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From Site Selection magazine, March 2022

Central California’s Affordable Option


More than 770,000 people call San Joaquin County home. That number is growing as Bay Area housing costs are increasingly out of reach for workers — and as remote working makes locations in the Central Valley more appealing. San Francisco is a 90-minute drive to the west from Stockton, the county seat, and the Altamont Commuter Express provides rail service to the Bay Area. But with quality of life emerging as a top site consideration for companies and employees alike, hours of commuting each day gets old quickly.

San Joaquin County has many locations where quality of life comes first. Housing can be found in every price bracket; infrastructure assets abound, including three Interstates, a deepwater inland port and airport; and the county is home to the University of the Pacific, San Joaquin Delta College and Teachers College of San Joaquin.

“The work from home movement has allowed more skilled employees from the Silicon Valley and San Francisco to work farther away from the office,” notes Susan Dell’Osso, president of the River Islands Development in Lathrop, a master planned community. “Many of the new homes offered at River Islands have four, five and even six bedrooms. At any time, there is attainable housing available to a Bay Area workforce, at about half the price of housing in the core Bay Area.”

Following are San Joaquin County location options that many companies already have chosen as the best locations for their operations.

Manteca Population: 88,000

Infrastructure: Manteca is located between Interstate 5 and Highway 99, which connect via Highway 120 for excellent circulation for trucking transportation. Manteca is close to intermodal transportation facilities including rail, port, air, and trucking with major distribution centers.

Quality of Life: Manteca is known as the Family City with 10,000 entitled lots in the development pipeline for housing that runs 40% to 50% cheaper than Bay Area housing. It has two hospitals, parks, community centers, recreation complexes and entertainment venues.

Recent Project: The Great Wolf Lodge, a 500-room resort and indoor waterpark, chose Manteca because of its proximity to Northern California. The $150 million investment is in the Family Entertainment Zone (FEZ), which made the development process easy for Great Wolf. The FEZ has room for additional entertainment and recreation attractions.

Value Proposition: “Manteca is at the heart of the Central Valley and is not only a draw for Transportation Demand Logistics, but also a new tourist magnet,” says Randy Saffold, senior management analyst with the City of Manteca. “With the recent opening of the Great Wolf Lodge and with existing attractions like Big League Dreams, Bass Pro Shops, and the planned Family Entertainment Zone Development, Manteca is expecting an additional 500,000 tourists per year.”

Lathrop Population: 28,700

Infrastructure: Lathrop offers immediate access to Interstate 5, Interstate I-205 and State Route Highway 120 as the connector to State Route Highway 99. Infrastructure includes maritime bulk-cargo services through the Port of Stockton and container transportation through the Port of Oakland, two railroad intermodal facilities operated by Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railways and the Stockton Metropolitan Airport for freight and limited passenger services. Passenger rail includes the Altamont Commuter Express (ACE).

Quality of Life: Lathrop offers a small town atmosphere with access to multiple recreational activities, including fishing, boating, water skiing, 25 parks (including a skate park and dog park), and family entertainment activities offered by the City’s Parks and Recreation Department throughout the year.

Recent Project: Lathrop’s biggest economic development win of 2021 was locating the Tesla Megafactory to a shuttered retail distribution facility. Tesla will be producing 40 GWh, utility-scale energy storage systems (Megapacks) per year at this plant. Tesla relocated its electric vehicle (EV) “mold casting” operation to Lathrop in 2014. Since 2014, Tesla has expanded its footprint in Lathrop to occupy more than 2 million sq. ft. of space including operations for EV components manufacturing, remanufacturing of warranty parts, global distribution items related to Tesla’s EV and Solar operations, and now Megapacks.

Value Proposition: “Lathrop is a young city whose population has increased 320% over 30 years due to innovative city leadership working with private-sector development to build master planned communities and investment opportunities to attract such large employers such as Tesla Motors & Energy, Wayfair, Kraft-Heinz, CBC Steel Buildings/Nucor and more,” says Shelley Burcham, economic development administrator. “Lathrop companies provide more than 15,600 jobs. Its industrial sector has 14.6 million square feet of existing building space, 3 million square feet of new spec development, and 3 million square feet of new construction in the pipeline.”

Lodi Population: 68,000

Infrastructure: Lodi’s biggest infrastructure asset is Lodi Electric Utility, owned by the City of Lodi. Lodi’s key commercial and industrial accounts report affordable rates, high reliability, energy efficiency in energy usage, and investment in renewables as among chief concerns for growth and sustainability of operations. Lodi Electric Utility, with a peak load of 131 megawatts of affordable power, is 99.9948% reliable. Lodi, in the northern part of the county, is located between two major transportation corridors, I-5 to the west and SR 99 to the east.

Quality of Life: Within 50 miles from Lodi, five colleges and universities graduated over 26,000 graduates in 2021. Lodi has 23,147 total employees and its leading industries are health care and social services, retail, education and manufacturing. Lodi is prepared to provide a convenient work-life balance for new employees and their families by adding 2,100 market-rate family homes and apartments by 2024.

Recent Project: Among recent Lodi projects are Cepheid’s $250 million expansion of medical diagnostic equipment product innovation and development, two new hotels and two additional planned hotels. Rich Products, a privately held, multinational food products corporation, opened in April 2020, and in less than two years has experienced growth almost tripling its workforce.

Value Proposition: “One of Lodi’s business development goals is to attract data centers,” says Astrida Trupovnieks, business development manager for the City of Lodi and Lodi Electric Utility. “Lodi’s high quality treated wastewater is no waste. It can be used in cooling towers and can save up to 30% on water costs. Lodi secures a drought-proof water supply to protect the potential future growth of the potable water supply and helps businesses meet green water goals in addition to operating for profit.”

Population: 93,000

Infrastructure: Tracy is centered in the triangle formed by three major Interstate highways: I-205, I-580 and I-5. I-205 alone supports 152,000 annual average daily trips with expansion efforts in the works. With the regional airport and plans for Valley Link rail to connect to Tri Valley BART and the Silicon Valley, Tracy is becoming increasingly connected to the broader Northern California mega region.

Quality of Life: Tracy is known for its history in culture and community events, innovation, skilled workforce, strategic location and business-friendly environment. While glimpses of the Bay Area lifestyle stand out from trendy restaurants and brew houses, Tracy is emerging as a leader in clean tech innovation.

Recent Project: Tracy’s Renewable Energy, LLC, is making strides on a 20-acre city-owned parcel in the northern part of town. Renewable Energy, LLC, a home-grown business, created cutting-edge desalination technology (desal) that separates dissolved salts and other minerals from water. It is building one of the most ambitious clean tech projects in the world designed around its proprietary desal technology and other global warming-combatting considerations.

Value Proposition: “While historically developing as a residential community, Tracy has experienced strong office trends during the COVID-19 pandemic due to its limited supply of office space and strong demand generated by local tenants,” says Michael Nimon, economic development manager.

This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of the San Joaquin Partnership.
For more information, visit or call (209) 956-3380.

Mark Arend
Editor Emeritus of Site Selection magazine

Mark Arend

Mark Arend is editor emeritus of Site Selection, and previously served as editor in chief from 2001 to 2023. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.


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