Industrial park grows by leaps and bounds

VISALIA – Another 2,000 jobs might be capping off the recent industrial boom as a familiar developer continues to expand the boundaries of the Visalia Industrial Park. After luring Amazon into two, million square plus warehouses in the industrial park, Newport Beach-based CapRock is now planning an even larger complex west of Plaza Drive and a mile north of Riggin Avenue. The industrial park’s largest developer plans to build four concrete tilt-up buildings totalling 2.7 million square feet on the 155-acre parcel. Principal owner Pat Daniels said CapRock would break ground on the first phase of the project next year. While the tenants for the  buildings are speculative, the plan suggests they could employ around 2,000 workers with some 2,100 parking places for cars. The plan says they want to feed inbound trucks into the new cluster of buildings off of Plaza.

The huge parcel, considered phase 3 of the Caprock’s industrial park developments, will be sandwiched in between Kibler Avenue (Avenue 320) on the north, Plaza Drive on the east, American Street (Road 76) to the west and Riverway Drive on the south – one mile north of Riggin along Modoc Ditch. Full buildout and signalization of the Kibler Ave. and Plaza Dr. intersection is required with the development of the new Amazon center now nearing completion just north of the first Amazon, part of Phase 2A of the Caprock projects. Caprock’s overall plan also includes another 1 million square feet planned for a vacant lot at the southeast corner of Kibler and Plaza as part of its Phase 2b. Now Daniels has leapt over Plaza to begin and build Phase 3 before Phase 2b starts in a few years. The reason could be Daniels has a different LLC who looks to invest in Phase 3 and perhaps a proposed tenant who has selected this location a mile closer to Highway 99. This new project is breaking new ground in this area as it will require all off-site infrastructure to be in place before development is done, a time consuming process. Phase 3 was submitted for Site Plan Review in January and has incorporated changes received from the city through subsequent meetings on Jan. 21 and March 29, 2022. The city has required the project be built out in phases and is not allowing cars or commercial vehicles to access Building 1 from American (Road 76). Other changes include reducing the size of Building 1 by 34,000 sf and shifting it 110 feet to the south, relocating a retention basin, splitting a 1.3 million square foot Building 2 into three smaller buildings of 322,000, 598,000 and 510,000 square feet.

CapRock kicked off the Visalia logistics boom when it sold acreage to UPS that became a 450,000 square-foot package distribution hub opening in 2020. That was followed by construction of the 1.1 million square-foot Amazon fulfillment center, operational as of last September. About 1,700 people are employed between the two locations. A handful of large players are building or planning to build. Phoenix based Seefried Industries is nearing completion on the new Ace Hardware distribution center and planning another 535,00 sf spec building. Just last week, YS Industries filed plans for a 1.55 million sf development. Fowler Packing is planing to break ground early next year on a 312,000 square foot warehouse. American Air’s Butch Oldfield, busy with a slew of new industrial projects, and Irvine-based Greenfield Partners are working on a 2 million sf complex at Kelsey and 198. Also in the works is the Ritchie/Vidovich partnership’s plan to develop a massive new section of industrial land north of Riggin and west of Shirk totaling 280 acres and adding about 3,000 new jobs. Besides these big projects, the industrial park is also laying out new mom and pop industrial parcels from 5 to 10 acres mostly south of Goshen Avenue along American. Investor Santokh Toor has filed preliminary plans for an 80-acre development with 10 small parcels at the corner of American and Hurley, west of Plaza.

‘The Mix’ sets the table for five restaurants in downtown Visalia

VISALIA – Cities with vibrant downtowns know they rely on local restaurants and bars to set the table for success with a mix of great taste and a dash of local flavor. That’s why one local business  owner is trying to bring as many of them into one place as possible to reinvigorate a block of Main Street Visalia which has yet to recover from a devastating fire two and a half years ago. Grant Smith, whose family owns Rent To Own in Visalia, is assembling a group of marquee local eateries to fill the two-story building located at 213-217 W. Main St. He has partnered with his brother-in-law Jeff Bischofberger, of JRC Investments in Long Beach, Calif., to house five locally-owned restaurants in the renovated building dubbed “The Mix.” “We like this project because it is bringing in local businesses, not big corporate businesses,” Smith said. “We feel like downtown should be local otherwise we will lose what our downtown really is.”

