Business boom in West Sacramento
West Sacramento is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and with it an economy that is changing its image as an industrial backwater.
By Lakiesha McGhee - Bee Staff Writer
Last Updated 5:33 am PST Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Chad Bidegain works on a weld section in the new 110,000-square-foot building for biotech firm Affymetrix that should be open by summer.
Technicians wearing protective, white "bunny suits" and eye goggles work in a secure environment where DNA is used to assemble genetic chips for drug discovery and other studies.
The technicians' work at Affymetrix in
Their work is reflective of
The city, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, has long worked to change its image as an industrial backwater of
Business parks have expanded with high-tech companies and other industry new to the city. National retailers such as Ikea have opened shop, attracting patrons from throughout the region. New shopping centers will house a Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target and Lowe's Home Improvement, which are scheduled to open within the next few years.
"The warehouse and trucking jobs are not going to sustain us into the future," said Diane Richards, city economic development coordinator. "We believe if you don't keep getting better, you'll stop being good. We're always trying to improve the quality of life for our residents."
The need for change is driven by a surge in new housing and a need to provide higher-wage jobs for a growing population. An economic development report issued by the city in 2005 showed that while job growth in the private sector was good, average wages had declined.
The city has since refocused its efforts to attract five target industries: biotechnology, fuel cell work, logistics for warehouse distribution, food processing and retail. Many of the companies report they are expanding operations.
He explained that highly skilled workers are attracted to the city's location near an urban core, transportation, the waterfront and college campuses. Such advantages have helped
West Sacramento accounts for about 13,000 of the 15,000 jobs in
The city's 2005 report also found the region's distribution industry was hard hit by a weakened economy. Employment had fallen in the past three years and the
The city gained greater control of the port last year and developed a partnership with the
"We're still a young community, and we knew from the get-go that we would have major challenges to overcome if we were going to reach our dreams and become what we wanted to become," said Kay Fenrich, executive director of the West Sacramento Chamber of Commerce.
The city offers tax breaks and other incentives to attract new business, but mostly lures firms with competitive land prices and a streamlined planning process, Richards said.
However, some economic experts are skeptical about plans to lure biotech companies to boost job growth.
"The big problem with biotechnology is that everybody wants them and people are throwing all sorts of outlandish favors in their direction," said Joel Kotkin, a consultant on economic trends and author of "The New Geography, How the Digital Revolution is Reshaping the American Landscape."
Kotkin said competition for biotechnology firms is high and the jobs they create are few in number. Compared with the technology boom in the late 1990s, there is not a surge in biotechnology jobs to justify the appetite, he said.
"I'm not sure why biotechnology is so popular," Kotkin said. "I guess it's the flavor of the month. It's sexy. It's high-end jobs. It's clean industry."
If the hunt for more biotech companies comes up short, the city has other options.
A logical move for
In the meantime,
The most notable large biotech firms in
A new 110,000-square-foot building is being constructed at its site on
About the writer:
- The Bee's Lakiesha McGhee can be reached at (916) 321-1121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Employee Raul Cepeda walks in a section of the new Affymetrix building being constructed on