Tag Archives: San Joaquin Partnership

Officials expect jobs expansion beyond south Stockton tile plant

Jim Masterson, director of strategic projects for ARDEX, seen at the April 3 ground breaking for the new tile plant, said construction should begin in mid-May. (Business Journal photo by Keith Michaud)

Jim Masterson, director of strategic projects for ARDEX, seen at the April 3 ground breaking for the new tile plant, said construction should begin in mid-May. (Business Journal photo by Keith Michaud)

Central Valley Business Journal, May 3, 2012

By KEITH MICHAUD/Business Journal Editor

An international engineered concrete manufacturer expects that building a plant in south Stockton will mean lots of jobs.

There will be construction jobs and jobs at the plant itself, but also employment opportunities at local restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues catering to the contractors who will come from throughout the West for the plant’s training center.

Local business and city leaders were on hand in early April when they and ARDEX Americas officials broke ground for the new plant.

“It’s a great day here again in Stockton,” Mike Ammann, president and chief executive officer of the San Joaquin Partnership, said at the time of the ground breaking. The Partnership had a hand in drawing the family-owned business to Stockton.

The nearly $9 million, 50,000-square-foot ARDEX Americas manufacturing plant and training center will be on 7.5 acres on Station Drive just east of state Highway 99 between state Highway 4 to the north and East Mariposa Road to the south. It means 100 to 125 construction jobs and a dozen or so jobs once the plant is slated to open in spring 2013.

But the training center will see 2,000 to 3,000 contractors a year in and out of the facility, which means hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues in the city will benefit, said Mike Crouch, ARDEX vice president and chief marketing officer.

“We are in the permitting phase and hope to start construction in mid-May,” Jim Masterson, director of strategic projects for ARDEX, recently said.

Crouch said the plant, the first for ARDEX on the West Coast, will manufacture premium building materials. The site was selected after 18 months and was picked because of the logistics – state Highway 99 is just to the west, railroad tracks run along the rear of the property, and the Stockton Metropolitan Airport is just down the freeway, not to mention the Port of Stockton nearby.

“Smart companies like yours recognize it,” Stockton Councilwoman Susan Talamantes Eggman said of the region’s prime location.

The availability of raw materials also was a key, said Crouch.

“But not only that,” he said. “In part it was the personal relationships we developed along the way. Never discount that.”

At least some of those relationships were developed through the San Joaquin Partnership.

“They’ve been very good to us,” Masterson said of the Partnership.

Ammann recognized representatives from other groups at the event and said a “true partnership” brought the plant to Stockton. He said building materials was one of the target industries economic development experts had look to draw to the region.

“Today we reap the fruit of our efforts,” Ammann said.

He said the region’s location – with freeways, railways, airport, and Port of Stockton all nearby – gives it an edge.

Ammann also noted that the region’s population is expected to double over the next few decades.

“You’ve made a wise decision,” Ammann told ARDEX officials, “because we’re going to need a lot of tile.”

He also predicted an expansion of the facility’s training center as more people become lifelong learners.

Sisler and Sisler Construction of Rancho Cordova Rancho will build the plant. The construction is part of ARDEX Americas’ $25 million, five-year strategic project focusing on tile and stone installation products.

“We are aggressively going after the tile and stone installation segment,” Stephen M. Liozu, ARDEX Americas’ president and chief executive officer, said in an earlier statement. “ARDEX is the global leader in tile and stone installation products and, because of the Stockton facility, will now be a significant player in the U.S. premium market.”

Beside the construction, upgrades are planned for the Aliquippa, Penn., and Dallas, Ga., plants. Together these projects represent the largest expansion since ARDEX Americas moved its corporate offices, training center, and plant from Coraopolis, Penn., to Aliquippa in 2000.

“Despite challenging economic times, ARDEX Americas has consistently grown and diversified its product offerings,” ARDEX Americas Vice President and General Manager Jesse David said in the earlier statement. “We are very fortunate to be in a situation where we are growing our workforce and adding jobs to the economy, as well.”

ARDEX Americas is one of 33 businesses that are part of the privately held ARDEX Group based in Witten, Germany, with more than 1,800 employees worldwide.

Contact the author about this and other stories at kmichaud@cvbizjournal.com.

Web only version: ‘Project X’ proves ‘mega sites’ vital part of economic mix

Central Valley Business Journal, February 2012

By KEITH MICHAUD/Business Journal Editor

The mystery – and hope – emanating from what was dubbed “Project X” in Patterson has splayed open just how very important it is to a regional economy to have available commercial real estate offerings.