Smith and Bischofberger began working on the project just before COVID and it has taken two and a half years to pull it all together. The cornerstone of the project will be second-story dining overlooking Main Street served up by Fugazzis. Smith said he knew he needed a draw like Fugazzis to anchor the project and it was a natural fit because the California bistro had been looking at the site as a possible location for several years. Fugazzis owner Mike Fligor was not available for comment but sources say he will keep the existing location at Main and Locust streets. Expected to open in early 2023, The Mix will also include Main Street mainstay Quesadilla Gorilla, and two mobile businesses making their first go at brick and mortar locations, Bombshell Beans and Scoops ice cream, sharing the downstairs space.

Miguel and Mikayla Reyes are modeling their new Quesadilla Gorilla location after their San Luis Obispo and Hanford spots with a full bar featuring tequila-inspired cocktails, such as margaritas, and craft beer. The site will also become the new headquarters for the restaurant franchise as the lease on its original location across the street is set to expire this fall. The new site is larger and will have indoor seating, something Miguel said they were never able to offer at its current downtown location. “It’s sad to see the [original location] go but this location will allow us to offer more to our guests,” Miguel said. After three years of growing his business on the road, Bombshell Beans owner Steve Mohr said he is excited about the prospect of taking his coffee truck concept and turning it into a traditional coffee shop. “We’ve had to move around so much it has been difficult for people to find us,” Mohr said. “It will be nice to be in a location that is visible in downtown and should be busy since we’re moving in with local rockstar restaurants.”

The coffee shop will allow Bombshell to do blended drinks, something he can’t do from truck because there isn’t access to enough water for cleaning the blenders and begin offering its own brand of canned energy drinks. Mohr said the new shop will also give him a homebase to begin building a fleet and a franchise of coffee trucks. He said customers can look for one of its newest trucks to begin serving coffee outside of Galaxy Theatre in Tulare later this month. “The future of Bombshell Beans is bright,” Mohr said. “We are really excited about this opportunity.” Justin Kauffman started Scoops ice cream cart in 2018 and has steadily risen in popularity at local events with its premium and delicious ice cream, sundaes, and other tasty treats. He said he was excited about the potential to expand into his first permanent location alongside other popular local restaurants.

There is one space left to fill in the building in the downstairs open “food hall” format. Renderings show a cheese shop, but Smith said that was just an idea to round out the illustration and there are not currently any leases signed and no serious talks with any businesses for that spot. “We feel like this really brings something new to downtown we haven’t really seen in this area,” Smith said. The building was formerly occupied by Quality Jewelers, which closed after 39 years in business, and Ziayas, a family-owned studio & gift shop that provides wellness tools, accessories, and home essentials with a focus on community, healing, and sustainability, which relocated to the 800 block of Main Street. The block was also vacated by Pacific Treasures, which relocated to the xxx block of Main, following a devastating fire the night after Christmas in 2018. The fire completely destroyed the building which housed a collection of popular eateries including Mamma K’s and Cafe 225 and caused major smoke and water damage to Little Italy Restaurant and Exotica Hair Studio. The three-alarm fire caused extensive damage causing the building’s entire roof to cave in. The scars of the fire remain today. The front of the shops remain boarded up and spray painted with an artistic lettering of Visalia to distract from the vacant buildings. Nearly all of the businesses folded up shop for good. To date, The Mix is the only project in the works to rebuild and reinvigorate what was once a bustling block of Visalia’s downtown.

