By Jim Skeen | Antelope Valley Press | Saturday, June 23, 2018

LANCASTER- The Antelope Valley’s economy is booming, but a lack of housing is starting to become impediment.

That was among the messages that came from presentation by economic development professionals during a luncheon gathering of the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance. Speaking at the luncheon were Curtis Cannon, the Economic Development Manager for the City of Palmdale; Sydney Yeseta, a Projects Assistant for the City of Lancaster; Alexia Svejda, President of the California City Chamber of Commerce; Corey Costelloe, City Manager Assistant for the City of Tehachapi.

In Palmdale, much of the economic growth is being driven by the big three aerospace companies- Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman – and by the light rail car manufacturer Kinkisharyo, Cannon said.

Cannon said he did a search on job boards for “Aerospace Engineer” and came back with 150 job openings, including 133 in Palmdale.

The city has also seen  two hotels, Element by Westin and Home2 Suites, open in recent months and others are being planned. The city’s hotels are enjoying an average occupancy rate of 93%.

Housing is a serious issue for the city, Cannon said. There are an estimated 21,000 people commuting into the Antelope Valley for work, many of them for the aerospace companies. There’s little housing to entice them to move to the valley.

With the types of jobs coming forward, we don’t have near enough housing stock,” Cannon said. “They might not necessarily want a home. They want an upscale townhome or apartment building. We don’t have the product to provide them.

Cannon highlighted the Aircraft Fabrication and Assembly Rapid Training Program, which teaches manufacturing skills primarily geared toward aerospace. That program has a job placement rate of over 90%.

Cannon, who served in Palmdale’s economic development department in the 1990’s, left, and then returned this year, also pointed to the fact the region now has eight high school career academies.

When a company calls, I can point to that,” Cannon said. ” These are things I couldn’t point to 20 years ago. These are significant for us in terms of economic development regionally now.

In her presentation, Yeseta mentioned the work on the B-21 bomber, which will have an impact on the regional economy. The bomber’s prime contractor, Northrop Grumman, plans to add 1,700 workers over the next two years.

Yeseta also highlighted two other fast growing companies, BYD Motors and Lance Camper.

BYD, an electric bus manufacturer that is branching out into other vehicles, employs more than 600 workers and envisions eventually employing as many as 1,500 workers.

Lance Camper, which expanded its manufacturing space by 61,000 square feet last year to over 170,000 square feet, expects to grow its workforce to more than 540 workers in the next two years.

Lancaster will see the completion of the Ram Truck facility later this summer, said to be the largest in the nation.

The city recently saw the openings of The Habit restaurant and Dunkin Donuts at 10th Street West and Avenue K.

Burlington, the big box clothing discounter, will open a store this fall and a Marriott hotel is planned for Lancaster Boulevard.

Lancaster is continuing its planning work for its “Medical Main Street,” an area intended to bring new medical services plus homes, stores, restaurants and other businesses.

California City is eyeing the cannabis industry as  a driver of economic development. Having approved ordinances two years ago to allow medical marijuana businesses, the City Council added provisions for the recreational marijuana businesses.

A number of marijuana businesses are in development and the city expects to see its first sales tax revenue from them later this year.

Other recent economic development includes the addition of a Dollar General Market, a grocery market version of the discount store, and a new Mexican restaurant.

The city is also eyeing tourism and there is at least one and possibly two hotels coming to California City.

One of the city’s annual tourism draws is Wasteland, billed as “world’s largest post-apocalyptic festival,” being held Sept. 26-30 this year. That event draws 4,000 people.

The city has at least 600 jobs coming over the next two year, Svejda said.

We’re facing the same kinds of problems (as the other cities),” Svejda said. “We do have jobs being created in the city, but we hardly have any housing inventory.

In his presentation, Costelloe said a new $100 million hospital is expected to open in early fall and a new Wal-Mart Supercenter will break ground this year too.

In talking about outsider perception of the city as just apple growers and the home of a state prison, Costelloe said his community includes Sierra technical services, a company making unmanned aircraft; World Wind and Solar, a company that maintains and repairs wind turbines and solar energy equipment; and Airstream Renewables that trains workers for the renewable energy industry.

A big issue for the city is retail. The city sees approximately $208 million worth of retail spending leave the community each year.

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