Economic Development

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Community leaders in Clovis consistently make a concerted effort to attract and welcome new businesses and to support the success of current businesses so that the community may continue to offer a breadth of options for employment, commerce and an active lifestyle.

For instance, Centennial Plaza, which was built in 2012, is creating a lot of excitement. Located in Old Town Clovis, south of Fifth Street, this former Department of Motor Vehicles site has been redeveloped with a public plaza, flanked by the recently-completed Shamshoian family’s Realty Concepts and another building owned by Roger Peterson Investments, according to Shawn Miller, business development manager for the City of Clovis.

The northernmost building features Realty Concepts offices on the top two floors and the House of JuJu gourmet hamburger restaurant taking up the first floor by early 2018. The southern building will feature “Blast and Brew,” a pizza and “pour your own” craft beer restaurant on the first floor, also arriving in early 2018. This popular chain already has locations in Fresno and San Luis Obispo.

Miller said the city’s plan for Old Town calls for much of the area south of Fifth Street to become a dining and entertainment district. A third restaurant concept by the owners of House of JuJu and On the Edge Coffee House, is slated to replace the House of JuJu at 453 Pollasky Ave. when it moves to its new location. It will a speakeasy-themed restaurant and bar called Papa’s Place. In addition, outdoor concerts and events like Santa’s arrival are continuously planned for Centennial Plaza.

The Clovis Culinary Center, a certified commercial kitchen that those who pay to be members can use to prepare food for their catering businesses or for sale, is due to open soon at 3185 Willow Ave., on the southwestern end of Clovis. It is designed to be a business incubator for restaurants and other small food-related businesses. Consequently, classes on how to write a business plan and start a new restaurant, as well as how to pay business taxes and how to scale a recipe to feed a larger group are planned. This will be the first commercial kitchen in the region that is available for rental.

On the northeast side of Clovis, the new Sierra Gateway Business Corridor is making great strides and is largely becoming focused on health care, according to Miller. Clovis Community Hospital is already located there and is continuingly expanding. Kaiser Permanente Hospital and Central Valley Indian Health are neighbors. The new California Health Sciences University plans to build its permanent campus on 65 acres there in the Research and Technology Park and the Veterans Administration and Valley Children’s Hospital have plans to build medical facilities in the area.

Restaurants, retailers and hotels are sure to follow the health facilities, Miller predicted. In fact, one hotel is already in the planning stages for that area of Clovis while two others are under construction elsewhere in the community – La Quinta on Clovis Avenue, south of Barstow, and a Marriott Towne Suites on Shaw Avenue at Helm. Those two hotels will add 200 hotel rooms to Clovis’ inventory. In addition, three more hotels are being planned for other areas of town.

Retail properties throughout Clovis are also being updated, upgraded and expanded.

The restaurants, retailers and businesses along Shaw Avenue between State Route 168 and Clovis Avenue are currently forming a property-based improvement district, which will act like a homeowners’ association. Businesses are expected to assess themselves in order to make landscape and lighting improvements in the district and to better market the district, according to Miller.

“This area, which was developed in the 1960s and 1970s before the freeway was built, has needed a facelift and now it will get one,” he said.

Sierra Vista Mall is now managed by The Woodmont Company, a powerful nationwide retail property management organization. The long-closed 100,000-square-foot ›
Gottschalks department store there has been transformed into an entertainment complex. For the past five years, two-thirds of the space has been occupied by MB2 Raceway, which features indoor go-kart racing. Now the remaining third of the building has been rented by No Surrender, a laser tag facility that also features video games and an adventure park.

Construction on Landmark Commons, adjacent to the Heritage Center museum and the Old Town bicycle and walking trail, should begin early in 2018. It will feature Clovis’ new senior center, library and transit hub. Plans also call for a public plaza to be built in the area, Miller said.

Housing stock, particularly for empty-nesters and retirees, is also being added to Clovis so that grandparents can relocate to be near their families, as well as Clovis’ excellent medical facilities. Harlan Ranch is specifically aimed at this group of potential residents.

In addition, Magnolia Crossing, a 48-unit subsidized senior living facility for low-to-moderate income seniors who need assisted living care is under construction on the southwest corner of Sierra Avenue and Highway 168. When it opens in late 2017, the non-traditional facility will consist of three custom Craftsman-style homes featuring stone work, 16 rooms and personal bathrooms, covered patios and a garage for pickups and drop-offs. The kitchens in each home will feature islands at which residents can sit and talk while a caregiver prepares food.

Other amenities in each “home” will include a common area for games, crafts and other activities, a formal living room with a fireplace and even a beauty salon. The outdoors of each building will have covered patios, a gated courtyard and a raised garden area for green-thumbed seniors.

Clovis also boasts a number of large manufacturers (Anlin Windows, the largest replacement window firm west of the Mississippi River; Niacc-Avitech, a manufacturer of aerospace components; and German-based KW Automotive, a manufacturer of high-end suspension systems for professional race cars and hot rods), as well as a major food processor (Wawona Frozen Foods).

The Clovis Industrial Park is currently undergoing an expansion, as is the Dry Creek Industrial Park. The Clovis Industrial Park has been approved for 400,000 square feet of speculative buildings. Meanwhile, at Dry Creek the city recently installed streets and utilities on 30 acres of adjacent land as it also seeks to provide more space for light industrial companies to locate. They are also adding retail facilities and both national and regional restaurants.

The Research and Technology Business Park with its excellent access to a freeway off-ramp is also expanding and adding an adjacent retail area with restaurants, day care facilities and gas station to serve those employed in the area. In addition, California Health Sciences University has purchased land in the R & T Park for expansion of their school.

The work of the staff at the City of Clovis is supplemented by the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), a nonprofit that has been assisting communities throughout the county attract and retain business for 37 years.

“We act as a go-between with businesses and the local, state and federal officials, looking for incentives, programs, workforce dollars and sites for new businesses. When we help to connect a company with a trained workforce, we continue to follow them for the first 18 months, checking to see if they need further assistance,” said Lee Ann Eager, president and CEO of the EDC.

“I recently spoke on behalf of the governor before 40 businesspeople who were visiting from China,” Eager recalled. “Many of them were interested in expanding to Clovis, particularly those in the medical field. For instance, one was interested in starting a private nursing school here, which was very exciting. We are actively marketing all of our communities to the country and the world and lately many involved in the health care industry have been very interested in Clovis.”

The EDC has also been offering prospective businesses its New Employment Opportunity program under which the county offers to reimbursement companies that hire welfare-to-work recipients. They will pay 100 percent of the employees’ salaries for the first three months they are on the job and 75 percent of their salaries for the second three months they are employed.

“We did a pilot program three years ago and it was very successful. This current program has been active for the past two years. We tell prospective companies that we will get residents trained for them if they hire through our welfare-to-work program and it has worked well. For instance, we had a trucking company that needed 25 drivers and through the county’s DSS program, we established a truck driver training school. That program expanded and we are now on cohort number 22 and more than 120 individuals that were on welfare now have their Class C driver’s licenses. We also have a pre-apprenticeship training program that has a 92 percent placement rate. Next we plan to concentrate on welder training for some firms that need welders,” Eager said.

“Clovis continues to be one of our local gems,” Eager said. “It is an easy sell to interested firms, thanks to its wonderful schools and workable neighborhoods. It’s clear that the City of Clovis is striving to be the best place to work, shop, dine and do business.”