Inland port will bring new jobs, investment to Kern

Eastern Kern will be the site of a major goods-movement project expected to help address shipping bottlenecks at ports in Southern California while attracting local investment and possibly new jobs in a sector usually associated with the valley portion of the county. The county Board of Supervisors signed off Tuesday on the Mojave Inland Port, proposed by a Houston-based developer that says the privately financed project will open by 2024 operating nonstop to handle up to 3 million 20-foot-equivalent containers per year. Located next to the Mojave Air and Space Port, the 402-acre property near highways 14 and 58 is one of few areas in the state served by air, road and rail transportation. It was chosen partly for that reason and because of ample space nearby for additional warehouse development by customers like Amazon, Walmart and Lowe’s.

Los Angeles’ Beacon Economics has estimated the project will generate $113 million in Kern and support 662 regional jobs during construction, adding $73 million to the county’s property-tax base. It says the development will ultimately support 2,851 permanent jobs in Kern, with positions ranging from foreman and crane operator to manager and driver. Developer Pioneer Partners, whose biggest project to date is a 2,200-acre brownfield development in Henderson, Nev., said 75 people will work directly for the inland port engaging with more than 1,000 truck drivers.

The idea is that ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, where land is scarce, will send container-carrying rail cars along the Alameda Corridor to Mojave, 90 miles away. There the containers will be lifted using wheeled gantry cranes and placed onto tractor-trailer rigs that will then drive away on the freeway system. The air and space port is expected to see more traffic as a result of the project.  “We believe the additional container traffic coming to Mojave will stimulate its use as a hub for air and space cargo, taking advantage of its 12,500-foot heavy lift runway directly adjacent to a new, state-of-the-art intermodal cargo hub,” Pioneer said in response to emailed questions.

Some work remains to be done with regard to permitting of buildings at the site. Project groundbreaking is expected in early 2023. A final price tag has not been released. Port container volumes have been growing quickly even before the pandemic caused disruptions that have made improving goods movement a high priority for U.S. importers and exporters. Pioneer says moving cargo-handling activities inland presents fewer environmental impacts than expanding operations at the ports. Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, said in a news release the rise in shipping traffic shows no sign of letting up. “Being surrounded by the dense urban areas of Long Beach and South Los Angeles, there is limited real estate available,” she stated. “The Mojave Inland Port is the type of innovative solution that will alleviate congestion and allow dockworkers to do their jobs more efficiently, getting goods to businesses and consumers faster.”

In Kern, distribution centers in recent years have been built mainly in Shafter, near the Grapevine and near Meadows Field Airport. The Inland Port project would appear to signal that more such development is headed to the Mojave area. Vice President Bill Deaver at the Mojave Chamber of Commerce noted the proposal has been around for more than a decade and that in all that time he has heard no opposition to it. His hope is the project will help the county replace the local oil production industry. “This is another new business that you can replace the old business,” Deaver said, adding he expects to see new investment follow announcement of the inland port. “You get more people, you’re going to need more grocery stores,” he said.

Fresno EDC Awarded $23M Grant for Regional Four County Workforce Training Program

An ambitious workforce program to place 2,500 Central Valley residents into high-demand jobs received a $23 million infusion from the federal government this week. The program is called Central Valley Built 4 Scale and will be administered by the Fresno County Economic Development Corp. It is one of 32 projects in the U.S. receiving grants form a pool of 509 applicants as part of the American Rescue Plan’s $500 million Good Jobs Challenge.

Built 4 Scale will leverage the resources of local organizations and employers to create apprenticeship opportunities, bootcamp-style and individualized training programs and career placement services to match 2,500-plus residents in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties with jobs in sectors including financial services, manufacturing, transportation, logistics, construction and more.

The program is unique in that these are jobs just waiting to be filled by qualified candidates. The Fresno EDC already has firm hiring commitments from more than 50 local employers to hire more than 900 of those employees. “This announcement is a big deal for our Valley! Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we are accelerating America’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic,” said Rep Jim Costa. “This $23 million grant will bolster our regional economy by creating new, good-paying jobs in construction, financial services, and manufacturing industries. I am proud to have advocated for this project and voted to provide the funding that made it possible. This will help build a stronger, more resilient economy for the people of the San Joaquin Valley.”

