Written by The Business Journal Staff
If 2016 is any indication, 2017 should be a happening year for economic development in Kings County.
“There is going to be some real growth,” said Jay Salyer, economic development manager for the Kings County Economic Development Corp.
First, there’s no doubt economic recovery is well underway in Kings County, said John Lehn, president and CEO of the Kings County Economic Development Corp.
“Economic indicators such as a lower unemployment rate, increased sales and property taxes and a significant increase in residential, commercial and industrial construction all point to a strong economy,” he said.
Kings County saw a mix of private and public projects completed this year in a wide variety of sectors. One of the most high profile was the Hanford Marketplace, a 500,000 square-foot shopping center located on 48.5 acres near Highways 198 and 43. A 150,000 square-foot Costco location opened last month as the shopping center’s anchor tenant, with a number of pads and shop space available, as well as another 100,000 square-foot anchor pad. The Costco alone is creating upward of 230 new jobs.
“With Costco as one of the two major anchors, the predictability of rapid success increases exponentially. We understand that multiple leases have been signed,” Lehn said. “We believe the success of the Hanford Marketplace will continue to strengthen.”
Quay Valley, a proposed new town to be located near Interstate 5, may also see some noteworthy activity in 2017. The 7,200-acre site is slated to feature 26,000 “smart” homes for up to 80,000 residents. Quay Hays and GROW Holdings, the project’s developer, envisions the community as a model for sustainable living, with solar energy, walkable design and water conservation at the forefront.
Hays submitted plans for the new town to the Kings County Community Development Department, though the approval process is expected to take some time.
“We do know that GROW Holdings, the project developer is anxious to break ground once all approvals are received,” Lehn said.
In addition, a “hyperloop” — essentially a network of elevated tubes to transport specially designed capsules over long distances at speeds up to 750 mph — planned for the site is also working its way through the approval process.
Pitman Family Farms, the Sanger-based poultry operation, purchased a former Cargill granary complex in Hanford’s Kings Industrial Park in 2013, and is developing a soybean oil mill on site as well as building a looped rail system. A number of new buildings have also been built. The site employs about 25, with plans to expand and hire more on the 110-acre site in the future.
Tessenderlo Kerley, Inc., another new tenant at the Kings Industrial Park, completed construction on its 46-acre facility in late 2015. The liquid plant nutrient manufacturing facility created 23 new jobs.
Tulare Lake Compost is a $130 million composting facility on 200 acres owned by the Los Angeles County Department of Sanitation. It has the capacity to convert nearly 1 million tons of treated human waste and agricultural waste each year. The facility, which opened in the spring, employs about nine people.
Other new retail offerings coming to Hanford include a Dollar Tree store and a Party City location.
Lehn said there are some exciting things happening at Naval Air Station Lemoore, which generates upwards of $1 billion in regional economic impact. The Navy has already started shifting fighter squadrons from the East Coast as part of a pivot of assets to the West Coast. In addition, the Navy’s newest strike fighter, the F-35C Lightning II, is expected to arrive in early 2017.
The expansion in military personnel and their families, which will continue in 2017, will continue to strengthen housing demand, related services and sales tax in the area,” Lehn said. “Military construction associated with the transition of Legacy F-18 Hornets to the new Joint Strike Fighter F-35C, and the Fleet Replacement Squadron are all positive influences on the local and regional economy.”
Despite the bullishness on Kings County, Lehn is quick to remind people that the availability of water is an unknown when it comes to forecasting growth, especially in the ag industry cluster. Despite that, “we are confident there will be additional projects announced in 2017,” Lehn said.