October 10, 2016
By Dennis Kaiser
The Inland Empire is drawing thousands of millennials for education and employment opportunities in a more affordable setting than other parts of SoCal. City planners, economic development leaders, brokers and developers discussed how owners, investors and developers can create engaging work/live/play communities that actually help retain young talent and sustain job growth at Connect Inland Empire 2016.
The conversation surrounding work, live and play in the Inland Empire isn’t so much about what’s been developed, but more about what’s envisioned. Panelists agreed, the Inland Empire has turned the corner from the recession, and new companies are relocating to the region. But, whether it is housing or jobs that come first to drive the transition, is somewhat of a “chicken and egg” discussion.
“First, to attract the new generation, we must have jobs,” said the City of Ontario’s Brad Gates, who notes that much attention is being paid to the growth of the industrial and logistics sector. Yet, 90% of the growth over the past year came in “white collar” (i.e. financial and insurance sectors). That continued trend “will attract a younger and more educated workforce,” says Gates.
The younger generation looks for something different than previous demographic groups, notes the City of Chino’s Christopher Kennedy. That typically involves a common core with “retail and attractions in a downtown atmosphere.” Millennials want walkable communities that they can access with public transportation or simply walk to. Another key driver is connectivity. A WiFi connection is “one of the first things the new generation looks for,” says Kennedy.
For multifamily developer, G.H. Palmer Associates’ Darrel Malamut, making moves into the Inland Empire simply made sense because they “saw things that drove demand for multifamily” product. Two recent property acquisitions in the Inland Empire reflect Palmer’s strategy. What attracted them to properties was locations close to employers, such as the new QVC facility, the airport and convention center, as well as potential renters working at the 10 million square feet of nearby industrial space.
Malamut says today’s residents are seeking more than a place to sleep, which is why Palmer seeks to create “sexy places.” That translates into “amenity-rich” living environments that feature exclusivity and architectural distinction. “We want to wow them with a pool and ambience similar to living at a resort,” says Malamut. The reason amenities have emerged as a paramount addition to a multifamily property is because “the younger generation spends more time out of their unit than in their units,” he says.
CBRE’s Joe Cesta says it is important for developers to think about where the “employee of the future wants to work.” CBRE deployed a hybrid Workplace360 strategy in the Inland Empire and that is “enhancing its ability to recruit talent.”
NGKF’s Taylor Ing says, the “open work environment is here” in the Inland Empire. He says the millennial generation prefers this more collaborative type of space, so they “can talk to each other” and be in a “creative environment without private offices.” That bodes well for companies too, since they can “fit more bodies into that layout.”
Today, companies are relocating near their workforce. They’ve come to realize it is easier to find a work site than it is to replace 100 employees. Rather than locating an office near where the CEO or owner of the company lives, the zip codes of their employees help determine a site selection.
That’s resulting in a transition of the Inland Empire’s tenant base too. Says Ing, “For the first time in 30 years, I’m seeing e-commerce and high-tech companies leasing space here,” ranging from software centers, fulfillment centers and call centers, which is bringing higher paying jobs.
Kennedy says that as a result of stronger employment fundamentals and a higher skilled workforce, Inland Empire workers are now “looking for their next better job.”
For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Dennis Kaiser