Published on Monday, September 30, 2013
by Professor Jay Prag
San Bernardino is bankrupt. The Riverside-San Bernardino Metropolitan area has the highest poverty rate of any large city in the US. The Ontario Airport is struggling to survive. Inland Empire unemployment is close to 11 percent, roughly tied with Flint, Mich., and among the highest for any metro area in the US. And the 4 million people who live in the Inland Empire are wondering when that economic recovery is coming.
It’s a good question. And some of the once popular solutions are gone. Enterprise zones are no more.
Redevelopment agencies no longer exist. There are promises of better things to come from Sacramento but nothing seems to be headed to the Inland Empire.
Politicians and pundits love to talk about bringing in high paying jobs, but how do you do that?
There are roughly 200,000 officially unemployed people in the Inland Empire. Allowing for a fair number of unofficially unemployed people — those who have stopped searching for a job and are thus not counted as members of the labor force, and underemployed people — we need about 150,000 new, good, permanent jobs in the Inland Empire to return to economic health. That’s a lot of jobs! So what are our options?
Casinos? Not the worst idea ever. The jobs aren’t the greatest, but they are better than flipping burgers.
And consider, thousands of Californians drive to Las Vegas every year to gamble, shop and eat. Nothing other than a change in California laws prevents San Bernardino from having something like the Las Vegas Strip in its now depressed downtown district.
Don’t like casinos? How about a theme park? Not something small like Splash Kingdom Water Park, a big one like Six Flags. Angelenos drive a long way to get to Six Flags. The Inland Empire could get people from Pasadena all the way to the desert communities to come to a really snazzy theme park. All you need is a theme. Or more accurately, a sponsor that doesn’t already have a park in California. Something modern and high tech. How about Googleland? Or Apple Valley (although I think that name is already in use.)
It’s time to think big. It’s time to be creative. And it’s time to do something transformational but realistic for the Inland Empire. So how about Googleland? That would look pretty good up there by the new 210/215 interchange.