City cultivates business-friendly attitude
by Michael Langley
Oct 04, 2013 | 4975 views | 10 10 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A building that once housed a furniture store sits vacant on Wednesday, Oct. 2, in the McKinley Village Shopping Center at 2150 N. Tracy Blvd..  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
A building that once housed a furniture store sits vacant on Wednesday, Oct. 2, in the McKinley Village Shopping Center at 2150 N. Tracy Blvd.. Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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Tracy wants to be known as a friendly place to do business.

Not only does the city aspire to a business-friendly reputation, but Andrew Malik, director of development services for Tracy, considers this community the envy of others.

“There are some cities that are very, very on the regulatory: ‘This is only where we’re going to see certain types of uses,’” Malik said. “You restrict to get what you ultimately want to get long term. That’s not Tracy.”

The city works as a facilitator, he explained, putting business owners together with property owners and quickly processing their paperwork.

Incentives as exceptions

Of course, there are exceptions to that approach.

The City Council convened a special session June 15, 2010, to approve giving $2.75 million to Macy’s to entice the department store to move into West Valley Mall.

Macy’s ultimately moved into the anchor space left by Gottschalks, which had closed its doors June 28, 2009, after 13 years at the mall.

“And the anchor was vacant for quite some time,” Malik said. “It was having a significant impact tenanting the rest of the mall.”

Malik said there has been a return on that investment.

“Part of that payback was through the increase of sales tax at the mall over a base,” he said. “They’ve been making that.”

The pursuit of single companies didn’t end with Macy’s.

During the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 1, City Manager Leon Churchill announced that an Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center between Chrisman Road and MacArthur Drive south of Grant Line Road opened this week.

If Amazon generates at least $100 million annual gross sales and a minimum of 1,000 jobs and pays the city’s 1 percent sales tax rate, the company could qualify for city incentive programs, including refunds of at least half the sales tax dollars it pays to the city.

Malik said a fast, streamlined approval process with short plan review deadlines and around-the-clock inspection service was also important to bringing Amazon to Tracy.

“That’s where we went from being business friendly to being kind of a benchmark of what a city could be,” Malik said

Consequences for community

When asked if the city needs to balance quality of life in Tracy with its business friendly attitude, Malik said the community has been very clear about what it wants.

“Most of what we’ve heard is: We want the retail,” Malik said, “Also the jobs. The jobs have always been a huge component. Not just jobs but head-of-household, highly skilled, those types of things to meet really the skill set of the community.”

The director of development services added that being pro-business is not always saying yes to projects.

“In fact, pro-business means being up front with the community and the development community about what your goals are. What your standards are. Tracy has very, very strict design standards,” Malik said. “That’s the thing about business-friendly. Helping development, investors get through the process.”

The results, he said, reach beyond shopping centers and industrial parks.

“Investment can bring things like an aquatic center. It can help with animal shelter. It can bring parks and bike trails and ball fields and those types of things,” Malik said. “But it’s doing it in the right way. And in the right location.”

Help wanted

Some sections of town still need help. McKinley Village Shopping Center, 2150 N. Tracy Blvd., advertises on signs and online more than 21,000 square feet of retail space open for rent.

Malik suggested that converting part of the shopping center to apartments or housing for seniors could be a way to not only fill empty storefronts but fill a community need.

He did admit it can be tough to convey to the community that work is going on behind the scenes.

“This city, through business-friendly facilitating, incentives, carrots, we try to send as much as we can to brokers and to try to fill in some of these spots,” Malik said. “There’s so much the city can do, but if a property owner has a different agenda or competing or otherwise — the best case is to be on the same page.”

Malik said a business might still be paying on a long-term lease even after leaving a shopping center, which gives the property owner little incentive to fill an empty storefront until they find the “right tenant.”

Big picture

Malik emphasized repeatedly that the city is only a facilitator for business.

“The city isn’t Big Brother coming in and dictating,” he said. “We try to influence as best we can. Sometimes we have property owners that are fantastic.”

The city sees the Tracy City Center Association as an example of creating change in the city’s economic future the right way.

“The downtown is on a very successful path,” he said. “Largely because they have created the TCCA, which is a property owner-based assessment, but it has gotten property owners, the city, merchants, and you are seeing what can happen when they all are on the same page.”

That attitude, Malik believes, will create a better community.

“What’s the next 30 years of growth look like? We had 18,000 residential units that were being entitled, just as Cordes Ranch is, for development starting just about this time. So we have Ellis. We have Tracy Hills. We have Kagehiro,” Malik said.

“We’re a triangle. So we have this great freeway access. Freeway accessibility is where a lot of growth tends to want to go, so we leverage that as well. So there’s a number of real positive things about living here.”

• Contact Michael Ellis Langley at 830-4231 or mlangley@tracypress.com. 

 

The Tracy Press toured Tracy’s business districts with the city director of development services, Andrew Malik, on Sept. 4. That interview is the basis for a continuing series on the business climate in the city. 

 

Comments
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cody01
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October 05, 2013
Tracy has always been against business. Slow growth initiatives that caused more drama than needed and chased away investors. When they rebuilt 11th Street, no concessions were made for existing business on 11th Street. Numerous business' went under, when, None had to go anywhere if they had taken them into consideration. It was all about parking. That is an issue in every town that has to evolve.
shenick
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October 05, 2013
I would not say that Tracy has been against business. There is a married couple who live outside Tracy limits who wrote a slow growth law called Measure A. I think they have been against business in Tracy, but I'm not aware of anyone who thinks they did right on Tracy. I remember an Indian fellow who used to be part of their 'Measure A and his old lady gig', but that guy left their fellowship and I don't think he believes in their slow growth initiative anymore. Lots of other people think it was a joke they played on Tracy for their own gain. I know a few people who still say Measure A was the best thing since sliced bread, but most of the people fall into two other categories. They either don't remember Measure A, or they think Measure A was flawed thinking that will go the way of the dodo bird.

