HESPERIA — Economists Sean Flynn and Christopher Thornberg painted a rosy picture of the economy’s future on Thursday morning, but warned President Trump’s administration may bring a level of uncertainty.
The annual High Desert Economic Summit at the Hilton Garden Inn in Victorville welcomed business, civic and regional leaders who heard several speakers — including keynote speakers Flynn and Thornberg —share their global, national and regional insights on the economy.
With a High Desert workforce of 71,000, and an average annual wage of just over $37,000, areas of improvement for the High Desert continue to be available housing, a skilled workforce and high paying jobs, according to several panelists who discussed “The Skilled Labor Pipeline: Does the High Desert Have One?”
Steve Tyrrell, maintenance manager for Mitsubishi Cement, and Dr. Dennis Haghighat, CEO of Victor Valley Global Medical Center, were two panelists who said local school districts and Victor Valley College are partnering with local businesses to train students for the workforce.
Panelist Derek King, assistant superintendent, student services, at Excelsior Charter Schools, said he’s asking people in the business community to get into the teaching field, saying people working in a particular field will teach with passion and experience.
“If you don’t have an educated workforce, the economy will stagnate,” said Flynn, an associate professor of economics at Scripps College and the author of the international best-seller “Economics for Dummies.”
The director for the University of California, Riverside’s Center of Economic Forecasting at the School of Business, Thornberg said the High Desert economy looks good in the areas of labor, personal income and sales revenue.
Thornberg said jobs in the medical field, manufacturing, transportation, real estate, education and leisure/hospitality are poised for growth in the High Desert over the next five years.
He also said he doesn’t expect a recession over the next two years, but did remark the nation faces “massive policy uncertainty” from the Trump administration.
Flynn said Trump’s willingness to slash “pointless regulations” will be a “massive boon to the economy moving forward.”
In the area of tax reform, Flynn said Trump’s focus on “balance sheets and the bottom line” will help the nation save billions over the next several years in healthcare and other departments.
According to Flynn, Trump’s proposed tax plan includes a plan to cut the 35 percent corporate income tax to 15 percent. All deductions, except for mortgage interest and charitable contributions, would be eliminated, including state and local taxes and medical expenses.
Thornberg said he believes some deregulation is good, but added Americans have seen how “shockingly incompetent” Trump has been in his attempt to change policy.
“The High Desert is on the precipice of the next wave of growth,” said Thornberg, who believes population growth and the affordability of land prices will spur activity in the region.
As the fourth largest labor force in the nation, the Inland Empire continues to lead the country in job growth, with an unemployment rate of 5.5 as of November, Thornberg said.
“We have a supply crisis in housing, which generally stagnates growth,” Thornberg said. “We need to get people into mortgages and into homes, but lenders are not willing to lend.”
Thornberg said the largest “looming” fiscal crisis that faces the country is the 45 million people on Medicare that will swell to 76 million in the next 20 years.
As for the future of the Affordable Healthcare Act, Thornberg said the subject is “complicated” and “it’s a loser to the party” that has to face it.
“All I know is 22 million people didn’t have health insurance before the ACA,” Thornberg said. “The problem in healthcare is not what we spend, but what are we paying for?”
Thornberg said corporate tax reform should be simplified, with more taxes taken from personal incomes and not corporations.
“Immigration is not a problem,” said Thornberg, who believes the children of immigrants are “investments” as they work through the education system and eventually into careers that will benefit the economy.
Thornberg also said he’s tired of hearing the fallacy that millennials are facing a “worse standard” of living than their parents.
Hosted by the Victor Valley College Foundation, proceeds from the summit reached $50,000 and will help students enrolled at the college, VVC Superintendent/President Roger Wagner told the audience.
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter@DP_ReneDeLaCruz.