The Rancho Vista Specific Plan in Palmdale got another boost this month as construction began on the Rancho Vista Town Center, a long-anticipated retail development at the intersection of Rancho Vista Boulevard and Town Center Drive. Adding to the economic revitalization of Palmdale was the announcement that a “memorandum of understanding” (MOU) has been signed to help lure AnyWind Power Electric Inc. to town to manufacture wind turbine systems.

In nearby Lancaster, BYD (Build Your Dreams) unveiled this month its first in a series of all-electric, long-range busses.

The three announcements could mean more job opportunities in the Antelope Valley, a region still stinging from the six-year economic downturn, falling home prices and a reduction of manufacturing outlets. The new retail and business developments may send a signal throughout Los Angeles County that job prospects are on the rebound. Walmart Neighborhood Market as well as a nationally-known coffeehouse will serve as the primary anchors of the Rancho Vista Town Center which is part of a development plan approved almost three decades ago. About 65 new jobs will be available at the grocery store.

“We are delighted to see construction underway for this long-planned retail center,” said Palmdale Mayor James C. Ledford. “When Gregg Anderson created the vision for the Rancho Vista Specific Plan more than 20 years ago, he saw a high quality, walkable community with neighborhood amenities so residents could live, shop and recreate there.”

The development is in the westside portion of Palmdale, an area that is undergoing extensive refurbishment and construction; the supermarket is a long-awaited addition for residents who over the past decade have witnessed the slow-growth of a “food desert” where a full-service market with fresh produce and meats was not present. Though Walmart Neighborhood Market will span about 40,000 square feet, it will still serve as a grocery store comparable in size to traditional outlets. It will feature a variety of products and services, including organic produce, meats and dairy products, frozen foods, dry goods, cleaning products, pet supplies, a pharmacy and health and beauty products.

The Walmart Neighborhood Market, already located in Simi Valley, Huntington Beach, Rancho Cucamonga and Rancho Santa Margarita, will be the first such outlet in the Antelope Valley. Other tenants currently being pursued for the development include a financial institution, a sit-down family restaurant and a number of retail establishments. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide neighborhood convenience to Rancho Vista Boulevard.

“As the Rancho Vista community continues to grow along with surrounding neighborhoods in West Palmdale, so too does the need for neighborhood retail increase,” said Greg Quan, development manager of builder R.Y. Properties. “We are targeting a mix of high-quality retailers to offer neighborhood convenience to the area. We’ve worked hard to reach out to the neighborhood to ensure that the services offered meet their needs.”

The city of Palmdale and AnyWind Power and Electric last month took a step closer to locating the fledgling corporation within Palmdale. AnyWind is touted as a “next generation” total wind power system provider that offers solutions to meet both energy and environmental needs. The company wants to establish local headquarters at 450 W. Palmdale Blvd., and is looking to purchase the former Senior Systems Technology building, a 130,000-square-foot facility at 600 Technology Drive, for manufacturing purposes.

“Palmdale took a huge step forward in becoming a major player in the renewable energy market through this new opportunity with AnyWind,” Ledford said last month. “Their goal is to be the world-class wind turbine total solution provider with salient blade, generator and inverter technology. AnyWind couldn’t have picked a better place to build their innovative product than here in the Antelope Valley where the wind is a consistent natural resource.”

AnyWind’s numerous wind turbine products—including individual wind turbines for homes, schools and business as well as for use at wind power plants (“wind farms”)—are touted to overcome the productivity problems of the conventional propeller-type wind turbine systems in terms of wind speed and direction, cost effectiveness, maintenance, noise and EMF (electromagnetic fields) emissions. AnyWind is said to utilize “proven” wind turbine technology to produce affordable renewable energy that is reportedly “independent” of subsidies and is designed to meet the latest energy and environmental needs. Palmdale has made considerable strides in obtaining and installing renewable energy sources, such as the Palmdale Hybrid Power Plant, and now looks to tap wind power which, in the Antelope Valley, could be one of the most valuable sources of energy production anywhere in the state.

