Good economic news for Stanislaus County


June 19, 2013 

Elias Funez/ Blue Diamond President and CEO, Mark Jansen applauds the Turlock city officials who helped streamline the process of bringing the new facility to the city during a speech held prior to Tuesday morning's (06-18-13) ribbon cutting ceremony and plant tour.

ELIAS FUNEZ — Modesto Bee

After years of a struggling economy and news of layoffs and closing businesses, it was heartening Wednesday to read some good financial news in The Bee.

In Turlock, the new Blue Diamond Growers processing plant held its grand opening. With 50 employees now, expected to double to 100 by the end of the year and possibly to 300 within a decade, the plant is a welcome addition to an area where the jobless rate hovers at about 13 percent, still almost twice the national average.

In Modesto, hometown entrepreneur Dan Costa said he plans to hire more people, too, for his Chefs of America company, and is looking toward an expansion of his Noble Equine company and a launch of his new Med Zone company later this year.

Although his hiring will be much more modest initially — 10 jobs that pay about $10 an hour — he has a track record of creating successful companies that are headquartered locally and popular with consumers here and elsewhere. He has begun or owned at least 12 businesses since he opened Modesto's first Velvet Creamery in 1976.

Blue Diamond, founded in 1910, is the biggest player in the state's almond industry, which supplies about 75 percent of the nuts in the world. Although the owners wouldn't comment on the cost of the new 200,000-square-foot building, the company plans to construct two more phases with an additional 300,000 square feet. Like the initial phase, that's also good news for the area's construction workers, who have seen a dearth of jobs in recent years.

This year should see continued improvements in job gains. More than 1,000 jobs are expected when Amazon opens its fulfillment center in Patterson in the fall. Electricians and other workers already are benefitting from that plant construction.

The valley was one of the first in the country to experience a drastic drop in housing prices and one of the last to experience a climb out of the recession that has gripped the country since 2007. But these signs of new and expanding businesses, coupled with monthly declines in county jobless rates, are welcome indeed.

In the words of Karen Ross, secretary of food and agriculture for Gov. Jerry Brown who spoke at Blue Diamond's grand opening in Turlock this week, "This is the kind of thing we want to do more of."

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