The Coachella Valley is a prime location for startup companies: the area offers access to Southern California customer markets with a Southern California lifestyle at a fraction of the cost of coastal cities or the Inland Empire. Affordability isn’t the only attractive thing about the area: we also enjoy clean, smog-free air and a lack of traffic congestion.
Even with all of the beauty and benefits of doing business in Greater Palm Springs, something more is required to entice businesses to relocate or start their new venture here. Since its inception in 2012, one of the Valley’s most powerful business attraction tools has been the Palm Springs iHub and Accelerator Campus. Half of the 62 businesses that have been selected to join the Palm Springs iHub program are from the Coachella Valley. The other half fall into one of two categories: businesses that have relocated to the Coachella Valley from elsewhere, or businesses that receive long-distance virtual assistance based upon the promise of locating here once they are ready to open a physical facility. The Palm Springs program has been in such high demand that a Palm Desert iHub and a pilot Indio iHub were established in 2020.
Greater Palm Springs has traditionally been a mecca for vacationers and is therefore saturated with relatively low-paying seasonal jobs in hospitality and retail. But the region’s reliance on these tourism-based jobs means that many households see a significant wage loss during the slow summer months. Adding year-round jobs such as those in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) would alleviate those household financial pains while increasing spending and tax revenue throughout the Valley.
CVEP stakeholders see a great deal of local opportunity in the iHub’s main areas of focus: healthcare and clean energy. As it happens, these two industries fit beautifully with the Valley’s existing strengths and needs. With ample access to sun, wind, and geothermal energy, Greater Palm Springs offers the perfect setting for energy innovation: four of the iHub’s current resident companies and four virtual iHub companies are in energy conservation. Similarly, the healthcare industry is one of the Valley’s largest industries, but due to escalating costs and complexities it is also the industry most in need of disruption: three current and six graduate iHub companies are healthcare innovators.
Businesses within Greater Palm Springs’ iHubs are not limited to healthcare and clean energy. Other resident companies include those in the e-commerce and social platforms, wearables, and water conservation industries. Because the needs of these industries are so varied, the physical spaces in which they operate are highly customizable. One medical device company needed a “clean room” for prototype manufacturing, which we installed in a repurposed building at the Accelerator Campus. Another company has a circuit board printer, 3-d printer, large-format printer, and computer-aided-design center within their repurposed warehouse space.
Regardless of industry, modern companies function digitally: collecting consumer data, managing logistics, designing products, and pursuing new sales opportunities. Therefore we know that if the Valley is to grow its economy beyond its seasonal basis, we will need to be equipped for a digital future. Opportunity lies in attracting technology entrepreneurs from the high-cost tech centers of Seattle and San Francisco. CVEP is therefore working with partners from across the region to implement state-of-the-art digital broadband infrastructure projects which will enable tech innovators to relocate or start their ventures here. And when they first arrive in the Coachella Valley with little more than a great business idea, they may just find their new home at the Palm Springs, Palm Desert, or Indio iHub.