Solano County's economy is improving and one sure sign is that housing prices are rebounding, according economic experts who spoke to county business leaders Friday.
During the State of the Solano County Business Climate, hosted by the Business Journal, Robert Eyler, an economics professor at Sonoma State University, told an audience of business and community leaders that housing prices are up.
"Generally speaking, Solano will recover a little bit faster than California," he said, adding that the rebound is driven by construction and services in the county. "We caught a little fire in our housing market."
He said housing prices are expected to rise 6 to 8 percent in 2014.
Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, president and CEO of Travis Credit Union, said she's not surprised to see that the housing market has improved.
"There is a sense of optimism, but caution," she said. "Most believe that the worst is behind us and it's time to take managed risks."
Eyler said it remains to be seen if Silicon Valley will produce another technology bump to remain No. 1 in the World. He said the United States economy is still feeding off the technology boom from the last decade.
Meanwhile, Eyler said that nationally unemployment will drop to 6.5 percent by the end of 2014, perhaps under 6 percent by the middle of 2015. Housing prices are expected to rise 6 to 8 percent in the country, while inflation will increase 2 percent in California.
A survey conducted by the Business Journal, that garnered 100 responses from local businesses, shows a snap shot in time, said Brad Bollinger, publisher of the North Bay Business Journal.
The survey results showed that local businesses believe that manufacturing and health care are the top industries in the county. Nearly 65 percent ranked the overall business climate as "very favorable" or "favorable."
Bollinger noted that the survey was finished before the announcement that Genentech is expanding in Vacaville and that Caymus is moving its business to Solano County.
Additionally, about half of the businesses in Solano plan to expand within the county during the next five years, the survey found.
Sandy Person, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, said she's seen improvement as well.
"The past 18 months have been extremely dynamic," she said. "Frankly the past 5 years sucked."
She said other businesses have been in the trenches with them, doing more with less and losing staff.
"You have to want to be in California in order to do business in California," Person said.
Van Ouwerkerk said Travis Credit Union has seen more requests for business loans and increase in lines of credit.
"There have been investments in not just equipment, but people," she said.
Concerns from the audience were voiced about the roll out of the Affordable Care Act and its impact on local businesses.
Eyler said that even though it's still stumbling, he doesn't think it's changing the short or middle terms, but it will have more of an impact on the long term.
"We're going into an experiment together to see how it will impact us," he said.
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