“Their product will not only be here in California, but throughout the country and the world,” said Dave Walter, City of Palmdale director of economic development and communications. “It has great potential to generate hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue, while providing homeowners and businesses with a quality renewable source of electricity.”

Lancaster showcased recently the first California-made, all electric long-range commuter bus. Manufactured by BYD at its first U.S. electric bus factory, the company expects to fill more than 60 new immediate positions at its Lancaster plant where California Governor Jerry Brown visited with Mayor R. Rex Parris. BYD officials believe more than 100 new positions will open up by the end of the year, and another 200 by the end of 2015.

“The city of Lancaster strongly believes in the importance of building solid, private-public partnerships, such as our ongoing relationship with BYD,” Parris said. “BYD continues to bring much-needed manufacturing jobs to our community, having already brought more than 60 new jobs to our region. We look forward to their continued growth, and the resulting economic prosperity they bring to the Antelope Valley and the State of California.”

BYD has become a world leader in battery and EV technologies and have innovated an electric, 24-hour, long-range battery that provides emission-free public transportation. Its new iron-phosphate battery is used on electric bus fleets in a number of countries in Asia as well as in Europe.

“This is a small beginning, a few busses—but it holds the promise of something very big and very important,” Brown said. “I’m glad to hear that this ‘Republican’ village is the renewable energy capital of America.” Also on hand for the first buss roll-off was Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich (Fifth District); Bill Allen, president and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. and Lanny Davis, attorney for BYD and former White House Special Council.

BYD chief executive officer Stella Li believes the Lancaster location as an excellent opportunity to integrate electric busses into one of the world’s most busy commuter regions. “We are starting out here in Lancaster with the goal of providing clean-energy electric busses—throughout the United States—and create more jobs for Americans. BYD is proud to deliver this breakthrough environmentally friendly technology to California.”

Lancaster officials announced recently the progress made by sPower, developer of several local energy projects that total thus far 35MW (megawatts) of “green power.” The Summar Solar Facility may be completed and running by the end of this month and by mid-summer another 22 MW of power will go online. “With partners such as sPower, we as a city have been able to cultivate a ‘solar culture’ unrivaled in the nation,” Parris said. “Within a few short years, Lancaster will become America’s first Net-Zero city.”

From investments in transportation infrastructure to growth in renewable energy, the Antelope Valley is poised to emerge from the lingering effects of the Great Recession with lasting resonance. Palmdale has acquired such businesses as Family Christian Stores, Francesca’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Chick-Fil-A. Lancaster can boast of INCOTEC, a manufacturer of fastener coatings primarily for the aerospace and defense industries whose clientele includes Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and Northrup-Grumman.

The job front in Palmdale received good news as city hall and Palmdale Chamber of Commerce representatives this morning opened the new Sears Outlet at 320 W. Rancho Vista Blvd. The store is designed to provide customers with in-store as well as online access to new, display, discontinued, used, reconditioned and overstocked products including home appliances, lawn and garden equipment, apparel, sporting goods and tools.

Though the aerospace industry remains a prominent force in the region’s economy, the Antelope Valley is poised to bounce back from the economic downturn by virtue of an enterprise zone that stretches more than 61 square miles in Palmdale, Lancaster and unincorporated sections of Los Angeles County. New businesses may take advantage of various tax incentives such as a hiring tax credit, sales and use tax credit, business expense deduction, net operating loss carryover and interest deduction for lenders. A Foreign Trade Zone exists that offers international traders opportunities for cost-saving business ventures.

The 115-acre Fairway Business Park is considered the most prominent such facility in the Antelope Valley. Zoned for multi-purpose corporations from “super light” to “heavy industrial,” the park is home to Delta Scientific Corp., U.S. Pole Co., FedEx Ground Distribution Center, Premier Mercantile and a number of other businesses adding to the local tax base. Park One Industrial Center at Rancho Vista Boulevard and Sierra Highway, Sierra Business Park at 10th Street and Avenue M-4, and the 133-acre Sierra Gateway Business Park along Sierra Highway have each attracted recent interest by firms looking to relocate to an area of the county with encouraging job-growth potential.