On the map
Business View Magazine interviews representatives from Tracy, CA, as part of our series on transportation improvements in Northern California cities.
The second most populous city in San Joaquin County, California, the City of Tracy, with an estimated 2016 population of 89,000, comprises 22 square miles centered in a triangle formed by the major interstates 580, 205, and 5 – thus the city’s motto, “Think Inside the Triangle.” Tracy is conveniently situated just an hour from Sacramento, San Francisco, and San Jose, and just a few hours from Los Angeles. Tracy is also convenient to the Bay Delta, Yosemite, Tahoe, and San Francisco Bay.
The City of Tracy has established itself as an important suburb to the San Francisco Bay Area region with its solid base of small businesses, national retailers, and restaurants. Large employers in the Tracy
area and the region include: Amazon, Tesla, Katerra, Fischer Scientific, Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente, FedEx, Medline, GlassFab Manufacturing, and Pacific Medical. With an ongoing commitment to providing high-quality, economical, responsive services to the local community, Tracy is well-positioned for future commercial, office, and industrial development.
The origins of Tracy are related to the mid-19th century construction of Central Pacific Railroad lines running from Sacramento through Stockton and to the San Francisco Bay Area. A number of small communities sprang up along these lines, including Tracy, named for Lathrop J. Tracy, a grain merchant and railroad director in Mansfield, Ohio. In 1878, construction of a new rail line was started from Oakland through Martinez to connect to the Central Pacific at a point three miles east of Ellis. The line had been built to provide greater efficiency by avoiding hills, and to eliminate the expense of helper engines. The result of the new rail line was the founding of Tracy on September 8, 1878.
Tracy was incorporated in 1910 and grew rapidly after the first irrigation district was established in 1915.
Although railroad operations began to decline in the 1950s, Tracy continued to prosper as an agricultural area. Today, the City seal reflects this history of railroads and agriculture. Beginning in the 1980s, Tracy experienced a growth spurt as people migrated to the city looking for affordable alternatives to Bay Area home prices, in addition to a more tranquil lifestyle. A steady period of growth ensued, as many companies found Tracy an ideal location for their distribution facilities.
Veronica Vargas, of the Tracy City Council and Valley Link Board, is spearheading, in San Joaquin County, the efforts on a new way to connect to BART in the Bay Area via a major regional train system called Valley Link Rail (officially the agency is the Tri-Valley San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority). With an unsustainable 27 percent increase in road traffic, the Valley Linklight-rail should alleviate this. The project will connect to BART through seven stations traveling from north of Manteca to Tracy, passing in front of Mountain House, connecting to Livermore, and then to Dublin/Pleasanton.
“We’re hoping to be, eventually, a 100 percent sustainable train, utilizing electrical power we’re going to be getting from solar and wind. The Tri-Valley Hub will help us to get funding. The Valley Link board is completing their feasibility study, to be released for public review,” says Vargas. The agency was formed with five cities from each side of the Altamont Pass – five cities from the Alameda side and five cities from the San Joaquin side and two supervisors from Alameda County and San Joaquin County. “They recognize that the workforce comes from the Central Valley, and we have over 120,000 commuters going over the East Bay and San Francisco area, not counting the ACE ridership that connects to the Silicon Valley. Currently, 80,000 vehicles go over the Altamont Pass, daily. Most commuters experience a 3-to-5 hour commute time.”
The project will have three different intermodal stations and, overall, the train station will eventually connect Tracy with many other train stations. According to Andrew Malik, Assistant City Manager, Tracy was a railroad town from its inception in 1910, having four different avenues of rail culminating in its downtown. “So it’s the perfect location for commuter rail, high speed rail in the future, and the like,” he notes. “We have a transit station. We also have a very vibrant downtown. There are some great older historic buildings. But more importantly, getting people to live, work, and play right next to the commute lines is something that this Council and the city is very proud of. This specific plan, and the transit-oriented development, will further that goal of the Council.”
