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New Nella Oil purchase signals jobs, tax revenue for Auburn

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn-based Nella Oil Company’s acquisition of a Southern California fuel business brings with it the promise of local job creation and increased sales-tax revenue for the city. Nella Oil, which is headquartered at the Auburn Airport Industrial Park, announced the signing of an agreement to buy Bakersfield’s Fleet Card. The sale should be completed by the new year and includes acquisition of Fleet Card’s subsidiary, Cal Valley Equipment. Walt Dwelle, Nella managing general partner, said Wednesday that Nella, under the Flyers Energy brand, is the largest commercial fueling network in the nation and Fleet Card, with a large presence in Southern California, is No. 3. Dwelle said that while the transfer of ownership among the two privately held businesses has yet to be completed, it’s expected that the acquisition will create at least five new jobs at the Auburn headquarters in the administrative and clerical areas. Nella, which had $1.3 billion in revenues last year, has 55 employees at headquarters and a total of 425 in California and Nevada. Fleet Card has fuel-sales volume about 40 percent of what Nella has, Dwelle said. Because Nella is headquartered in Auburn, sales-tax revenue would filter to the city it is based in. While Dwelle said he couldn’t estimate how much sales tax the acquisition would mean for Auburn, “it should be a benefit.” City Manager Bob Richardson said he was not allowed to break down sales-tax revenue from any one business but that Nella is in the Top 10 for the city. Sales-tax revenues make up about a quarter of the city’s $8.2 million general fund for this year. While based in Auburn, Nella had been headquartered on sales-tax rolls in the Bay Area until 2005. Its move on paper to Auburn resulted in an immediate increase in annual sales-tax revenue for the city of $600,000, according to earlier reports. Richardson declined to confirm that figure. “Nella Oil is a strong, well-run company and has always been a big supporter of the Auburn community,” Richardson said. “We’re hoping to see them succeed because the community at large succeeds as well.” The family-owned Nella is returning to its Southern California roots, where Dwelle’s grandfather, Walter, developed a refinery in 1931. The name of the business is his last name – Allen – spelled backward. Nella markets primarily in Northern California and Northern Nevada while Fleet Card focuses primarily on Central California and the Los Angeles basin. “The companies are very similar in terms of their heritage, marketing styles and emphasis on customer service,” Dwelle said. “The geographic fit will give Flyers a much stronger presence throughout California and we are very pleased to welcome the Fleet Card and Cal Valley teams to the Flyers family.”