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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Expert sees potential in S.J. for businesses


By Reed Fujii
Record Staff Writer
March 01, 2012 12:00 AM
STOCKTON - Revving up San Joaquin County's economic engine, particularly its existing transportation and distribution assets, was the focus Wednesday as area business development officials gathered to hear from an international logistics and site selection consultant.

Adam Wasserman, a principal of Global Logistics Development Partners of Scottsdale, Ariz., said the county was "an interesting location," at the fulcrum of the growing Central Valley and close to the Bay Area.

It has two major north-south freeways, two major railroad intermodal centers, Stockton Metropolitan Airport and the Port of Stockton.

"You sit on an inland waterway right here, and there are a lot of people very excited about the potential of what it can do," Wasserman said.

The pending opening of the marine highway, on which barges would shuttle container cargo between the Port of Oakland on the bay and inland ports in Stockton and West Sacramento, is a model for similar projects nationwide.

One now under study is the M5 Highway, a proposal to move cargo by ship along the West Coast instead of by truck along Interstate 5.

"The San Joaquin proposal is sort of a forerunner to that," Wasserman said.

But there are still many questions about whether marine shipping could compete with trucking and whether private investors will pay to find out.

"It's going to be tough," he said.

It took a federal transportation grant to underwrite the Stockton-Sacramento-Oakland marine highway project.

In addition, there are changes occurring in global transportation and challenges to overcome.

The U.S. lacks a coherent trade and transportation policy, particularly one aimed at bolstering economic growth instead of simply raising cargo volumes, Wasserman said. Such policies are a major focus, however, for trading nations from the Old World to emerging economies such as Vietnam, he said.

"They're outspending us; they're outthinking us," he said.

Another example is the Panama Canal expansion project, expected to double its capacity by 2014. It likely will redirect cargo from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, in particular, to landings on the Gulf Coast, in Florida or even on the East Coast. Canada and Mexico, too, have designs on attracting cargo flows away from the United States.

It will take a continued effort for San Joaquin County to attract and accommodate new businesses in such a dynamic, global market, he said.

"You have a lot of the right ingredients, but it's not going to happen naturally," Wasserman said.

The global trade expert Wednesday toured parts of San Joaquin County and addressed a lunch meeting of the Business Team San Joaquin, a group organized by Fran Aguilera of San Joaquin County Worknet and Michael Ammann of the San Joaquin Partnership.

Team members include economic development officials from Stockton, Tracy, Lodi, Manteca and Lathrop, the county, the partnership and the Lodi Chamber of Commerce.

"We're trying to project this regionwide attunement to development," Ammann said.

On Tuesday, Wasserman was one of a half-dozen consultants addressing a forum in Sacramento organized by TeamCalifornia, a statewide group of economic development experts.

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