The Business Journal's coverage of the emerging hemp industry won a statewide award. 2019 file photo
Written by Frank Lopez
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of four economic forecasts The Business Journal does every year for each of the four counties in our coverage area.
Last year The Business Journal highlighted the economic growth in Kings County with its low unemployment rate, increases in sales and property tax revenue, and job growth.
Expectations for a more prosperous 2019 rang true.
With the big focus on downtown revival in cities across the country, Hanford’s downtown has seen more development this year.
Hanford’s first brewery, Hop Forged Brewing Company, opened in April on 7th street, started by two local bankers who had been brewing their dreams for eight years.
Another national trend that Hanford is rolling with is the establishment of recreational marijuana dispensaries. City officials have awarded one company an operating license and a second company is in process of obtaining a license. Both are slated to open next year in Hanford’s downtown.
“It’s a great opportunity to drive additional traffic downtown,” said CEO and Executive Director of the Hanford Chamber of Commerce Joey Joslin. “Its really important for small town America to have a bustling downtown, and I think that the only way to do that is to create traffic. From what I’ve seen, and what city staff has seen, there are lots of benefits to having that whole different industry that will have customers coming downtown.”
There are also some specialty shops that will be opening, including a bridal shop, which the downtown area hasn’t had in a while.
Joslin said that development is expanding across the city with a national sporting goods retailer opening in 2018 in the 12th Avenue shopping center, and that existing businesses in the area are continuing to grow and expand their customer base.
There are two brand new home developments in Hanford that were just completed, and three more are in the works.
Joslin said he is anticipating between 600-800 new homes built through this year and the next. These new homes will bring more people, which will expand the tax base and create new employment opportunities.
“I think that we have a great opportunity ahead of us to really expand the economic base of our community,” Joslin said.
The biggest highlight for the agricultural community in Kings County this year was the amount of surface water available.
With a wet winter last year, and ground water available all summer, Dusty Ference, executive director of the Kings County Farm Bureau, said growing conditions were optimal.
Ference said that walnut prices are starting to recover after last year, and the county also started growing industrial hemp to varying degrees of success, but it is expected to be more uniform and successful next year.
Farmers in the area are paying close attention to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), passed by former Gov. Jerry Brown, which aims to ensure better local and regional management of groundwater use.
Congress has introduced a farm worker modernization act that is in the committee process, and Ference said there are some proposed changes regarding immigration that are cause for optimism in an industry plagued with labor worries.
“Water is going to continue to be in our foresight for next year — learning to manage SGMA is going to be a chore for the industry, Ference said. “As we move to more permanent crops, that’s a change that we are learning to manage also. A lot of growers are excited for the ability to grow hemp in California so it will be interesting to see what comes of that next year.”