In 1996, the Agency entered into an agreement with Safeway to construct a food processing plant in the Western Industrial Park. Before construction, the 18.4 acres sat vacant, resulting in annual property tax of less than $3,000 and more importantly, no jobs. The agreement hinged on the Agency purchasing the land for $646,450, reselling it to Safeway at a lower price, and paying a portion of the property taxes for the first six years of the development. The Agency contributed a total of $601,175. In exchange, the community gained more than 80 full time jobs with benefits and an industry contributing more than $100,000 in annual property taxes. The Agency’s investment was returned in less than five years and has been profitable ever since.
Safeway has been a remarkable corporate citizen, donating several tons of food to charity drives and community events and sports. Safeway’s practices earned it the City of Merced’s Mid-Size Business of the Year in 2004.