Real estate and tourism continue their upswing in Greater Palm Springs, fueling continued local economic recovery, according to experts at the Coachella Valley Economic Forecast Conference, held April 10 at the Miramonte Resort & Spa.
“There are no signs of trouble ahead,” says Manfred Keil, associate professor of economics at Claremont McKenna College.
Housing starts will help drive employment locally as builders ramp up to meet growing demand here, especially from the wave of retiring Baby Boomers and Canadian snowbirds.
“Overall, the housing sector appears to have turned the corner in the Coachella Valley,” the conference report says. “The region has experienced double-digit increases in median home prices over the past two years. The number of default and foreclosure notices have fallen significantly from their peaks in 2009. We expect the housing sector to continue to improve over the next couple of years.”
While construction jobs have regained only about 10 percent of their pre-recession numbers locally, Keil says, recent commercial real estate transactions and an increase in residential building permits could signify that the valley is headed for a construction uptick.
Susan Harvey of Desert Pacific Properties in Palm Desert cited Goldenvoice’s recent $20 million purchase of 268 acres in Indio as a major transaction, along with Lennar’s $50 million Griffin Ranch deal, which includes 221 lots for residential builds.
Pulte Homes also plans to construct an active adult community on 320 acres across from the Agua Caliente Casino • Resort • Spa in Rancho Mirage, she says.
The long, slow bounce back from the recession is “solid, but tepid,” says UCLA Anderson Forecast senior economist Jerry Nickelsburg. According to Keil, education and health services — which has increased its share of the job market by 6.6 percentage points — are filling the gap left by the construction losses, with government jobs rising 1.3 percentage points and leisure and hospitality rising by 0.6 percentage points over 2012.
The tourism industry is also seeing an overall bump in business, says Bob Thibault, vice president of marketing for the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. Occupancy rates are up 4.1 percent over last year. (With 46,800 tourism workers locally, the industry comprises 24 percent of Coachella Valley jobs.)
The bureau reports significant interest from visitors from China and Australia, and is reaching out to markets in Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and Northern California with TV spots, in-flights ads, and print publications to increase off-season travel. It continues to focus on growing midweek visits and meeting planning, he says.
Healthcare also is adapting to the changing and aging market, transitioning from volume-based practices to quality-based, says Rich Ramhoff, director of marketing and public relations for Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. The hospital is actively recruiting medical professionals, with a particular emphasis on hiring nurses for external managed care to meet local demand.