Visionary – Phillip K. Smith, Jr.

President and Chief Operating Officer, Sunrise Company

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Photo by Ethan Kaminsky


Phil Smith moved to the desert 34 years ago from Los Angeles, and noticed that it was a very seasonal community. “Everything closed in the summer,” he says. “Now, all of that has changed. There are very good opportunities here, particularly in contrast to 30 years ago. It’s open for business.”

“We’re a unique resort community in terms of our market because of our proximity to Los Angeles and Orange County,” says Smith, who serves as president and chief operating officer of Sunrise Company, a real estate developer. “There’s really no other large resort community in the nation that has that demographic base.”

Smith has experienced the boom in valley growth firsthand: Sunrise has developed eight large master-planned golf communities and other real estate projects, building more than 10,000 homes. Toscana Country Club, the firm’s current project, is “far and away the best community that we’ve ever built,” he says. “It’s also the most luxurious. We have wonderful facilities, beautiful golf, a great clubhouse, and health spa, but what really sets us apart at Toscana are the members. We’ve attracted a terrific group of people who are very welcoming and energetic and enthusiastic. They say the best thing about Toscana is developing lifelong friends.”

Smith appreciates all the Coachella Valley has to offer. “It’s been a terrific place to raise a family,” he says. “It’s incredibly beautiful. There’s a casual lifestyle here that’s very different than in the big city. We’ve developed a really good social infrastructure, with good restaurants and shopping, and excellent health care. We have great visual and performing arts — the Palm Springs Art Museum, the McCallum Theatre. We have all of those resources in a relatively small, close-knit community. It’s a fun place to be.”

Smith says that lifestyle also helps retain good workers. “We have many long-term employees,” Smith says. “Our senior management team has an average of 15 years with Sunrise Company. Workforce development is something the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership and others are working on, and we’re behind that.”

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