With reopening, Santa Clarita looks ahead to recovery

Jason Crawford, economic development manager for the city of Santa Clarita, looks through some of the posters for filming projects shot in Santa Clarita. The industry, which contributes more than $30 million each year to the local economy, is expected to play a big role in the area’s recovery as filming starts to resume. PHOTO BY DAN WATSON / THE SIGNAL
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The good news is, Santa Clarita continues to beat almost every city of comparable size with its employment numbers, according to the state’s Economic Development Division.

The not-so-good news for Santa Clarita is that those numbers still represent a huge spike from quarantine layoffs — and more than six times the city’s rate at the same time last year.

“With the roughly 20% unemployment number that we’re seeing — that is more unemployment  than we’ve ever seen before in Santa Clarita,” said Jason Crawford, director of economic development for the city of Santa Clarita. “We are glad to see that now with the health orders changing, and more businesses are bringing people back to work, and that hopefully will be reflected in June and July numbers … but it’s been a very difficult time for a lot of people.”

To put things in a historical perspective: During the period known as The Great Recession, from December 2007 to June 2009, more than 5 million jobs were lost statewide at a clip of about 55,000 to 85,000 a month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Californians have exceeded that number of claims since March alone for this year.

For a little more perspective: This time last year, the city’s unemployment rate was an impressive 3.9% (Traditionally, “full employment” is considered anywhere between 4% and 6%.)

Local solutions

While the immediate future is a bit bleak, there’s hope for just down the road, as the city has already opened up many of its businesses under Los Angeles County’s most recent public health order, as Crawford mentioned, and filming also started up again.

The city is also working with its traditional partners, including the SCV Economic Development Corp. and College of the Canyons, and staff to create new ways to address the unprecedented challenges of reopening an economy after a pandemic.

If the recovery plans go as expected, including the development of an office project on Orchard Village, as well as the Vista Canyon and Needham Ranch projects.

There are also new programs and incentives being given to businesses, which the city hopes will also stimulate economic activity. One of the more immediate plans for business is the city’s Eat Local program, through which the city is granting businesses an expanded use of their space and parking to serve customers while their traditional occupancy permissions are reduced due to Public Health orders.

After submitting a site plan to the city’s planning team and presenting their proposal, qualified restaurants would be granted temporary use permits at no cost. Santa Clarita-based event rental company 24/7 Events also pitched in, creating ways for businesses to divvy up their spacing to make patrons feel safer.

New developments

Crawford also mentioned the city’s excitement about two projects on the East side of Santa Clarita that are expected to bring a healthy supply of transit-friendly jobs and homes.

Throughout the recent downturn, the state has allowed construction to continue, Crawford noted, “And later this year, we hope to see businesses move into those brand new buildings.”

The plan was part of a deliberate effort by the city to add more business parks and new development in the Canyon Country area, he said, adding that Vista Canyon, near Via Princessa, and Needham Ranch, near Sierra Highway, are two of the most prominent examples. Vista Canyon already has tenants operating.

Filming

The impact on filming in the Santa Clarita Valley can’t be understated, nor should the importance of its return this past week. Last year, filming generated more than $30 million in revenue for the city, which was on pace for another record year before everything shut down in March.

The city’s Film Office saw brisk business in its first week back, but Evan Thomason, economic development associate for the city of Santa Clarita, expects that to continue to build in the coming weeks.

“We’re completely open as a Film Office. We’re eager to see everybody get back to work and we think that the foundation of safety protocols being handed down by the county are significant, and will ensure people’s safety,” he said.

“I would say that the episodic filming of TV productions is really the bread and butter of filming out here,” said Thomason, who also runs the city’s Film Office. “We get a fair amount of commercials and film productions or feature films.” Most of the major studio productions, and the corollary financial benefits, are expected to start coming back in July, he added.

“The return of filming,” Thomason added, “will be a huge boost to our local economy.” 

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