Finding a qualified, educated workforce has been a top challenge for local employers, with forecasts that the Central Valley will need more than 10,000 new employees in those target sectors by 2026. The Fresno EDC has extensive experience in job-training programs through administering the Fresno County-funded welfare-to-work program, which has provided $12.6 million in subsidized wages, enrolled 280 businesses and supported nearly 1,900 job placements since 2014. The Good Jobs Challenge awards are expected to help place more than 50,000 Americans in “quality jobs” — exceeding the local prevailing wage for an industry in the region and including basic benefits.

The Fresno EDC is one of only two California projects funded. The other is $21.4 million for the Foundation for California Community Colleges to launch a forestry workforce training program. “This funding will launch quality workforce training programs and opportunities to help workers develop new skills, address workforce needs and connect people with good-paying jobs in the Central Valley,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “I thank the Biden Administration for investing in our efforts to support businesses and workers throughout California.”


Connecticut based holding company Atlas Holdings announced Tuesday that it has acquired Foster Farms, the 83-year-old poultry giant based in Livingston. Foster Farms’ has multiple facilities in the Central Valley, including Fresno, Kerman, Turlock, Caruthers and Porterville. The company, which generates revenues of approximately $3 billion annually, will still operate under the Foster Farms name. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Foster Farms has major processing facilities in California, Washington, Louisiana, Oregon and Alabama and has more than 10,000 employees. Along with news of the acquisition, Atlas also announced that Donnie Smith, former CEO of Tyson Foods from 2009 to 2016, is Foster Farms’ new CEO and chairman. “I love the poultry industry and am proud that Atlas has asked me to become the CEO of Foster Farms,” said Smith. “I’ve long been an admirer of the Foster Family and the business they’ve built over the past eight decades. In this new era, we will maintain and further that legacy, rooted in animal welfare, superior product quality, customer service and community engagement.”

Rail Academy will train Valley youth for well-paying jobs on passenger, freight lines

Christian Sharma hopes to be among the first graduates of the Rail Academy of Central California, ready to work on a freight or passenger line. “I would mainly like to get behind the wheel of a locomotive,” the 18-year-old said at a May 25 open house in Stockton. “And help to maintain it, checking to see that it’s up to date.” The program will launch with about 70 students in August. They will take classes at a community college and get hands-on learning at the Stockton maintenance facility for the Altamont Corridor Express. The Rail Academy will provide up to two years of low-cost instruction for jobs starting at as much as $95,000 a year, the organizers said.

The alumni could help ACE and Amtrak carry out plans to grow well beyond their current passenger services. Or they could join a freight workforce that moves an already enormous volume of goods on the tracks. “In order for our expansion to be successful, we need the bodies to operate the trains, and to serve our public,” said Tamika Smith, director of rail services for the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. That agency oversees ACE, which mainly serves commuters to Silicon Valley with four round trips each weekday. Amtrak has five round trips every day between Bakersfield and Oakland and a sixth branching north to Sacramento. AA Rail Academy 01.JPGPeople gathered at the Altamont Corridor Express maintenance facility for an open house to announce the creation of the Rail Academy of Central California in Stockton, Calif., on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. The program will launch in August, with classroom training at a community college and hands-on work at the ACE maintenance facility.
Stanislaus students, others welcome. The educational partners are based in San Joaquin and Sacramento counties, but students from Stanislaus and beyond are welcome, Smith said.

The academy will begin with classes at Sacramento City College that prepare students to be engineers, conductors and passenger service agents. The planners hope at some point to add degrees in train and track maintenance at San Joaquin Delta College. The ACE facility hosted the open house and will be a key part of the academy going forward. It is about a mile and a half north of a station serving both ACE and Amtrak. The staff mainly services the commuter trains but is also preparing a new fleet of Amtrak coaches. The 157,000-square-foot site has several tracks for locomotives and passenger coaches, along with pits for working on their undersides. Two training rooms can hold up to 60 students.

Students will pay community college fees but can apply for financial aid. The academy aims to reach underrepresented communities and students not headed toward bachelor’s degrees, Smith said. It also will help the freight and passenger partners replace employees lost to retirement, she said. AA Rail Academy 05.JPGPeople gathered at the Altamont Corridor Express maintenance facility for an open house to announce the creation of the Rail Academy of Central California in Stockton, Calif., on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. The program will launch in August, with classroom training at a community college and hands-on work at the ACE maintenance facility.

