Aerial view of greater Palm Springs

The Pursuit of Happiness

An innovative spirit and quality of life make Greater 
Palm Springs an ideal place to live and work.

Shelly Cannon Vision

Aerial view of greater Palm Springs

You feel it right away — the earnest, optimistic appeal that has stood the test of time and is experiencing a profound resurgence in Greater Palm Springs.

Since Hollywood celebrities started coming here in the 1920s, this dreamscape has drawn the best and brightest from all walks of life, all in search of the relaxing vibe. Captains of industry come to buy second and third homes, followed by Generation X professionals coming for outdoor adventures and big-time sports and culture events, and now tech-savvy Gen Ys aka millennials. The latter group is bringing their skills to the local workforce and, in many cases, settling here to become entrepreneurs.

For every reason under the sun — natural beauty, perennially blue skies, and great weather among them — the attraction endures. Here, the community is connected, housing is affordable (compared to L.A., Orange County, and, especially, the Bay Area), and the living is easy.

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“The Coachella Valley offers great hiking, scenery, and beautiful sunsets. Being close to Idyllwild gives us additional hiking and cooler temperatures.”

Georg Washington, founder and CEO of software development and technology company Synergy Blue, immediately felt relief from his daily commute when he moved here from his native Australia in 2004. “We’ve lived in metro areas like Sydney,” he says. “The commute was crazy: one-and-a-half hours each way. That’s three hours a day.” He and his wife, Amy, who runs the firm’s operations, say Melbourne was no better.

Washington was running Synergy Information Solutions, which specialized in high-speed gaming solutions for the Native American casino industry, when he relocated to the desert. Seeing the industry’s needs changing, he sold the company and started Synergy Blue in 2009. His coterie of high-level developers, programmers, and artists are on a mission to revolutionize the casino gaming environment to appeal to a younger demographic.

Washington, who partnered with the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians as investors, is keen to see the proliferation of local tech jobs.

“The key is having a good college program in computer science or game development,” Washington says. Selling the qualities of the desert is also important. He attracted one of his best hires, chief operating officer Michael Oberberger, from Nashville, Tennessee, last spring. The software and technology expert, who holds 44 patents with others pending, met Washington at the Vegas Global Gaming Expo in 2016, when Synergy Blue launched its HAWG (Hybrid Arcade-Wagering Gaming) product.

Oberberger already loves the valley. “The air in the desert feels clean, the water is good, there’s a diversity of people, and I love the hiking,” he says, also pointing out his appreciation of the innovative spirit in the community. “Everyone is open to new ideas. They’re on the cutting edge of the casino industry.”

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Greater Palm Springs offers world-class healthcare, wellness, and fitness, with all kinds of activities, from bicycling to yoga, as well as three hospitals and many other facilities.

Another pivotal factor that draws people is the low crime rate. Karen Thomson, who runs an online company called Sugar Free Revolution, moved her family to Greater Palm Springs from Cape Town, South Africa, and waxes poetic about what we take for granted: feeling safe. “We were living in fear,” she says, explaining how innocent people are shot for having cellphones. Coming to the desert was, quite literally, finding an oasis. “We wanted to have our children grow up feeling a sense of freedom. We wake up grateful every day.”

Sugar Free Revolution, a growing organization of nutritionists, medical professionals, and coaches, helps people overcome food addictions. Her company addresses nutrition as well as people’s underlying health issues. The business enables her to live where she wants and, taking the area’s medical professionals and resources into consideration, the desert community seemed perfect.

Greater Palm Springs offers world-class healthcare, wellness, and fitness, with all kinds of activities, from bicycling to yoga, as well as three hospitals and many other facilities.

And if a community’s quality of life is reflected in its arts and culture, then Greater Palm Springs is an aesthete’s utopia. From exhibitions at three Palm Springs Art Museum locations and more than 50 galleries to performances at the nationally recognized McCallum Theatre and many community theaters to distinctive events like Modernism Week, Desert X, the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals, and the Palm Springs International Film Festival, the desert has become an international arts and culture destination.

Creativity even permeates the business community, where innovation is encouraged and nurtured. The Palm Springs iHub, one of 16 innovation incubators in California, along with its nearby 43,000-square-foot Accelerator Campus, is home to startup companies working in renewable energy, clean technology, medical innovation, and digital media. Managed by the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, the Palm Springs iHub has hosted 56 job-creating businesses since its 2011 inception.

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The cost and availability of commercial real estate also rank highly among investors and companies looking to relocate or expand. Whether in land for sale or lease, office buildings, industrial parks, manufacturing and distribution facilities, hotel and resort properties, or shopping centers, the region has cost-effective options with a transportation infrastructure that includes three airports, a foreign trade zone, the Interstate 10 corridor, and rail service.

But what sells everybody on desert living is its quality of life. Eric and Kelly Smith own Redwood Media Group, producer of Artexpo New York, Spectrum Miami, Art San Diego, and Contemporary Las Vegas. The business enables the couple to work from anywhere, so in 2013 they moved from Cleveland to Palm Desert. “The proximity to Los Angeles and San Diego, two hours away, was a plus,” Smith says, adding that the area’s topography tipped the scale in their decision. “Both of us are sports-minded and enjoy being active outdoors. The Coachella Valley offers great hiking, scenery, and beautiful sunsets. Being close to Idyllwild gives us additional hiking and cooler temperatures here during the summer.

“We are avid tennis players so we chose to live in a gated community,” Smith adds, noting an easy access to facilities. “We love to hop in our golf cart and ride to the fitness center to work out or play tennis or golf.”

For those who enjoy sports as spectators, it’s all here as well: from the unofficial “fifth Grand Slam” BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells to many golf tournaments, including the CareerBuilder Challenge and ANA Inspiration.

“We’re so thrilled to see the economic wheels turning here,” says Washington.

He, Thomson, and the Smiths are settled in. They love it here. And they’re encouraging others to come to Greater Palm Springs not only to work but also to pursue the ultimate quality of life.