Walkability and other modes of transportation have been very well received by the community, according to Vargas. Between the downtown and the Mountain House station will be the operations and maintenance facility, which is near a 1,700-acre International Park of Commerce, 5-7 years in the making, to which developer Prologis is bringing many new businesses; currently they are on their seventh 1,000,000-square-foot building. “It’s not just a regular warehouse building anymore,” says Malik. “This is logistics, medical facilities, distribution, point-of-sales, manufacturing, etc. We are very excited and happy to have Prologis as business partners, creating 36,000 new jobs at completion, which, of course, means increasing our transportation needs.”
Malik adds, “Tracy was one of the fastest growing cities in California, certainly in our region – everything from manufacturing, industrial, office, retail, and homes. You can’t just have one without the others. This Council, and previous Councils, has always been really good about having that balance of business, recreation, education, and the like. About five or six years ago, when the economy was the worst many of us had experienced in our lifetimes, the Council took the opportunity to plan for the future. They did infrastructure master plans 30 years out, spent three million dollars to do that at a time when people were being laid off, saying, ‘Let’s work with our developers; work with our existing businesses.’ So, we now have a roadmap for infrastructure, for water, sewer, roads, recycled water, parks, police, and the like. We prepared ourselves for when the economy eventually came out. That’s why we have one of the largest industrial parks in the nation, now probably a third built out, and another eight million square feet in the planning process over the next couple of years.”
Many of those companies coming from the Bay Area are either getting squeezed out or are looking for where a lot of the population is moving, according to Malik. “We have that driver of population, people coming and saying, ‘I can’t afford the Bay Area or Silicon Valley,’ but move out this way for the affordability, the safety, the hometown feeling. We have a project, our Gateway Project, to have some office component, and to have colleges, as we are looking to improve skill sets as we grow our existing workforce. You can’t add as many jobs as we have over the last several years without impacting future business growth, because the labor pool starts to get short. So this Council said, ‘What about having a university that can help us grow the skill sets of our high school students as they come out, and how can we grow our own to help this economy continue to flourish?’ Cal State Stanislaus did their first MBA course in downtown Tracy a number of years ago, recognizing our commitment to higher education. We have recruited two universities that are having programming that, hopefully, will culminate in a brick-and-mortar campus.”
“In the meantime,” says Vargas, “we are now partnering with Delta College on a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program. The Mountain House campus has successfully seen the first graduates from the STEM program graduating from high school with an Associate Degree this last year. About 60 percent of our residents commute over the East Bay and Bay Area, so we’re currently looking into making sure that we continue to educate our region. We have Stockton College, University of the Pacific, but we need more for a growing population of millennials who recognize the value of higher education.”
Vanessa Carrera, Economic Development Analyst, states, “We have two public school districts, but we also have charter schools, private schools, and also a large homeschooling base. There’s a strong commitment to education in our community, as well as a slew of nonprofits that want to partner with our schools to help create the best experiences for our youth here in the community. Our town is known for good schools, good academic success, incorporating STEM programs into the curriculum, as well as partnerships with service clubs like 4-H, Scouts, and churches.”
Of Tracy itself, Malik says, “I’ve been here about 23 years. When I first got here, the town was about 35,000 population and now we’re 94,000. Part of that 30-year master plan was setting up the next 30 years of growth for residential. We’ve more than doubled our population from 1990 to today, plus industrial growth as well; we had 6,000 new jobs over the last couple of years. California is not necessarily the easiest place to do business. This Council put money in the infrastructure, with the developments, so we are plug-and-play in a lot of these industrial areas. Amazon was one of the first in our region about four years ago. In fact, it’s one of their flagship facilities where they put Kiva, which is all the automation. They still bring people in to train from all over the world at our facility because it’s the most state-of-the-art. They indicated to us that they had the fastest entitlement processing that they’ve ever seen in any of their facilities. We now have a second million square feet on the west side of town.”
“I just got back from an economic development conference, IAMC (International Asset Management Council), where it’s a lot of the corporate real estate for Fortune 500s,” Malik continues. “There’s a company called Fisher Scientific that moved from the Bay Area out to Tracy, just recently opened. Between the city of Tracy, Fisher Scientific, and the developer (Prologis), they had one of the best experiences for expansion — and this is an international company — and they touted that to this IAMC Council of other corporate real estate people.
