Tulare County officials announced last week that building permit requests for residential housing in the county soared during the recently completed fiscal year 2013-14, and the value of construction permits issued increased as well.
“During the last 12 months, the county has issued 66% more permits for single family homes in the unincorporated areas,” said Phil Cox, chairman of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. “We’ve also seen a substantial growth in economic activity and commercial building. Although we are not in direct competition with cities for housing, this is a clear sign of an improving economy.”
County records show 3,116 building permits were issued in FY 2013-14 – representing projects with a total construction value of $141.6 million. That represents a 4.75% growth in building permit values over the previous fiscal year, when county officials processed 3,266 permits worth a total value of $135.2 million.
County economic development officials say this represents an average 7.25% increase in construction permit values over the last three fiscal years.
“The value of county building permits issued last fiscal year increased by $6.4 million over the value of permits issued during the prior 12 month period,” Cox said. “Tulare County’s effort to work closer with clients and businesses either looking to locate to Tulare County or expand their existing operations is exceeding our board’s expectations. We are very happy with the hard work our own team puts in everyday to grow Tulare County.”
“This is significant and sustained growth over a three-year period,” said County Administrator Jean Rousseau. “We believe some of that growth is due to our countywide effort to be become more business friendly.”
What’s changed? Two years ago, the board of supervisors established an in-house economic development program to foster value growth. Challenged to make the county easier to do business with, planning administrators developed a team-based approach toward business development. For example, if someone wanted to “fast-track” construction of a medical clinic, or expand a large ag processing facility on an aggressive timeline, the county developed a “new” team-based process to accommodate that developer’s needs.
Tulare County Economic Development Manager Michael Washam said much of the increase in new construction occurred in four business sectors: renewable energy, retail commercial, agriculture and healthcare.
“We have tried to focus on what we are good at, and our county has made a strong commitment to encourage agri-business expansion,” Washam said. “Our county is also one of the few in the state that has an expedited permitting process developed specifically for renewable energy projects.”
Construction continues on approved utility scale solar projects. In the last 12 months, Tulare County has issued building permits for $7.3 million worth of solar projects, and additional renewable energy growth is expected this year.
“The county recently issued permits worth $4.3 million for the Pixley biogas project and another $1.1 million permit for an innovative carbon dioxide capture plant, a state-of-the-art facility that produces food-grade CO2 used in carbonated drinks,” Washam said.
Building permits are currently pending for the Atwell Island West solar project recently purchased by Con Edison Development.
In addition to renewable energy projects, Setton Farms pulled more than $2 million-worth of permits for plant expansions; Paramount Citrus expanded greenhouse facilities with $4.9 million in permits; Family Health Care Network’s new rural medical clinic in Terra Bella and a thorough renovation and expansion of its Porterville clinic represent a combined permit value of $1.7 million. Also approved is Tulare Community Health Center’s new medical clinic in Woodville, resulting in another $550,000 in permits.
Family Dollar, Auto Zone, Dollar General and Tulare Firestone Tires have all built new stores in the unincorporated area of Tulare County during the past 12 months – a combined $3.6 million in permit value.