Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Report: Solano economy beyond recovery, into expansion

By Kevin W. Green
From page A3 | March 11, 2015 |
FAIRFIELD — Moving beyond recovery and into expansion was the theme to an economic report presented to the Solano County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
“One of the things that is the theme of this report is the idea that we have now moved beyond recovery and are in what we think, or what economists call economic expansion,” said Robert Eyler, principal of Economic Forensics and Analytics.
Eyler presented the board with his 2014 Index of Economic and Community Progress. The annual report was prepared for the Solano Economic Development Corporation and the county. Eyler will be the keynote speaker when the report is presented at a Solano EDC breakfast event Friday at the Hilton Garden Inn, 2200 Gateway Court.

In anticipating expansion, Eyler cautioned not to expect an expansion like recent ones.

“The expansion won’t necessarily look like the expansions we saw in the ’90s or in the last decade,
but it’s an expansion nonetheless,” he said.

Eyler pointed to plenty of positive points in making his presentation to the board.

“There’s a lot of good news in terms of the economy,” he said.

There was job growth and income growth, he said. It was slightly slower growth in 2014 than 2013, however, something he attributes to the housing market in 2013.

Eyler did outline some concerns, meanwhile, in his presentation.

“You have some movement in the employment versus labor force, which is natural in a place like Solano County,” he said. “It’s also true in other North Bay counties and other places outside of major urban areas.

“You see labor force growth, residential employment growth, but not necessarily commensurate local employment growth – meaning that people are coming to Solano County to live and they’re outbound commuting to where there are higher wages or better incomes for the time being,” he said. “And usually what happens is the local economy slowly catches up to that, which is basically where Solano County is.”

Board Chairwoman Erin Hannigan asked Eyler about details concerning the number of people who live and work in Solano, compared to those who live in Solano and work outside of the county. While he did not have specific numbers, Eyler pointed out that there are also those who travel into Solano for work.

“There’s a lot of outbound commuting,” he said. “There’s also some inbound.”

Another concern in the report is the county’s aging population, Eyler said. The aging populace is probably the top consideration of the demographics, he said. Solano County’s population continues to get older, along with that of other Bay Area counties and the state, the report said.

While some other regions are doing better in terms of economics, Solano still has a lot to offer, Eyler pointed out.

“We’re not as robust as other places, but there’s still some beautiful opportunities in terms of economic development as a result of having relatively lower housing prices and relatively lower wages and commercial space that’s still available,” he said. “You jam all that together, Solano County should still be seen as a place of opportunity.”

Hannigan questioned how a decrease in unemployment corresponds to a rise in Solano residents on Medi-Cal.

“You expect as growth takes place, you would have a reduced demand,” Eyler said.

He pointed out, however, that there has been an anticipated effect due to the Affordable Care Act and changes in eligibility.

Another highlight cited in the report was a population growth for Solano County of 1.15 percent, based on an increase of 4,844 people in 2014. A change was noted, meanwhile, as domestic immigration – from places inside the United States – outpaced foreign immigration to Solano County for the first time since 2009.

A positive note contained in the report was in regard to education in Solano. Graduation rates in the county rose above the state in 2012-13 and more students are ready for University of California and California State University schools than any school year since 2007-08, the report said.

Reach Kevin W. Green at 427-6974 or