The San Fernando Valley economy, devastated in the early 1990s by recession and earthquake, has been experiencing a steady recovery over the past few years. Lately it's starting to look like an outright boom--good news for Valley workers this Labor Day weekend.
The latest promising sign is the announcement last week that the Walt Disney Co. will build a major expansion on the site of the old Glendale Grand Central Air Terminal to house its theme park design division, sound and production studios and a new media center. The 125-acre development will be one of the largest urban commercial projects in the region and the only entertainment corporate campus being proposed in Los Angeles County, now that DreamWorks SKG has scrapped plans for a studio in Playa Vista. The project means construction jobs over the 10 to 15 years it will take to complete, as well as high-tech and entertainment jobs, encouraging news for entertainment workers, a mainstay of Valley employment, who worry about runaway production to Canada and other foreign markets.
Throughout the Valley, the construction business is booming. General contractors are having trouble finding enough skilled workers to meet the demand for new houses and office and industrial buildings.
In the Antelope Valley, Newhall Land & Farming Co. is entering into a joint venture with Kaufman & Broad Home Corp. to build a 5,000-home development on the western edge of Palmdale. The development was approved in 1993 but for years went the same direction as the economy: Nowhere. In yet another sign that the high desert community is emerging from the economic doldrums of the early 1990s, the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base will test the experimental X-34 rocket plane--not a big job producer in itself but a sign that there's still life, and maybe the promise of more, in the aerospace industry.
The city of San Fernando has caught the boom spirit as well, with plans to redevelop a square of its downtown into a cinema complex with restaurants and shops.
And even with school starting this week, elementary and high schools are scrambling to hire teachers, especially in the northeast Valley, where enrollment is surging.
Of course, as welcome as the vibrant economy is, good news brings its own problems, or at least its own challenges. Universities and community colleges need to do their part to train the teachers and skilled workers needed. Developers will have to make sure they don't repeat the mistakes of past booms, like the proliferate uprooting of Joshua trees in the Antelope Valley. They'll have to listen carefully to homeowner associations, which have marshaled their powers after experiencing too much bad development in the 1980s. City officials will have to work to make sure all parts of the Valley have a crack at the boom.
And we'll all have to remember that, here in the Southland, bust follows boom as surely as drought follows rain--or, rather, as unpredictably. Enjoy the boom, but prepare for the next drop in the cycle.