T■ Bob Haunschild / Contributed
he Inland Empire was hit very hard when the bubble burst in 2008. Bankruptcies and foreclosures were commonplace; homeowners, and small businesses were hit especially hard. But Hemet and San Jacinto have been making a comeback, especially in retail sales, according to several local retailers who decided to invest in Hemet within the last few years.
According to Chris Kirkau at the Los Angeles Times, the Inland Empire (IE) will remain the fastest growing segment of the region for at least the next five years. Kirkau said that Riverside and San Bernardino counties have an edge over coastal regions, as they are much less built out and have space to grow. The recovery here is also much more broad-based.
Stacy Carter, Mid-town Wal-Mart Neighborhood Grocer Assistant Store Manager, said that being in the valley has been a positive experience so far for Wal-Mart. “We are thrilled to be here; we came close to meeting first-year expectations, and so far, this second year we are ahead of our goals.”
Carter indicated that many customers prefer this store because it is easier to navigate, easier to get help, and sometimes even offers lower prices than the larger centers. This store employs more than 100 people, and it is adding more employees as its customer base continues to grow.
“What customers are so surprised at is how immaculate this place is once they get inside,” she confided. “They don’t expect that to be the case.”
Almost every major industry in the Inland Empire has added jobs since the region hit bottom, and Riverside County has added jobs at twice the rate of Los Angeles County, and triple the rate of Orange County, says Kirkau.
This growth covers both ends of the income scale, from lower paying leisure and hospitality sectors to the higher-end professional sectors such as consultants, doctors, lawyers, etc. More than 55 percent of jobs added over the last year were above $40,000.
Elizabeth Rainwater, store manager of the Hemet Burlington Coat Factory, which opened last year to a lot of fanfare, told me that of all the new Burlington store openings this past year, the Hemet store is one of the chain’s best performers. It is ahead of expectations and hiring new cashiers and sales associates as fast as it can. She asked me to spread the good news that they had JOBS! At the present time, Burlington employs 56 individuals and they love being in Hemet.
Finally, I went to Hobby Lobby, which has now been a main attraction here for more than three years in the Hemet Mall. Bob Miller, communications coordinator, said a steady stable of regulars have helped solidify customer relationships.
“It has been wonderful to develop a loyal following of regular customers, many who come in weekly,” said Miller. “Many have bonded with each other and the sales associates and know each other on a first-name basis.”
Miller really enjoys the mall location. “It is really great to be in the mix, when community activities, such as parades take place right in front of our store,” he said. “We love being here in Hemet.”
A bright spot in our valley’s status is its shipping and distribution capabilities for the state and the nation. Amazon.com just opened its second major fulfillment center in Moreno Valley and is working on another in Redlands. Might another one be coming here? We will have to wait and see.
And housing is still a lot more affordable in the Inland Empire, with median pricing at $277,000 compared to Los Angeles at $450,000 and Orange County at about $600,000 for an average single family home. When families move, they bring all kinds of industry with them, such as education, shopping, small home-based businesses…you name it.
I hope these new additions to our community will continue to serve you, your friends and families and that we continue to add jobs and stability in our area and to grow the economy.
Robert (Bob) L. Haunschild
The Valley Chronicle