“That’s what we’re excited about. That’s what Tracy’s Council has directed us to do: to facilitate development, be facilitators, but with the right development. We get a lot of good feedback from our businesses that come here, because they want to make sure they provide as much to their employees’ satisfaction, as well. It’s very high success when they say, ‘Hey, this is great. I’m moving from the Bay Area, and I’m buying a new home, and for the first time, ever, we have parking in our business.’”
On the more personal side, Vargas points to lifestyle construction, “Not only are we business-friendly, we also understand the community and new businesses coming, and they want to have amenities in a place, not only where they’re working, but where they could live and have their families having something to do. We have embarked on a large project of 80 acres of sports field. We have on the books a nature park, a passive park. We invested over 89 million dollars to update our municipal airport because we know that, with the new businesses and new corporations, some of the executives and directors like to come in and out on their own planes.”
“Our population is young; they’re in their thirties, most of them. My children are in their thirties. They volunteer a lot. They want to come home and walk and do things that are fun. So we have activities; a theater that’s completed; we have great artists coming and visiting. We are successfully motivating people to come outside and play. We have staff looking into innovative things to do and bring our folks to play -not only residents of Tracy, but others coming and visiting Tracy and experiencing Tracy in a different way as a tourist area. We have several hotels and two under construction right now; three that we entitled in the last two, three years. So, we have hotels and new hotels coming into town. It’s being flexible, being agile to new, innovative, forward-thinking companies that want to come to Tracy. We want to be there with them and meet on the same plane.”
Adds Carrera, “I’m a longtime Tracy resident and there’s always been a commitment to the quality of life here in the community. That’s shown in Council’s commitment to funding new amenities, such as Legacy Field, such as our downtown district having that partnership with our downtown merchants, having concerts downtown, a commitment to a new Aquatic Center. Not only do people want to attempt to work closer to home, they want to play here. They don’t want to have to go over the hill to find things to do. That’s what the city of Tracy is trying to provide. Even during the recession, there was a commitment to continuing our special events because our leadership, at that time, knew how much the community appreciated that, and needed that, during that difficult time. So, our concerts in the park remained; our arts and recreation programs remained. We have a beautiful interdisciplinary arts center in our downtown area at the Grand Theater, which is considered our crown jewel. We have a lot of performances, gallery exhibitions, and arts programs going on there seven days a week. We’re just trying to provide it all here in the community.”
“We’re kind of a competitive community,” Carrera says, in conclusion. We’re showing up. Tracy was a small, rural, ag-and-railroad town and we will always have respect for our roots. But we are growing as the community is growing. When we go to trade shows, they know where Tracy is. So, Tracy’s on the map and we’re proud of it.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: Tracy, California
WHAT: A city of 89,000
WHERE: San Joaquin County, 55 miles east of San Francisco
Sutter Tracy Community Hospital – www.sutterhealth.org/stch
Sutter Tracy Community Hospital is the area’s only full service, acute care hospital serving more than 100,000 people in the Tri-Central Valley region. The hospital’s state-of-the-art facility features the latest medical technology, including two 3D mammography machines, and diagnostic equipment and offers comprehensive array of inpatient and outpatient services.
Sutter Tracy has been serving Tracy and the surrounding communities for more than 70 years.
As part of the integrated Sutter Health network, growing families in Tracy have access to safe, quality and compassionate care close to home. All patients seen in a Sutter Health facility have their own unique health record regardless of where they receive their care thanks to Sutter Electronic Health Record (EHR) which rolled out in 2013.
The Joint Commission recognized Sutter Tracy Community Hospital as a Primary Stroke Center in 2017 for its exceptional ability to provide high-quality stroke care. The hospital earned the 2019 Get With the Guidelines-Stroke Silver Plus Quality Achievement Award and qualified for recognition on the Target: Stroke Elite Plus Honor Roll.
Sutter Tracy was recognized in 2015 and 2016 as a Top 100 hospital by Truven Health Analytics and named a 100 Great Community Hospital in 2015 by Becker’s Hospital Review.
Sutter Tracy is actively involved in the community, helping a wide range of causes that help youth, women in need and more.
For more information on Sutter Tracy Community Hospital, visit sutterhealth.org.