Economic Development Coalition’s 2017 Valley of Innovation said ‘We’re Open’

Doug McAllister, executive director of the Economic Development Coalition, describes the region as “the center of everywhere” in his pitch to attract businesses to the area at the recent VOIC 2017 We’re Open Conference. Paul Bandong photo

“We’re Open” was the theme of the Economic Development Coalition’s 2017 Valley of Innovation Conference held Thursday, Oct. 26, at the Pechanga Resort & Casino. The event was designed to inspire businesses to move to the region.

“The Valley of Innovation is the logical choice for anyone that plans on doing business in southern California,” Don Murray, president of the EDC, said. “Centrally located to everything… provides easy access to some of the largest markets in the nation, while providing a quality of life for business owners and their employees that is unsurpassed anywhere in the state.”

The slate of eight speakers shared their expertise and experiences on why businesses thrive in this region.

Joe Cesta, managing director of the Ontario California Bureau of Real Estate, gave an overview of the industrial, commercial and residential real estate markets.

“Corporate clients are more concerned about transportation, labor and availability than rent,” Cesta said.

He noted the region’s proximity to ports and shipping, the well-educated labor force and affordable rents.

“Your market is a great market to do business, but not just a place to do business, but to call home,” Cesta said.

Mike Hestrin, the Riverside County district attorney, manages the fourth largest district attorney’s office in the state, serving the 10th most populous county in the country. Hestrin credited excellent local police agencies and his department’s tough line on crime and criminals for the region’s high rankings for community safety. Hestrin has also implemented crime prevention programs, sending staff into schools and juvenile rehab programs to influence children that “are at a crossroads.”

Laura Badillo, executive director and co-founder of Santa Rosa Academy, shared the journey of one of the most successful public charter schools in the state, beginning in a garage 13 years ago to today with 1,500 students and incredible facilities. The school currently has a waiting list of 4,000 students.

“We love going to work,” Badillo said. “Santa Rosa Academy is the second happiest place on earth.”

They have been asked to open up more schools.

“This is an amazing job,” Dr. Roger Schultz, president of Mt. San Jacinto Community College, said. “We are transforming lives and transforming communities.”

MSJC was recently recognized as a Top 150 Community College in the nation by the Aspen Institute. Schultz noted that an educated workforce already exists in the region: college and professional education levels exceed the statewide average and a quarter million workers commute to neighboring counties every day.

California State University San Marcos and MSJC provide traditional as well as short-term courses to meet workforce and training needs, “aligning curriculum and degree programs to reflect the needs of the fastest growing industry segments in the region,” Shultz said.

“Our people have called the Temecula Valley ‘home’ for thousands of years,” Mark Macarro, tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, said.

In 2002, they built the current casino and resort facility with nine restaurants and 517 AAA four-star rated rooms. They created 5,200 jobs with a local economic impact of $1.1 billion.

Their current expansion will add 568 AAA four-star rated rooms, a two-story, stand-alone destination spa, a resort-style pool complex and a large event center. The $300 million project has created 3,000 construction jobs and 750 permanent jobs with a combined economic output of $550 million.

“This is not an end, but a milestone,” Macarro said. “The vast majority of growth in this region has happened in the last quarter century. This growth will continue and investing in our own area will pay long-term dividends.”

Car dealerships in the area have grown as well.

“My partner, Rick Hendricks, has 103 dealerships across the country,” Boris Said, owner and operator of Boris Said BMW in Murrieta, said. “And he said ‘none of them have what you have in Murrieta.’ Since we’ve opened, the city of Murrieta has been more like a partner than an adversary. They make it easy to do business here. It’s a big city with a small-town feel. We hire local and do most of our business locally.”

The business has created 200 jobs. Said is about to break ground on a new $25 million, 67,000-square-foot building.

“The future of the city and county is really good,” Said said.

Carmax built their flagship store in Murrieta recently with 94,000 square feet on 35 acres with a production facility, an auction facility and a retail store. Chris Peterson, general manager, shared why this location was selected.

“With 13 stores in the area, we have had great success in the Southern California markets,” Peterson said. “This is a strong central location to feed our other stores. The area is fast-growing; there is a ready and talented workforce; there is strong community support and great visibility from the I-15.

“A lot of smart people analyzed a lot of data before the company made this investment,” Peterson said. In six months, they have already achieved their six-year projections.

Gary Jacobs of Jacobs Investment Company owns the Lake Elsinore Storm. Jacobs said that he made an initial investment of $5 million and an additional $4-5 million into the ballpark and surrounding area. They have 25 full-time employees, but on a busy night, they employ up to 150.

Jacobs is currently building a 520,000 square-foot indoor sports complex with 58 multi-use courts, restaurant and other amenities.

“This will bring a lot of people into the area: volleyball, basketball, cheerleading. It will be nationwide TV-ready,” Jacobs said. “Four million dollars has been invested already; it will be over $70 million at build-out. This is one of the largest and fastest-growing areas in the state. I’m looking forward to many great years of investment in the area.”

Doug McAllister, the EDC executive director, summarized.

“This conference is geared toward companies that can do business anywhere in the world,” McAllister said. “We are the center of everywhere. The commute will reverse because commerce and business will be here. This area is relatively inexpensive. We have a highly-trained and qualified workforce. The location is central to other commerce centers. We have great transportation options. It is tops in safety and education. And all of that happened because of our culture. We are the Valley of Innovation – we find a way to get to ‘yes.’ There is a window of time to take advantage of the opportunity. Now is the time, this is the place… for business and quality of life.”

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