Coachella Valley Economic Forecast Conference

After a brief welcome by Robert Lowe ’62, the 2012 CMC-UCLA Coachella Valley Forecast Conference was under way. The morning was peppered with many timely topics that would take attendees through the two distinguished panel discussions. The first was on “Life after Redevelopment” moderated by Larry Kosmont. The second was on election-year politics and economics and was moderated by Richard R. Oliphant. That panel included three CMC professors, Jack Pitney, Andrew E. Busch, and Manfred Keil.

However, before the panels got underway, economic forecasts were presented to the packed room by UCLA’s Jerry Nickelsburg, who presented an outlook on the state and national picture, and CMC’s Marc Weidenmier, director of the Lowe Institute of Political Economy, who focused specifically on the Coachella Valley. Weidenmier explained, “While the worst of the downturn seems to be over, the not-so-great’ recovery in the U.S. is accompanied by an even slower recovery in the Coachella Valley.” It was estimated that the region will start to pick up steam in 2013 and 2014, but until then we should expect unemployment rates to stay in the double digits.

Among many other detailed points, Weidenmier mentioned the wage gap in California. “Here there are great high wage sectors, partially thanks to the great universities, such as Stanford and Berkley, that attract them. On the other hand,” he continued, “there’s been a decline in the construction sector creating a greater wage disparity. As you look at the distribution of income, you can see it widening.” He also said that job growth would likely come from educating and preparing people to work in the health care industry. This is due to the fact that the Coachella Valley is a popular retirement destination.

The election year politics and economics panel took us through projections and implications of the upcoming election season. Congressional elections were a hot topic. While it remains clear that Democrats will maintain control of the Assembly and the Senate, the question remains if they will get 2/3 majority in the State Senate and whether California will elect any Republicans who would support tax increases. Jack Pitney noted, “If we get a 2/3 majority for tax increases in both chambers, it could really change the dynamic of fiscal politics in the state.”

Our cameras caught up with some of the participants immediately following the conference, watch