After years of empty strategic planning sessions, Hemet may finally have a vision worth promoting
■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
After years of struggling to formulate a strategic plan aimed at economic growth and development, the city seems to have a winner on its hands. It’s utilizing what the city already has to offer and has inspired the Hemet City Council to unanimously push the vision forward and bring the plan to life.
Outdoor recreation will be the focus to drive out-of-area tourism and stimulate the city’s repressed economy. In a meeting held at Simpson Park Feb. 2, city officials and a couple community members attended the strategic planning session that unveiled the plan.
City Manager Allen Parker along with city department heads delivered a vision of what the community could work toward and be proud of. Parker noted that the outdoor industry is vibrant and economically viable, providing numbers to council backing up his claim.
“This could be a niche market for us,” said Parker. “We don’t have to compete with the three entities around us because they’re not competing for this particular market.” Given that, “we ought to give it a shot,” he said.
According to the presentation, outdoor recreation is a “powerful economic engine which generates $887 billion in annual consumer spending, $7.6 billion in American jobs and $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.” Industries associated are: motorized off roading ($52 billion), camping ($167 billion), geocaching, paragliding, hunting and fishing ($63 billion), hiking ($202 billion), running/jogging, on and off-road cycling ($161 billion), bouldering/mountaineering, snow sports ($73 billion), water recreation ($140 billion), and equestrian use.
The presentation addressed the fact that Hemet already has the outdoor activities as part of this “economic engine.” The valley is home to Diamond Valley Lake, the Soboba Sand Drags, the Hemet Jeep Club (founded in the 1940s), Forest River, Big 5 Sporting Goods, hiking trails at Simpson Park, equestrian communities in and surrounding Hemet, Tactical Outfitters, B.J.’s Sporting Goods, and more.
Forming the vision
“I think what absolutely crystallized it was the article in The Atlantic, which took a 10-year old picture and said this is what we are today—and it’s not,” stated Parker.
Heavily communicated by city officials during the planning session was that they are all tired of the negative perception of the city. They all want that to change.
“The thought occurred to us collectively that Hemet is in the middle of a wonderful area for outdoor recreation,” said Parker. “The outside world, we think, doesn’t talk about it very much, but we thought of this as a two-fold opportunity. One, is to tell the world about all the natural resources here and things that you can do outside, and the second thing, is to put Hemet in the middle as a facilitator of getting the public to these particular recreational opportunities.” “I am very impressed by the research and brilliant ideas of our city manager, Allen Parker,” stated Mayor Pro Tem Karlee Meyer when asked for a comment on the city’s vision. “He has truly embraced our city’s beauty and the valley in which we have been established for decades. Instead of forcing some economic plan onto our city, he has recommended we market what is already here. We are in a valley, surrounded by mountains, scenic sites, and endless outdoor adventures. Let us spread the word and give people a reason to come enjoy our valley.”
Implementing the vision
At the moment, the plan is to have a small team dedicated to promoting Hemet’s outdoor recreational opportunities. The FY 18/19 budget, currently under preparation by the city’s Finance Department, will take the plan into consideration allocating the funding to carry it out. The allocated budget will then need council approval when they adopt the FY 18/19 budget.
“The initial tool would be creating and maintaining a portal (website) to these amenities,” wrote Parker in an email. “At the same time, we would concentrate our marketing efforts on the 800-plus retailers that service outdoor activities.”
Also discussed is the potential to incorporate the health and wellness industry into Hemet.