At the rate his team is going, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand might have to raise his job-creation goals.
The first-year mayor has said at several public events recently that he wants to bring 10,000 permanent, new jobs to the city. Those jobs, in turn, would produce a ripple effect leading to the creation of 10,000 more jobs in the local economy.
What would Fresno and surrounding cities look like with 20,000 people who are now unemployed going to work?
Significantly better. General funds would rise. There would be more revenue for public safety, road maintenance and parks. Families would prosper, and community pride would increase.
Following Friday’s announcement that Fresno will be home to an Amazon order fulfillment center, it appears that the Brand administration is well on its way to significantly lowering our county’s chronically high unemployment rate.
The 855,000-square-foot warehouse will represent a capital investment of about $200 million, according to city leaders, and it will employ 1,500 employees when it opens in about one year. An analysis performed by the city indicated that the initial wage for workers at the center would be about $26,000 a year, or just under $15 an hour.
No one is getting rich off such wages. But most of these jobs will require only a high school diploma or GED, Brand told the editorial board in a meeting May 31. Other jobs will call for specialized technology training.
The key is that the unemployed will have an opportunity to get into the workforce, acquire skills and move up the ladder into higher-paying positions – with Amazon or other businesses. And, for families in which just one adult is working, having a second adult bringing home a paycheck can significantly improve their lives.
The site for the warehouse is near Orange and Central avenues – part of the North Pointe Business Park industrial complex – and is less than a half-mile from the location where Ulta Beauty, the nation’s largest retailer of cosmetics, will occupy a 670,500-square-foot distribution warehouse. Ulta will initially employ more than 500 workers and that could swell to more than 1,000 during peak periods.
Brand calls this 970-acre area “the cornerstone” of his economic development plan and is hoping to attract more e-commerce distribution centers, data centers and manufacturing.
“My goal is to reduce unemployment in Fresno to 5 percent,” Brand said.
That’s a pretty tall order, given that Fresno County’s current unemployment rate is 8.8 percent and the fact that our region’s rate is often double the statewide percentage.
But things are looking up on several fronts:
▪ Fresno now has an incentive program that was codified when the Fresno City Council approved the Economic Expansion Act written by Brand when he served on the council. The act includes tax rebates and other economic lures for major job-creating projects, but protects taxpayers by capping incentives and requiring companies to reach specific benchmarks.
▪ City and county leaders are rowing in the same direction after decades of being at each other’s throats. “This is just the start of a new era of collaboration and communication between the city and the county, and the real winners are the citizens we serve,” Brand said before the City Council and the Board of Supervisors met for a joint meeting last week.
▪ When the first segment of California’s high-speed rail project is completed, the state will have invested $6 billion in the San Joaquin Valley. In addition, Fresno is a top contender to land the system’s maintenance facility, which would create as many as 1,500 high-paying, permanent jobs and serve as a magnet for other industries providing goods and services for the train system.
Like we said, Mayor Brand might have to re-adjust his jobs goal – upward.