Santa Clarita Valley’s economic outlook remains strong in 2018

Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger speaks at the SCVEDC's Economic Outlook on Thursday at TPC Valencia. Submitted photo

The Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation’s annual Economic Outlook spanned three-plus hours on Thursday at TPC Valencia.

There were multiple presentations. A few survey questions. Lots of chatter amongst the 400 or so attendees.

Still, Holly Schroeder found a way to sum it all up in a matter of mere seconds: “The future is bright for the Santa Clarita Valley,” the SCVEDC’s president and CEO said.

With a vibrant economy, little unemployment and an ongoing surge of industrial and office development across the valley – highlighted by projects at Needham Ranch and Vista Canyon that are expected to generate hundreds of new jobs and drive future growth of the economy – Santa Clarita Valley leaders heard an overwhelmingly positive but now familiar message about the state of business in Los Angeles County’s third-largest city.

“What can we expect in 2018?” said Dr. Mark Schniepp, director of the California Economic Forecast. “An extension of 2017.”

During his keynote PowerPoint presentation, in fact, Schniepp put forward the same forecast summary as a year ago, simply putting an “X” through 2017 and adding 2018.

His forecast called for continued job growth, including higher-paying positions that would swell household incomes, as well as a rise in new structures.

“There is no hint of a slow-down, let alone a full-blown recession,” Schniepp said, citing growing consumer confidence, a thriving stock exchange and unemployment rates that remain at record lows.

There are potential disruptors in the future, though, he told the crowd during the event’s third hour – including a shortage of construction workers that could slow development, the introduction of autonomous vehicles that could “change everything,” and what he described as employers’ ongoing challenges with an increasingly millennial workforce.

Since 2012, California has added some 270,000 construction-related jobs, Schniepp said. He wondered, “Who’s left?”

Schniepp didn’t express confidence that millennials would answer the call, either, displaying on one slide that the generation wants a “beanbag” at the office and “free food” and adding that parents had “failed” to adequately prepare their children for the world.

His commentary on millennials aligned with Dr. Mark Vitner, a Wells Fargo senior economist who shared the national economic forecast during the event’s opening hour. He particularly dissed millennial men, blaming electronics and video games among the reasons why only 36 percent earn a college degree.

College of the Canyons Chancellor Dr. Dianne Van Hook offered a differing view during her time at the podium, praising the school’s workforce development programs and stressing COC’s commitment to preparing the next generation for success in a marketplace that continues to flourish as the country enjoys what is now the third-largest economic expansion in recorded history.

Perhaps fitting for the area’s growing economy, the SCVEDC shifted its marquee annual event this year from the Hyatt Regency Valencia to TPC to allow for greater capacity – though even this space felt cramped as attendees worked to find their seats.

The temporary outdoor structure erected near the driving range provided seating accommodations for about 75 more people than in past years, plus an adjoining patio area that was used to host the post-event cocktail reception.

An added bonus: A series of large windows allowed for striking views of the surrounding area.

The change in the event’s backdrop was met with almost immediate approval. Minutes into the program, Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger delivered a zinger: “I was used to going to the Hyatt. This is actually a far better venue. Sorry. It just is.”

While Barger also highlighted a growing economy, describing the SCV as “a destination where people want to come, where they want to live and where they want to do business,” she emphasized the importance of continued improvements to the local transportation infrastructure, singling out the Interstate 5 corridor, Old Road and the MetroLink station at Vista Canyon.

Barger was one of several elected officials at the Outlook. The crowd also featured Assemblyman Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, as well as the full Santa Clarita City Council. Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, and State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, sent representatives.

Many of the SCV’s most prominent business professionals were also in attendance, including John Shaffery, managing partner at Poole & Shaffery; Tamara Gurney, president and CEO of Mission Valley Bank; Corinne Barchanowicz, the new senior general manager for Westfield’s Valencia Town Center; and Troy Hooper, general manager at TPC Valencia and 2018 chairman for the SCV Chamber Commerce.

Wells Fargo was the Outlook’s presenting sponsor. The platinum-level sponsors were Deloitte, FivePoint, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, KKAJ Certified Public Accountants, Logix, Mission Valley Bank, Poole & Shaffery, and Scorpion.

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