Head start for high-schoolers. The academy will have a program introducing high school students to rail careers through an agreement with the Stockton Unified School District. They will tour the maintenance facility and talk with rail workers. Sharma came to the open house on the evening before his graduation from Edison High School. He said he already enjoyed researching rail history from the steam era on and hopes to be part of the future workforce. That history is one of the community college courses, including the decline of passenger rail after World War II. Other classes will instruct students on safe and efficient operation of today’s trains. An entire course is devoted to the air brakes that can bring a mile-long freight train to a standstill.

The academy partners include Herzog Transit Services, which runs ACE under contract and is based in St. Joseph, Missouri. Another is the Union Pacific Railroad, based in Omaha and carrying freight across much of the United States. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway is not involved in the academy but is hiring, too, in the Central Valley and elsewhere. AA Rail Academy 04.JPGPeople gathered at the Altamont Corridor Express maintenance facility for an open house to announce the creation of the Rail Academy of Central California in Stockton, Calif., on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. The program will launch in August, with classroom training at a community college and hands-on work at the ACE maintenance facility.

Expanding toward high-speed rail. ACE and Amtrak are expanding with $900.5 million from state fuel taxes. Amtrak plans to add two trips on its northern branch by 2024, sharing stations with ACE in Lodi, Elk Grove and four Sacramento locations. ACE also will have a southern extension by 2024, with downtown stations in Manteca, Ripon, Modesto and Ceres. Service to Turlock, Livingston and Merced will follow in a few years. Future funding could bring hourly service at up to 130 mph, using tracks separate from freight trains and possibly a tunnel through the Altamont Pass. Valley residents would connect much more easily than they do now with BART and other systems.

The diesel locomotives would give way to renewable electricity under long-range plans for countering climate change. ACE and Amtrak also could connect in Merced with the first segment of California’s high-speed rail system. It would run at up to 220 mph to Bakersfield as soon as 2029 under current plans. The project continues to draw criticism due to cost overruns, construction delays and the high price of tunneling to Southern California and the Bay Area. The commission that oversees ACE is already negotiating to run the first leg of high-speed rail. It is chaired by Christina Fugazi, the vice mayor of Stockton. She also is vice principal at Edison High and invited some of the local students to the open house. “If we want to do more trains per day, we need more conductors, we need more engineers, we need more people to clean the trains, maintain the trains,” Fugazi said.

AA Rail Academy 02.JPGTechnicians Sebastian Eth, left, and Nick Fortune, right, demonstrate some of the work that is done at the Altamont Corridor Express maintenance facility during an open house to announce the creation of the Rail Academy of Central California in Stockton, Calif., on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. The program will launch in August, with classroom training at a community college and hands-on work at the ACE maintenance facility. AA Rail Academy 03.JPGAltamont Corridor Express maintenance facility in Stockton, Calif., on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. AA Rail Academy 06.jpgChristina Fugazi, chair of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission board, speaks to guests, with Edison High senior Christian Sharma, right, during an open house to announce the creation of the Rail Academy of Central California in Stockton, Calif., on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. The program will launch in August, with classroom training at a community college and hands-on work at the ACE maintenance facility.

Bakersfield launches first-of-its-kind youth workforce program as part of state effort

For the first time ever, the city of Bakersfield will be offering internships and job opportunities tailored for local teenagers and college students in an attempt to spur interest in local government and address relatively high youth unemployment. Starting Friday, the city plans to release applications for summer internships, which will be available to local high school students. Other programs in its workforce development program include a yearlong college fellowship, an eight-week parks mobile team and another internship program based on the needs of the Kern Community Foundation and the Dream Resource Center. The city successfully applied for a roughly $5.4 million Californians For All Workforce Development grant, which will provide funds for the new positions. “The city’s No. 1 goal here is to get youth interested in public service and community service. We have a number of jobs here at the city of Bakersfield that are open, and it’s really an exciting time to work for the city of Bakersfield thanks to Measure N and many of the new initiatives that the city is starting,” said Anthony Valdez, assistant to the city manager. “We want to inspire this generation to be interested in public service.”

