Bringing thousands of jobs to Merced County

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A plan to bring more than 10,000 jobs to Merced County is one step closer to fruition. The proposal calls for a nearly 1,600 acre industrial park at Interstate Five and Highway 165. That's south of the city of Los Banos.

Farm land off Interstate Five could one day be home to the Los Banos Agricultural and Industrial Businesses Logistics Center. It's inspired in part by the large industrial park to the north in Patterson, which is home to a one million square foot Amazon fulfillment center and other major companies.

Greg Hostettler is one of the land owners. He supports the plan, which is expected to create more than 10,000 jobs.

Hostettler said, "This Valley with the jobless rate being what it is, this is something the Valley needs to serve the farmers and interface with Silicone Valley and the greater region which has more economic power than we do."

City leaders have been discussing the project for more than a year. The Los Banos Municipal Airport would also be moved next to the industrial park, and a new regional hospital would be built where the airport is located now.

Los Banos Assistant Planner, Stacy Souza Elms, said, "A regional hospital would not only mean the jobs with doctors but it would specialists, it would be a medical campus."

The land is located in Merced County, and earlier this month the board of supervisors agreed to allow county staff to take part in a working group that will discuss all aspects of the project. The supervisors also Okayed a guidance package that outlines the proposal.

Merced County Spokesperson Mike North said, "We're always open to ways to improve the local economy and increase jobs in this area, and we're hoping this project if it comes to fruition might help with that."

The industrial park is expected to generate about $6 million a year in property and sales tax revenue. The city would get 20 percent, while the county gets 80. But first it would come with some major expenses. The preliminary studies alone are estimated at $200,000. And installing utilities would cost millions.

Officials said it's not clear yet where all of the funding would come from because this is just the beginning of the process, and they're taking it one step at a time. The next step will be an infrastructure study that will consider many things, including if there's a sufficient water supply.

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