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VALLEY AND VENTURA COUNTY BUSINESS | VENTURA COUNTY
REVIEW

5 New Buildings Just Scrape the Surface of Moorpark's Needs

August 12, 1997|RODNEY BOSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Beverly Hills construction company has begun work on five commercial buildings in Moorpark, but though developments may seem impressive, city officials say they do not fill the bigger industrial space needs of the community.

A severe shortage of large industrial space is hurting the city's ability to attract outside companies and is preventing hometown businesses from finding suitable sites for expansion, officials say.

The big fear is that sales tax revenues could remain stagnant, curtailing the city's means of bolstering public services.

"We are getting tight," said Steve Hayes, Moorpark's economic development/redevelopment director. "We don't have room to grow."

That is why last week's groundbreaking of a new industrial site on Science Drive, while good news, is not expected to have enough impact in alleviating Moorpark's shortage.

Beverly Hills-based West America Construction Corp. started work on the first of five buildings to be built in two complexes.

"There is a shortage of available buildings, and the market is now demonstrating that there is substantial demand and little existing inventory," said West America president Nick Brown. "So we are filling a need. We are already talking to a number of prospective tenants and buyers."

Set to be completed later this fall, four of the concrete tilt-up buildings will range from 7,500 to 11,000 square feet; the fifth will be 44,000 square feet. The city has also approved West America's plans to construct buildings of 22,400, 42,000 and 72,000 square feet near Poindexter Avenue.

The big-picture problem: The Science Drive buildings--along with a scant few other developable sites--do not come near to meeting Moorpark's most crucial need, Hayes said. The city needs industrial buildings in the 40,000- to 60,000-square-foot range to maintain a healthy economic future.

"We are in need of increasing our economic development to generate sales tax," Hayes said.

Last year, the city topped the $1-million mark in sales tax for the first time. That's not bad, Hayes said, but it needs to get much better. "We have one of the top income levels in Ventura County, but we're second from the bottom for sales tax generation."

The added revenue is needed to help fuel the ever-growing pressure to fortify public services such as police and fire departments. While the city maintains a solid general fund, Hayes said, "we are straining to keep services at the current level."

The city's predicament is especially frustrating because of the current favorable business climate, said real estate salesman Joe Ahearn.

"A lot of businesses in Moorpark are doing very well and don't have anywhere in town to expand," said Ahearn, who also serves as a vice president with the Moorpark Chamber of Commerce. "When businesses begin to prosper and flourish, they want to expand, but they have to go to Oxnard, Simi Valley or Camarillo where there is inventory."

Vortech Engineering is a case in point.

The company has announced it will leave Moorpark with its 27 employees in the near future after failing to find a suitable site for its growing business. Affordability was a big issue in Vortech's decision to say goodbye to Moorpark after seven years, said director of operations Todd Armstrong. "We've been looking for about a year and a half. We needed to find a 50- to 60,000-square-foot facility and were not able to."

Adding to Moorpark's economic development woes is its historical status as a bedroom community.

"Moorpark is a commuter city," Hayes said. "People live here but work and shop elsewhere, taking their tax dollars with them. We need to increase the population to generate the sales tax."

The city is reviewing several residential development projects, Hayes said.

"We still encourage industry to come to Moorpark, and while they are coming we'd like to see them live here too."

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