The Coachella Valley continues to grow as a cannabis destination—and no city is more prepared to reap the benefits than Desert Hot Springs.
The city has experienced an often-turbulent history, but when it comes to cannabis, it’s been the little city that could, because of its proactiveness and foresight in realizing the potential it has, because of what it has—land, and lots of it, as well as a natural mineral aquifer. Given that the state of Colorado just announced it had brought in $1 billion in revenue since marijuana legalization there in 2014, the potential for tax revenues is huge.
Most people in the Coachella Valley rarely go into DHS, given its reputation and its location on the opposite side of Interstate 10. In its heyday of the 1960s and 1970s, Desert Hot Springs was known for its restaurants and mineral spas; people came from around the world to enjoy the waters. However, in the 1990s, the city began to morph from a retirement community into a city of commuting working-class people—making the city less than attractive economically.
Desert Hot Springs’ mayor, Scott Matas, was born and raised in the city and has seen it change dramatically during his lifetime. The city has filed for bankruptcy—and almost did a second time; those financial challenges motivated DHS to take part in the formation of cannabis-cultivation policy for the state of California. The city at one point not long ago had literally $400 in the bank, and more than 70 percent of the city’s voters decided to approve dispensaries and large-scale cultivation facilities.
The city’s first cultivation facility was Canndescent; when it opened three years ago, it was the first in Southern California. Since then, the cannabis landscape has grown dramatically: There are currently 78 approved large-scale cultivation and dispensary sites. Eighteen are in the process of construction permitting; 12 are under construction; 21 are operational and producing tax revenue. These locations range in size from 2,000 square feet to more than 1 million square feet.
“In the next two years, we have 51 projects we expect to be producing and have seen $1 million in cannabis construction in the last year,” Matas said. “By 2021, we expect to see $3 million in tax revenue, and by 2025, we expect to see $5 to $6 million coming from these 51 operating locations within the city.”
One of the largest—and most fascinating—proposed projects is Tyson Ranch. The massive resort is slated to include glamping (glamorous camping), the world’s largest lazy river, a high-end hotel, a large event facility for conventions, a “university” dedicated to education about cannabis cultivation, and sports stadiums. It’s slated to be built over the next decade, and plans for the glamping facility should be soon submitted to the city—with a groundbreaking following not long after.
Desert Hot Springs calls itself as “The Spa City,” but has struggled since its heyday to attract the tourism that the mineral waters once did. Matas said marijuana is helping change that.
“The spas are revitalizing, and those spas bought during the tech era by people with technical backgrounds are now being purchased with cannabis in mind, and will be once again much-desired tourist destinations,” Matas said. These new and improved resorts include “bud and breakfast” or “soak and smoke” accommodations. Thanks also to Desert Hot Springs’ great views, Matas said, the city should once again become a place to enjoy the hot water and relax, with a focus on health and wellness.
The spas, new facilities and proposed consumption locations—modeled after wineries with tasting rooms—could lead to an explosion in job growth. The city is home to about 300 cannabis-industry jobs today, but Tyson Ranch alone could bring in 1,000 jobs, and the massive proposed Coachillin’ Canna-Business Park could be home to more than 2,400 new jobs once it’s built out.
What does this mean for the Coachella Valley? It means that for the first time in many years, people may actually want to drive into Desert Hot Springs for both enjoyment and employment. The economic future is bright for Desert Hot Springs and the Coachella Valley as a whole.
Robin Goins is a business consultant for DR.G Consulting and works extensively in the cannabis industry in the Coachella Valley. For more information, visit www.drrobingoins.com.