The Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted the 2017 Southwest Regional Economic Forecast Thursday, June 8, at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. This year’s theme was “Business Without Boundaries’” emphasizing the region as an economic force.
The city managers of Temecula, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta and Wildomar gave brief presentations on their respective cities.
Aaron Adams said that the City of Temecula hit 3.5 percent unemployment in April 2017, the lowest it has ever been. The city is consistently lower than the county, state and national rates.
“There are over 53,000 jobs in the city of Temecula,” said Adams, “and Pechanga announced 560 new jobs last week.”
Adams referred the audience to the city website for details on the 168 projects in the pipeline. He then emphasized six main points. Public Safety is enhanced by the passage of Measure S that allowed the addition of 10 additional police officers; Pechanga has contributed to one additional officer. Infrastructure was second: “build it and maintain it beautifully.” Third was “Be Business-Friendly” in spite of California’s tight regulatory requirements.
Adams completed his list with Relationships, Community Events and Know Your Niche, which he noted was Tourism, which contributed over $700 million to the local economy last year.
“Our region is the future of Southern California,” said Grant Yates, City Manager for Lake Elsinore. “We are a 129-year old startup!” he said about the second oldest city in Riverside County.
The city is only 30 percent built out and experiencing rapid development toward their theme of being “The extreme sports capital of the world.”
Yates then shared his “Recipe for Success” which includes creating a vision, implementing strategic initiatives, make city investments, welcome private investments.
“Laying the foundation for growth means investing in ourselves,” said Yates, “These catalyst projects fuel growth and private investment.”
He cited examples of the multiple field sports park which has had over 650 teams and 70,000 visitors since its recent opening, an investment of $8 million in the boat launch and $14 million more in building a world-class campground, building a roadway to open 140 acres of landlocked land and the construction of the 520,000-square foot Lake Elsinore Diamond Sports Center.
Ron Bradley, interim City Manager for Menifee, said that, the city managers are working together in a regional effort to develop the area.
He noted Menifee City Council had approved his $46 million budget proposal the night before, an increase from last year’s $37 million budget.
“We were one of four cities to pass a tax increase recently,” said Bradley. “This has allowed us to add 13 additional law enforcement, seven new fire department personnel, including five paramedics.”
The city has a $170 million capital improvement budget and one of Bradley’s pet projects is the Scott Road Interchange project for which $2 million was recently approved.
“Menifee is in the same position today as Temecula was 20 years ago,” said Bradley.
Kim Summers, who will officially take the office of city manager July 1, said she was, “pleased” to have the opportunity to “work alongside these distinguished men.”
She described Murrieta as a young city with 115,000 residents, an exemplary school district with Academic Point Interest of 853, increasing property tax and sales tax revenues with a balanced and approved $89 million budget. The city is fast becoming a health care hub for the region with Loma Linda Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, Rady’s Childrens Hospital and Health South establishing large presence in the area.
At the recent ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers) in Las Vegas, the city had over 90 meetings in two and one-half days.
“The interest is growing,” said Summers, “and development is picking up.”
Wildomar was incorporated in 2008, said City Manager Gary Nordquist, adding that the city is currently 24 square miles with a population of 35,000 and would reach a population of 55,000 at build-out.
“We are not in a hurry to get there,” he said.
The city is part of the Lake Elsinore Unified School District, has one hospital, one fire station and one cemetery. The entire city is run by 11 employees.
“We are being very selective in order to maintain our rural lifestyle,” he said. “We are ‘The Frontierland of the Magic Kingdom.’ We complement, not compete, with the region.”
Keynote speaker, Lisa Hill-McKay, Senior VP of Public Sector for Buxton, works with proactive cities to improve their retail economic development efforts.
“You are smart to think regionally,” said Hill-McKay, “Retail businesses don’t care about political boundaries; they care about market share.”
Riverside County is currently at an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent and an industrial vacancy rate of only 4 percent.
“Demand for retail space is outpacing supply,” said Hill-McKay, “Research the financial stability of the firms you are trying to recruit.”
For bricks and clicks businesses, she stated that websites are the window to their world. She also stated that Lifestyle Centers – mixed-use development that encourages community gathering – are ‘in.” She then emphasized that “franchisees fuel growth.”
Keynote speaker Dr. Christopher Thornberg, Director of the UC Riverside Center for Economic Forecasting and Development and the Founding Partner of Beacon Economics, LLC is widely considered one of the nation’s leading economists. He explained his process of forecasting based on trends, economic fundamentals and government policies.
“One out of every six jobs created are in California,” Thornberg said. “We have the eighth fastest growing economy in the world. For 25 years, California has been growing faster than the nation.”
He noted that the biggest change in employment growth by income level occurred in the $100K and up category adding an additional 400,000 persons from 2011-15.
Thornberg addressed the Inland Empire, “growing faster than the state since 2011, 15th largest economy in the nation, second in the state, with no dense urban core, 1.4 million jobs with construction growing 15 percent.”
Thornberg said that resident employment income data in Southwest Riverside County showed that 17 percent were making over $100,000, a higher percentage than in Orange County and predicted a housing wave is coming.
“Housing brings bodies which bring growth,” he said. “The big picture is that things are picking up. The Inland Empire will be the fastest growing economy in the nation. There will be a couple of good years – take advantage of it.”