Old Traditions, New Opportunities

City of Temecula, CA
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Temecula is a picturesque, year-round getaway with an ideal climate. Though its history dates back to the 1880s, the city of Temecula, California, is still relatively young and has come a long way in just a short time since it was incorporated in 1989. The city has preserved its history while capitalizing on the multitude of local and regional assets for the future.
Located a mere hour away from San Diego, Orange County, and Palm Springs and only an hour and a half from the excitement of LA and Hollywood, Temecula is a great place to live, work, invest, and visit. As it is a boutique destination with unique character, charm and a flavor all its own, it is no wonder that over two million people visit Temecula each year.

Whether it is the premier golf courses or the wealth of shopping, dining, entertainment, and recreational activities that bring visitors in, there are many great reasons to stay, as over 110,000 people call Temecula home. The city is known for its award-winning wine country and agritourism with more than forty wineries spread over 3000 acres, yet it has so much more to offer.

Temecula has found balance in its approach to development and created an exceptional community and prosperous economy that emphasizes its natural assets. Development in accordance with a master plan and visionary city leadership has paid off. The area is now one of the fastest-growing regions in the state.

From grapes to produce, agriculture plays a significant role in the local economy. The local flavors can be experienced in Temecula’s many tasting rooms, which showcase hundreds of local wines and in the multitude of local restaurants that pay tribute to local agriculture. It also boasts a growing, yet complementary, local brewing sector.

Many of these places can be found in Temecula’s downtown core known as Old Town. Old Town pays homage to the city’s history as a rail town from the 1880s to the 1930s, when agriculture became the dominant economic driver. The historic charm is preserved and integrated with modern services and amenities.

Amongst Old Town’s historic architecture, are its twelve blocks of pedestrian-friendly, aesthetically pleasing spaces that include a variety of local restaurants, boutiques, antique shops, and so much more. The town centre is the backdrop for community events, including the Saturday farmers’ market and many other festivals and celebrations.

In 2010, a civic center was built in Old Town, bringing the city administration to the heart of Temecula and signifying a new era of growth in the downtown core. The move according to Christine Damko, economic development analyst with the City of Temecula, “really transformed our city and transformed Old Town”.

“The city of Temecula is very fortunate to have a very forward-thinking city council that understands that quality of life is at the top of any kind of community that you are trying to build,” explained Charles Walker, economic development analyst for youth and workforce development.

Several years ago, a master plan for Temecula was put together by the city council with input from the community and various stakeholders. The plan is geared towards community enrichment, youth employment, recreation, and education. Temecula is the top school district in Riverside County with test scores ranking in the top twenty percent in the state of California.

“Much of the development in Temecula was done via master plan,” said Cheryl Kitzerow, economic development analyst and Temecula Valley Entrepreneur’s Exchange manager. “So you get that sense of place. You get that cohesive design aspect, and the bulk of our residential, well the bulk of almost all of our new development, occurred in the early 2000s, late 1990s.”

“We still have some development to do and redevelopment,” explained Damko. “But, as far as the boom of that constant construction going on, I think we’ve sort of got through that, and I would say that this is the time in our city’s history where we get to add the sprinkles to the cupcake – adding the social services and additional amenities.”

Temecula offers a safe, inclusive, and welcoming community with an exceptional quality of life and an affordable cost of living and doing business. The city serves as a regional job center for Southwest Riverside County and has over 50,000 local jobs and viable sectors that are bursting with potential.

Temecula, given its proximity to economies such as San Diego, has naturally developed a strong biosciences and technology sector. It also enjoys a significant cluster of advanced manufacturing and supports these industries through local initiatives.

“As part of our economic development efforts, we understand business attraction, business retention, but there was a time, about four or five years ago, during the economic downturn, that we realized we really wanted to focus on the importance of small business and creating jobs here locally,” said Kitzerow, speaking to the Temecula Valley Entrepreneur’s Exchange (TVE²).

It was at this time that the TVE² was established in the previous civic center in a local business park. “We know that the city isn’t creating jobs, but we are doing everything that we can to support an entrepreneurial environment where start-up companies and small businesses alike have the opportunity to start and growth their businesses here locally,” she said.

