Ives delivered an upbeat but cautionary message during his annual State of the City Address in the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts. With his final term in office ending in December, it was his last.
“There is growing interest in Cordes Ranch,” he stressed. “It is something we’ve never seen before.”
Ives underscored the fact that Cordes Ranch, on Tracy’s far western edge south of Interstate 205, has 1,700 acres of land, and that Prologis, the worldwide industrial-building specialist that is the largest landowner, is moving ahead on final plans for the first phase of development.
“Two companies are so close that it is frustrating that I can’t announce their names,” Ives said.
One, he reported, is a Fortune 500 medical-device manufacturing and distribution firm that will be located on 60 acres with 200 to 400 employees. Another is a Fortune 100 global transportation provider with plans for 500 jobs on 125 acres.
“All of sudden, people who never paid attention to Tracy are now paying attention to us,” he said. “They know where Tracy is.”
Ives also said that the Gateway Business Park just east of Cordes Ranch was showing signs of life after being dormant in recent years.
The mayor said that as long as Tracy keeps focused on dealing successfully with the industrial boom that is gaining momentum, it will benefit from more jobs and finances that can help improve quality of life in Tracy. Already, he said, Tracy gained 3,000 new jobs last year. That includes the 1,000 new jobs at the Amazon Fulfillment Center that opened in October and is planning to increase in size by 20 percent.
“We still have 70 percent of our working population going out of town every day to jobs,” he said. “That’s not the way we want to operate.”
Ives said that in addition to creating jobs, improving educational opportunities needed to be at the top of the list of city goals to prepare the workforce for high-tech employment. Efforts to attract a college or university have generated interest from “several” universities.
Housing construction, which was the major economic engine in the 1990s, will be a less dominant factor this time around, but it will ramp up again next year, Ives said, pointing to the housing projects in the pipeline. Tracy’s population in 10 years should top 100,000, he predicted.
Noting that the city has gone through some trying times in recent months with the firing of City Manager Leon Churchill over credit card issues, he said that Churchill made some mistakes, but he also “is a good man” who was the architect of the measures that kept the city running without major disruptions as it faced lower sales and property tax revenue and the drying up of developer fees.
Ives pointed out that the city has emerged from economic recession in better financial shape than nearly any other city in the region. He said that building a rainy-day budget surplus, streamlining city operations with fewer employees and passing a half-cent sales tax for five years were among the key elements that made it possible.
A new strategic plan to bring the city expenses in line with revenue is taking shape, he reported.
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