Five cities pull together to facilitate regional branding
SOUTHWEST RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA- The first step in a regional branding initiative launched Thursday, August 30th in the City of Temecula City Hall, one of the southern gateways into Southwest Riverside County, with more than a modicum of success. The efforts to define the five-city region, traditionally known as “Southwest Riverside County” as a marketable entity, and to solicit support from the five cities began with a consortium of representatives from Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, Temecula, and Wildomar. The regional meeting was hosted by the Economic Development Coalition (EDC) and was attended by council members, city managers, mayors, city staff, business people and developers. The public was invited.
Home to over a half million people and with nearly 3 million people visiting each year, Southwest Riverside County area cities in partnership with the County of Riverside are aiming to collectively promote the area in an effort to attract talent, investment and new companies to the region. This equates to more job opportunities locally and fewer people commuting long hours to work outside of the region. A win-win situation that Southwest Riverside City Officials are very interested in pursuing.
Four industry experts presented testimonials on the need of a more regional identity: Jeff Kurtz, General Manager of Promenade Mall (retail); Greg Morrison, Government Relations Officer at Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District (EVMWD—utilities); Gene Wunderlich, Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors (real estate); and John Mueller, Business Development for Truax Companies (commercial development).
Each city in the region had council members, elected officials, and staff attending the meeting. “The turnout was more than encouraging,” said Doug McAllister, the Director of the Economic Development Coalition and the moderator of the meeting.
“Who are we?” was the question presented by McAllister. “Are we the Inland Empire?” A resounding “No!” filled the room. Then, he urged, “just who are we? We’re cheerleaders for our area,” he said, “but we don’t know how to answer that question. That’s what this meeting is for—to see if there’s a consensus for a regional branding initiative that will define who we are, which ultimately leads to job creation for our residents. Regional identity assists the region and elevates it, highlighting what makes this region such a great place to invest, build a business, and to thrive.”
“We’re operating as one economy,” said John Mueller. “We’re often seen as one trade area. There are 23 million people within a 2-hour drive of us and we’re still missing that valuable label for this area.”
Jeff Kurtz added that it is always difficult when he and his team are talking to potential clients because in general, they don’t know what area of the country he’s talking about. “Our retailers don’t understand who we are when we say, ‘Temecula.’” Kurtz continued, “Recent research has shown that we are considered ‘young,’ there’s tremendous potential for growth, but they discount us just because they don’t understand who we are.”
Greg Morrison explained how his company covers about 100 square miles of the region, which either includes every city, or neighbors up with them. Morrison continued, “Outside of this area, potential employees see us as the ‘I.E.’ But a huge problem exists with that because the ‘I.E.’ includes San Bernardino County, as well as Riverside County, and that term is tainted and doesn’t represent our area.” He went on to add “that the human resources department of EVMWD has the hardest job because when they go to other areas seeking qualified job candidates, they face the same questions, “Where are you? Are you part of San Bernardino?”
“All the cities have done great jobs in branding themselves individually, as well as EVMWD; however, a regional brand would give us the power to reach out and help people understand what we’re a part of.”
Gene Wunderlich estimated that there are 9,000 real estate agents within the five-city area represented by the Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors. Wunderlich conveyed to the group, “that the difficulties in real estate include lumping this region in with all of Riverside and San Bernardino counties; especially, when we visit Sacramento or Washington DC.” Wunderlich continued, “San Bernardino County, for example, has a median home value of $265,000, and while median prices in Riverside County are more like $400,000—in this region, they are even higher.”
Wunderlich explained to the group that lenders are required to follow the conforming loan limits when going for a loan. The cap for such a loan in Riverside County is $453,100, while the limit in San Diego County is $649,750. So, even though you could find a home here for a lower amount, you can’t get a conforming loan for it [the limit at which a lender can make a loan under Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac]. Wunderlich stated, “This makes it much more difficult for even established families to move here, and that is a big problem.
