Helena Agri-Enterprises is moving to Lemoore after a long-simmering dispute with the City of Hanford that resulted in the company filing a lawsuit against Hanford.
Lemoore City Manager Nathan Olson said the move could result in about $340,000 in additional annual sale tax revenue to the city plus an unspecified number of jobs.
Olson said he wouldn’t disclose the company’s location in Lemoore until the land deal is final. The deal is subject to the approval of the new city council and needed environmental reviews, he said.
The company, which batches and sells fertilizer products, plans on building a new facility in Lemoore, Olson said. The move, first announced by the city in early December 2020, will result in Lemoore gaining one of its largest retail companies.
Olson wouldn’t comment on what Hanford’s problems with Helena had to do with the relocation. Helena returned one phone call seeking comment but did not return later ones. Also Helena’s attorney Mark Everett McKeen did not respond to a request for comment.
On April 14, 2017 Helena filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Hanford seeking $12 million in damages. The company claimed the City of Hanford reneged on a land deal that would have resulted in Helena relocating from East Lacey Boulevard by Costco to Hanford’s industrial park, according to court records. The city responded in a court filing denying Helena’s allegations and said no money is owed.
Earl in 2015 Helena and Hanford reached a definitive agreement on the relocation, but in July 2015 the city council told Helena it would not execute their agreement.
In late 2014, Costco Center developer John Kashian ordered all work stopped on the project until the city denied Helena’s request to expand agricultural operations at the East Lacey site which was across the street from the Costco Center. Helena has occupied the East Lacey site since 1972.
According to the suit, Helena has steadily grown from $15 million annually in 2004 to $30 million and employs hundreds in the Central Valley,
Before the city worked out an agreement to move Helena, the city had approved a conditional
use permit allowing Helena to expand at East Lacey. It also changed the zoning rules to allow Helena to continue operations at the site despite the company’s operations being considered incompatible with surrounding uses.
A jury trial in Kings Superior Court on Helena’s breach of contract lawsuit will be held in Hanford starting June 7, 2021, according to court documents.
Helena’s move represents a financial boon to Lemoore and a blow to Hanford. Lemoore has a multi-million budget deficit and recently saw a ballot measure to raise the sales tax defeated. Hanford had a $1.1 million budget deficit last year but eliminated the deficit by not making a payment to its equipment reserve fund.
Lemoore has switched its economic strategy from being a bedroom community to pursuing growth, said Olson. Hanford has long pursued a pro-growth strategy involving retail, industrial and housing elements.