The Ceres City Council voted 4-1 to contribute more redevelopment agency funds to Opportunity Stanislaus (OS), a non-profit business association funded by private and public sector entities.
Opportunity Stanislaus strives to improve the economic vitality of Stanislaus County by helping local entrepreneurs start a business, by attracting innovative companies to the county, and by helping employers grow their businesses.
Part of their mission is to help companies in their workforce readiness needs, helping navigate the regulatory process, introducing them to financial incentives and financing programs, and helping to locate sites and buildings.
Ceres’ two redevelopment agencies, the Ceres Redevelopment Agency and the Stanislaus-Ceres Redevelopment Agency previously gave $120,000 to Opportunity Stanislaus. Opportunity Stanislaus requested a new annual payment of $25,000 due to increased costs and enhanced goals and objectives. They include:
• Expand the VOLT Institute, which trains local employees in manufacturing, maintenance, production, and operations;
• Lead business-driven talent development to enhance the skills of the existing regional workforce while elevating recruitment practices to improve hiring and retention outcomes at local businesses.
• Improve economic vitality by attracting new companies and growing jobs.
• Grow local business by creating and delivering mentoring for small businesses, including no-cost business advising, low-cost workshops and training.
* Drive public policy and advocacy for stronger business growth by leading the county and region in data-driven public policy initiatives.
Chief Executive Officer Dave White said 21 Ceres residents have undergone training at the VOLT facility in downtown Modesto and obtained jobs that pay $20,000 or more annually on average working for Bronco, Gallo and other small manufacturing firms.
“The Volt Institute has been a tremendous asset in our community,” said White. “We’ve already graduated 100 students with a 97 percent placement rate. They’re landing jobs in industry they never could have achieved before. Sixty-five percent of our students are low-income … are Latino, which is great and we’re trying to reach underserved communities.”
He mentioned one woman, Jennifer Flowers, a single mom who was tired of making minimum wage working for McDonald’s. She graduated early and landed a job making 70 percent more income than what she made previously.
While there are plenty of jobs open in the county, he noted, the hardest ones to fill are those need skills and training.
White said Opportunity Stanislaus has been more aggressive in attracting more jobs to the county and helped snag the Amazon warehouse for Turlock.
“We were part of that to bring a thousand jobs to the area,” White told the City Council. “This is in Turlock but they’ll be hiring Ceres residents, obviously.”
Those jobs will pay $18 an hour or more plus benefits.
Councilman Mike Kline said he formerly wasn’t a fan of Opportunity Stanislaus because he didn’t feel the city got its money’s worth but changed his mind. He supported the request for additional monies but Vice Mayor Bret Silveira was the lone member against.
He told White that he had trouble funding the contribution since OS did not apply for federal COVID relief funds.
Silveira said he wanted to see more details on how Ceres would benefit for the city.
“I don’t know, the organization, to me, seems like it really benefits big business, and that’s great and we have some very successful larger businesses in this area,” said Silveira.
He noted that the Stanislaus 2030 Initiative – of which OS is a partner in – seemed to duplicating the same goals.
Opportunity Stanislaus is comprised of elected officials from all city and county jurisdictions in Stanislaus County plus utility providers, business associations and leaders in business in the county.
It is a regional economic development organization whose job training, demographic research, business recruitment and business development efforts will benefit all of Stanislaus County, including Ceres.