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Kings County Economic Development president John Lehn will retire in April, he has announced.

County administrator Rebecca Campbell says that the Board of Supervisors received a letter of resignation from Lehn, who is the Job Training Office Director and EDC president, effective April 30, after 41 years of working with Kings County. Lehn says 31 of those years has included heading up the EDC.

“I hope to help with the transition,” said Lehn, adding that the county will start the process of finding a replacement for his position. Lehn says both locals and candidates from out of the area will have a chance to apply. Lehn, who lives in Hanford, says he has no plans to leave the area.

Asked how the economy is doing in Kings County, Lehn says it is the best in a while pointing to low unemployment and the fact that companies have now acquired and plan to open two large vacant buildings totaling about 2.6 million square feet.

Kings industrial inventory is low for a change. ”We are even seeing signs developers may build spec space here" due to expected demand, he said.

Some of that demand is coming from non-traditional sources including an influx of cannabis businesses as well as a start-up electric car maker.

One cannabis grower acquired the old cotton storage complex at 1.6 million square feet and Faraday Future, the electric car maker, has leased the 1 million-square-foot Pirelli Tire building after decades of it sitting idle.

Asked if Faraday Future is making progress on its Hanford plant, Lehn assures that behind the scenes “there is a lot going on” leading to the remodeling of the big building to make the prototype speedster electric car and the beginning of the hiring process.

The LA company has been beset with rumors and staff departures in recent months, but no firm news. 

Lehn also says Airgas Specialty Products has begun construction on its industrial ammonia facility in the Kings Industrial Park. Typical uses are nitrogen oxide abatement, refrigeration, food processing and the production of semiconductors.

In other news, Hanford’s Premiere Collision is building a new repair complex along Highway 198’s frontage road west of 12th Avenue. The company is owned by John Nelson.

John Lindt is an independent business reporter. He can be reached at sierra2thesea@gmail.com

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