Visalia and Fresno are going to have to wait a little longer to find out where Nordstrom will build its new distribution center. According to Mike Olmos, Visalia’s City Manager, he called Nordstrom in January to see if they were still on track. The representative said that the date had been pushed out to April or May.
Olmos, who has been through this process many times, said that it is not uncommon for large companies or large facilities to take more time than they originally projected. He said that he and Nordstrom have been going back and forth with additional information about the building site, but that the company has all the data and information they need to make the decision.
The person who negotiated the incentive package for Nordstrom is Visalia’s contact. Olmos said that the site locators and the person in charge of the incentive package are not the ones that make the decision. The company’s real estate division puts together a team made up of engineers and construction experts. The site location team was from out of state. They put a package of information together including all the construction details that a developer would need, including Visalia’s building codes, permitting process, regulations and CEQA requirements. The site locators assemble the data and send it to the decision making team at Nordstrom, which in Olmos believes is a real estate team and the board of directors.
Olmos added that the people he has been dealing with at Nordstrom have been “top notch.” The research teams have asked all the right technical questions and explored every detail. “They have looked under every rock.”
Visalians first heard of the possibility of Nordstrom building a million square-foot distribution center mid-December. The other front runner is Fresno and it has been a battle of the fittest ever since. Fresno City Council voted on an incentives packageearly December and Visalia matched their package dollar for dollar the following week. Visalia was offering a parcel in its industrial park for $2 million less than Fresno, and Fresno responded by compensating Nordstrom by $2 million in a different incentive.
The final attempt to sweeten the deal was Fresno County offering to help the City of Fresno in their workforce investment and training. The deal included possibly paying a portion of Nordstrom workers’ salaries while they do job training. After Fresno County stepped up to the plate, Adam Peck, executive director of the Workforce Investment Board for Tulare County, made a similar offer.
The Nordstrom E- Center, or fulfillment center, will service the entire Western United States and could provide up to 1,875 jobs to Visalia and the surrounding area. Nordstrom does $2.4 billion in Internet sales annually and has 77 stores in California with more than half of them in Southern California. That gives Visalia the advantage because it is one hour closer to Los Angeles than Fresno.
A representative for the land owners, Pat Daniels, has been negotiating with Nordstrom for about a year. The property is located in Visalia’s Industrial Park north of Riggin Avenue and east of Plaza Drive. The site in Fresno is a 55-acre lot in the North Pointe Business Park, located along Highway 99 in the south end of town.
At the January 19 Visalia City Council meeting, the members took the first step in amending the city’s General Plan in response to Nordstrom’s proposal to build a large distribution center. The current City Municipal Zoning Code states that a company cannot hire more than 750 employees at one time without a Conditional Use Permit. The council members considered the reasons for behind the zoning requirement seemed as unfounded and they voted unanimously to repeal the employee threshold.
Councilmember Warren Gubler said that the Nordstrom’s E-Center would be a nice magnet for the industrial park and show that Tulare County can host big projects like this better than other communities. Mayor Steve Nelsen said that this is a win-win for the county. “We have great companies in the Industrial Park” and he added that they are in support of Nordstrom joining them.