The Kern Community Foundation will manage the program for the city, and plans to expand from four to eight employees in order to handle the workload. The local nonprofit plans to target underserved areas and those who have had run-ins with the criminal justice system in its outreach. “We’re going to be giving these youngsters opportunities to look at maybe careers that they didn’t think about and things that are going to benefit the city in general,” said foundation President and CEO Aaron Falk. “I wish that in high school somebody had pulled me aside and said, ‘Did you know you can get an associate’s degree from BC and then get a six-figure job?’ I don’t think anybody is telling kids that.” The workforce development program comes at a time of high youth unemployment in Bakersfield. According to data provided by the city, teenagers aged 16 to 19 had a 25.6 percent unemployment rate in 2020, the most recent year for which data was available. Those aged 16 and over had a 7.6 percent unemployment rate in Bakersfield, compared to a statewide rate of 6.2 percent and a national rate of 5.4 percent. “The need is high to engage and employ youth and also get them excited about public and community service,” Valdez said. “We want youth to be inspired from Bakersfield to stay in Bakersfield and see themselves in careers and community and public service jobs that pay well, are stable and come with great benefits.”

The state’s 13 biggest cities were eligible to receive funding, but smaller cities and counties will also become involved in the project’s second phase. State leaders hope to tackle some of the most difficult issues facing California while providing youth with job opportunities and a career pathway to government service, in addition to at least a $15 per hour wage. Many of the new jobs across the state will focus on issues like climate change, homelessness and food insecurity. The $185 million program, paid for by federal coronavirus relief money, is expected to employ thousands of youth over the next several years. “We think what’s unique is that we are really focusing on a population that has either been excluded or doesn’t have these kinds of opportunities,” said Josh Fryday, California’s chief service officer, a position in the governor’s office. “We think that by focusing on that population and really making sure that we’re doing work that is focused on the community, that we’re doing something that is going to add value to everyone.”

The city hopes to hire 400 youth by 2026, when the program will have completed. “We have the opportunity to demonstrate that by investing in our young people, we can help them launch a meaningful and purposeful life, while also tackling our biggest issues,” Fryday said. “If we can do all of that together at the same time, I think we’re going to demonstrate a really important model for this work moving forward.”

Inland Port concept to flow more trade to Central Valley, cut pollution

A collaborative consortium of California port authorities, county governments, transportation agencies, air pollution control districts have joined forces to analyze the feasibility of developing a new, intermodal rail spine to connect seaports to key markets via the Central Valley. The plan is to develop a network of three or four “Inland Ports” in Central Valley cities with built-in access to freight rail and trucking routes. By developing a better intermodal system of moving freight, where trucks are used to transport cargo containers from ships to rail and then from rail to their destination instead of driving across the state, the project promises to cut greenhouse gasses, significantly improve air quality, reduce road congestion, boost traffic safety, and advance California’s extraordinarily large intra-state freight movement system. “Given the scale of California’s market, its geographic proximity, and its seaport infrastructure, the California Inland Port would become a nationally significant logistics and economic development project; a key to advancing California’s ambitious climate, economy, and equity goals which could then be modeled in other states,” stated a feasibility report conducted by the San Joaquin Valley Regional Planning Agencies Policy Council.

Tulare County has been on board with the project since its inception through its membership in the San Joaquin Valley Metropolitan Planning Organizations and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. Now the city of Visalia has joined efforts to become one of the Inland Ports although Fresno may have the inside track with access to both freight rail giants, Union Pacific (UP) and Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF). But Visalia is now a key logistics center adjacent to both Highway 99 and the main UP line. ”It’s on our radar,” says Devon Jones, economic development manager for the city of Visalia.

