San Benito County residents may see the first signs of a recovering local economy next year, with two agricultural firms expanding operations in the county and one potential large retailer tentatively looking into moving into the county.
Look back for more on these potential projects.
Interim County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa said Organic Natural Selections has plans to expand in San Benito County and could add $50 million in taxable income as soon as 2013. George Chiala Farms, which is based in Morgan Hill, is also looking at expanding its operations into San Benito County. Espinosa said George Chiala Farms could add as many as 154 full-time jobs and 100 seasonal positions. He said efforts on Solargen, a large-scale solar farm proposed in Panoche Valley, also continue to move forward.
“We will see employment increase,” Espinosa said.
He said there is also a possibility that Walmart may be interested in moving into the lot on Hillcrest where Lowe’s had planned to develop a hardware store.
“It might be coming, but it’s a long shot,” Espinosa said.
Espinosa noted that all of those potential projects are “naturally occurring economic development.”
On economic development that is driven by government, he said the county could look again next year at the Williamson Act. This year, Supervisor Anthony Botelho and Jerry Muenzer had to recuse themselves from a discussion of a state assembly bill that allows county’s to lower the property tax benefit to properties in the Williamson Act by 10 percent to recapture that money in the general fund because they have property that benefits from it. The three remaining supervisors did not have the quorum needed to approve a change to the Williamson Act when Supervisor Robert Rivas voted against making changes.
Espinosa asked supervisors for input on what they would like to do in terms of economic development.
“So far it has been get on our hands and knees and pray for business,” Rivas said. “It needs to be done across multiple jurisdictions – the Chamber of Commerce, The Hollister Downtown Association, Vision San Benito. We need to bring them to the table on economic development for a plan that creates long-term objectives.”
He said 2013 should be the year to focus an effort on improving economic development.
Supervisor Margie Barrios said she agreed with Rivas.
“The biggest issue right now is that we are a little island,” Barrios said. “In the next budget meeting we should invite these folks to step in and move in the right direction.”
The supervisors allocated $10,000 for use toward economic development for the 2012-13 fiscal year. Barrios said though in the past she has supported using those funds for regional efforts, she said she now thinks the focus should be on moving forward with local efforts.
Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz said he would like to see community development block grant funding used for economic development.
“We have not used those dollars and we should really look into that,” he said.