KINGS COUNTY ECONOMIC FORECAST: A NEW ERA OF GROWTH
For Kings County, 2021 brought a significant economic rebound from the tumultuous 2020. According to Kings County Economic Overview report for 2021 produced by JobsEQ, over the year ending in the second quarter, employment increased 6.4% in the region. Average annual wages per worker in the county was $52,775 as of Q2, a 9.3% increase in the region over the preceding four quarters. Over the year, employment in Kings County expanded by 419 jobs. Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction is projected to be the fastest growing sector in the region with a 2.7% year-over-year rate of growth. With the shock brought to the medical industry in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, it is no surprise that sector is expected to see the most growth in terms of sole job numbers.
It is forecast that over the next year, the number of jobs for health care and social assistance will grow by more than 209; more than 50 jobs for agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; and more than 37 jobs for accommodation and food services. Lance Lippincott, director of economic and workforce development for the Kings County Economic Development Corporation, said that commercial retail took the biggest hit from the pandemic, but that that larger industries such as ag are expected to continue with strong performance. Central Valley Meat Co. will expand its processing plant in Hanford by nearly 130 acres next year, expanding is processing capability from abut 1,500 cattle a day to about 4,500 a day. In phase 2 of the expansion, a new 103,000 square-foot processing facility will be added along with a 187,000 square-foot freezer. Lippincott said that one of the biggest economic boosts for the region in 2021 was new cannabis businesses, including the Deli by Caliva Dispensary in Hanford.
The industry is expected to keep growing with more dispensaries coming online in 2022. Though its had a long local history of “will they or wont they?,” smart car manufacture Faraday Future held a job fair early in November to gear up for production at its Hanford facility in 2022. The electric vehicle startup tech company is expected to bring more than 1,300 jobs to the city. On the manufacturing side, agricultural and specialty formulator and distributor Helena Agri-Enterprises will be building a facility in Lemoore’s industrial park. The state-of-the-art facility will cover over 130,000 square feet and have some retail space at the front. In the real estate neighborhood, Lippincott said the EDC is seeing larger projects requesting site selections that cover nearly 400 to 500 acres. “We are starting to see that movement up from Los Angeles and from the Bay Area to more inexpensive land in the Central Valley,” Lippincott said. Lippincott said that several residential housing projects have been approved in the county for up to 1,000 homes.
A shrinking inventory of available spaces for both commercial and industrial sectors is a positive sign for business, Lippincott said. Though Kings County does have a cost of living that is almost 7% higher than the nation’s average, it is still cheaper than many other regions in California. “This area is incredibly affordable on the U.S. average, and in the upcoming year, that’s going to channel a lot of growth to us and the Central Valley as a whole,” Lippincott said.
At the Kings County Chamber of Commerce, President and CEO Benjamin Kahikina said some of the biggest projects for 2022 are in development and housing growth, especially in regard to affordable housing sustainability. With the residential growth projected for the upcoming year, Kahikina said he expects new businesses to follow. Kings County is trying to annex land for a project that would extend the boundaries of Kettleman City.
Kahikina said that the chamber is in contact with people who are interested in developing businesses, but aren’t familiar with the process. Chamber officials are trying to convince more businesses to open up a brick-and-mortar store to revitalize downtowns such as Lemoore’s. There will be an effort to connect with newer and younger entrepreneurs that may be operating out of their home. “We are excited to bring everything we have learned from the pandemic in 2020, and going into 2021, and to bring that in to 2022 and offer new resources and start connecting with younger audiences as well.”