BY JASON CAMPBELL

For a decade the City of Lathrop has been able to get by without an Economic Development Director after the downturn forced the city to cut the position to save money.

Not anymore.

Last week, the Lathrop City Council approved the funding of a new position that will head up the city’s economic development division – work that had previously been broken up between the Community Development Director, Finance Director, and City Manager – in order to manage the numerous large projects that are currently underway in Lathrop.

The new position will be funded as part of the City Manager’s office.

According to the staff report prepared for the item, the economic development director will “be able to assist the City in moving forward with the right types of projects to meet the needs of our growing community” – something that has become a priority as Lathrop has emerged as one of the fastest-growing cities in the South County, and a destination for large corporations that are searching for warehouse and light-industrial space. By helping to promote the development of “an economically viable and balanced community consisting of a wide variety of commercial businesses, retail businesses, services, and other vital outlets for the success” of the community, the new position will take a key role in bridging the gap between residential growth and the jobs and services necessary to sustain a growing community.

With roughly 10,000 homes yet to be constructed in River Islands, and thousands of homes expected to be built as part of the Central Lathrop Specific Plan – which cleared a major hurdle last month with the restructuring of long-outstanding bond debt – the city’s need for retail and commercial businesses to serve that growing population will be at the forefront of the new position’s ongoing goals.

And with millions of square feet of warehouse and light industrial space also on the horizon – with more than 10 million square feet dedicated for just the South Lathrop Commerce Center and the Lathrop Gateway Business Park, both located along the Highway 120 Bypass – the new new position will play a vital role in facilitating the businesses needed to cater to a growing workforce.

The annual salary for the economic development director will range from $119,282 to $144,988 with roughly $50,000 estimated in annual benefits. On Monday, the council approved a budget amendment that will an additional $88,000 for the upcoming fiscal year to allow for the position to be advertised for and recruited.

While the council had the opportunity to use Measure C funds to help fund the position – either in its entirety or using a combination of general fund money and Measure C money – the decision was made to advance the money from the general fund and continue to use Measure C funding to supplement public safety staffing levels for the city.