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Rebecca McCourt, Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce Executive Director /Laura Austin Photo

Ridgecrest’s economy weathered pandemic fairly well

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer–

“While most people are moving on and feel as though the pandemic is over, the effects of the pandemic are impacting our local businesses now more than it was in the thick of

the health crisis,” says Rebecca McCourt, Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce Executive Director.  “Now we’re having all the impacts of inflation and the supply and demand effects that we’ve seen. That’s compounded by the fact that we are in a remote area. Things like increased gas prices and the increased cost of labor, we feel even more because of our remote location.

“Overall Ridgecrest, our community, our local economy, weathered the pandemic fairly well. Our industries bounced back faster than a lot of other places. Our hospitality industries were impacted, but not quite as devastating as it was seen in a lot of other places.”  Now the gas prices are affecting local tourism. “It’s a distance to get out here,” McCourt says.

Using the restaurant industry as an example, perhaps people may be eating out more than when there were serious restrictions, but the supply chain is affected and the price of doing business is going up. Some businesses may have to raise their prices or some choose to absorb the costs and that affects their bottom line.

There isn’t anyone who keeps track of which businesses closed during the pandemic but a major business that closed was In-Shape Health Club. McCourt shares what she learned about their closing qualifying her comments by saying it is third-hand knowledge. “A lot of our commercial spaces in Ridgecrest are not owned by people who live in Ridgecrest,” she explains. “Often the expectations by out-of-town owners are not realistic for what the market is in Ridgecrest. They might be basing their expectations off of a Los Angeles or a Bay Area commercial space, which is not what our commercial spaces go for. It is my understanding is that during the pandemic rents were raised. Gyms were not operating during the pandemic because their business model didn’t fit in with all of the health restrictions. It was not an accommodation they could make to continue to stay there.”

McCourt points out the silver lining that other small workout facilities have opened to fill part of the void they left. Local residents enjoy 760 Fitness on China Lake Boulevard and Jack’d Studio on Norma Street. She adds, “For those who can access the Base, their new gym is set to open later this year.”