The City of Festivals anchors the Coachella Valley to the future.

Judith Salkin Vision

Mural of the History of the Date Industry in the Coachella Valley in downtown Indio at 45013 Oasis Street. Painted by Chuck Caplinger. Indio was once the date capital of the world and hosts the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival every February.

Did you know that Indio was recently recognized among the Top 20 Best Cities for Young Families in California by for its “unparalleled quality of living?” It is now the city with the youngest population in the Coachella Valley and is attracting more families looking for a better quality of life and businesses that want to serve their needs. More than 3,000 new housing units are planned or under construction to accommodate this growth, with the population expected to blossom from 89,000 to 100,000 by 2020, and to 170,000 by 2035.

This past year has been one of growth and challenges that are being met head-on by Indio’s City Council and staff.

Elaine Holmes

MAYOR Pro Tem:

Michael Wilson

Troy Strange
Glenn Miller
Lupe Ramos Watson



As Riverside County’s second County Seat, Indio is the site of the new East Valley Detention Center, which will honor the late John J. Benoit, the Fourth District County Supervisor and former California Highway Patrol Commander in Indio. He also represented the area on the Coachella Valley Unified School District and state legislature before serving as a Supervisor. The facility is scheduled to open in the summer of 2018 and is expected to bring in 450 new jobs and add $50 million annually to the local payroll.

Indio’s new state-of-the art detention center will be named after the late 4th District Riverside County Supervisor, John J. Benoit.

Indio’s reputation as the City of Festivals continues to grow internationally with nearly 1.4 million visitors each year. The Matador Network, which is the world’s largest independent travel publication, named Indio as the best city in the United States for live music. Trivago the hotel website, also rated Indio as one of the top emerging travel destinations in the U.S. With more visitors, comes income from TOT (Total Occupancy Tax) from hotels and vacation rentals during the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach Country Music Festival. “We saw about $500,000 in revenue from those rentals,” said Rockwell. While there’s no Desert Trip in 2017, Alex Haagen IV of Empire Music Ventures has created the Desert Oasis Music Festival for October 7–8. “We know hotels and other businesses were hoping for another Desert Trip,” Rockwell noted. “Instead, local promoter Alex Haagen, who also produces the Rhythm Wine and Brews Experience in March, has stepped up and created a new festival for a new audience.”

One dent in Indio’s business scene came in January when the Super Target was shuttered. “It was a business model that just wasn’t working anymore,” Rockwell says. “But we are working with the company on possibilities for filling the space.” In July 2016, the city hired Carl Morgan as the Director of Economic Development, whose purpose is to bring new businesses and brands to the city. Morgan has met the challenge by creating a colorful, informative marketing package highlighting the city’s business-friendly environment and identifying the city’s key economic zones that are prime for development.


The Desert Trip music concert by Goldenvoice brought The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, and The Who to the Empire Polo Club in Indio.

In general, the city is doing well, says Morgan. The $71 million Jefferson Street Interchange Project on Interstate 10 was completed in late summer. The I-10 Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram dealership has moved into the I-10 Auto Mall. Other new businesses include an Arco AM/PM near Fantasy Springs, the valley’s first Dunkin’ Donuts, Hibbet Sports, and a Crossfit Shadow Hills.

The area around City Hall is exploding with College of the Desert set to expand its Indio campus to accommodate an additional 4,320 students by 2020 and Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital Pediatric Clinic is renovating the former USDA building to serve 135,000 children in the region with urgent care, imaging and labs, and on-site physical therapy set to open in 2018. A new Downtown Indio Specific Plan has also been developed to grow the area into a vibrant arts and culture destination for residents and tourists.

Indio’s reputation as the City of Festivals continues 
to grow 
internationally with nearly 
1.4 million visitors each year.

A WalMart Neighborhood Market will open in early 2018 at Fred Waring Drive and Jefferson Street, creating 50 new jobs. And in a city where more hotel rooms are needed, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott broke ground in June and will open in Spring 2018. Additionally, a Hampton Inn by Hilton is planned north of the freeway at Monroe Street.

Various areas of the city have been strategically laid out for different business types, says Morgan, such as the old Indio Fashion Mall in the Highway 111 business corridor.


The valley’s first Dunkin’ Donuts.

The Economic Development Department is actively marketing the property and “there’s more interest in it than we expected,” Morgan noted. The plan is for a developer to partner with the city to create an experienced-based mixed-use concept, to include nearly 20-acres of city-owned land behind the mall with retail, restaurants, hotels, offices, and open space for entertainment. “Retail is evolving and changing, and traditional malls are moving toward experience-based centers that are appealing to Millennials,” Morgan said.

Public safety continues to be a priority for the city. Last year Chief Richard Twiss retired and Seattle Police Department Deputy Chief of Staff, Mike Washburn, was hired as Indio’s new police chief. It’s hard to be more than a bureaucrat commanding 1,300 sworn officers, and Washburn wanted to work for a city where he could be more hands-on.


The valley’s first Dunkin’ Donuts; The Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital Pediatric Clinic will open in downtown Indio in January 2018, to serve nearly 135,000 children in the Coachella Valley.


The newly built I-10 Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram dealership is part of Indio’s North Freeway Commercial Zone and has a capacity to add more auto dealerships.

Chief Washburn has taken his first year get to know each member of his staff. “The greatest insights come from talking with the officers who work every day with the public,” he said. Washburn meets regularly with a panel of community leaders to improve relations and outcomes between the public and the department. He has also revamped the weekly crime meeting and reports to give a more comprehensive view of what is happening within the city.

With the recent passage of Measure X, funds will become available to hire more officers and support staff, he said. “What I am really looking forward to is moving the department into new facilities at the Civic Center so that we can be in the same building,” he said. “We have detectives working out of a trailer, which is hard for everyone.”

“Indio is the ‘Heart of the Valley’,” says Mayor Elaine Holmes. But to keep the city from falling into the financial decline it faced in the Recession of 2008, she praised both staff and Council for their work in bringing Indio back to robust fiscal health. “It’s exciting to be in this position,” she said. “But we know we need to develop a city with a sustainable future.”

The city’s history can’t be forgotten, and she looks to the Coachella Valley Historical Museum and groups such as the California Women in Agriculture to keep it alive. “We started out as a farming community and as we have developed, the farms have moved further east. We need to remember where we came from.”

She is a proponent of an open Civic Center and businesses within walking distance of residents.

“I was in L.A. recently and went to the Grand Central Market,” she said. “It was a wonderful atmosphere where you could walk around, grab a bite and shop. And it was so vibrant at 8 p.m. A place like that creates a sense of community, which is what we all want for Indio.”


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SOURCE: Esri Business Analyst 2017/Coachella Valley Economic Partnership