This is from my 2012 campaign.

What Next for NUMMI?

NUMMI provided Fremont and the surrounding area with several thousand manufacturing jobs. We need to focus our efforts on replenishing these manufacturing jobs.

The NUMMI auto plant closure affected not only the 4,700 NUMMI workers laid off in April. Effects rippled through the Bay Area. Dozens of NUMMI suppliers laid off staff. The City of Fremont lost $2.2 million/year of tax revenue that had been funding police, the fire department, road maintenance and schools. Small business owners have told me that they feel the NUMMI closure has significantly hurt their business.

Before it was announced that NUMMI was closing, our City leaders were pushing the idea of a ballpark. NUMMI, in addition to many businesses at Pacific Commons, complained about the traffic that would come about as a result of the ballpark. The City didn’t seem deterred by these concerns and continued their efforts to get a ballpark. In my opinion, when the City’s largest employer raises concerns, you’d better make sure these are addressed. Our City leaders didn’t. When Catellus, the landowners of Pacific Commons, pulled the plug on the project, the City tried to move the ballpark even closer to NUMMI leading to a new round of public concerns.

In July of last year when it became pretty clear that GM and Toyota would be abandoning NUMMI, our Council had little to say. Despite the looming crisis, the Council took its normal summer recess in August. They had few comments to the press during this time and these were to discuss what should be done with the site after NUMMI leaves. After NUMMI announced it was officially closing in August of last year, again, our leaders didn’t have much to say. This silence continued for over four months. And then in January of 2010 we found out that our City had actually been doing a lot in secret to study putting a ballpark on the NUMMI site. The City had spent over $150,000 and much staff time resurrecting the ballpark idea.

A full seven months after it was announced that NUMMI would close, our Mayor noted that “We plan to do a very extensive feasibility study, land use study, financial study.” Shouldn’t this study have started last August, or even earlier? Shouldn’t the City have some concrete analysis done at this point? The City of Fremont’s web site confirms that the City has done little over the past year except analyze the ballpark option.

The City should have been exploring all credible options to replace jobs lost at NUMMI as soon as GM/Toyota made it clear that they were leaving. They should have taken decisive action and worked publicly with residents, business leaders, labor and other stakeholders to plan the future of the property.

What Now?

Now that NUMMI is officially shut down, what should the city do next?

Should we build a ballpark? I have already made it clear that I don’t think this is the best use of the NUMMI site. The City has pursued this single idea, one which is very unlikely to happen, and one which will not restore the manufacturing jobs lost by NUMMI’s closure.

Part of the ballpark ‘conceptual plan’ was that the City would spend over $80 million on improvements to the site. If the City has this much money to spend on site improvements shouldn’t they have been talking to manufacturers to see what improvements might work to help lure them to the site?

Do we want more housing? A recent article showed that housing developers are chomping at the bit to gain access to the “370 flat acres between two highways.” The site is also valuable because it will be near a BART station starting in 2014. David Cropper, managing director for TMG Partners described the site as “a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

I feel strongly that Fremont needs jobs more than it needs housing at this point. If we let this land be rezoned for housing, it will be lost to manufacturing forever. Does Fremont want to be a bedroom community to Silicon Valley or have its own vibrant economy? I advocate for the latter.

Should this be office space? Last I checked, we had two million square feet of unoccupied commercial real estate in Fremont. The large area to the south of Pacific Commons is zoned for light industrial/office. There is no need for more office space right now in Fremont.

Do we want a new downtown with retail, office and housing? Existing retail is already struggling – adding more retail just means the same number of dollars being shared by more stores – leading to more store closures. We should focus on revitalizing our historic downtown retail areas not on creating new ones.

Why manufacturing? Manufacturing provides living wage jobs for people of diverse backgrounds and infuses our economy with a huge amount of spending power. Manufacturing workers average $69,000 per year, while service jobs only pay $43,200 on average (link).

President Obama has recognized manufacturing jobs as an important part of his plan to revive the national economy. Indeed, much of the stimulus funding has been focused on this. At a recent conference in Newark, Congresswoman Barbara Lee noted how generating exports via increased manufacturing is critical to a healthy economic recovery.

We should be exploring all manufacturing options. Is Siemens interested in building high speed trains here? Which green tech manufacturers would want to join the tech clusters already located in southern Fremont? Fremont has so much to offer potential manufacturing employers: an educated workforce, access to train lines and port cities, mild weather and many amenities. In May I gave a presentation that discussed how bringing green manufacturing jobs to Fremont is a very real possibility.

We need to have a sense of urgency about trying to restore the manufacturing jobs that were lost with the closure of NUMMI. I refuse to buy into the pessimistic idea that trying to restore manufacturing to the site is a lost cause. New manufacturing operations have recently come to San Leandro and Milpitas, as well as other surrounding cities. There is no reason they can’t come to Fremont.

Our City government needs to be more proactive, inclusive, and transparent. We need government that works for the people of Fremont. I believe creating jobs is vitally important to the health of our City and will work hard to do so when I am elected.