indian Tribe says 52 acres of the site will be devoted to the resort hotel and casino, while 22 adjacent acres will be designated for an RV park. The remainder of the property will be used for other tribal purposes including administrative offices, a health facility, housing and supporting infrastructure.

The tribe, in partnership with Kern County and Hard Rock International, will also build a joint substation for the Kern County Fire Department and Kern County Sheriff’s Office next to the hotel in order to ensure the safety of residents and visitors in the area. No taxpayer money will be used to operate the hotel or any supporting infrastructure. Governor Gavin Newsom signed off on the Gaming Compact Agreement on June 14, 2022, paving the way for the approval of the state senate.