Single-family home building is taking off in Kings County in ways not seen in many other areas. The unit here is part of Lennar at Avertine, west of Highway 41 near West Hills College Lemoore, with around 10 homes already constructed. Photo via Lennar
Written by Frank Lopez
From Hanford to Lemoore, business leaders and city officials are excited for what 2024 has in store for Kings County.
Despite a return to pre-pandemic employment levels thanks to 2022 job creation, the community continues to deal with economic hardships.
President and CEO of the Lemoore District Chamber of Commerce Benjamin Kahikina said Lemoore is studying a possible 1% sales tax increase.
Approval of the sales tax would provide opportunity for investment in the city, said Kahikina.
“It will bolster the city’s funds and its reserve and help them produce more resources and services for the community,” Kahikina said.
Though no box-store retail projects are planned, the city is collaborating with real estate consultant Retail Strategies, and there have been talks on how to utilize the former Kmart building.
Kahikina said a new ddDiscount’s will be coming to Lemoore next year, and a Panda Express will open in the same lot as the Kmart building.
From the chamber’s conversations with Retail Strategies, Kahikina expects several restaurants to open in 2024.
In April 2024, the minimum wage for California fast food workers will increase to $20, leaving local businesses concerned on how they’ll be able to compete for workers, he added.
The chamber often gets inquiries from residents wanting to file permits to start a small business or a home business, but the city doesn’t have a temporary-use business license that would work for these types of sellers.
Opening the door to home-based operations could eventually lead to filing for a permanent license and transition to brick-and-mortar, he said.
People’s Cannabis, a cannabis grower and processor based in Irvine, will be moving to the outskirts of Lemoore.
The project will sit on 137 acres and will consist of an administrative facility, with the land being used for outdoor cannabis cultivation.
The project will create jobs and economic stimulation to the city, Kahikina said.
Local farmers and ag companies are concerned with rain, with memories and lasting losses from last season’s rains.
Farmers are anxious if the 2024 rainy season will bring as much as 2023.
Real estate developers are also busy building in the area, Kahikina said, with multiple home development projects in the works.
Lennar is currently working on a home community development, Lennar at Avertine, west of Highway 41 near West Hills College Lemoore, with around 10 already constructed.
G.J. Gardner Homes recently built about 30 houses near the Lemoore Golf Course, and a developer out of Clovis is also looking to build 120-150 homes in Lemoore, Kahikina said.
In Kings County’s seat, Hanford Community Relations Manager Brian Johnson said a lot is happening, with commercial, infrastructure and real estate projects on the line.
In 2022, the city of Hanford allocated $4.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for infrastructure improvements to its downtown.
It is currently in the design phase and should be completely designed sometime in 2024.
“It’s going to be a multi-million dollar investment into our downtown that we haven’t had in decades,” Johnson said.
Funds will be used for vehicle and pedestrian safety projects on 7th street, Downtown Hanford’s main street, and streetscaping.
Johnson said the city is working to remain business friendly and ensuring to keep constant lines of communication with existing businesses and ones that are starting out.
The city is in talks with major chain restaurants that are interested in moving into the main retail corridor on 12th Avenue, Johnson said, which will hopefully attract more retail businesses and restaurants.
A large mixed-used development plan along Highway 198 is in its early stages, with construction expected to start in March 2024.
The development would sit on 40 acres and would include multiple medical buildings, a nursing college, a four-story, 105-room hotel with a conference center, a three-story, 90-unit apartment, and 41,500 square feet of medical and commercial uses.
Currently, there are 10 subdivisions under construction throughout the city, totaling more than 1,300 single-family homes, and another seven subdivisions have been approved, which would amount to an additional 1,785 homes.
The city just had a kickoff meeting for the future Hero’s Park, a 40-acre green space east Hanford that will feature a dog park, outdoor gym, 16 pickleball courts, an amphitheater, community garden, tennis courts, and more.
The land for the park will be annexed.
Johnson said there is a lot of interest from people about moving to Hanford, with the population count expected to cross the 60,000 threshold.
Fabio Ianni, economic development manager for the Kings Economic Development Corp., said everything is looking up for Kings County, including population, employment growth and productivity in agriculture and manufacturing.
Projects of note to watch out for, according to Ianni, include the 415-acre truck stop, retail and industrial Jackson Ranch project in Kettleman City, the Sandridge Partners beef plant in Lemoore and Marquez Brothers expansion in Hanford.