Where the valley’s economics currently stand

Photos by Chris Smith / The Valley Chronicle
The lineup of the forum included Roger Schultz, Fred Fontino, Isaiah Vivanco, Christopher Lopez, Tara Magner, Chris Gray, Gene Wunderlich.

■ By Jacob Doane / Contributed

On March 21, the San Jacinto Economic Forum was held at Mt. San Jacinto College and was hosted by the President of the school, Roger Schultz.
The lineup of speakers for the night included Fred Frontino, President of San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce; Tara Magner, Economic Development & Special Projects Administrator of San Jacinto; Christopher Lopez, Hemet City Manager; Chris Gray, Director of Transportation & Planning for the Western Riverside Council of Governments; Gene Wunderlich, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Southwestern Riverside County Association of Realtors; and Isaiah Vivanco, Vice-Chairman of the Soboba Tribal Council. Each member of the panel brought information that helped create an image of not only the economic standing of San Jacinto and Hemet, but of the entire county.

Each member of the panel brought information that helped create an image of not only the economic standing of San Jacinto and Hemet, but of the entire county.

Magner focused on the improvements, new and upcoming to San Jacinto. A comprehensive report included the updated median age, household income, and home prices. Similarly, a list of in progress, developed, and potential developers was presented to the crowd. Aside from her report, Magner also expressed San Jacinto’s goal to improve the city’s infrastructure and revitalize downtown. This includes the Downtown Pavement Rehab, a project including 26 road segments as well as a project to pave a 1.5 mile stretch of San Jacinto Avenue. In order to begin revitalization, the San Jacinto government purchased the Vosburg facility and hopes to create a community center as well as an event space, a true social hub for San Jacinto citizens.
Lopez’s report focused on the incredible amount of development the city is undertaking. Some of the larger projects are as follows: The demolition of the former CoCo’s Restaurant in order to operate a retail store with three tenants, one of which will be a Habit Burger Grill restaurant; The conversion of the 83,000 square foot Kmart into a building with up to seven spaces for future retail, office, or institutional/educational uses. Alongside a slew of smaller developments, these are just a few of the larger projects the city is undertaking.
Gray’s presentation focused on a wider field than just the valley and presented a series of county-wide trends as well as a few specific to our subregion. They included our valley’s above-standard air quality and healthcare, and lower than average crime rates. His report also included the slight deficit in educational indicators such as our subregions less than average education attainment rate (persons with some college or a college degree) and the slightly less than the average rate at which our high school graduates meet UC/CSU requirements.
Wunderlich, as his title suggests, talked about housing. Similar to Gray, Gene spoke of overarching housing trends. House prices dropped 70 percent in the valley due to the recession from 2005-2008, but since have recovered 50 percent of that loss and over the last seven years the average house price has become much less erratic. As well as presenting a history of the housing market pre and post the 2008 recession, the information he provided painted a picture of a stabilizing housing market.
And finally, Vivanco also spoke on the topic of the newly opened casino, giving a review of their phenomenal reception so far while displaying an overhead flyover of the current casino. “While we are still in stage one development, we are eager to work with nearby cities in order to foster growth in the valley.”
It appears that, while there is still plenty of room for growth, things are looking up for our valley.

Chris Gray gave an informative lecture on the current trends in the Riverside County.
Hemet’s enthusiastic approach to development was reflected in their interim City Manager’s, Christopher Lopez, speech.
Gene Wunderlich’s information about housing trends were direct and easily relatable to our own within the valley.
Isaiah Vivanco discussed how the relationship between the Band of Luiseno Indians and Hemet/San Jacinto promise a better future for both parties.
Tara Magner, having to fill in for a sick Robert Johnson did a fantastic job outlying the current state of San Jacinto.

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