The news of a substantial and sustained sales tax income from one of our fulfillment centers in Tracy should be music to the ears of our City Council and to our residents of this great City. I know it is to this former Mayor.
I was honored to serve Tracy for 23 years on the City Council with the last eight being the Mayor (2006 to 2014). I believe that economic development is one of the prime responsibilities of a city leader. Tracy has always been a “together” town. There are many examples existing around our city. This eventuality is no exception, as it was a team effort to secure this center well over 10 years ago.
I distinctly remember meeting with the Cordes Ranch development group in 1995 and FedEx and Amazon in 2008, working to allow for such development. I am very aware that many such centers are locating here, but if this payoff is any indication, there is a strategy working here, and one word that is necessary in this instance is “patience.” The strategy is aimed at more such growth, yet also having a manufacturing and technology sector as well. Look forward Tracy.
In 2008 and 2009, jobs were Mayor’s gold. The terrible economic recession then hurt the entire country and thus Tracy with dangerous levels of unemployment, lost mortgages and retirement accounts. As part of the Tracy team, City employees stood up big-time, took furlough time, paid more of their retire share, delayed COLAs and more, so we could all get through it together. Fire, Police, Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Administration/management, Planning, Engineering … all stepped up. That allowed us to focus on the future, not being bogged down in extensive troubles internally. Strategy for the future became job one, even with the terrible economic downturn. We certainly had a budget deficit, yet we did have a rainy day fund, and planned on using it strategically.
We began by launching a series of economic development stimulus strategies aimed squarely at stimulating the Tracy’s economy. With that rainy day fund, we looked to the future and invested for what would happen after the recession and an anticipated post-recession new economy. We provided funding to keep our car dealerships alive ($500/new car incentive for those bought in Tracy), offered small business loans to downtown businesses, pushed large infrastructure projects up and sooner in order to keep the local economy and jobs active. With that, we also invested in stimulating development in what is now the International Park of Commerce helping with certain infrastructure studies there. Those strategies all worked at some level. Necessity is the mother of invention, and this was such a time of necessity.
A boomtown is one that has experienced sudden positive growth. With the current estimated amount being nearly a third of the City’s entire operating budget, we are in the midst today of a sudden, yet planned, opportunity for our City, and one that must be managed carefully. I cannot over stress the word “unprecedented.” Every city in the country would turn flips for such a sustainable and current revenue stream potential of over $20M year after year. Be proud Tracy!
As such, our current Council is tasked with being prudent with how they obligate the anticipated windfall. Sales tax is revenue that is usually understood as money that may or may not be there tomorrow. In this case cautious optimism says that our fulfillment centers are part of the new economy, and today it’s hard to see why that income would be vulnerable. The Council has the opportunity to work to cure the structural budget deficit; make sure we are set for any future recessions, fix and repair things that could not be done earlier. Investment in today’s economic develop strategy, even for the next 20-50 years should be considered. Streets- and facilities-related projects can be on the table. One time expenditures are the ticket for the next few years until we have confidence in this money. Incremental application of the sales tax increase should be considered only when confidence is high.
Now, I am fully aware of the fact that the jobs at Amazon and other such facilities may not be the full head-of-household jobs which are needed, yet don’t discount them either. All jobs are needed. It’s also important to know that names like Fed Ex, Fisher Scientific, Smuckers, and Amazon have put Tracy on the Fortune 100 map, a designation that the City has used effectively since and will continuing to as we look to take strategies to the next level with exactly those companies that do create the HOH jobs.
The strategy plays well since the companies surrounding Tracy represent the new economy and a City that is willing to take some risks, and has land and resources to be successful. Even a store like Trader Joe’s can’t ignore that. While some of the thousands of employees here at these fulfillment centers may need more, they do have employment, generally with benefits and upward mobility should they choose. No doubt most, if not all of us have received something from Amazon recently, and now our citizens can know, as we did with Heinz, Laura Scudders and Holly Sugar products in the past, that something bought at Amazon has a positive, direct and distinct impact where we live, for our town.
This is BIG and tremendous news for Tracy, and in providing future Councils with funds necessary to make Tracy even better and more marketable if the Council carefully handles this new amazing revenue source. Plans for a prosperous future should be the aim of any Mayor and Council. I am confident that city staff and this Council will make proper decisions for this money as it materializes. In the meantime, like when one of our High Schools scores a touchdown, or one of our students gets recognized, we together cheer our collective success, let’s celebrate a little about past forward vision thinking plans that worked, while making new vision plans we can celebrate in the future. This former Mayor could not be more pleased.
Now, Gateway is another opportunity site in town….more on that soon.
Let’s celebrate — Brent Ives (Tracy Councilman 1991-2006, Mayor 2006-2014)