“With a 1.5 million home deficit in California, we need the identity to ease the crunch, as Southwest Riverside County is the housing market for Orange County and San Diego.
John Mueller continued the momentum adding personal experience when Truax wanted to secure financing outside of the immediate area. They did eventually receive financing, but it was a challenge for their company. “Local banks can lend up to about $20 million, but we needed more than that. And who wants to believe that a $100 million hotel is a good idea in a city of 100,000 residents? We had to prove there’s a demand for such a hotel by showing that we are more than just Temecula. There are no comps here for luxury hotels, no comps for the kind of marketplace we’re talking about and no comps for automated parking,” said Mueller.
“We’re all the five cities coalesced together. Once we described the outstanding merits of each city and explained that there are three million visitors a year here bringing in over $721 million in tourist dollars. Then they got over the initial question of, ‘where are you again?’”
Council members ended the discussion with comments and statements about the need for a regional branding.
Jonathan Ingram, the Mayor of Murrieta, said, “we are the last bastion of development between the coast and San Bernardino. This region is exploding. We need to be ready for what is headed our way. We need to make this investment and we need to make it now.”
Rick Gibbs, City of Murrieta added to Ingram’s statement, “the Inland Empire perception is negative because of the lower education and demographics of San Bernardino County and parts of Riverside County. But, in a demographic sense, we’re really an extension of San Diego County.”
Steve Manos, the Council member of Lake Elsinore, contributed in agreement, “we should’ve been doing this a long time ago. Is it time now? My answer is, ‘Hell Yes!’ This is incredibly timely, incredibly important. I would encourage all my colleagues to participate in this.” Manos continued, “If we’re going to spend the money, we should; if we’re going to go ahead and spend the money to get this out there, we should.”
Matt Liesemeyer, Council member of Menifee, “We all have an interest in doing this [creating a regional brand]; that’s why we’re here.”
Jeff Comerchero, Council member of Temecula, “we’ve tried this before, but now we are thinking differently. We need to identify us as something different, and we need to spend the money to tell others. It’s time to do.”
Maryanne Edwards, City of Temecula: “It’s up to us to define the regional brand and then consistently use it for the long term.”
In concluding the meeting, McAllister said, “There are things we want to accomplish in this region that no city can do on its own. Each city around the table has done amazing work in getting their own brand known. Now it’s time for the region and in order to make this work, we all must work together.”
Action items resulting from this meeting included having the EDC work with City Economic Development Departments to put together a Request for Proposals (RFP) for regional branding to be released within the next few months. For more information on how to participate in the RFP process, please contact the Economic Development Coalition at (951) 694-9800 or follow the website at EDCswca.com for news and announcements.
The EDC is a private/public partnership that promotes Southwest California regional economic development through business retention and development, job opportunities, and related economic growth. The EDC is dedicated to expanding the competitive position of the regional businesses in a global economy.
What do you call a meeting where 10 elected officials from five different cities are in the same room meeting with all those cities’ development directors, city managers, and county representatives? Impossible. And yet, it’s happening.
Every one of the five cities in the region will be sending two city council members, a city manager or representative and development directors to meet August 30th at 10:00 in the Community Center at Temecula City Hall. The herculean effort by all 5 of the region’s city managers to get all these people in one place at one time will culminate in a collective understanding of what the EDC and the region is trying to accomplish through Regional Branding.
“This is not a rookie effort,” said EDC director, Doug McAllister. “We know we need the support of all five city councils and members to gain support for the idea of issuing a Request for Proposals that will detail how to cohesively market our corner of California and include every city in that proposal.
“We’re not asking for money,” he said. “We want everyone to understand the scope of what we’re trying to do.” The goal would be consensus on a joint Request for Proposals.
The Regional Branding initiative will be for marketing professionals as well as the general populace since this “is not an individual effort,” said McAllister. “It’s a very important and significant event. We need massive input from everyone!” The result should be a joint RFP that all the cities can support.
The meeting will be August 30, at 10:00 in the Community Center at Temecula City Hall.
