Officials in Fresno and Tulare counties are working with their respective largest cities to help bolster bids to win a Nordstrom e-commerce packaging and distribution center that could bring 1,000 jobs – and possibly more – to the winning city.
Nordstrom has narrowed its choices to the two central San Joaquin Valley cities, though the possibility of placing the facility out of state is a third option. The Seattle-based retailer has identified 55 acres in the North Pointe Business Park in southwest Fresno where it would build a $110 million, 1-million-square-foot building. In Visalia, the targeted property is in the Visalia Industrial Park, close to the interchange of highways 99 and 198.
Fresno County’s initial effort is around workforce investment and training, and could include other ways to sweeten the Nordstrom deal, including possibly paying the portion of Nordstrom workers’ salaries while they do job training.
“We believe everything we can put on the table would be substantial,” Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea said.
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We believe everything we can put on the table would be substantial.
Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin welcomed the county’s help.
“There’s so much enthusiasm about the potential for Nordstrom to come to Fresno that the county has, thankfully, expressed their total support for our efforts and their willingness to help make our proposal as attractive as possible,” she said. “Their expertise in workforce development would bring a welcome addition to the qualified, talented pool of people in Fresno County who will be lining up to apply for the jobs Nordstrom would bring.”
Perea said he thinks what Fresno County can bring to the table cannot be matched by anything Tulare County could offer for Visalia. Fresno County, he said, has an established job-training program through the Department of Social Services in conjunction with the Fresno Economic Development Corp. – which has a contract to do the county’s economic development – and could quickly pivot to help train Nordstrom workers.
“We’ve done some big programs,” Perea said.
Visalia and Tulare County officials, however, say they’re ready to match Fresno on job training and hiring know-how.
Adam Peck, executive director of the Workforce Investment Board for Tulare County, said the county is also making a case to Nordstrom representatives.
“We’ve had conversations with them, as well, about the job-training programs,” he said.
Peck said workforce and economic-development representatives meet regularly with College of the Sequoias and Visalia Unified School District educators, and with warehouse managers already in the Visalia Industrial Park, to prepare students for warehouse jobs. Another selling point that Tulare County can offer is experience in helping employers find employees, he said.
And Peck said Tulare County can also offer on-the-job training money as an incentive. If an employer hires someone who needs additional training to do the job, the Workforce Investment Board has an on-the-job training program that pays the employer for the cost of training, he said.
“Because of the extra training that the employer has to do, we reimburse up to 50 percent of the wages paid by the employer for the first 12 weeks,” he said.
1,875Number of Nordstrom jobs potentially coming to the Valley
Last week, the Fresno City Council unanimously approved offering Nordstrom up to $12 million through a sales-tax-sharing agreement. The offer was initially $10 million, but the council then voted to bump the offer up to $12 million – and to give the additional $2 million to Nordstrom more quickly.
On Monday, Visalia matched the offer.
Both cities appear to have advantages. For instance, Fresno officials say Fresno Yosemite International Airport offers direct flights to Seattle, location of Nordstrom’s corporate headquarters. Visalia, on the other hand, has cheaper land: In Visalia, it is $10.5 million, in Fresno, it is $12.5 million.
The first phase is what Nordstrom calls its West Coast E-Commerce Fulfillment Center. Workers would take online orders, fill them, then ship them. Beyond the 1,000 full-time jobs, there would be an additional 200 to 450 seasonal jobs, as well as construction jobs getting the site ready.
Down the road, a possible second development phase would create a distribution center that would supply brick-and-mortar Nordstrom stores. That would come with a similar sales-tax-sharing agreement that would return up to $8.75 million to the company. The distribution center would create an additional 875 jobs for the winning city, making the total employment potentially 1,875 jobs.
Every little bit will help in the battle between the two cities, officials said.
“It is encouraging that Fresno County is engaged in helping the city create a package that makes us more competitive,” Fresno City Council Member Esmeralda Soria said. “The city and county are committed to economic development and ensuring we get the over 1,000 jobs that will come with the Nordstrom distribution center in our community.”
Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen said his city and Tulare County will be equally aggressive in the pursuit of Nordstrom.
“We can match anything that Fresno can come up with in terms of a workforce,” he said.