Antioch’s skilled workforce is ready – ready to see the end of long commutes, ready to be home on time for dinner, ready to see the kids play ball, ready to invest their valuable time and talents in quality industry that’s ready to take advantage of deep water ports, major rail lines, over $1.3B in highway and transit improvements, and a reliable source of water; Antioch’s ready for you!
Known by many as the Gateway to the Delta, this up-and-coming city is one of the fastest growing of all mid-sized locations in California and the centerpiece of East Contra Costa County. Spearheaded by a City Council and staff that is ready, willing and able to deliver, with over 114,000 residents Antioch is the second-largest city in scenic Contra Costa County, and feeling the pressure of businesses and industry looking to escape the high San Francisco and Silicon Valley prices in favor of a more affordable and friendlier place to locate and do business.
To promote the many benefits Antioch has to offer, the city has memberships with a number of regional associations such as the East Bay Economic Development Alliance, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), and other agencies involved in growing the local economy. “A lot of economic development associations focus on other nearby Counties; we see the trend of interest aimed at East Contra Costa County, and being part of these economic development associations gives us the opportunity to connect to other areas with developing or expanding industries looking to grow. We have the workforce and zoned land with great square footage pricing to sustain future economic growth and to create jobs,” says Lizeht Zepeda, Economic Development Program Manager with Antioch for the past two and a half years. Zepeda has over 10 years working to drive local economies. She previously worked for the City of San Jose’s Capital Improvement Project team and redevelopment agency for the City of Richmond.
Antioch has joined a number of new associations it previously was not part of, marketing the city’s commitment to a range of businesses and agencies that may have not considered or do not know the many benefits of Antioch. Lizeht reports directly to the City Manager, who is also involved in economic development efforts for Antioch, which aims to create 18,000 new jobs by 2035 as part of a regional goal. “We are not there yet, but we are seeing the demand for this area, and the impact would be huge – keeping the workforce in Antioch, fewer vehicles on the road, and in increase in development,” she says. “The 18,000 is a great goal to have, and what we visualize as reachable within five to 10 years.”
Northern Waterfront Economic Development Initiative
This aim to achieve 18,000 new jobs in less than 20 years is part of the Northern Waterfront Economic Development Initiative, a regional cluster-based economic development strategy in collaboration with the county and the City of Antioch. Historically known for a number of industries including paper manufacturing — located along the waterfront, as the process requires copious amounts of water — Antioch still has dedicated heavy industrial zoning and strong water rights, unusual for California. Today, the waterfront initiative focuses on advanced manufacturing and five target areas, namely clean technology, bio-tech/bio-medical, advanced transportation fuels, diverse manufacturing, and food processing.
“It is really a great initiative to bring businesses back to the waterfront,” says Ron Bernal, City Manager for the City of Antioch. He has been with the city for the past 19 years, an engineering graduate who previously worked at the City of Dixon in California’s Solano County, was previously Public Works Director/City Engineer/Assistant City Manager with Antioch.
Initiated by Supervisor Federal D. Glover, District V, the project is essential to securing the short and long-term future of San Francisco’s Bay Area, Contra Costa, and economic development along the northern shoreline, which reaches about 50 miles from the City of Hercules to the City of Oakley. With assets including a deep ship channel, marine terminals, and two railroad lines (Class 1), the goals include the creation of skilled, high-wage jobs created through workforce development and training, investment in infrastructure, improving the flow of goods, and other key initiatives.
As a Private-Public Regional Collaboration, private sector industry associations are involved, along with six Contra Costa cities: Antioch, Oakley, Concord, Pittsburg, Hercules, and Martinez. “The initiative is to market collaboratively, not just regionally, but as far out as we can, and that’s done in cooperation with the Contra Costa County,” says Bernal of the project, which started in 2014/15. The area’s deepwater channel and multiple piers allow large ships to enter and dock, and there is a deepwater channel that can take ships up to the major inland Port of Stockton on the San Joaquin River, all the way to Sacramento. Additionally, railway lines include Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), which runs adjacent to the San Joaquin River, and Union Pacific Railroad through the center of Antioch and the region.
“We want to capitalize upon that, being that we are on the front end of those ships that are heading upstream to other destinations,” comments Bernal. One property in particular along the waterfront is presently temporarily being used for staging cars. Formerly a paper mill that was demolished in 2002, the property on Wilbur Avenue is for sale and is attractive to international companies who need to be in California. The goal is to get the best use of the 108 rare waterfront acres. To accomplish this, Antioch is marketing it internationally through the northern waterfront initiative, the San Francisco Business Times, tours and other publications. The City of Antioch also collaborates with GO-Biz, formally known as the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, which was created by Governor Edmund G. Brown “to serve as California’s single point of contact for economic development and job creation efforts.” With $500,000 approved to market the northern waterfront, efforts are coordinated with other cities that will also benefit from economic growth. “I think that Antioch will always be marketing, because there is such a large amount of acreage available, and it won’t fill up quickly — we are always going to be marketing the northern waterfront as well as the area immediately to the south of it, and many other areas in Antioch.”
Currently, one of the fast-growing industries in Antioch is medical, with large companies like Kaiser Permanente. Recognizing the need to provide future workers, Antioch is home to Dozier-Libbey Medical High, an award-winning institution with test scores above the California state average. Acknowledged as one of the finest high schools in the United States and winner of the California Gold Ribbon Award, Dozier-Libbey focuses on health and medicine, ideal for students aspiring to be doctors and nurses.
Less expensive than some other locales in the state, the city is seeing medical and other companies come to Antioch to find a home, along with biotech businesses and manufacturing, particularly ‘green’ companies producing environmentally friendly products. These include a makeup company using organic materials and minerals that found the majority of its clients were in California, along with biofuel companies.
A number of business parks are located nearby, which are ideal for small to mid-sized offices. For larger industries, there is the Antioch Distribution Center, which has three-phase heavy power, large covered dock doors, and yard rail. “This site is pretty valuable,” says Zepeda. “Companies are able to build it out.” And of course, there is agriculture. Although Antioch does not produce wine, the area has some grapevines over a century old which are protected, with the vines used to create wines in Sonoma and Napa. “The reason these vines are very rare is they don’t need water, they are actually grown in the sand,” states Zepeda.
A key city in Contra Costa County, Antioch is open for business. With an extremely responsive staff, the city is available to meet with companies interested in locating in Antioch. The city has room to expand, and is not bogged down by the bureaucracy often seen in larger cities, making it able to expedite approvals faster. “We are not a big bureaucracy, and we are able to accommodate requests,” says Bernal, who works closely with the City Council. “We are able to be responsive, and we are open to all different ideas and types of industries that folks want to bring to Antioch,” he explains.
“We don’t necessarily have preconceived notions of what will and what won’t work; we just want quality business to find Antioch, see that we have an excellent workforce here, and are looking to provide employment opportunities for the east County population that finds themselves spending one, two, or even more hours on the road to and from work each day.”