For more information, call Doug at the EDC offices: 951-694-9800.
At the August meeting of the Board of Directors for the Economic Development Coalition, information regarding Interstate 15 and the progress being made to ease traffic was presented by speaker, Pat Thomas, Public Works Director/City Engineer for the City of Temecula. Thomas spoke to a packed room at the Economic Development Coalition Board meeting during its regularly scheduled meeting and described what Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the French Valley Interchange will look like, among other things.
His topic was, “Traffic and the I-15 Corridor.” Thomas was representing the “Move I-15 Through Temecula Valley” regional taskforce, a taskforce comprised of representatives from the five regional cities of Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, Temecula, and Wildomar; from Pala, Pechanga, and county and governmental entities, such as CalTrans and Camp Pendleton.
“Our focus,” said Thomas, “is on unity and collaboration among all parties, and to work towards decision making and implementation to ease the problem of traffic on the I-15 Corridor.” He was invited to speak to the EDC board to educate Board members as to what is at stake, said EDC Director, Doug McAllister. “It’s important that government hears from the private sector to help them make good decisions.”
A report on the progress of the Temecula Parkway Interchange at I-15 noted that construction should be completed by the end of this year. The $200 million French Valley Interchange will likely begin as early as 2020, the caveat being that funding for this phase comes in part from the new gas tax implemented by the state legislature in 2017. If the ballot measure known as Proposition 6 on the November 2018 ballot is passed by a majority of voters, the gas tax will be repealed and the bulk of funding for the French Valley Interchange dissipates.
Of note was Thomas’ report that from data mining, officials now see that most of the traffic that bogs down in and around Temecula’s portion of the I-15 is actually traffic that is heading to—or coming from—cities north of Temecula. Because of cell phones and GPS capabilities, data mining companies can tell where travelers are coming from, where they are going and how often each car makes that trip for the entire length of Interstate 15.
The plans for the French Valley Interchange include adding two lanes to northbound 15, beginning at the Winchester road north onramp and a “fly-over” connector from that point to northbound 15 that will keep traffic from becoming tangled with traffic trying to head north to Interstate 215. Phase 3 will be the overpass over the freeway that will complete the French Valley on-and-off ramps and add additional lanes to the 15 in both directions.
Sticking points described by Thomas included the fact that CalTrans admitted that they do not construct “capacity enhancing projects” such as adding lanes to ease traffic. They explained that the regional partners are tasked with doing those kinds of developments. CalTrans will, however, add auxiliary lanes between exits, such as truck climbing lanes. These are dubbed, “operational improvements.”
Also, the city of Temecula did make a bid for Federal funding through a long and complicated proposal process where it was competing with cities across the States for a piece of the pie from a $200 Billion Federal allocation. Going up against behemoths such as Chicago and Los Angeles, Temecula held its own for two go-rounds before being eliminated. Thomas is not discouraged, however, and said the city will try again next year and the next, if necessary.
Other city projects related to improving the traffic on Interstate 15 include:
- Western Bypass
- Diaz Road Widening
- Overland Drive Extension and Bridge
- Butterfield Stage Road, Phase 3
- Ynez Road Widening
- Fiber Optic Communication/Traffic Signal Coordination System Upgrade
The EDC is a membership organization comprised of area businesses and corporations. “The Economic Development Coalition is a place for business leaders who want to be involved in the Region’s positive growth and influence the direction in which we are going. Through the dedicated efforts of our members, our organization addresses our Regions unique challenges, and fosters the growth and success of our local economy,” said McAllister.
For more information, please contact Doug McAllister at the EDC offices, 951-694-9800, or Pat Thomas at the City of Temecula, 951-506-6153.
Guest Speakers: Scott Agajanian
Date: March 6, 2018 • 9:00 AM
Location: 1 Town Square, Murrieta, CA 92562
In March we’ll be traveling to the City of Murrieta for our Board Meeting. Our speaker for the day will be Scott Agajanian, Murrieta’s Business Development Manager. He will update us on much of what the City of Murrieta is doing to enhance economic development in their city and beyond.