So-called “mega sites” or “super sites” – arguably 100 acres and larger with a broad variety of “shovel ready” features – are home to distribution centers, food-processing plants, logistics centers, and, as in the case of Project X, a “fulfillment center.”

“It’s important to have those sites to be able to take advantage of those situations when they come around,” said Ryan Swehla, principal at NAI Benchmark in Modesto, which handles commercial real estate in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. “But they don’t happen very often.”

A distribution center or food-processing plant on a large commercial site can be a “huge jobs provider,” said Swehla.

“That project will be a boon to the area, especially when you see what’s happing with Patterson Vegetables,” said Swehla, referring to the food processing plant in Patterson that had announced it was planning to close, potentially leaving nearly 500 without jobs. “It’s just a godsend.”

Michael Ammann, president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit San Joaquin Partnership, is not alone when he pushes the development of mega sites.

“This is a competitive advantage that can allow San Joaquin County to diversify its economy with new jobs developed through the attraction of technology devices, software development, and advance manufacturing co‐located with other supply chain partners,” said Ammann.

“For the past 10 years San Joaquin Valley’s eight counties have consistently had double-digit unemployment rates and today San Joaquin County is still at 15.5 percent,” he said. “We need to do something different to solve this structural unemployment problem that increases social costs, crime, and a drag on the overall economy often ranking our communities low in quality of life nationally. … Mega sites create the opportunity to attract large growing corporate projects.”

“Most of the counties in the Central Valley have a few shovel ready sites and a few more that are in the process of being developed,” said William Bassitt, chief executive officer of the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance. “There is not an abundance of available industrial or business park land identified in the valley, probably in part to the reluctance to sacrifice valuable ag land for job.

“Unfortunately, no progress can be made in overcoming the economic doldrums and the unemployment quandary we are experiencing in the valley without the availability of employment opportunities for the residents,” he said. “And to create those opportunities, ready-to-go business sites must be available.”

Having those large commercial sites ready-to-go or “shovel ready” is key.

“These types of sites are important because they indicate the relative sophistication that a community has in understanding what is needed to be competitive in economic development,” said Bassitt.

Patterson, future home of the still mysterious Project X, is one of those communities.

“Communities that realize this and have set aside land for the purposes of job development will capture the attention of businesses looking to relocate or expand and provide employment,” said Bassitt. “Patterson is a community that glimpsed at the future and prepared for it with the development of Keystone and West Ridge business parks. Stanislaus County is also trying to prepare for opportunities as they work with Gerry Kamilos to develop a 2,500-acre business park site called West Park just south of Patterson. Site selectors and real estate brokers prefer dealing with organized parks with adequate land assembly, fully served, fairly priced and appropriately located for their clients’ needs.”

Having ready sites makes marketing a community much easier than trying to convince a company to relocate to a community or expand when there is no ready space, said Bassitt.

“Project X is an example of taking advantage of a community’s state of readiness and having adequate land ready to go,” said Bassitt. “The project will undoubtedly attract national and maybe even international attention and, if successfully completed, it will have been because the community of Patterson had the sites and was ready.”

“Prospects want ‘shovel ready’ or a detail plan and timeframe showing a pathway to entitlement, which includes interstate highways, airports, port, intermodal from truck to train and major power grid and other infrastructure in water, sewer and natural gas,” said Ammann.

The Central Valley is uniquely suited for that, said Ammann, because of Interstate 5, state Highway 99 and assess to east-west highways, two major intermodal yards operated by two national railroads – Union Pacific and Burlington National and Santa Fe – and assorted short lines, an airport Ammann has called as-yet underutilized, and the Port of Stockton that is in the process of installing huge cranes for its expansion that will allow container service and a connection to the Port of Oakland.

The Port of Stockton in July 2000 acquired Rough and Ready Island from the U.S. Navy.

“The Port has invested time and infrastructure into this property for large businesses in need of immediately access to port, rail and truck,” said Ammann. “Currently, there is approximately 200 acres available for development. In addition, the Stockton Metropolitan Airport has 550‐acres being developed as Airpark 599. This industrial park offers immediate access for corporate offices, delivery of air freight, and related air maintenance operations.

“These two sites and logistical assets tied together with the unique advantage of two intermodal truck-to-rail services,” said Ammann, “San Joaquin County can be sold as an international center of commerce in northern California’s ‘mega region’ of over 12.5 million consumers located in the Bay Area, Sacramento and Central Valley.”

And that consumer base is going to grow significantly over the next 40 years. Ammann pointed to state Department of Finance numbers – the population in the Bay Area will grow from just under 7.4 million people to nearly 10.3 million by 2050. The Central Valley region from Sutter and Yuba counties to Kern County will grow from 6.6 million people to 13.5 million people. And the northern Central Valley will grow from about 542,100 people to 1 million.

