Manufacturing on the rise in the county
Tulare County EDC says trade war is helping an increase in the need for domestic manufacturing companies
TULARE COUNTY – If the trade war with China has benefited any segment of the economy, it may be manufacturing.
At its Aug. 28 meeting, the Tulare County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) received a report that more than half of its new projects for the fiscal year, that began in August, are inquiries for manufacturing facilities. One of the projects included a manufacturer and distributor of lithium ion battery storage systems that are currently manufactured in China. The project is estimated to bring more than 2,000 jobs to a 1 million-square foot facility.
“As the trade war continues, it means companies need manufacturing to have a domestic presence,” said Paul Saldana, executive director of the EDC.
Other manufacturing sector projects included a company using recycled materials to make products, a company interested in helping with the distribution of an existing plastics manufacturer, and manufacturer of specialty magnets.
The report noted that at least one company, which manufactures straps for tools, was searching for 53,000 square feet on 8 acres but opted to expand into a facility adjacent to its current plant in Oregon. Saldana said the high risk, high reward atmosphere often scares off major companies from locating in California where the cost of doing business is high but those who survive benefit from the robust economy. Another project, an e-commerce distribution warehouse totaling nearly 300,000 square feet, is likely to locate in either Nevada or Arizona, the states competing for its business with California.
“We only locate about one project every seven years from state referrals,” Saldana said. “The likelihood of landing a state-generated lead anywhere in the California is 20%.”
Only about 10% of proposed projects from last year visited Tulare County and only about 1% located here. The largest of last year’s projects to locate here was Millipore Sigma, a biotechnology company, that recently announced it would invest $28 million into the construction of its distribution facility in Visalia. (See story on this page.)
Another biotechnology/biomass company is also eyeing Tulare County as a possible site. The project has been on hold for awhile but Saldana said, “They are looking to narrow down on sites in the next month and plan to schedule tours in October/November timeframe.”
Both of those projects are part of an EDC initiative to find the next major employer for Tulare County workers. Saldana said he and his staff believe those future jobs will come as part of an emerging private sector dubbed “advance bioeconomy.”
This sector includes manufacturing projects already in progress in Tulare County. The most notable is Calgren Dairy Fuels which formed the first cluster of diaries in California to convert methane from manure at 12 dairies into renewable natural gas (RNG). In February, Calgren’s facility in Tipton began piping dairy-manufactured RNG directly into SoCalGas pipelines for use in homes, businesses, buses and heavy duty trucks. This is the first of several dairy cluster projects planned in California as SoCalGas has committed to replacing 20% of its natural gas supply with RNG.
Another manufacturing company, which will produce alternative fuels derived from biomass, is in the final stages of their site selection. This project would add to the existing biofuel projects in the county. A third advance bioeconomy project involves a manufacturer which develops specialty products from left over plant material after crops have been harvested, known as biomass feedstocks.
In response to the initiative, the EDC is planning to launch an AdvanceBioeconomy.com web site sometime this fiscal year.