News Column

Central Valley Economy Fighting Back

Jan. 18, 2013

Kevin Parrish

San Joaquin County's economic fortunes have zigged and zagged for a decade.

The population surged, unemployment dropped, and home prices soared early in the century. Then, just as rapidly and just as steeply, everything was thrown in reverse.

Now, the long road back -- but in a slow, grinding kind of way.

That's the word from Jeffrey Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific.

"The downturn was worse here than everywhere else," Michael said Thursday, speaking at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's third annual Business Forecast Conference. "Job growth will be modest."

He did predict, with construction of the California Health Care Facility -- a 1,722-bed medical and mental health care structure for prison inmates -- that part of the county's employment dynamic would change.

"There will be more good, higher-paying jobs," Michael said.

The local housing market, despite rising prices in the Bay Area, won't experience any kind of dramatic rebound, he said.

Michael said the county -- after its real estate "bubble and crash" -- is in the middle of what he calls "the correction," a return to pricing and home sales activity more familiar to the early 2000s. He did say, however, the next two years for Stockton-area homeowners could bring a substantial bump upward in values. It won't be as dramatic or sustained, compared to what's been happening in Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties.

Michael's overall economic forecast echoed the presentation he made a year earlier to the same organization.

He was one of five speakers at the Hispanic chamber event, held at the Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center. About 250 people attended.

"I truly believe we've hit bottom, and we're on the way back up again," said Stockton's Sylvester Aguilar, a senior vice president with Bank of the West and president-elect of the Hispanic chamber. "The big challenge is to change perceptions."

Speaking before the conference, Aguilar, a Pacific and St. Mary's High School graduate, said, "What fuels our area is the availability of work. I'm very optimistic. It's going to take time, but we're going in the right direction."



Source: (c)2013 The Record (Stockton, Calif.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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