The Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance is considering spending more than $500,000 on a business attraction strategy, with nearly half of that money going to market an "inland port" at the proposed PCCP West Park.
The Alliance board will discuss the strategy during a special meeting Monday, Nov. 21.
“We’ve got to do things differently because the status quo is killing us,” Bill Bassitt, CEO of the Alliance, said this week of the proposed business attraction strategy.
The strategy would entail spending $533,580 over a three-year period, including $254,000 on marketing the inland port, which would be built on 2,900 acres in and around Crows Landing’s former naval airfield. The 157-acre inland port, which would be built on one of the airfield’s former runways, would ship and receive goods to and from the Port of Oakland via train.
The draft business attraction plan also includes spending $95,980 on expanding traditional recruitment and $183,500 on drawing in industrial and agricultural biotech companies.
Most of the money spent on West Park would be on marketing trips to the Pacific Rim, Bassitt said. He did not envision much if any money being spent before June 26, when county supervisors are to decide whether to continue with the project after reviewing its environmental impact report.
“If the supervisors reject the West Park project, then (the inland port) strategy goes away,” Bassitt said.
He envisioned money being spent on travel, marketing materials, trade shows, trade associations and joining the World Trade Organization and American Chamber of Commerce chapters in Asia.
Bassitt said he used to work extensively in China and Japan when he worked in marketing the auto industry in Detroit, and he has several contacts there. He could market on behalf of the inland port himself or the Alliance could consider hiring another staff member for those efforts, he said. However, he said none of the money budgeted for the business attraction strategy would be for extra staffing.
Many West Side residents have taken issue with the inland port concept, particularly when its plans included six trains traveling to and from West Park each day. A revised version of the plan announced in March only calls for two trains.
Patterson City Councilwoman Annette Smith remains critical of the proposed project and questioned the Alliance’s financial support.
“I don’t think they should spend a nickel on it,” she said.
Smith felt that no public money should be spent on those efforts. The Alliance receives about 12 percent of its funding from public funds, with the remaining money coming from investors in the business community.
Bassitt stressed that it is unlikely that money would be spent on marketing efforts until after the project was approved by county supervisors, though the Alliance would advocate for it at public meetings prior to that time.
He envisions West Park as a place where Central Valley agricultural goods could be packed and sent to the Port of Oakland and where manufacturing components could be shipped in from Asia.
Light manufacturing facilities could open locally as a result, he said, noting that tariffs can make it cheaper for Asian countries to ship components of electronic goods to the U.S. rather than full pre-assembled items, such as television sets.
“I think (the inland port) presents a tremendous opportunity for the county to differentiate itself from any other county in the Central Valley,” Bassitt said.
In addition to eventually marketing West Park, Bassitt said he hopes to immediately step up job recruiting efforts, having Alliance representatives attend more trade shows and work more closely with contacts in other counties.
As for the proposed strategy’s biotech focus, he noted that Stanislaus County is relatively close to the Bay Area, where many biotech companies already exist, and the county’s agricultural base made biotech seem like a good fit. Examples include businesses that focus on genetically modified organisms, pesticides and modified crop seeds, he said.
The Alliance board will vote on the strategy during a noon meeting on Monday, Nov. 21, at its boardroom at 1020 10th St. in Modesto.
• Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187 or email@example.com.