And having a workforce that is trained and ready to work is important, too.

“Workforce is always the question,” said Swehla. “Workforce is definitely a driving factor.”

Other factors include capacity and utilities – electricity, sewer and water. Those factors differ slightly depending on the industry, said Swehla. A food processor might need ample water supply and a larger sewer capacity than, say, a distribution center. Distribution centers need workers, but not as much when it comes to utilities.

But there is a common feature.

“You have to be near a major freeway,” said Swehla.

Having all these features are vital for a community trying to lure a job-generating business to one of its mega sites, said Swehla, but often it can come down to how a business is treated when it arrives to scout out a community. He said some communities still fail to see the economic boost such a business can bring and instead bog down a prospective commercial development with paperwork and regulations rather than trying to streamline the process.

Swehla praised Ammann and Bassitt’s organizations for providing necessary services that help streamline the process and help to showcase commercial real estate opportunities.

“They are tremendous help,” said Swehla.

Contact the author about this and other stories at kmichaud@cvbizjournal.com.


County set to be ‘center of commerce’

Central Valley Business Journal, December 2011

By KEITH MICHAUD/Business Journal Editor

San Joaquin County is poised to become the “center of commerce” in Northern California.

At least, that’s if the San Joaquin Partnership has anything to say about it.

Mike Ammann, CEO and president of the private nonprofit economic development corporation that works to draw and keep businesses in San Joaquin County and the rest of the Central Valley, is adamant that the region already has a fantastic start on fostering growth well into the future. The region has two railroads – Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe– with intermodal service, an under-utilized airport, direct access to Interstate 5 and state Highway 99, with access to east-west routes, and ample and versatile commercial mega-sites. Add the fact that the Port of Stockton is merging onto the “Marine Highway,” which will greatly increase activity there, and the region is in a prime position, said Ammann.

“I really think (the Port of Stockton expansion of service) is going to reposition us – with a full-service port – to be the center of commerce and logistics for Northern California,” said Ammann.

He said the work begun before he arrived about six months ago after Mike Locke left the agency to join the city of Stockton as a deputy city manager has paid off nicely. Five major arrivals in the past few months mean jobs for the region:

Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Markets acquired a 750,000-square-foot facility to be used as a distribution center. It will employ about 700 people with operations expected to begin in 2012. Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Markets are growing into Northern California. The stores offer fresh produce, prepared meals, and other grocery items with self-serve checkout.

The Veterans Affairs Department is bringing to the area a 165,000-square-foot nursing home and a 153,000-square-foot outpatient clinic north of San Joaquin General Hospital. Together the VA facilities will employ 350 people and open sometime in 2015 or 2016. The VA utilizes more than 800 community-based outpatient clinics across the country to provide health and wellness visits and other outpatient services to veterans, according to its website. The VA also has more than 135 Community Living Centers, or nursing homes, to care for veterans with chronic stable conditions such as dementia, those requiring rehabilitation, or those nearing the end of their lives, according to the website.

ACX Pacific Northwest will be in a 90,000-square-foot facility and will employ 50 people in an operation to process, compact and ship raw agricultural products. It will utilize the Marine Highway via shipping barges between Stockton and the Port of Oakland.

ECS Refining is an electronics recycler serving the West and it will be in a 262,000-square-foot facility and employ 120 people. ECS moved into a former metal-stamping plant that closed down when the Nummi auto plant was shuttered in 2010. ECS intends for the facility to be the primary receiving and processing plant for the country’s largest electronics recycling operation, according to the ECS website. The company expects eventually to process 25 million pounds of e-waste each month.

DTE Energy Services will operate a 45 megawatt biomass power plant at the Port of Stockton. The former coal-burning plant will be converted to a cleaner wood burning operation that will employ 50 people at first and 200 once the facility begins operation in 2013.

Ammann said there are about 100 or so more businesses “in the pipeline” to come to the region. He said developing relationships across the region, state and country helps to build the type of economic diversity that can help a region ride out tumultuous economic times.

“We don’t want to focus on just one industry,” said Ammann. “Diversity is what we’re all about. We don’t want to be a monolith like Detroit with the auto industry.”

And if a business isn’t quite the right fit for San Joaquin County, then there might be somewhere else in California it would work.

“If it doesn’t make sense in our region,” said Shelley Burcham, San Joaquin Partnership vice president of client services, “then we want to keep the business in California.”

It also takes a bit of persistence.

“I always say,” said Ammann, “follow up until they die, buy or locate.”

Ammann said the work done by Locke, Burcham and the rest of the Partnership staff, along with his familiarity with the organization from working in economic development up and down the Central Valley, has made for a smooth transition.

