A nonprofit organization wants more plastics companies in the Fresno, Calif., vicinity and is carrying its message to processors aggressively. Plastics processing is a clean industry from an environmental perspective, said Richard Machado, president and chief executive officer of Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit corporation serving Fresno County.
"We have a labor force conducive to companies in that industry," and can offer training programs, rail sidings and a central location, he said by telephone.
Part of his strategy is to expand the agricultural base, diversify the economy and attract complementary industry such as processors molding plastic containers for yogurt, he said.
"We are looking at natural fits."
Machado, who grew up in Fresno, joined EDC as president April 1. From 1993 through early 1999 he oversaw economic development in 37 of the state's 58 counties as regional director of the California Trade and Commerce Agency. But he never moved from Fresno to state capital Sacramento, which was then his primary office.
An analysis of the agricultural cluster will guide EDC in making direct contact with companies making packaging and other products for the dairy industry.
"We will go to those manufacturers to expand their operations here," he said.
Targets include processors and packagers of fruits, nuts, vegetables and bagged salads.
The state's agricultural community is responsible for one in 10 jobs in California, Machado said.
In reaching out, the Fresno EDC has budgeted $4,000 for NPE 2000 in Chicago in June. The Central Valley Economic Development Council, including the nonprofit Fresno corporation, is organizing an exhibit promoting opportunities in an eight-county region.
Fresno County has experienced Asian and Hispanic migrations, in part because of its central location within the agriculture-rich San Joaquin Valley.
But job growth has not kept up with population growth. Unemployment for Fresno County ranged from 9.4-17.1 percent from January to November 1999, according to the state Employment Development Department.
The Fresno EDC promotes work force availability as an advantage for companies locating in the market. Less availability of commercial space and higher prices in the San Francisco Bay area also benefit Fresno County.
"Generally, land is pretty inexpensive" in Fresno County, said Charles Tingey, an office leasing specialist and chairman of Colliers Tingey International in Fresno.
Unimproved land costs $10,000-$20,000 per acre, depending on location and utilities, and improved land in large parcels goes for $2 per square foot, said Lou Ginise, an industrial agent with the brokerage Grubb & Ellis Pearson Commercial in Fresno.
The leasing market has a vacancy rate of less than 2 percent, according to Ginise. One speculative building is under construction, but "as soon as buildings are completed they are leased."
Existing plastics processors in the county include Pactiv Corp., which makes expanded polystyrene meat trays at a 121,000-square-foot plant; Fresno Valves and Castings Inc., which injection molds a line of microsprayers for the low-volume irrigation market; Fabricated Extrusion Co., a custom profile extruder based in Modesto, Calif., that opened a Fresno facility in 1993; and Jet Plastics Industries Inc. in Fowler.