Monday, October 22, 2007

Job Growth Improves Local Cities' Economic Rankings

Job Growth Improves Local Cities' Economic Rankings
By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen/Times-Herald, Vallejo

The Vallejo-Fairfield metropolitan area was ranked the nation's 22nd best performing city of 2006, according to an economic think tank's latest job growth report. That's up from a rank of 41 in 2005.
The Santa Monica-based Milken Institute ranked U.S. metropolitan areas based on their ability to create and sustain jobs, and their use of technology for regional economic growth.

But the latest "Best Performing Cities" study was based on 2005 numbers and may not reflect current reality, institute officials said. The Vallejo-Fairfield area was ranked among the nation's 200 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

"Vallejo did have a 20-point jump, but there was a lot of volatility in the rankings this year," said Jennifer Manfre of the Milken Institute. "A 20-point jump up or down was not uncommon around the nation."

Manfre said energy prices and "housing corrections" help explain the unpredictability in this year's rankings. And since the Vallejo-Fairfield MSA is among the hardest hit by the subprime lending and resulting home foreclosure crisis, its ranking next year may reflect that, she said.

"You might see a significant drop next year, based on 2006 data, but the tech industry is rebounding, which might help offset that, depending on how impacted you are by the high-tech industry," Manfre said.

On the other hand, Solano County's economic diversity, which has shielded it from feeling the full impact of past economic downturns, may once again cushion the blow.

"That's my hope," said Solano Economic Development Corp. President Mike Ammann. "All I can do is continue trying to bring in jobs from diverse industries so our economy can remain resilient and weather the inevitable bends in the economy."

Economists are always "looking in the rear-view mirror," he added. "And by the time the numbers reflecting the bend come out, we may already be turning around."

The Vallejo area's five-year job growth was nearly 8 percent above the national average, but its one-year growth was right at the national average, Manfre said. The area's wages and salary growth was 14 percent above the national average over five years, but only at the national average for its one-year measurement, Manfre said.

The study measures high-tech and related job growth specifically, and the Vallejo area's five-year performance for that criteria was 35 percent above the national average, though its one-year growth was only about 2 percent above the national average.

Ammann insists the results reflect a positive tendency in the region's economic growth.

"Long term, this is an upward trend," he said. "These economic bends hurt, but you've got to keep your eyes on the prize a little longer. We'll pull through this."

One reason Ammann said he's so sure the region will thrive, is that Solano County has experienced growth in high-paying jobs imported from around the Bay Area and beyond.

"Genentech is expanding, Touro University has a $330 million cancer treatment center project with Siemens Corporation, and a number of other firms are expanding in Fairfield and Dixon. There's a good, solid industrial base in Solano County."

"And as far as biotech, we ranked No. 1 for Northern California, from San Jose to Sacramento," Ammann added. "And we have more venture capital money than any place in the world."

The Riverside-SanBernardino-Ontario metropolitan area was the only one in California in the top 10, according to the study. It ranked third after Ocala, Fla., and Wilmington, N.C.

Vallejo-Fairfield Metropolitan Statistical Area Rankings
Overall Rank: 22 Population: 412,000
5-year Job Growth (2001-06) Score: 107.82 Rank: 27
1-year Job Growth (2005-06) Score: 99.99 Rank: 97
5-year Wages & Salary Growth (2000-05) Score: 114.01 Rank: 20
1-year Wages & Salaries Growth (2004-05) Score: 100.26 Rank: 86
Job Growth (Mar 2006-Mar 2007) Growth: 2.75% Rank: 30
5-year Relative High Tech GDP Growth (2001-2006) Score: 134.77 Rank: 11
1-year Relative High Tech GDP Growth (2005-2006) Score: 101.88 Rank: 41
Source: 2007 Best Performing Cities, Milken Institute

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