All Your Need & More in the Heart of the West Coast
Located halfway between Sacramento and Oregon, and positioned as the mid-point between the Canadian and Mexican borders along Interstate 5, the West Coast’s main thoroughfare, is Tehama County.
Written by Jessica Ferlaino
Fondly referred to as the heart of the West Coast, Tehama County is abundant in available land and natural endowments, offers an outstanding quality of life, and is affordable, all of which is being leveraged to encourage economic growth and continued community development.
A major proponent of these efforts is Tehama County Economic Development (TCED), a relatively new organization that is having a significant impact in uncovering the untapped potential of the county.
TCED was founded in 2014 and originated out of an expressed need to create a local economy that was attractive to the county’s best and brightest, who were being pulled away from Tehama County in search of better career opportunities. Local representatives from Tehama County, including Supervisor Bob Williams, set out to learn from other communities that had similar needs and had found success in addressing those needs. The goal was to identify a model that suited Tehama County and the needs of its business community.
Supervisor Williams noted, “We talked with people about what they had done for economic development in their areas and kind of took their blueprint and moved forward with the program we have today.”
TCED is working with its many partners which include cities and communities like Red Bluff, Corning and Los Molinos, the local chambers of commerce, and local schools, as well as the Rural Counties Representatives of California (RCRC) and planning departments to zone and re-zone economic development areas accordingly.
“We identified that one of Tehama County’s greatest assets is that we have a lot of available land that could be developed for any type of small to large scale manufacturing. Our biggest lot is just over 1400 acres and that’s commercially zoned and under single ownership, so we have everything from that to vacant space in a strip mall,” explained Economic Development Director, Caylyn Wright.
She continued, “Unfortunately, a lot of our vacant land does not have access to municipal services like water and sewer, so we’re working with RCRC to explore what type of federal and state grant opportunities there are to extend the necessary infrastructure to those sites to make them shovel-ready.”
The City of Corning is working on rezoning South Avenue. According to Williams, this area has the potential to become an economic development zone with free trade zone designation. Given the site’s access to the interstate, a rail spur and the main thoroughfare connecting the east and west, it is very attractive for businesses interested in relocating or expanding.
Other major employers in Tehama County include Sierra Pacific Industries, Sierra Pacific Windows, Bell Carter, Crain Walnut Shelling, Inc. Lassen Medical Center, Louisiana Pacific, Rolling Hills Casino and St. Elizabeth Hospital, to name only a few.
One of the major roles of TCED is to liaise with existing business to develop a true understanding of their needs. As Wright noted, “Our philosophy is that business owners are our customers in the economic development world and we want to be as customer service oriented as possible.”
“We have existing business in Tehama County and our goal in this whole thing is to help them stay in business and expand, if they should so choose, but also to try to bring in new businesses into the county that have good paying jobs so that those best and brightest have a reason to stay and be the future leaders of the county,” said Williams.
Jenkins meets with local businesses regularly to “talk about doing business in Tehama County – their plans, if they have any, for expansion. We are making sure that we are looking after our existing business owners and making sure that they know that we appreciate them being here; we’re here to support them and we ask them what we can do to help their business.”
Tehama County is a great location for business and an even greater place to call home. It is ranked 11th out of the top 40 commuter cities in California. It is proximate to Redding and Chico, offers one-day access between Seattle and Los Angeles, and travel times within the cities are even better.
With the benefit of Interstate 5, people and goods move swiftly to and from Tehama County. There are many local success stories, businesses that have recognized and taken advantage of the affordable cost of living and doing business in the county and the ideal proximity to markets and workforce.
Lentec, a manufacturer of industrial machines and food processing equipment, currently has an expansion underway to satisfy the growth in the agricultural sector locally, especially for walnuts, olives and wine. The company has added several skilled tradespeople to its roster in doing so.
