Visitors to the Kelly Slater Surf Ranch in Lemoore lounge around a manmade lake during the venue’s first major surfing tournament in May. Photo by Edward Smith
Written by Frank Lopez
Kings County saw a lot of highs-profile economic growth this year, and it is expected to continue into 2019.
With a low unemployment rate, an increase in sales and property tax revenue, job creation and prime location by Interstate 5 and Highway 99, Kings County is well positioned for strong economic development.
“I think more and more businesses are realizing how welcoming Kings County really is for new business enterprises,” said Lance Lippincott, director of economic development with the Kings County Economic Development Corp. “I think that’s going to encourage more growth.”
Businesses that launched this year – such as Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, which hosted two international events this year, each one attracting 15,000 visitors – are spurring the Kings County economy.
At the Tachi Palace in Lemoore, construction has been completed for the Coyote Entertainment Center that will open this month. The 88,000 square foot expansion will include a 30-lane bowling alley, eight movie theater screens with 1,100 luxury seats, a new restaurant and sports bar that will feature 60 televisions, and an arcade room with 45 games.
Also in Lemoore, PG&E opened a new service center and warehouse over the summer, consolidating two centers in Lemoore and Coalinga. Crews from the 13,000 square foot center will respond to outages and other service needs for Kings County, and will employ approximately 30 workers.
In 2017, Naval Air Station Lemoore started utilizing two new squadrons from the East Coast as the Navy shifts some assets to the West. Last year, Lemoore’s fleet replacement started accepting the Navy’s newest strike fighter, the F-35C Lightning II, and currently the squadron is transitioning from its older jets, the Super Hornet.
There is also some hangar construction currently taking place.
In Hanford, Airgas, a subsidiary of the French company Liquid Air, completed construction of their Kings Industrial Park facility for the production of their industrial ammonia in July. Their products are used in refrigeration, food processing and the production of semiconductors.
Faraday Future, an American startup company focused on the development of smart and electric vehicles, is finishing its conversion of a tire plant in Hanford for the production of the company’s FF 91 Ultra-Luxury Supercar and the FF81. The FF91 will be Faraday Future’s first production vehicle and flagship model and will feature advanced technology and connectivity and the first pre-production model was completed in August of this year. That will all depend on the startup overcoming financial difficulties and landing new investment.
A 500,000 square foot commercial center known as the Hanford Marketplace is developing at the intersection of highways 198 and 43 in east Hanford. Anchoring the center will be two big-box retailers including Costco, which opened in 2016 and strip developments are under construction and there are already stores and restaurants open for business.
Near the intersection of Highway 198 and 12th Avenue in Hanford is the Home2 Suites by Hilton, which is catering to federal contractors, military personnel on temporary duty, and other contractors who require temporary quarters, opened for business in February 2018.
The California High Speed Rail Authority has started construction of the route east of Hanford and they are completing the acquisition of right of way in Kings County. Though there is no exact location determined yet for the project’s Heavy Maintenance Facility, King’s County remains an option, but there is a passenger station planned to go in Hanford.
Since the Central Valley is situated between the northern and southern areas of California, Lippincott says that he is seeing a lot of interest from businesses wanting to move in and relocate to the Valley and to Kings County.
“I don’t see it slowing down,” Lippincott said. “If anything, it’s picking up.”
Lippincott said that another reason businesses are showing more interest in the area is because of the available land and because the Kings County EDC is very accommodating to bringing in new business and that city staff in the county work closely and quickly to discuss new business ventures for the county.
Despite seeing a strong economy over the past few years, and positive trends for Kings County projected for 2019, Lippincott says that the county is waiting to see if there is any effect from President Trump’s tariffs.
As more and more businesses come in, and with the population growth projected to go up from the current 151,663 to 154,403 in 2020 according to the California Department of Finance , home building is expected to stay strong.
“Economically, the trend has been very positive and I think that’s going to continue. A lot of it is going to be attributed to the hard work of Kings County’s folks really putting in the work to bring in new business,” Lippincott said.