Rocklin's economic health recovering

small businesses, large employers expand into Rocklin
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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As Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst prepares to give his second state of the City address Friday morning, positive economic growth is evident around town. One obvious sign may be the half-completed Jack in the Box at Sunset and Lonetree Boulevards, which is now being converted into a Tower Mart gas station and convenience store. Bulldozers are once again moving at a job site that has been sitting vacant for years. “Probably one of the best things that has happened for us is the Blue Oaks shopping center and Blue Oaks Plaza,” Horst said. “They are working on some major restaurant chains to come into play.” The success of the Blue Oaks Century Theatre, which reported selling nearly 800,000 seats to moviegoers last year, has proven to be a boon for area restaurants. “The restaurants in that region are doing extremely well,” Horst said. “It’s been positive for us.” While Horst reports sales tax is not back to pre-recessionary numbers, it is on the rise. National auto insurance provider Esurance has been hiring and recently finished parking lot expansions on their regional campus located behind Oracle on Lonetree Boulevard. “They had to expand the parking lot because they’ll have double shifts at the call center,” Horst said. “Three hundred and fifty employees out there will be positive for us.” Rocklin is one of 14 Esurance offices nationwide. The city reports they’ve seen a rise in applications for new business licenses weekly. “We’ve had some businesses not re-issue, but net, we’re on the positive,” Horst said. “A lot of these are very small businesses.” One of those small businesses, Megown Test & Measurement Inc., announced plans this week to move the Roseville business of nine employees to a 12,000 square foot building on Yankee Hill Road. “The overhead costs are considerably cheaper,” co-owner Michael Megown said. “The city has been excellent to deal with.” Megown is one of the nation’s largest providers of reconditioned test and measurement equipment. “We’ll be moving in about a month,” Megown said. Megown was able to make the move with a low-rate small business loan that not only helped them purchase the home for their company, but covered the cost of relocating and installing the heavy equipment needed to run the business. Paula Bravo from Roseville-based Community West Bank, who helped finance the loan with Bay Area Development Company, said the economy is improving. “Businesses were showing downward trends for several years. It is hard to justify financing when you don’t know if they will continue. The last couple of years we’ve seen companies do better,” Bravo said. Even the education community is investing. William Jessup University is in the middle of a $17-million expansion that will add 50,000 square feet to its Stanford Ranch campus, including an athletics facility, cafeteria, classrooms and music recital space. One of Rocklin’s largest employers, United Natural Foods Inc., is consolidating its storage needs with a major expansion at its Sunset Boulevard location. “Right now we drive off-site to move frozen product to Sacramento,” UNFI General Manager Josh Dardick said. “It’s a waste of fuel.” UNFI is expanding a parking lot and the back of their 489,000 square foot building as well as doubling freezer space for storage of food products. “We’ll now have considerably less, unnecessary traffic,” Dardick said. Horst hopes businesses will flock to the one-million square feet of new retail space surrounding a new Wal-Mart and Target stores along Sierra College Boulevard at Interstate 80. “Those are all exciting things,” Horst said. _______ Rocklin Growth at a Glance • United Natural Foods: 54,000 sq. ft. freezer • Esurance: 51,000 sq. ft. lease • Wal-Mart & Target: 1 million sq. ft. of retail • Blue Oaks Cinema: 800,000 moviegoers • New Tower Mart at Sunset & Lonetree Source: City of Rocklin, UNFI, Tower Mart Stores