“Obviously, we have a great foundation of staff and members,” said Ammann. “We had a full program in place and I just jump onboard and helped complete it. … It’s a team kind of way we’ve put things together. It’s sort of like jumping on the train that’s already left the station.”

Moving forward, Ammann sees commerce in San Joaquin County as broken up into three buckets. The agriculture-food-beverage bucket is in great shape, he said, as is the logistical bucket that includes transportation, available mega-site commercial sites, and more.

Next, the high-technology bucket must be cultivated, said Ammann.

“We have a workforce that the Silicone Valley likes,” said Ammann, adding that 50,000 commuters go to the East Bay every day and that about 20 percent of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s staff comes from San Joaquin County.

Instead of exporting workers to high-tech jobs in the Bay Area, Ammann wants to lure tech business to San Joaquin County and keep the jobs here.

“We have to work that some more to develop that (high-tech) bucket,” said Ammann.

Contact the author about this and other stories at kmichaud@cvbizjournal.com.

Bookmark and Share

Partnership chief brings experience, relationships to benefit local economy

Central Valley Business Journal, December 2011

By KEITH MICHAUD/Business Journal Editor

Six months isn’t much time to get acclimated to a new job.

Especially when there’s a chance success – or failure – in that job can have a vast influence on the economic vitality of a region, namely San Joaquin County and the rest of the Central Valley.


Mike Ammann has been the president and CEO of the San Joaquin Partnership for about six months. Fortunately, that transition is being made easier by several things: the Partnership’s goals and mission are similar to those of agencies Ammann has headed for decades at both ends of the Central Valley; a stable and experienced Partnership staff; an engaged board of directors; and the groundwork laid by Mike Locke, the Partnership’s president and CEO from 1994 to 2011, who is now a Stockton deputy city manager.

“It’s been great. I knew this organization, because I had competed against it,” said Ammann, who held similar posts in Solano County and Bakersfield. “I’ve kind of worked both ends of the Central Valley.”

Ammann and the experienced team that was in place at the Partnership when he arrived have been working on the strategic plan Locke put in place, while also looking forward to drawing new businesses to San Joaquin County and holding onto those already here.

Ammann believes the region is primed to be the “center of commerce” for Northern California. After all, the region has two railroads – Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe – with intermodal service, an under-utilized airport, direct access to Interstate 5, state Highway 99 and east-west routes, and ample and versatile commercial mega-sites. The Port of Stockton is merging onto the “Marine Highway,” which will greatly increase import-export activity there.

One moment Ammann is sitting at a small conference table in his March Tower office overlooking Interstate 5 and the Spaghetti Factory explaining complicated economic development strategies and the next he is jumping up from the table to scribble lines on a whiteboard to explain a point before darting momentarily out of his office to gather more documents to illustrate his points. Ammann is optimistic for San Joaquin County’s future and appears driven to draw companies to San Joaquin County. And if not San Joaquin County, then to the Central Valley or somewhere in California.

It is the relationships forged over the years that let Ammann and his staff  build on past work and look ahead to new goals, such as drawing high-tech businesses to the region.

Ammann brings with him more than 30 years of those relationships. He started his economic development career in the 1970s as the research director for the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Area Chamber of Commerce, while attending Grand Valley State University.

Later, he was the executive director at the Kalamazoo County Economic Expansion Corporation before returning to the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, the second largest in the state, to be that organizations vice president for economic development.

In the early 1980s, Ammann was among a group that founded the Washtenaw Development Council and his team developed the first countywide economic development marketing program for the communities of Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, and Ypsilanti, Mich., with Eastern Michigan University. He later worked with the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering to help faculty and researchers in launching technology start-ups and in the commercialization of patents and discoveries.

He and four partners founded Online Technologies, the oldest Internet services providing company in Michigan.

After five years in Ann Arbor, Ammann successfully turned around a 350-acre real estate development at the Arizona State University Research Park in Tempe, Ariz. That was followed by another success, this time in Bakersfield. Ammann and his management team were able to rebuild the staff, volunteer core, and finances of the Kern Economic Development Corp. That success included drawing a State Farm Regional Service Center to a 460,000-square-foot building on 60 acres that resulted in 1,000 new jobs.

Ammann also served as the secretary of the board of directors for TeamCalifornia, a private nonprofit corporation that brings together economic development organizations from across the state to market their communities for business investment and job creation in the state. He was elected president of the organization in May 2008.

He was the president of the Solano Economic Development Corp. in Fairfield for almost eight years before joining the San Joaquin Partnership.

Contact the author about this and other stories at kmichaud@cvbizjournal.com.

Bookmark and Share