Madera County: Add a tight retail market to the mix – The Business Journal

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A new Smart & Final location had a grand opening last week in Madera. Space is tight for commercial real estate in Madera County. Madera Police Department photo

published on November 30, 2023 – 2:49 PM
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Despite the negative impacts from the closure of Madera Community Hospital to kick off 2023, the region saw continued growth with the promise of more in 2024 and beyond.

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Madera has always been known for having low industrial vacancy rates. For 2023, that extended to retail.

“This year we’ve had a tight retail commercial real estate market,” said Madera County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Darren Rose.

Rose added that in 2023, the county saw only 1-3% of commercial real estate plots available. The industrial real estate market also proved to have a tight 2023, limiting options for potential warehouse and logistic center expansion.

“There’s not a lot of options for retailers to locate,” he said.

Despite the challenge, 2024 looks to add more commercial real estate space up and down Highway 41, with industrial and commercial lots at Tesoro Viejo coming online this year, as well as developments of new commercial areas near Highway 41 and Road 200 as well as west near Highway 99 and Avenue 17.

Rose hopes that 2024 brings more commercial and industrial investors to the area; he said that the continued development of both the Tesoro Viejo and Riverstone communities are playing a key factor in attracting potential investors.

Both neighborhoods are nationally recognized as lifestyle communities — residential builds in which residents share interest in similar social, recreational and fitness activities — something that Rose said is attractive to commercial developers.

“It’s been brought up in a couple of discussions with site selectors — the fact that we have those two new communities as well as a lot of other important developments throughout Madera Ranchos and other developments,” he said. “Tesoro is just a beautiful, well thought out area.”

Rose said that the continued expansion is bringing the Rio Mesa Plan to life. The plan, first introduced around 30 years ago, focuses on a mixture of residential, commercial and industrial zoning.

The continued growth next year is echoed by Mike Prandini, president and CEO of the Building Industry Association of Fresno/Madera Counties. Homebuilding continues at Riverstone and Tesoro Viejo, which has space for nearly 12,000 new homes combined.

Madera’s development, in this regard, is unique to these master planned communities; Fresno is not able to develop in the same way because of the state’s new “vehicle miles traveled” metric, which determines the environmental impact of new housing developments.

Farther up Highway 99, the AutoZone distribution center is scheduled to open in 2024 and looks to bring around 350 new jobs to the area, in addition to employment opportunities through companies like PG&E and the construction of California’s High Speed Rail project.

Rose hopes an improving economy will play a key role in driving some of these developments, citing the recent weeks’ uptick in the condition of inflation rates.

“As the macro-national environment improves, I think everything goes downstream from that — from interest rates and inflationary concerns,” Rose said, adding that as the rates continue to go down more secure interest will be focused on industrial, commercial and retail projects.

“I think that’s a safe thing to say,” he added. “I’m not saying there’s a lot of money parked on the sidelines. But if you read the Wall Street Journal you can pretty much garner that there’s a lot of money parked on the sidelines because firms, banks — they’re waiting to see what unfolds with the economy.”

Overall, despite 2023 presenting new and unpredictable challenges through the economy and mother nature, Rose said that the outlook for 2024 is promising, stressing Madera County government’s business-friendly attitude.

“That’s been one of my best selling points,” Rose said. “Obviously, government processes, they take time, but those entities want to make it possible to get deals moving forward.”

Rose also mentioned the partnership between the Madera County EDC and PG&E, which is making considerable investments in human workforce, as well as infrastructure expansion, which will help businesses continue to grow.

“We’ve made headway; it’s not perfect, we’ve had delays, but PG&E is doing what it takes in order to serve our business and our residential communities,” he said.

In addition to the partnership with PG&E, Rose stressed Madera County’s potential in another key commodity that the county possesses: land.

Through government programs outlined by the State of California, the county is poised to see job growth thanks largely in part to the available land for projects to be built on.

“With the governor’s California Jobs First…those primary focuses are job creation — creating the foundation necessary to help garner job growth,” Rose said, adding that the initiative will expand infrastructure necessary for continued job creation.

While always welcoming new businesses, Rose said that the EDC’s primary “bread and butter” for job growth is already established.

“The fastest way forward for us are our local businesses that are expanding,” he said.

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