Saturday, February 05, 2005

Counties like their growth numbers

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

Solano County business people are more hopeful about the economy than elsewhere in the Bay Area - where economic confidence is also rising, a new survey shows.

The Bay Area Council's quarterly survey, which polls more than 500 top executives, found overall confidence continuing on an upward trend that began nearly a year ago, council spokesman John Grubb said. Even so, it will be a while before the region can make up for jobs lost in the past few years, he said.

For about three years, confidence was steadily declining, Grubb said. The Bay Area experienced a net loss of 415,000 jobs between 2001 and last month, he said.

"That's how many (jobs) we need to make up to draw even. It's a deep hole, but we're digging out," Grubb said.

The reason survey respondents most often cited for the overall confidence rebound is an improved Bay Area economy, Grubb said. This is particularly true in the East Bay, which, for the council's purposes, includes Solano County.

Vallejo Chamber of Commerce chief Rick Wells and its new business recruitment director Karin Moss said the results echo reports they've heard.

"It's good news, but not surprising. We've seen increasing confidence in our members over the past year," Wells said.

"I attended the Bay Area Economic Summit in Oakland recently," Moss added, "and Solano County is off the charts in growth."

The survey showed 59 percent of Solano and Contra Costa county top executives think the local economy is better than it was six months ago. Regionally, that number is 52 percent. The study shows a moderate increase in confidence over last year at this time.

About 30 percent of regional and local executives plan to hire more people in the next six months. Locally, only 4 percent plan to let people go, compared to 7 percent regionally. Sixty-five percent of survey respondents plan no workforce changes, the study shows.

"So, in the Solano County-Contra Costa County area, they are a little more optimistic," Grubb said. "This may be because we've seen the greatest job growth in the Bay Area in the past year in the East Bay, including Solano County."

Grubb said this may be partially due to the region's diverse economic base.

"The companies in the East Bay are more diverse and less tech-dependent than other counties like Santa Clara, the most tech-dependent county, which lost jobs in the past year," Grubb said.
Santa Clara lost nearly 10,000 jobs in 2004, compared to a net gain of 14,000 jobs in the East Bay, Grubb said.

-- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

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