Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Experts: Economy good for Solano County in 2007

Experts: Economy good for Solano County in 2007

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald

Article Launched:12/31/2006 09:12:47 AM PST
Local and regional experts agree Solano County will improve economically in the coming year, though not all prognosticators agree about the area's job growth prospects.

"Overall, the Solano County economy has enjoyed healthy economic growth and the Bay Area migration is expected to continue to supply the pipeline of new businesses to the county in 2007," said Solano Economic Development Corp. vice president Sandy Person.

Person concedes that bringing enough jobs to the county to accommodate its labor force, will continue to be a challenge in 2007. A significant percentage of the county's labor force now commutes outside the county, she said. Bringing more reliable, affordable energy to the county is another main challenge, she said.

Vallejo Chamber of Commerce board chairman Verna Mustico, said she believes several of the long-promised local redevelopment projects will actually begin to move forward in 2007.

"It looks like the downtown project and the waterfront project are getting back on track, and something may be coming together between Touro (University) and Lennar (Mare Island) over the university village vision Touro has for Mare Island, which would be a plus for Vallejo," Mustico said.

The University of the Pacific Eberhardt School of Business' most recent quarterly forecast also predicts Solano County's personal income and population will continue climbing into the foreseeable future.

University researchers agree with a recent United States Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis report, which revealed that personal income grew nationally by 1.4 percent in the past quarter. While growth picked up in all regions, it was especially strong in the region that includes California, bureau figures show.

Eberhardt dean Chuck Williams said Vallejo-Fairfield residents can expect continued job growth.

"The region has been enjoying steady job growth since 1998," Williams said. After 2 percent job growth in 2005, the economy is expected to post an average of 1.6 percent job growth through 2009, he said. That's higher than the state's rate of 1.4 percent, he added.

Fueling local employment expansion is job growth in all but three sectors - federal government, construction and manufacturing - which are predicted to lose some jobs in the short term, Williams said. Job growth is expected to be especially strong in the professional and business sector and the education and health sector, he said.

As more jobs come to the region, the unemployment rate will be kept in the low 5 percent range even as the regional population grows nearly 1 percent annually until 2009, Williams said.

The school's job growth predictions don't line up exactly with the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, which predicts the Solano/Napa region will experience a hiring slowdown in the first part of 2007. The Solano/Napa area is among only two areas the Manpower survey forecasts will experience net job losses - 4 percent locally - in the coming quarter.

By contrast, San Rafael is expected to gain 50 percent more jobs, the largest gain statewide, and Kings County is expected to make the sharpest drop, losing 7 percent of its jobs, according to Manpower.

The best job prospects locally, in the short term, will be in public administration, while it will be slightly harder to find jobs in construction, wholesale and retail trade in the coming quarter, said area Manpower spokeswoman Sherrie Phillipi.

Manpower's latest survey finds that though the decline in confidence among employers is slight nationwide, it makes for the lowest net employment outlook for the nation in two years.

In terms of real estate sales, a major economic driver that has declined recently, Mustico, a Vallejo Realtor, said she "hopes and expects" home sales and prices to begin inching back up after the first of the year.

E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at RachelZ@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6824.

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