COLLEGE OF THE DESERT ROADRUNNER MOTORS PROGRAM EXPECTS TO SERVE 8,379 FULL, PART-TIME LOW-INCOME STUDENTS OVER 7-YEAR PERIOD
CATHEDRAL CITY — What former College of the Desert President Martha Garcia attempted to do in October 2021 with a single news release has failed miserably. Garcia attempted to move the Roadrunner Motors program, which consists of an automotive and advanced transportation facility featuring a modernized lab and classrooms out of this city and seek alternative locations.
That was then, this is now. Garcia is gone and a new president is in charge. And the Roadrunner Motors program is headed back to this community, the second largest in the Valley.
Construction is slated to begin in fall 2024 on the new 25,983-square-foot Roadrunner Motors training center. It will replace a smaller existing automotive school in Palm Desert and is expected to cost $27.6 million to construct in addition to the land that has already been acquired.
Occupancy is slated for December 2025, according to Hope who recently updated the City Council. It will accommodate 100 at a time with room to grow.
“Obviously, we think this is a big win because of the proximity to auto dealers in Cathedral City, but also throughout the Coachella Valley,” Hope said. “This is not just a win for Cathedral City, it’s a win for the entire industry.”
The facility where students will work on diesel, hybrid and electric vehicles is “bright, modern and encourages collaboration,” Hope said.
In 2018, the city’s Economic Development Department assisted COD in acquiring 5.88 acres located on Margo Murphy Way south of East Palm Canyon adjacent to Desert Lexus, Volkswagen of Palm Springs, and Palm Springs Subaru. In late 2021 and early 2022, EDD and a team of community volunteers successfully worked with COD to reinstate the then-canceled Cathedral City COD Roadrunner Motors Campus.
In 2022, Richard A. Parker, Ph.D. evaluated the economic impact of a Cathedral City based RRM. Parker provided the following overview of a Cathedral City RRM:
- College of the Desert, through its parent entity the Desert Community College District, acquired the land in Cathedral City for $3,050,000 on which the new Roadrunner Motors automotive training facility will be developed. The land is located in a New Market Tax Credit Eligible census tract that also qualifies as being “highly-distressed.”
- The existing Palm Desert building is comprised of approximately 20,875 gross assignable square footage with 17,400 dedicated solely to the Automotive Program that offers Associate of Science Degrees in Automotive Technology and Advanced Transportation.
The current program has not been able to grow significantly because there is no additional space in which to schedule more classes and accommodate additional students. There are even a handful of classes that are offered at Rancho Mirage High School. With the Labor Market Information data, there are at least 800 or more jobs available annually in the Coachella Valley region.
Therefore, the number of direct/quality jobs available regionally in the next 7 years would be 5,600. Student enrollments over a five-year period averaged 855. Trends indicate that four enrollments represent one unique full-time equivalent student, resulting in an average student headcount of more than 200 students. With this new facility, there is an expectation to double the enrollments, which would be 1,710 student enrollments annually serving around 400 unique full-time equivalent students. Over a 7-year period, this new facility would support 11,970 student enrollments serving a 2,900 unique student headcount. Historically, 70% of all student enrollments in automotive technology are low-income students. With this new facility, over a 7- year period, the college is expecting to serve 8,379 full and part-time low-income student enrollments.
This translates into job creation and upward mobility, with greater than 75% of these students having found jobs within two semesters of leaving the COD program. According to the California Employment Development Department, automotive service technicians and mechanics earned a median pay in 2021 of $52,227/year (California) with a typical education being postsecondary training but not a degree. The department forecasts 77,000 job openings by 2028—800 annually per year in the Coachella Valley.
COD’s new Roadrunner Motors school in Cathedral City is being planned and developed to provide a mix of classrooms, lecture space, automotive tech labs, toolrooms, storage, and automotive lifts and pads. In addition, the facility will include office & administrative space, an industry partner conference/seminar room, parking for classroom vehicles, and parking for students and faculty.
Industry partners include Ford, Subaru, Snap-On Tools, Intel Artificial Intelligence, and Porsche Technology, among others. Parker’s report goes on to summarize economic impacts including “a local economic impact of construction at $40.8 million and local annual economic impact of permanent operations of $6.7 million.”
The report concludes with, …the total economic impact of the College of the Desert Roadrunner Motors Training Facility during these 24 years has an immediate present value of more than $100 million —in Riverside County. This includes the current value of 24 years of income to Riverside County workers equal to $26.6 million.