The objectives of the California Inland Port are:

  • Support new job creation and investment growth by fundamentally repositioning the economic competitiveness of the San Joaquin Valley region.
  • Create a more robust and efficient distribution system with a specific focus on high-value manufacturing, e-commerce, and the agriculture sectors.
  • Reducing shipping costs for shippers that manage global supply chains through direct intermodal rail service to/from the San Pedro seaports.
  • Significantly reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the number of truck trips from the seaports complex in the Los Angeles region to the Central Valley and the Bay Area.
  • Reduce highway road congestion, with a parallel reduction in the requirement for road maintenance; accident-avoidance savings; all of this reducing cost.  There is currently no rail intermodal service from the Ports to intra-California markets.

Practically all containerized cargo being transported to and from California seaports from inland markets travel by truck. The report noted that in recent years, there has been considerable interest in better connecting the San Joaquin Valley to the international seaports in Southern California, such as Los Angeles and Long Beach.  These efforts have the potential to enhance economic opportunity in the Central Valley while simultaneously reducing air pollution. The Port of Los Angeles and Merced County kicked off the concept by developing the Mid-California International Trade District, a growing logistics and manufacturing hub in Merced County. Building on this effort, a group of business leaders and the Central Valley Community Foundation initiated the California Inland Port Feasibility Analysis (CIPFA) which set out to determine whether it would be feasible to establish a rail-served inland port project in California.

Based upon an analysis completed in spring 2020, proposed intermodal rail service would provide a significant reduction in annual emissions for cargo being shipped in and out of the San Joaquin Valley. Nitric oxide (NOx) emissions, the primary byproduct of burning fossil fuel, would be reduced by up to 83% while greenhouse gas emissions, such as ozone, would be reduced by up to 93%, according to a feasibility conducted by the San Joaquin Valley Regional Planning Agencies Policy Council. Moving large quantities of freight via rail would remove some freight trucks from the public highways, reducing congestion, improving traffic flow and safety on Highways 101, 99 and I-5.

Industry is On Board
The feasibility study also gathered input from key sectors of the shipping industry including large agricultural exporters, key exporters of manufactured products, inbound retailers, logistical companies like Amazon, and trucking companies and ocean carriers.  “In general, the input strongly suggested that industry felt that the introduction of intermodal rail through the California market would be beneficial to their current business and would support increased business in the future,” the report stated. “In terms of today’s condition, there was an overwhelming desire for reductions in shipping costs and more surety about stable logistics solutions to support growth.”

Agricultural processors, such as Tulare County citrus, indicated a desire for far more efficient field-to-port logistics.  They indicated that lower costs would increase their profit margins and support increased export production. Distribution centers, like Walmart, Joann’s and Amazon in Tulare County, saw rail as a way to offset shipping cost through fuel reductions and dynamics. Due to the challenges of securing drivers for longer hauls, the trucking community reacted positively to the concept of increased rail service to key hubs in the Central Valley.  They felt that an intermodal rail inland port would reduce their exposure to running longer haul trucks into the Los Angeles traffic zone and reduce their exposure to long wait times at the ports. Serving intermodal hubs in the Central Valley would allow them to substitute shorter and more profitable routes and would allow them to retain drivers.

Pulling Forward
The Inland Ports project is currently in Phase two of its feasibility study determining market readiness, industry acceptance, estimating costs and competitive impacts to the region while preparing for the environmental process moving forward. This phase is where the Executive Advisory Group (EAG) is formed, helping to inform decision making as the study moves forward. All major stakeholders will have a role in this group. The private sector, including major shippers and experts, will inform the EAG through a Shipper’s Committee. Phase Two is fully funded and is proceeding through GLDPartners under the management of the Fresno Council of Governments.

Phase Three will move the project forward to the delivery stage, detail a project financial performance model, develop a business plan for green, high-efficiency logistics/investment hubs around intermodal facilities, plan for an intermodal facility site selection, develop detailed capital cost programs, deliver a railroad agreement to collaborate, and develop public-private delivery options. Phase Three received a Caltrans Strategic Partnership grant for $388,000 in the 2021-22 funding cycle.

