NEEDLES — Industry advances, retail sales growth and increased demand for housing appear to be driving something of an economic renaissance in Needles.
The city released figures last month that indicate retail sales are not only growing but accelerating. Quoting figures from the state’s Department of Tax and Fee Administration, a market brief outlined by City Manger Rick Daniels compared first and second quarter tallies for 2019 and 2018. Needles’ retailers sold $10.66 million in taxable product in the first quarter of this year; up 8.2 percent over the first quarter of 2018. The gains pushed Needles’ percentage growth to sixth out of 24 cities in San Bernardino County. The county, overall, experienced sales growth of 1.8 percent.
Those sales jumped to $12.82 million in the second quarter. The 13.5 percent growth in sales over the second quarter of 2018 pushed Needles to second place, Daniels reported.
There’s no doubt that growth in the local cannabis industry, especially under new state laws that allow adult recreational use, are driving the sales increases. Daniels reported 170,000 square feet of new industrial space has been built in the last 24 months for cultivation, processing and laboratory extraction. “Those businesses now generate over 400 direct jobs in the community,” he indicated; projecting 200 more jobs and another 80,000 square feet of space being realized in the next nine months.
According to Daniel’s analysis, all those new jobs are beginning to provide upward pressure on the local housing market in terms of units developed, number sold and dollars received. Admitting that new housing has been minimal: six single family residences in 2018, three in 2017; he pointed out:
• A 12-year average of 46 home sales per year increased to 58 in 2018 and is projected to reach 96 this year with 72 sales through Sept 9.
• A 12-year average median home price of $69,900 increasing to $92,000 in 2018 and $96,750 this year.
Daniels reported residential developers are actively evaluating the market and that a developer that purchased 2.3 acres of city property downtown is planning a mixed-use building that will include approximately 92 apartments.
Daniels also pointed out that Arrowhead Credit Union’s takeover of Desert Communities Federal Credit Union, “… brings additional financial opportunity to residents and businesses for lending and deposit services.” He described Arrowhead as a “$1.4 billion asset size institution with over 163,000 members and about 20 branch operations.”