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ONTARIO, CA—Minimum-wage job growth is undeniable, but you can’t send your kids to college if you’re working at Chili’s, said speakers at RealShare Inland Empire here yesterday. The “Local Leaders Roundtable” panel noted growth in low-paying jobs at quick-serve restaurants and in the service industry, but mused about when living-wage jobs would be on the rise in this market.
Larry Vaupel, economic development agency administrator for the County of San Bernardino, asked the panelists what’s fueling the recovery, and Joe Cesta, managing director of CBRE answered that quantitative easing and lower oil prices are largely responsible. However, he said, “locally, we need to get back to construction, and we’re on our way.”
Fred Encinas, SVP of NAI Capital, said in the retail realm, “there are not a lot of big shopping centers in the Inland Empire like back in the heyday. “A lot of developers are headed toward small food-court development featuring restaurant chains like the Habit, Dunkin’ Donuts and Blaze Pizza. Housing being built is also fueling growth. The people living here want retail with an element of entertainment.”
Kevin Boeve, regional manager of Marcus & Millichap, said “opportunity goes where land goes in the industrial market.” He added that the Inland Empire will reach three major milestones in the near future: its employment threshold, its valuation goals and its total transaction volume. “Investment is up for yield and investment inland and east.”
Marc Berg, director of development & acquisitions for Thrifty Oil Co., said GDP growth is one large factor deriving industrial development. “Also, the higher dollar is fueling growth because you can import more for less money than in the past.”
The panelists agreed that statewide incentive programs like California Competes do help attract jobs, but these are just not enough to keep companies in California or attract new ones. Cesta gave the example of Tesla moving from California to Nevada.
Boeve added that no one is waiting for the government to product jobs and said that there have been four areas of job growth in the Inland Empire: service/food, industrial/logistics, medical and construction. He also pointed out that the retail sector is coming back and that we will see continued growth of this sector in the next few years. In addition, he pointed out that the growth of medical business will usher in higher-paying living-wage jobs here.
Some concerns for the near future were the lack of available contiguous available space of 15,000 square feet or more in this market, particularly with adequate parking, and the uncertainty of the world economy as it impacts US real estate. But the panelists predicted that 2015 would be an even stronger year for real estate in the Inland Empire, barring any major unforeseen complications.