Owner of Save Mart, FoodMaxx brands sells to L.A. private equity firm

A Los Angeles private equity firm announced Monday it has acquired Central Valley grocery store owner The Save Mart Cos. Modesto-based Save Mart has about 200 stores in California and northern Nevada, including the Lucky California and FoodMaxx brands. It also operates a refrigerated transport company and is co-owner of a distribution center in Lathrop and a dairy processing plant in Turlock. Terms of Save Mart’s purchase by Kingswood Capital Management LP were not disclosed.

The Save Mart Cos. operates Save Mart and FoodMaxx stores in Kern County. It said in a news release the transaction will be transparent to customers and its 14,000 employees. In January 2021, Kingswood purchased Alameda-based Cost Plus World Market. It also owns a marine services business. “At Kingswood, our goal is to make good businesses even better, and The Save Mart Companies presents us with a great opportunity to do so,” Alex Wolf, Kingswood’s founder and managing partner, said in the same release. “Their 70 years of history in the Central Valley provides a strong foundation for future profitable growth, and we look forward to working with Chris and the team to position these iconic grocery brands for the future.”

Visalia industrial building boom continues

VISALIA – While most Valley industries struggle to find workers to fill vacant positions, industrial facilities are booming in Visalia bringing with them hundreds of jobs for Tulare County residents. Tulare County has already added more than 3,000 jobs in the “trade, transportation and utilities” sector in the last year, according to the California Employment Development Department.  The latest large-scale facilities to file plans for the Visalia Industrial Park are Seefried Industrial Properties and Fowler Packing. Seefried is a major developer with over 190 million square feet of speculative or “spec” industrial warehouses across the nation and regional offices in southeast, southwest, west and midwest. It is also the same company already underway on construction of the recently announced Ace Hardware distribution center. Ace’s 1.1 million square foot facility is on 80 acres just south of this new 535,540 square foot spec building on 39 acres. The two parcels were acquired at the same time.

Seefried’s latest project, at the northeast corner of Avenue 76 and West Goshen Avenue, is a spec project, so no tenant has been announced. The complex includes parking for 545 cars and 1,760 trailer parking stalls. This facility could accommodate a single tenant or up to four tenants. Access to the site will be from North Plaza Drive to the east and Route 76 to the west. There is a private access road to the north (From Plaza Drive) that will provide two full-access driveways with code required fire access around the perimeter. Construction ground-breaking is estimated in the fourth quarter of 2022 with full completion of the project in 2023.

The second  building project is being  proposed by Fowler Packing, a subsidiary of G4 Enterprises, Ltd., owned by the Parnagian in Fresno. Called the Duarte Industrial project, Fowler Paking’s 15-acre development is located east of North Kelsey Street and south of West Goshen Avenue. This the second filing of the project at site plan review after initial comments were received by the developer. The proposed development consists of the construction and operation of an office/warehouse style, shell building that is approximately 313,000 square feet. The proposed building will have four offices and approximately 48 loading docks on the south side of the building. The project will provide approximately 382 standard parking stalls for employee parking including eight handicap stalls and future EV charging stations. Access to the site is provided off of North Kelsey Street. Operational times are typical of warehouse style facilities and may operate up to 24 hours a day and 7 days a week since it will be a warehouse for distribution of goods.

G4 Enterprises is not new to Visalia having acquired Midstate 99 Distribution Center, a 790,000-square-foot industrial complex in Visalia, for $33.4 million in 2017. G4 has also been busy in Fresno where they brought in Amazon west of Highway 99 a few years ago. Now the developer is being thwarted on expanding in West Fresno due to opposition from community groups. At the same time, negotiations with community groups lead to an agreement from G4 to reinforce homes in south central Fresno in response to added traffic from a second Amazon sorting facility near the first. At a hearing last spring, developer Leland Parnagian noted that “The U.S. is really undergoing a shift in how people buy things from in-store to online and that’s really driving changes in employment around the country.” Also in Fresno, Seefried is breaking ground on a second “last mile delivery” warehouse  in Fresno for Amazon. No such facility is known to be happening in Visalia, as of yet.