InterView – Dillon Olvera

By Chris Murphy

Dillon Olvera
CEO Beard Land

For years and years, we have heard about new visioning processes, big urban redesign plans and paths forward. Some good things have happened, but most of them by accident. Not since Stanislaus County and the City of Modesto worked together to build 10th St Plaza and change the direction of downtown Modesto, have we really had a plan that is embraced by a diverse group of stakeholders.

This time, there is a good chance the outcome will be different. A new generation of planners are at the table now. As a person that has been on these “visioning” teams before, it can be pretty frustrating to see the resulting inaction. Currently, we had a whole Downtown Master plan, where people wanted downtown multi-story housing with retail below, and so far, we only got ourselves a drive through Starbucks where a multi story development should have been. Can it be different this time? There are talks about a downtown ballpark complex, but a true plan should be even bigger, jobs, infrastructure, training and so much more. Opportunity Stanislaus has teamed up with the Stanislaus Community Foundation to gather a group to work on a 2030 plan. Presentations have been made to key stakeholder groups, but for this to really work, more people need to be brought in to make it a success.

One of the key companies at the table is Beard Land Improvement Company. Despite their land grant projects in the 1800s, the company was formed in 1909. In a sense, it was actually one of the first companies to expand out of Modesto, connecting the Union Pacific (then Central Pacific) to the Santa Fe, now the BNSF with passenger rail service connecting Empire where their industrial land there. Today, Beard Land is the leading industrial park serving Modesto’s largest companies. Dillon Olvera became CEO in 2018 and has become one of Modesto’s leaders for job creation and industrial planning. Dillon is an active swim and waterpolo parent and lives in Turlock with this wife and family. Let’s learn what Dillon is working on.

ModestoView: Why do you think it is so important to have a vision and a blueprint for the future.
Dillon Olvera: In order to execute on anything, you have to a vision and a plan. Why are we here? What are we trying to solve for? Our community’s future shouldn’t be different than what we do in for our business. In our business, we have a vision and a plan. Every employee needs to know what we stand for, and also know the blueprint, or plan to achieve. The blueprint/plan should be measurable and allow us to determine what defines success and achievement.

MV: What are the elements that are currently missing in our planning?
DO: Having a few specific areas of focus helps. Sometimes plans are too overwhelming and become unachievable if they include dozens of elements or too many areas of focus. In addition, the planning needs to come together quickly, have assigned stakeholders, and have the resources and funding to implement. These elements are included in the planning related to Stanislaus 2030.

MV: Why is it so important to get many groups to agree on a direction?
DO: We live in a diverse community, and we need the entire community to define areas of direction and then implement them together. Leaving a group out, or behind, limits the benefit for the community. Uplifting an underdeveloped group within our community benefits the entire community.

MV: How does the Modesto / Stanislaus area continue to be the leader in agri-business as we take a bigger role in supply chain.

DO: Agriculture is the leading traded sector in the Stanislaus area. That said, we should be on the forefront of Agriculture technology and possible reuses of agriculture byproducts.

MV: What are the skills that are most needed in our work force?
DO: Given our large agricultural and manufacturing sectors, there is a high demand for mechanical skill sets and technological professionals that can assist with the growth of our agricultural industry.

MV: What are the obstacles to new company attraction that we need to solve?

DO: We need to expand our existing workforce pool, and develop more people into value-add employees. We also need to consider offering significant tax incentives to attract business from outside the area.

MV: Is there a silver bullet in your recommendations?
DO: I think we have a couple of silver bullets. The first is funding. Funding is the difference this time around. There are significant funds coming into the county and cities from the America Rescue Plan Act, and specific dollars have already been set aside for economic and workforce development. In addition, there are opportunities to get additional state and federal funding. The other bullet is the engagement of the Brooking Institution, a Washington D.C. based consulting firm that has been very successful in putting development plans together for communities all over the nation. The Stanislaus 2030 project is slated to put specific plans in place with specified resources needed to implement these plans.

MV: Modesto / Stanislaus is unique that we are less dependent on the bay area economy, how do we maintain this ?
DO: We don’t want to be a bedroom community for the bay area. This doesn’t help us, we need to have something unique to our region. The obvious area is around agriculture, but other areas of expertise can be derived as well.

MV: CEOs choose to locate companies on more than just available land. What are the attributes about our community that make this the most attractive to a potential new company?
DO: Although there are many companies looking to leave California for a variety of reasons, they will not be able to replicate the beauty and weather in California. Northern California is still more affordable than other areas in California. Stanislaus is a very desirable location, with the proximity to our agriculture, Yosemite, Sierra Mountains, and the coast-line makes this area very attractive.

MV: What do you think we need most to encourage our young people to return after college?
DO: In order to attract young people with degrees, we need more good paying jobs, and jobs with promising or potential growth. In addition, our community lacks young firms, companies that have been in business between 0-10 years. These companies typically have higher paying / more promising jobs and are more attractive to young people.

MV: What do you enjoy most about living and working here?
DO: This is home for me! I’m very fortunate to have a lot of family and friends here. Vacations outside the area are fun and easy to get to. A few years ago, my wife and kids skied at Bear Valley for the last two days of the season, then we loaded up and spent the next several days at the beach, confirming that we are about two hours from the mountains and two hours from the ocean.

MV: Our cultural scene is pretty amazing, what can we do to make it even more important to our future?
DO: We can make it easier to access and have more of it! I am really excited about the new Children’s Museum and Graffiti Museum that are coming soon!

MV: Beatles or Stones?
DO: The Beatles of course, they changed music forever!

You can learn more about the Stanislaus 2030 Blueprint and the process at
Learn more about Beard Land Development at

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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.