News Article | 3/5/2010

Ontario industrial sector to grow in the next year


ONTARIO – A panel of economists and developers at the State of the City painted a picture of optimism for the city in the next year.


More than 900 professionals learned the reasons – from the recession drawing to a close to vacancies in the industrial sector decreasing – for the panel’s bright outlook Wednesday night at the Ontario Convention Center.


The recession was the perfect storm for the Inland Empire as housing and the trade market took a hit.


With the economic downturn subsiding, cities such as Ontario are beginning to see a turnaround in the number of vacancy rates in the industrial sector, said Ross DeVol, director of Regional Economics and the Center for Health Economics at the Milken Institute.


“We have just survived the greatest recession. California had the greater recession and the Inland Empire had the greatest recession but it was not the worst in the country,” Devol said.


The vacancy rates for industry in Ontario dropped despite the fact that the regional trend is going in the opposite direction, said Daria Longo, vice chairman of CB Richard Ellis.


“Ontario is a hub where everybody wants to be located,” Longo said.”


There has been a steady increase of new industrial tenants in the past year and huge increases are expected in 2010. A full recovery is expected by 2012, Longo said.


The office sector though is “lagging behind,” she said.


The city’s proximity to transportation, such as railroads, freeways and the LA/Ontario International Airport, makes it attractive to Fortune 500 companies, said Dana Allison, a panelist and regional distribution manager for Home Depot.  


“This is the industrial capital of the world,” he said.


In November 2009, Home Depot chose Ontario to house one of its six distribution centers in the state. The facility is expected to open toward the end of this year and provide supplies to more than 300 stores in the region, Allison said.


Ontario will not have a problem having companies see the long-term benefits of moving into the area, said John Magness, vice president of Hillwood Developmental Corp.


Last week, Hillwood chairman Henry Ross Perot, Jr. visited Ontario and advised the company’s board to continue to invest in the city, Magness said.


“Ontario and the Inland Empire are only going to see a lot more growth and more people trying to get in before that window closes,” he said.


The panel’s focus at the State of the City was to discuss how Ontario will prepare for the next cycle and for business leaders to share ideas about how the city can succeed in the future.


When describing what Ontario has to offer, DeVol said, “there is nothing like it else in the world.”


“It’s one thing for us to say it, but it’s another thing for them to hear it from Ross DeVol or Daria Longo,” said Mary Jane Olhasso, city economic development director.


The State of the City – which was attended by developers, investors and businesses owners – was scaled-down compared to recent years.


In 2009, a presentation by Mayor Paul Leon was followed by a networking mixer and multiple breakout sessions.


Leon’s presentation on Wednesday was followed by a panel discussion, which was led by City Council members, and a networking mixer.


The changes resulted from survey responses from city staff and attendees, who indicated they did not like that sessions were held simultaneously, she said.