Tracing Tracy Territory: A power plant’s impressive expansion
by Sam Matthews / TP publisher emeritus
Feb 10, 2012 | 1959 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A friend of mine emailed me last week and asked about those steel structures going up in back of the Owens-Illinois glass plant.

As readers of Press reporter Joel Danoy’s story in Friday’s Press have been reminded, it is the expanded and refitted GWF Energy’s power plant in its final stages of construction.

The new plant will double the output of the original peaker plant and change its cooling technology from the traditional cooling tower to air, saving all kinds of water in the process.

That cooling takes place in the massive steel structure housing 25 fans and a condenser. That’s quite a bunch of good-sized fans, I noted during a recent tour of the construction site, asking about possible noise problems. Hal Moore, the GWF vice president and chief engineer of the project, assured me that there weren’t noise concerns, because the fan blades and gears were specially designed to produce a minimum of sound.

The steel used for the GWF project — and there’s a lot of if — comes almost entirely from Asia, with turbine technology from Germany. That underscores the reality of today’s global economy that challenges our country’s manufacturing base.

The GWF project is really quite an undertaking, one that currently has some 400 workers on the job. On my tour, I noticed that the guy who operates the lunch wagon was doing a brisk noontime business.

The hardhats come from all over Northern California for the well-paying jobs on the GWF project. One who doesn’t have much of a commute, however, is Ron Sichau, GWF Energy’s senior project manager. He has a short drive from his home in Mountain House, less than two miles away.

Independent Orchard

The OSH signs are beginning to fade away at one of Tracy’s largest warehousing and distribution operations and soon at the retail store at 11th Street and Corral Hollow Road.

It’s just that the company, originally a farmers cooperative and officially Orchard Supply Hardware, is scrapping the OSH initials and reverting back to just Orchard. The change in signage and in advertising is well under way.

You can see those changes on the company’s distribution center, located since 1992 at Grant Line and MacArthur.

That is one outward sign of change. A less visible, although more important, development is that the San Jose-based home-products company is again an independent firm. It was spun off Dec. 30 by Sears Holdings (Sears and Kmart) to Orchard Supply Hardware.

The deal was struck before Sears Holdings announced it was closing a number of Sears stores. Fortunately, the Tracy Sears store in the West Valley Mall wasn’t one of them.

All decked out

The interior of the Tracy Community Center never looked better than it did last Friday night. It was all dressed up for the annual Gala of the Tracy Chamber of Commerce.

The streamlined program of honoring Tracyites for their contributions to the community matched the quality of the décor. Awards were being presented as the close to 200 people present had their dinner. I thought Linda Turner was especially expressive in her comments on receiving the female citizen of the year award.

Although holding the event at the Grand Theatre last year with pre-program heavy hors d’ouevres was something different, a sit-down dinner is the better way to stage the Gala. And the community center makes a comfortable — and affordable — venue for the event.

Jaycees — an active bunch

If you haven’t come across it already, turn to Page 25 and check out Dick Hastie’s story on the Tracy Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Dick was one of the mainstays of the organization of young men between 21 and 36, known as Tracy Jaycees, and he has spent many hours mining the Press files to compile a history of the organization.

You can easily determine from Dick’s article that the Jaycees indeed made a major impact on Tracy for some three decades.

I was a young guy in those days, too, but I wasn’t a Jaycee, though my brother, Tom, was. An outgrowth of the Jaycees in the 1950s and 60s was a poker club that continued meeting monthly into the 1990s. But that’s another story.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at

Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet

We encourage readers to share online comments in this forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a space for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Comments that stray from the topic of the story or are found to contain abusive language are subject to removal at the Press’ discretion, and the writer responsible will be subject to being blocked from making further comments and have their past comments deleted. Readers may report inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at