Study: Fresno’s jobs, cash machine is humming thanks to industry. Will lawmakers let it flourish?

A small pocket of south Fresno is generating tens of thousands of jobs and more than $100 million in tax revenue. Activists want to curtail it.

A new study revealed that a small area in south Fresno is responsible for more than $100 million in the city’s tax revenue. 

While the South Central Fresno Business District accounts for over one-fifth of the city’s tax revenue, the city is still trying to figure out a solution to a longstanding zoning issue that could threaten some of the businesses in the area. 


The big picture: The South Central Fresno Business District spans 5,629 acres south of downtown, encompassing over 440 businesses that work in retail, manufacturing, wholesaling, agriculture and other sectors. 

  • There are over 22,000 full-time jobs provided by the businesses directly in the region, and throughout the city those businesses have created nearly 48,000 full-time jobs, which is about 25 percent of Fresno’s full-time employment. 
  • The average annual wage for those jobs is $68,000. 
  • Based on economic data from last year, the district generated $102.7 million in tax revenue and $13 billion in economic activity, which is 35 percent of the city’s total economic output. 
  • The study was conducted by INVEST Fresno, a nonprofit that advocates for local businesses. 

The backstory: Part of the business district has been a central discussion point at Fresno City Hall and the southwest Fresno community for the past several years. 

  • The city approved the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan in 2017, which rezoned 92 acres between E. Vine Ave. to the north, Highway 41 to the east, S. Elm Ave. to the west and E. Chester and E. Samson Ave. to the south from light industrial to neighborhood mixed use zoning. 
  • While businesses that were occupying the properties at the time were grandfathered in to continue operations, the neighborhood mixed use zoning barred any new prospective industrial business tenants from setting up shop. 
  • The southwest Fresno community and the city have been unable to come to a compromise so far. In May, the Fresno City Council directed City Attorney Andrew Janz to explore the city’s options for the land, including a rezone of the property back to light industrial use. 

What they’re saying: “Fresno is a great city with enormous potential,” said Ethan Smith, Chairman of INVEST Fresno’s Board of Directors. “It is clear we need to facilitate an environment that supports policies to not only retain existing businesses but attract new businesses and industries to the area so Fresno can continue to grow and thrive for future generations.”

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