Likewise, Emerald Kingdom Greenhouse is moving to Red Bluff, relocating to a larger space and adding to its workforce. This expansion and relocation will enable the company to produce the materials it was previously outsourcing, vertically integrating to cut costs and improve output.
Likewise, there are efforts to build a greater sense of community in Red Bluff by revitalizing the city’s downtown. Economic Development Administrator Amanda Jenkins shared, “In the last few years, there has been a lot of effort by our downtown business owners to create fun events to pull people downtown like sip and shops, or just working with their neighbors to get lights put up.”
For those interested in relocating, not only is there a variety of housing stock and available land to choose from, it comes at a much more competitive price than the rest of the state. While the average home price in California is $550,200, it is only $203,000 in Tehama County.
“Our philosophy is that business owners are our customers in the economic development world.”
Tehama County has room to grow and is home to several industries including trade transportation and utilities, education and health services, manufacturing, as well as farming and agriculture. Its location, connectivity, and available land make it ideal for small to medium sized manufacturing operations as well as logistics and distribution centers.
Currently, the Walmart Distribution Center in Tehama County is the largest employer and boasts one of the highest rates of productivity of all Walmart Distribution Centers in the nation. Its location leaves it well positioned to take advantage of the 38 million consumers in the surrounding markets.
Harbor Freight is another example of a company that is experiencing growth and expansion in Tehama County. A new store is coming to Red Bluff, adding jobs and additional economic activity to the local economy.
These companies have made the most of Tehama County’s available workforce which is credited as being hardworking, highly productive, and dedicated. Paired with the various workforce development initiatives that are ongoing in the county, there is no doubt that the needs of business are being met in this regard.
“Shasta College offers a lot of trade education that we’ve been involved with and of course we work with our local high schools in terms of career technical education,” said Wright of their efforts to address the needs in the community in terms of workforce development. “We hear from business owners that we need people with trade skills that can run CNC machines and things like that, so we identified that need and then we went to do outreach with our local high schools. They had already implemented the programs that sounded exactly like what the business owners were asking for,” Wright explained.
On the topic of workforce development, Williams cited the example of Bill Gaines, the owner of Transfer Flow and the man at the center of the Grow Manufacturing initiative, noting, “My understanding is that Tehama County is the only county out of six counties that he’s working with where every high school has signed on to his career technical education.”
Tehama County boasts great economic potential as well as an exceptional quality of life. The community comes together for great events like the Corning Wine, Art and Food Festival, local wine tastings and samplings of local growers, arts and cultural events, the Tehama District Fair, events like Beef and Brew, Corning’s Olive Festival and Car Show, and Manton’s Apple Festival.
Of course, Tehama County’s biggest event is the rodeo. “We have the world’s largest three-day rodeo. We have 11 days actually dedicated to the rodeo and it’s full of community events,” said Jenkins. “The community really comes together during this week and a half and just does an amazing job of getting everyone riled up and ready for rodeo,” an event that brings in $5 million annually.
Wright’s personal favorite part of Tehama County is the Sacramento River Bend Natural Area. As she described, “It’s over 20,000 acres of natural space run by the Bureau of Land Management and has 35 miles of trails: hiking, running, biking, equestrian riding.”
Given its location along the river and its unparalleled natural beauty, there is no shortage of outdoor recreation to be had in Tehama County. The county truly has something to offer for everyone.
“Tehama County boasts great economic potential as well as an exceptional quality of life.”
The goal moving forward is to continue to provide improved service offerings to existing business while working to create a business-friendly environment that attracts new investment to the county – “anything we can do to create the framework and structure for a robust market of well-paying jobs for our residents because that has so many trickle-down benefits,” said Wright, which will help to improve civic amenities and the vibrant quality of life enjoyed by all.
Williams concluded, “Tehama County is a great place to live. It’s the heart of the West Coast and we are doing everything that we possibly can to improve the quality of life for our citizens and our potential new citizens in Tehama County. Come to Tehama County. All are welcome.”