RSVP Required to attend for non-members.
About Our Speaker:
Scott Agajanian is the Business Development Manager for the City of Murrieta and has been in that role for 18 months, prior to that he was with the Murrieta Chamber of Commerce for nearly 4 years, and prior to that he was the Group Sales Manager at Mulligan Family Fun Center since 2005. All of this just goes to explain that no other city would accept him. His hobbies include eating, napping, and jealousy and he is a lifelong fan of Donald Trump’s hairdresser. He is survived by his wife and 3 children, Brinkley the dog and a cat named Roman.
Tuesday, February 6, 2018 • 9:15 am
Our guest speakers: Peter Palmer & Scott Carpenter from PKC Kuebler, APC
Location: TVE2 Building – 43200 Business Park Drive – Temecula
About our Speakers:
Pete provides high-level tax compliance, planning, research and consulting services. He also spends significant time consulting with executives and employees on the impact of changing tax laws and the legislative environment.
Scott provides tax consulting and tax compliance services to a wide range of clients, including manufacturing, contractors, distributors, real estate developers, various service providers, and captive insurance companies.
We invite Business Leaders in our region to gain insight on how you can better raise employee performance, improve leadership skills, and identify challenges in the workplace.
Jonathan Seitz is a Partner in Crestcom Southern California, a Leadership, and Development organization dedicated to delivering results through skill development. Prior to joining Crestcom, Jonathan served on the executive team of two multi-national businesses and owned and managed two successful start-ups. With over 35 years of positive impact through coaching, mentoring, and leading others to achieve, Leadership and Management Development is an extension of his passion and experience.
Brian Link is a business partner with Crestcom of Southern California. Crestcom is an internationally recognized leader in professional workplace development training offering their award winning Bullet Proof® Manager Leadership and Management training program. Mr. Link has executive management experience in the hospitality/gaming industry and is also a retired California law enforcement officer having served over twenty years in varies roles in law enforcement functions from patrolman to management. Mr. Link has a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice Management and a Master of Arts degree in Business Management. Mr. Link has extensive experience in facilitating and teaching before professional audiences. His philosophy is, “If a good leader can foster positive influence, build trust, develop credibility and command respect. Imagine what a bad leader could do.”
The Economic Development Coalition of Southwest California will hold its first State of the Region—Valley of Innovation on April 27, 2017. This important business and industry conference will be held at the Lake Elsinore Diamond.
This year the EDC will introduce the completely re-branded “Valley of Innovation” and discuss the advancements the region has made in business partnerships, the communities, culture, commerce and in making it easier for businesses to locate in here. The EDC’s interests cover the cities of Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar, Lake Elsinore, Menifee and the portions of the county of Riverside.
When asked why anyone should attend this event, Doug McAllister, the Coalition’s Executive Director said, “The purpose of this initiative is to provide a defensible answer to the question: ‘Why is our region the best region in California in which to do business?’
At SOAR’s Phase One in April we are going to familiarize ourselves with what is available in this area so we can introduce our region to the world in October. In April, we will show how our region is coalescing, making us the best place in California from which to access the world’s 6th largest economy.”
The 2017 State of The Region: Valley of Innovation Conference is being held on April 27, from 11:00 to 1:30 at The Diamond Club, located at the Lake Elsinore Stadium.
The event will feature a presentation from Mr. McAllister addressing the question of how to maximize opportunities and meet the challenges of a region that is expected to add four million people over the next ten years. This highly anticipated event brings together state and local elected officials, CEOs, business and civic leaders, transportation and environmental stakeholders, local government staff and others.
Also premiering at the event is the 2017 SOAR Awards for Innovation, recognizing exemplary businesses and government innovation in the region. To attend and learn why our region can legitimately claim to be the future of California, register today at www.edcswca.com. Please see the website to apply for one of the Innovation Awards. For more information, call the EDC at 951.694.9800.