Follies' producer Riff Markowitz calls Palm Springs ``God's waiting room,'' but economic developers promote other attrib-utes in urging injection molders to manufacture in California's famous desert resort city. Markowitz joshes the elderly at his burlesque-vaudeville productions, but Mayor Will Kleindienst and a purposeful development team took a serious tack when they sold Palm Springs' business advantages Nov. 23 to visiting executives from several injection molding companies.
Palm Springs is creating a fiber-optic system with GTE Corp. and American NorTel Communications Inc., forming a ``virtual university'' with four major California educational institutions and structuring a rate-lowering energy partnership with Portland General Corp., Kleindienst said in a recent telephone interview.
A $70 million bond issue upgrades school buildings, and other funding targets airport runways and highway infrastructure.
``We are trying to create a new image,'' said the nonpracticing architect. ``Palm Springs can be an excellent place to thrive while still [being] actively involved in the business world.''
Tourism accounts for 25 percent of the local economy. The city, with about 45,000 residents, is the most established of 10 municipalities in Coachella Valley, which is home to 300,000.
To build an industrial base, the Palm Springs Economic Development Corp. and the city co-sponsored a weekend of business, social, athletic and local Chrysler Grand Prix road-racing activities for Southern California injection molders. The team invited 35; five responded.
``They treated us like kings,'' said Steve Driscoll, general manager of DaMar Plastics in San Diego. ``If someone wanted to move, it seemed easy. They had all of the right people'' there.
DaMar employs 45 and injection molds sporting goods, principally hand grips for mountain and performance bicycles.
Another attendee was surprised: ``I was not even aware that Palm Springs would entertain business,'' said Gregg Hughes, president of Temecula, Calif.-based Molding International and Engineering Inc. ``We are landlocked in Temecula, and would entertain the idea of expanding in Palm Springs.''
The custom vertical insert injection molder employs 112 and makes parts for automotive, electronics and medical customers on 28 presses with clamping forces of 30-300 tons.
Consultant and Palm Springs resident Dale Behm shared his plastics industry experience with the development team and suggested it focus on attracting injection molders, particularly those making medical instruments.
Manufacturers employ 1,261 in Palm Springs, 8,001 within a 30-mile radius of the city and 65,953 within 60 miles. The larger area has a labor pool of 1.3 million out of a population of 2.6 million, said Brian McGowan, marketing specialist with the city's economic development department.
Coachella Valley's hospitality and agricultural industries employ many low-wage workers who might join a manufacturer, although most live elsewhere. The communities of Riverside, San Bernardino and Ontario have technical types who could commute more easily to Palm Springs than some do now to Los Angeles, McGowan said.
Frank McLane, owner of McLane Leisure Products Inc., briefed visitors and opened his Palm Springs facility for a tour. McLane employs 80 and injection molds patio furniture on 16 presses of 850-1,650 tons.
Raymond Paige, owner of Advanced Laminated Materials Applications Inc. sees ``some [city] interest to stimulate the economy,'' but said he is ``negative on the whole environment of California'' with its high income tax.
Paige ran an adhesives coating company that he sold in 1980 to American Hospital Supply Corp. He started ALMA in 1985 ``because people didn't want to leave'' the Palm Springs area.
Paige employs 50 and coats rolls of polyethylene film with various weights of adhesives for removable, 60-sheet, laminated clean room floor covering.
As the industrial effort continues, meanwhile, Palm Springs competes traditionally against newer neighbors down the valley for the hearts and dollars of golf, tennis and sunshine enthusiasts.
It's the crowded high-hospitality season in the desert, with average January highs of 69§ F, and Markowitz's fabulous Follies production draws people to the city's historic Plaza Theater.
Kleindienst has another draw in mind: capture a few injection molders and their resources and broaden the Palm Springs manufacturing base.