The long-awaited UPS Visalia hub totaling about 450,000 square feet opened on Plaza Drive about a year ago. Even more industrial growth is anticipated for Tulare County in the future. Photo via Layton Construction

published on December 7, 2021 - 12:00 PM
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The economic whiplash of the nearly two years of a global health crisis has exposed a well-reported labor shortage, supply chain issues and inflation. In Tulare County, industrial growth is keeping things steady.

Tulare County Economic Development Corporation CEO Nathan Ahle says the spotlight is on the Visalia Industrial Park.

Tulare County continues to see much industrial growth, including the recently opened Amazon warehouse and an Ace Hardware logistics facility, which was announced recently. Ace Hardware is 1 million square feet and is set to provide 400 jobs.

The industrial park is master planned to serve many years of growth, Ahle said. Interest in the area continues to gain traction.

“Land is going quickly and projects are getting built and spec buildings are being built, or they’re being built to suit. And we’re seeing a lot of demand in that area for sure,” Ahle said.

The City of Porterville is also poised for growth, he said. It shows promise, especially because it’s had one of the most heavily trafficked Walmart distribution centers in the country for decades.

“Cities that may not be on the 99 but certainly have that potential would be right there in Porterville,” Ahle said.

The City of Tulare will also see significant development over the next three to five years surrounding the International Agri-Center. There will be a new interchange off of Highway 99.

He expects ground will be broken for the new interchange sometime in 2022. The cloverleaf interchange is expected to improve traffic conditions for events and set the stage for more development in the area.

“Plans are in the works. They’re interested in hotel development, convention center development, and I certainly think it’s possible to see some more industrial and commercial there — things that are relative to ag in that area,” Ahle said.

Tulare County is no exception when it comes to getting hit with inflation, but Ahle said the county is still growing.

“I think a lot of that has to do with our position as a logistical hub and just with our role in the supply chain. I mean, we all know we’re trying to improve the supply chain. That and our location, I think it insulates us a little bit from some of those challenges,” Ahle said.

Dena Clark, 2021 president of the Tulare County Association of Realtors, said the association is having a hard time keeping tabs on available inventory.

“It’s tough to gauge where the inventory in the future will be. I can say the market’s still strong, rates are still low,” Clark said.

In a healthy market, three to six months’ worth of inventory is sufficient. In today’s market, Clark said Tulare County has been down to as low as a week’s worth of inventory.

“Our inventory is extremely low,” she said.

In smaller towns like Exeter, Lindsay and Woodlake, there are times when there are no homes to show clients, depending on their price range. This time of year buying activity is slower because people want to get into a home either before or after the holidays. People are also hesitant to list their homes around the holidays.

Of those who are buying this time of year, motivation is strong.

Homeowner mentality has shifted due to working from home for nearly two years.

“For a long time, people were moving to larger cities for jobs. And then now what we’re seeing is they’re coming out of the large cities and they’re going to smaller towns. Visalia’s always been on the map for having one of the most affordable home areas where the quality of life is still very good,” she said.

It has historically taken homes longer to sell in some areas like Three Rivers and Springville. But even those homes went quickly over the past year.

Clark expects 2022 to be a good and strong year with low interest rates.

“I do think that the predictions for 2022 are supposed to still be low interest rates — maybe a teeter up toward the end of the year. They’re still saying that we will have a strong market because people still need housing, and it’s very competitive in the rental market,” Clark said.

Multifamily units are coming on strong. The City of Visalia issued 130 multifamily permits from January through October this year — the most issued in the last five years. Attitudes toward rent have shifted for qualified homebuyers, she said. With rent prices rising, many would rather pay into something they own, according to Clark.

Rising prices aren’t going away, and not just in the housing market.

The Visalia Chamber of Commerce has seen businesses stretched thin because of inflation. CEO Gail Zurek said that businesses are worried about passing those costs onto customers.

“Uncertainty in the market is never a good thing and it feels like there is a lot of uncertainty. There is a lot of inflation and that’s affecting the elasticity many businesses are facing surrounding pricing,” Zurek said.

Staffing is a universal problem that touches all industries.

“Supply chain seems to be an issue when it comes to many of our manufacturers and making sure that they have access to the ingredients they need or parts that they need,” she said.

Retail is coming up on a busy season, but they’re hopeful that being able to shop in person will soften the blow this year. Many retailers have seen consumers purchase things sooner than in past years.

Looking ahead to 2022, businesses really need certainty, she said.

“The state of business as it exists now is radically different than the state of business that existed in February of 2020. And to see those changes is remarkable. What businesses need now after so much change is a period for them to grow into those changes and to adjust to those changes,” Zurek said.

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