All that is needed is an Eleventh street parking garage. Eleventh street has become busier over the years. It wasn't all about the parking. It was about businesses being added into that area over the years. After the train days and the fires businesses continued to grow over the years. Tracy has been burnt down changed, and changed for generations and has always rebuilt itself. Nothing here was ever all about the parking. It's about the people who lived here and the history. People here have changed with the times. There was always businesses willing to move to Tracy, Heinz, Holly, Amazon...Tracy has always been busy, except for the people who wrote Measure A, most folks want Tracy to stay business friendly.
cody01
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October 13, 2013
More than (1)one garage and, in 1995. It's a done deal.Already happened. The east end of Tracy ends at Macarthur. There is an invisible area around Tracy, "Sphere of Influence". Not in Tracy but, There it is. Tracy police are out their jurisdiction. SJ County Sheriff covers this. Chrisman Rd. is not in Tracy, Yet, It is. It's all about the triangle. Tracy had to put in those left turn lanes down 11th St.,. Keep the flow of traffic moving. It did that. Decision. Flow, or, Business. Since most business at the time were Real Estate offices,Motels,Car lots,Gas stations,bars,pet grooming, Tax and financial business. Diversity. It went like this; Whom would be affected? Most of the aforementioned business had their own parking lots. The 20 or so that didn't, didn't matter. They weren't related to anyone. Even under those circumstances, Not (1)one business should have been forced into a corner. All the business on 11th in The Tracy Inn went under. Lets not make the same mistake,Again. Not just the parking, It's the attitude.
fortheunderdog
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October 04, 2013
It appears there is another who sees Tracy for what it is. A city that can't keep businesses, in business, for long. One sentence in the above article had me laughing so hard I almost couldn't type my comment...."Andrew Malik, director of development services for Tracy, considers this community the envy of others". The "envy of others"? I'm still laughing but I guess that's what you have to say if you want to have gainful employment.

And here's the kicker to get business interested in this city ........... "The City Council convened a special session June 15, 2010, to approve giving $2.75 million to Macy’s to entice the department store to move into West Valley Mall." $2.75 million to entice Macy's to move into the mall. And, from what I understand, Macy's has 3 levels of stores. "A", "B", and "C" level stores. Stoneridge has an "A" level Macy's and I was told Tracy has a "C" level for which the city paid $2.75 million to get.

It's time to clean house in our city council. Remember this when it comes time to elect a new mayor or city council. Nobody currently on the city council deserves a spot in city government at the next election.
alecm9311
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October 04, 2013
I love how they trumpet Macy's as as a great investment. Since Macy's arrived, stores have been LEAVING the mall, not coming... and the stores that are there are off-brand stores anyway. An awful waste of money that has done almost nothing for the place.
OchoandCinco
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October 04, 2013
Why would you expect a level A Macy's when the mall is only one story. The reason you are laughing is because you have greater expectations than you are going to get. I started a business here and didn't have any it was easier than other cities. Cost less too.

I also appreciate that Tracy is a small town. I don't complain because its not Myrtle Beach. My house does not have an expensive price tag, but that is ultimately what I was looking for. Other cities would like to have had an Amazon. I have to agree with Malik. If companies like Amazon want to move here then that validates what he is saying. Never met the guy but it sounds to me like you have something personal that is getting in your way of seeing things logical like. IMHO, but whatever it is good luck with it.
fortheunderdog
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October 04, 2013
O and C,

Living in this city, I do not expect a Level A Macy's but I would like clothes that don't look like they are off the sales racks of Level A stores from last year or before.

I'm glad you were able to start a business in Tracy. Is your business still in business or has it closed?

My comments did not reflect on prices of residents homes. It was directed mainly at the comment stating, "this community the envy of others". Now you've gone and done it. I'm laughing again.

McKendrick
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October 05, 2013
Being a former Macy*s corporate employee, Stoneridge Macy*s is a Level B store; Both San Jose and San Francisco are Level A's as categorized by store size and $ volume. With that being said, West Valley Macy*s has in fact carried higher end designer labels but the merchandise was not selling and was transferred to stores that had higher sell-over. It was slowly switched with in-house labels which have lower price points, a high profit margin, and sell better. True the store is smaller than other Macy*s branches, but keep in mind that the building was originally designed by the former Gottschalks to be 2 levels and can also be a 2 level Macy*s if its sales performance warrants it. Macy*s corporate having seen the small-scaled Sears and JC Penney's in the mall thought it best to start small and add more designers and possibly enlarge the store later on depending on the store's performance. Before I left Macy*s a few months ago, the West Valley branch was making is sales figures, but nothing mind-blowing which leads me to believe that the merchandise assortment will stay the same unless customers demand otherwise.
TracyRAP
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October 04, 2013
Anyone who has tried to open a business in Tracy over the last year or so knows how absurd this article is.

The city, through all of its "specific" plans has made it almost impossible to occupy a lot of the existing buildings, especially on the east side of Tracy.

Amazon can get back 80% of the 1% sales tax they pay to the city. This is unfair to any other business in Tracy. If you are willing to give back that much why not just drop the 1% all together...

oh wait.. THAT would be pro-business.
OchoandCinco
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October 04, 2013
Amazon is east Tracy.


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