West Sacramento’s emergence as a food industry hub is exactly what the leaders of Next Economy had in mind.
While the business-led regional economic development blueprint didn’t directly lead to the new companies and jobs, its core principles clearly are at work.
Next Economy focused on food and agriculture as one of six “clusters” with the most potential to generate growth. That decision increased awareness in West Sacramento of the food sector’s potential, says Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.
It also strengthened the city’s pitch to companies, he told The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board. He could show corporate officials that the entire region was on board and could offer a growing roster of resources, including the World Food Center at UC Davis.
As The Bee’s Mark Glover reported Sunday, the recruiting has produced big dividends in the past year, bringing an international flavor to West Sacramento’s food industry.
Bayer CropScience of Germany is moving its U.S. research and development operations for vegetable seed and crop-protection products into a vacant plant. TOMRA Sorting Solutions of Norway, whose equipment processes most of the world’s french fries, is building a complex for sorting and peeling equipment. Nippon Shokken of Japan, a major producer of seasonings, opened its U.S. headquarters. Shinmei Co. Ltd., a large rice miller also based in Japan, is building its U.S. headquarters and production plant. All told, the four companies could eventually add nearly 1,300 jobs.
Cabaldon says West Sacramento is benefiting from a snowball effect of foreign companies in particular wanting to locate where the industry already has a foothold.
The Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization, which is a major partner in Next Economy and helped West Sacramento recruit the global food companies, says it sold the entire region as a food hub.
Besides the food sector, Next Economy focuses on five other business clusters: advanced manufacturing; clean energy and technology; education and knowledge creation; information and communications technology; and life sciences and health services. Last March, its leaders set ambitious goals – 35,000 more jobs and $5.3 billion beyond expected economic growth in the region over five years. The collaborating counties are Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba, where the recovery has been sluggish and where a total of 88,400 people were jobless in December.
For Next Economy to hit its targets, there have to be many more successes. Other cities and counties could do much worse than look to West Sacramento for inspiration.