JM Equipment Co. has acquired the former Sexton Chevrolet building in Spreckels Park with plans to consolidate its Modesto and Stockton operations in Manteca.

The firm is targeting a May 1 opening. They will have 80 employees at the Manteca location.

JM Equipment will be opening just 11 months after the federal government forced the closure of Sexton Chevrolet and killed a potential sale of the dealership while General Motors was temporarily under their control when bailout funds were injected into the nation’s largest auto manufacturing firm. The federal government wanted GM to shed dealerships and blocked the sale of any that were in trouble regardless of how strong the prospects there were for success. Sexton Chevrolet opened the $5 million dealership with 32,000 square feet in June 2003.

“We’re going to have the swankiest forklift dealership in the Western United States,” quipped Ray Azevedo, who is one of the six owners of the firm that sells and services farm equipment, forklifts, and material handling apparatus from Yuba City to Bakersfield.

The other owners are Dave Baiocchi, Audie Burgan, Ed Henriques, Vincent Victorine, and Brian Wagoner. The transaction was handled by Veltheon & Associates of Modesto.

“We’re looking forward to having JM Equipment in Manteca,” said City Manager Steve Pinkerton. “They’re a good fit for Spreckels Park.”

Pinkerton noted the firm that was founded in 1936 expected to be a wash when it comes to replacing sales tax lost when Sexton Chevrolet closed. Sales tax is critical for Manteca as that is the biggest source of general fund revenue to provide basic municipal service such as police and fire protection.

JM Equipment with 80 workers has double the employees that Sexton Chevrolet did.

Pinkerton said commercial leasing agents are looking for other tenants for Spreckels Park that have operations in both Modesto and Stockton and who may be looking to centralize and consolidate to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

“Spreckels Parks is perfect for that given it is right on Highway 99 and the Highway 120 Bypass,” Pinkerton noted.

Manteca is centrally located to the Northern San Joaquin Valley market with easy access to both Highway 99 and Interstate 5. There are 750,000-plus consumers within a 20-mile radius including Modesto, Stockton, and Tracy.

Frito Lay was the first firm that combined separate distribution centers in Modesto and Stockton into Manteca when they built the first distribution center in Spreckels Park at Moffat Boulevard and Spreckels Avenue. Since then a number of smaller companies that serve both Modesto and Stockton have done the same from satellite dish TV operations to water supply firms.

It is one of the main reasons why JM Equipment chose Spreckels Park.

“It gives us good access from Highway 99 and Highway 120,” Azevedo noted.

He said the current commercial market made it an ideal time to make such a move.

Azevedo noted that the site has plenty of room for company growth and “will serve as JM Equipment’s world headquarters.” He also added there is a possibility they may eventually be adding more workers in the future.

JM Equipment has been the top Nissan forklift dealer in California for three years running. Besides farm equipment, forklifts, and material handling equipment they also have an electric vehicle division that boasts several product lines including Cushman electric vehicles.

The partners take pride in “serving the food basket of the world” as well as the growing distribution centers in the valley.