PCCP West Park LLC business and industrial park is at least two years from turning a shovel of dirt and has a daunting environmental impact report to produce, but it is drawing interest from potential employers.
The Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance has been contacted by at least two prospective tenants of the proposed 4,800-acre development, according to a recent alliance activity report.
West Park, to be located southeast of Patterson in and around the county's Crows Landing Air Facility, is proposed by Sacramento developer Gerry Kamilos. He recently won approval of a memorandum of understanding with the county to proceed with planning for the massive project.
The development would be anchored by a proposed short-haul rail link between the West Park site and the Port of Oakland. The rail link would take valley agricultural products to the port for export, and bring in goods from Asia for distribution up and down the West Coast, according to West Park representatives.
But West Park critics have contended that local ag industries aren't likely to use the rail link because trucking products to the port will be cheaper. County Supervisor Jim DeMartini has argued that companies won't pay an extra property assessment to subsidize the rail service.
That's why the interest by two large companies is intriguing, even at such an early stage.
Bringing a large new employer into an area frequently is a cloak-and- dagger exercise because the potential employer doesn't want to be identified before a deal is locked down. Economic development agencies such as the alliance often don't know the identities of the companies they are trying to help.
"We have had a couple of large firms step forward, saying they have an interest in the potential development," said Doug Sweetland, director of economic development with the alliance. "It's a very preliminary statement of interest, and there is no ID.
"That's one of the downsides of doing this sort of thing."
Square footage in the millions
According to the activity report, one of the firms is looking at a 300-acre site and 4 million square feet of buildings, and the other is looking at 200 acres and 3.5 million square feet of buildings.
For perspective, the Vintage Faire Mall building in Modesto is about 678,000 square feet, according to the Stanislaus County assessor's office, and the WinCo warehouse in Ceres is about 700,000 square feet.
Both companies that have expressed interest in West Park are aware that the project is three to four years away from development, and "that fits their time frame," Sweetland said.
Each of the companies is talking about employing hundreds of workers, Sweetland said.
West Park developers say the project ultimately will generate 37,000 jobs when it is completed in 20 years.
"There is interest in that site, real interest, even if we don't know who it is," Sweetland said.
Both of the potential tenants are interested in using the short-haul rail connection to the Port of Oakland, Sweetland said.
"I'm convinced more interest will be coming," he said.
DeMartini, one of West Park's most vocal critics, noted that the development proposal has a long road ahead before construction can start.
"If Kamilos is talking to someone about bringing someone in, that's fine," DeMartini said, but added that there is no infrastructure on the site, which is being leased to a farming operation.
Manufacturing and logistics
Kamilos said he couldn't talk about specific companies, but said he has had a number of contacts from firms involved in manufacturing and logistics. One of the companies, he said, pro- duces electric cars.
Logistics refers to efficiently moving goods and materials, meaning distribution systems with an emphasis on cost savings.
In addition to companies interested in importing goods through the proposed inland port, Kamilos said there's been "a lot of interest from agriculture." Cotton growers in the Southern San Joaquin Valley are an example, he said.
The contacts have been from firms drawn to West Park because of the rail link, Kamilos said, but the marketing of the park won't be limited to inland port users.
"We want a very broad, diversified job base," he said.
Another trend that could help the park, Kamilos said, is that companies that have moved facilities out of California are coming back. Examples, he said, are J.C. Penney and Sears, which moved distribution warehouse facilities from California to Nevada and are relocating back to California.
"They want to be close to their customer markets," Kamilos said. "With the increased fuel costs and congestion, it's difficult to move goods back into California to the major consumer markets."
West Park is developing a state, national and international marketing plan to promote the business park, Kamilos said.
Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2349.