Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Plan Advances
Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development
Plan Advances to City Planning Commission for Review
During what Modesto Chamber of Commerce officials called a “historic night,” the Chamber’s Land Use and Transportation Committee outlined its “Pathway to Job Growth and Prosperity” Tuesday, May 28, 2013 to the City Council.
“It’s about jobs, jobs, jobs,” said committee chair Craig Lewis during the presentation. “We see a lot of brain drain. Young people aren’t coming back to Modesto to work because there are no economic opportunities. We have had double-digit unemployment numbers for decades. This plan will make a dramatic difference in the community.”
The Chamber’s objective in developing the economic road-map is to “rethink” and “redefine” Modesto’s future. The plan focuses on effective transportation and land use policies, and how both are tied to job creation.
A key part of the plan is upgrading Highway 132 from two to four lanes so it can serve as a “silver bullet” for moving goods from Modesto to the Bay Area. The current route between Livermore and Modesto takes drivers through six other communities.
“It’s a failure to connect,” said Chris Murphy, chairman of the ad hoc subcommittee on transportation. “We have two railroads that come together and a wealth of ag business. A fully-developed 132 is an economic lifeline from Stanislaus County to world markets.”
The economic development plan also proposes having Stanislaus County voters pass a road sales tax, which would pay for major transportation corridors, upgrades and road projects by making Stanislaus County a “self-help” county. This would enable the area to generate $2 in state and federal funding for every $1 generated in sales tax.
In addition to the roads that transport Modesto-area goods, another key issue is where jobs should be created. The Chamber’s plan proposes studying specific areas including Hammett Road to the current Maze Boulevard alignment.
“We are not talking retail jobs, we are talking about producing actual products and expanding job creation,” said Brad Hawn, chairman of the ad hoc subcommittee on land use.
The plan also calls for creating more shovel-ready land, or property in which utilities are or can be made available, for business parks. The chamber proposes identifying areas where agriculture remains out of the path of development, so that prime farmland can be protected through agriculture investment zones.
Chamber officials call the plan a collaborative one.
“This plan is not a business-specific initiative. Chamber members have an interest in seeing the Greater Modesto area flourish,” said Craig Lewis.
“We’ve beat this drum throughout the community. We’ve talked to educators and we know the stumbling blocks. Educated workers end up leaving. As a business owner, I need a quality workforce,” said Bill Moreno, Vice President at Fire2wire, after the Chamber presentation.
“We want to have families and work and live in Modesto. We don’t want to drive four or five hours to San Jose or San Francisco to work,” said Glen Watkins, Young Modestans for Jobs. “That’s why I came back here, so I could be close to my kids and have relationships with my grandkids.”
Councilman Dave Cogdill called the presentation impressive, saying he was “proud of my Chamber,” while Councilman Joseph Muratore called the plan “forward-thinking.”
The Chamber’s “Pathway to Job Growth” plan will next be considered by the city’s Planning Commission. Chamber officials hope the plan serves as a foundation for an updated Modesto General Plan.