The regional business resource centre is where partners such as the Economic Development Corporation of Southwest California, Inland Empire Small Business Development Center (IESBDC), SBDC TriTech, and the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce, come together with the city and educational institutions to collaborate towards economic success in Temecula.

As a regional hub, TVE² was created to foster business growth and economic vitality in Temecula. It supports entrepreneurship, innovation for start-ups and provides access to the necessary resources, technology, and collaborative networks required to stimulate economic activity and job creation in the community.

“We currently have fourteen start-up tech companies in our incubator program, creating things such as software for autism clinics, software for cell phone analytics used by law enforcement across the country, and training tools for the motocross industry,” explained Kitzerow. These companies have access to business plan development assistance, mentoring support, workshops, and seminars.

“These are tech companies. All their founders live here and have a vested interest in the community. They are bringing investment dollars here; they are creating jobs here,” she said. TVE² has experienced success and shows great promise for the future, as it continues to connect people and ideas with knowledge and resources.

“In the same building, you’ve got government, tech start-ups, you’ve got small business resources, and you’ve got higher education. And that’s a really unique model that we are very proud of,” Kitzerow said.

“This town was built through partnerships,” Damko added. “We really just kind of band together, and we all work great together.” In addition to increasing the entrepreneurial spirit of the community, there has also been a significant focus on education and youth in Temecula.

The City of Temecula supports youth employment through programs like Just Add One in which local businesses are encouraged to take on youth interns to provide students with work experience and teach them viable skills. The city leads by example, with an extensive city internship program.

Temecula is also home to California State University at San Marcos (CSUSM), a welcome addition to the community, thanks to significant financial and in-kind support from the City of Temecula and other partners. A new campus was built in 2009, affording many local high school students the opportunity to attend post-secondary studies, an opportunity they would not have otherwise had.

Given the distance and commuting conditions from Temecula to the nearest public university, CSUSM arose out of need. It has also served as a significant boost to the community, through retail activity generated by the 277 students enrolled in the five undergraduate and two master’s degree programs. The programs have produced one thousand graduates over the past five years.

“We specifically chose nursing, kinesiology, and business degree programs to offer in Temecula, because they are impacted programs across the state, which means, one: that students have more difficulty getting the classes they need to complete their degree, two: they are high-wage and in high demand,” explained Laura Segall, media contact for CSUSM.

CSUSM is in phase two of a partnership with Mt. San Jacinto Community College to offer a guaranteed transfer pathway featuring both an associate’s degree and bachelor degree program in business administration. This is offered out of a joint facility in downtown Temecula, which opened last fall.

In 1998, Temecula began hosting a huge Southern California fair for colleges, universities, and vocational schools. The fair is held each September at Promenade Temecula, its regional shopping center (which is also another major draw to the region). This event has grown from ninety-eight to two hundred schools being showcased and brings in 8,000 to 10,000 visitors each year, which provides a nearly twenty-five percent spike in sales and tax revenues.

“We hope our residents are finding post-secondary opportunities to go to and to bring those skills that they acquire back to this region, thus preventing a brain drain on the region, especially in our city in particular,” stated Walker of the efforts to ensure that residents have access to the very best in services and amenities.

Temecula has a lot to offer residents and visitors alike. It has wineries, delightful culinary experiences, extensive retail offerings, recreational opportunities, nightlife, golf, and lodging – including Pechanga Casino and Resort, all in the picturesque rolling hills of the Temecula Valley. Beyond the attractions, community stewardship, and economic potential is blossoming in Temecula.

“The CEOs want to live here. It’s a beautiful town. We place a high importance on the physical aspects of Temecula, so you are going to see well maintained, manicured, landscaped medians. We have forty public parks and that’s not counting the HOAs. We have bike and trail networks – a lot of open space,” described Damko.

A family friendly community with a focus on safety and inclusion, Temecula has found balance, a means to thrive economically while simultaneously enriching the community. As it moves forward, the city will maintain its commitment to higher education, fostering an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, continuing to build on its natural assets.

“We have a very visionary city council, a very visionary city manager, and executive staff, so if we don’t have it already, we are going to work with our partners or develop a creative way to get it done,” proclaimed Damko, concluding, “We have all the confidence in the world.”



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