196 197 Our houses are half the price, sometimes a third of the price that Silicon Valley is charging right now for the same number of bedrooms.” At the beginning of the Great Recession, develop- ers in Los Banos literally walked away from finished lots.The city was left with an inventory of about 900 finished lots with streets, curb, gutter, sidewalks, all the wet infrastructure,wet pipes ready to go. Finally, in 2015/2016 there was an uptick in development, and in 2017 it’s still on the rise. “We get the population, we get the rooftops, that is now triggering a commercial increase,” says Elms. “We had some big retailers –Lowe’s was one, but in 2011 they closed their doors. The community took a huge hit with that. They were a large employer, and those folks were either replaced, or supplanted into another Lowe’s store in a surrounding community, or they went on unemployment. At the end of 2015, that property changed hands, and a new owner redeveloped the 160,000-plus-square-foot building.We se- cured a Hobby Lobby; Harbor Freight is coming; we have Fitness Evolution. So, right now we’re experiencing the effects of the increase in our population, as it slowly hits our commercial side. Great for the community; especially sales tax and property tax for the city from an economic devel- opment perspective.” Los Banos also had Kmart occupying a 70,000-square-foot building from the 1980s until October 2015. That’s when the company left town. It was a similar story to Lowe’s - folks lost their jobs and went on unemployment. Kmart had been a good, long-time employer, and its depar- ture devastated the community. Today, however, that building is being totally rehabilitated and Save Mart Supermarkets has expanded into the site. The new owner has revitalized and repur- LOS BANOS, CALIFORNIA posed the building into three suites. Elms adds, “Along with retail tenants, we are also hoping to attract industry and manufacturing.We’re working on a part- nership between the city of Los Banos and Merced County to create an industrial park focusing on distribution warehousing, so we can compete with other communities like Patterson and Tracy that are capturing the goods and services moving on the I-5 corri- dor.” Los Banos also has a general aviation airport with a runway of 3800 lineal feet that is now, essentially, in the middle of the community. Due to airport land use compat- ibility issues, the city is working to relocate it. Doing so would free up some acreage, and, hopefully, attract a regional hospital in, or near, the area. As for downtown redevelopment, it is stalled in the planning stages. Elms ex- plains, “We have an old rail corridor that dissects that core area, and where the track was has been redeveloped through the for- mer Redevelopment Agency. Unfortunately, California no longer has that agency, but at the time Rails & Trails was put in, a rail cor- ridor regulating code was developed with a master plan land use code – that plans the