Job growth expected to continue for San Gabriel Valley

The San Gabriel Valley is experiencing healthy job growth that’s expected to continue into next year, according to Cynthia Kurtz, president and CEO of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership.

Speaking Thursday at the Pasadena Business and Economic Summit 2015 at the University Club, Kurtz presented an overview of the region’s economy, which she said is strong and moving forward. The event was sponsored by the Economic and Business Development Committee of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce.

Kurtz noted that the region was heavily impacted by the recession.

“We estimate that this year we’ll have 666,000 jobs in our region,” she said. “If you look back you can see that the San Gabriel Valley was adding jobs every year until the recession hit. And we got walloped, really big time. Fifty-five thousand jobs disappeared in about 18 months. We didn’t start to add jobs again until 2011, and it was really small — about 3,000 jobs.”

Her most current figures from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. (LAEDC) show stronger employment growth. This year the region will add an estimated 10,000 jobs and another 10,000 jobs are forecast for 2016, boosting the region’s total count to 676,000.

“It is accelerating, but it’s going to be mid-to late 2016 before we regain the total number of jobs we had before the recession hit us,” Kurtz said.

The San Gabriel Valley’s health services sector has displayed the biggest job growth. Figures from LAEDC show that industry added 47,792 jobs between 2004 and 2014. The report notes, however, that as many as 18,000 of those employment gains were due to a reclassifying of home health care workers from other services.

But even with that adjustment, the health services sector still led the way with nearly 30,000 jobs added.

Leisure and hospitality followed with 11,286 jobs added and transportation and utilities grew by 2,356 jobs.

The Valley’s biggest loss between 2004 and 2014 occurred in manufacturing, which shed more than 24,000 jobs.

Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek offered a more local take on the city.

“From my perspective, I think the city is in pretty good shape and we’ve got mostly good news to report,” he said. “That’s attributable to the fact that we have such a diverse local economy.”

Tornek said Pasadena is facing some serious challenges, however. Those involve the impact on retailers of a proposed minimum wage hike that would boost hourly earnings to $15 an hour by 2020, homelessness in the city, rising utility rates and cultural problems revealed by the city’s $6.5 million embezzlement scandal.

But Pasadena, he said, is equipped to meet those challenges.

“The variety of talent we have in this community and the willingness of people to invest in that talent really speaks to why this is a great city and why we can all be optimistic about solving these problems,” Tornek said.

Thursday’s event also featured Eric Duyshart, the city’s economic development manager; Randy Britt, director of sustainability for Parsons Corp.; Julia S. Gouw, president and chief operating officer for East West Bank; and Lorne M. Buchman, president of Art Center College of Design.

Duyshart outlined a variety of new projects that are proposed, planned or underway in the city.

A 144-room Marriott Extended Stay Hotel is being built at the corner of Fair Oaks Avenue and Walnut Street and three other hotels are planned.

Several office projects are also planned or underway and a variety of housing projects are in the works, including a mixed-use project at 25 W. Walnut St. with 201 apartments and 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

Thursday’s event was a collaboration between the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce and the city of Pasadena.