Realtors value real estate based on location, location, location. Economic growth and development is based on land use, land use, land use. Just as a poor location dooms a property to low value, poor land use decisions dooms a region to economic mediocrity.
The recently failed Crows Landing Industrial Park (West Park) would have been a poor land use decision. The original plan was to develop the former Navy base into an urban industrial park. But, the developer wanted to greatly expand the urban area into surrounding productive farm land.
Had the developer succeeded with his plans, large numbers of houses would have been built around the industrial park. A new town would have sprung up. Large areas of highly productive farm land would have been removed as a food source for a perpetually growing California population.
So why are we lucky NOT to get the new town? Stanislaus County has so much blighted urban development that unless a policy is created and enforced that redirects urban growth back into the cities, the cities will be blighted in perpetuity.
This brings us back to location, location, location. Economic development does not occur in a poor location. Urban blight discourages economic development and hinders appreciation of real estate values.
The choice is obvious. We can continue to take farm land for urban growth until we no longer have any farm land remaining. We can allow urban blight to fester and grow within existing cities.
The better option is to stop taking farm land, direct all urban growth to within existing urban boundaries, and work to eliminate blight.
When this writer served on the Modesto City Council, blight was eliminated from the Scenic Road corridor and Prescott Estates through active government enforcement efforts. This type of effort needs to be perpetual and ongoing. Modesto and the other cities of Stanislaus County need to make themselves better locations, locations, locations, by beautifying their respective communities.
The principles of sound economic development, including land use, are so simple. Odd that developers and elected policy makers just don’t get it. No one can seem to devise the long term strategy that will lead to optimal future economic development.