Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Solano supervisors told local economy expanding

Solano supervisors told local economy expanding

By From page A1 | March 23, 2016
FAIRFIELD — Financial indicators across the board show the Solano County economy has essentially recovered from the 2007 downturn, and is growing.

“Folks, the news continues to be good,” Robert Eyler, president of Economic Forensics and Analytics out of Petaluma, told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “We have gone from emerging from the recession to expanding.”

Eyler presented his 2015 Index of Economic & Community Progress report, highlighting increases in the number of jobs across the market landscape; increases from sales and property taxes; increases in gross and personal income per capita; and positive social indicators such as the high school graduation rate being higher and the dropout rate being lower than the state averages.

“The education data is the best that I’ve seen since doing the index,” said Eyler, who has been compiling the report for four years. He said the education numbers, as compared to the state, are the best since 2003.

Moreover, he called the report the best growth index he has ever put together.

It was equally clear, however, that those on the higher steps on the socio-economic ladder are generally benefitting from that growth more than those closer to the bottom, where wages are not keeping pace with the cost of living.

Moreover, the labor force is getting older, “choking off” job availability from younger people entering the market. That is balanced somewhat by the fact there are more people attending college.
Supervisor Linda Seifert said even lower-paying jobs are a positive because it gives people who may have been without work a place to start and rebuild – noting programs in the county that are reflecting that positive outcome.

But others pointed out that while the jobless rate may be going down, the pressures on the county to provide economic aid are on the rise.

Furthermore, broader-based employment profiles suggest the unemployment in Solano County could be closer to 10.6 percent than the 5.6 percent reported Friday by the state Economic Development Department. The same reporting puts the state jobless rate at greater than 11 percent.

Eyler, in a phone interview after the meeting, said it was difficult to pinpoint actual unemployment in the county. However, he said it would still be on the decline.

He cautioned the supervisors about artificially increasing income levels through minimum wage hikes because they act as a tax on business, which in turn must find a way to pass those costs along.

The more important message, Eyler said, is the influence of regional dynamics on the local economy – and the likelihood that tracking and adjusting to those elements will become more critical in the coming years.

As an example of the expanding regional snapshot, he noted that Solano County has more commuters leaving for their work than are coming in, calling it a double-edged sword of more money being spent locally; but traffic, the loss of skilled labor and other negative factors balance the ledger.

Another example is the construction industry. Contractors and other laborers may have taken their skills outside the county, but are bringing the paychecks home. He said there is a greater demand in the county than there appears to be supply of builders.

The presentation generated a pragmatic inquiry from Supervisor Jim Spering.

“It’s a good report, but what do we do with this report?” he asked.

Spering wanted to know how the raw data of the report can be used to develop on-the-ground policy and programs that will help the county.

“It is critical we have the information first,” said Sandy Person, president of the Solano County Economic Development Corporation, which will host its annual breakfast March 31 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield.

Eyler is the keynote speaker at the breakfast. He said he will emphasize the national and global picture of the economy at the event.

He told the board that the global economy does create “an uncertainty” that is hard to calculate.
Eyler extended the positives by noting that the growth has been slow and steady enough to offset interest rate fluctuations and fears there will be another housing downtown. He said another recession is not in the immediate forecast.

“We do not expect a recession in California, or the country, before the end of this decade,” Eyler said.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Fairfield runs lean shop, city manager says

Fairfield runs lean shop, city manager says

By From page A1 | March 03, 2016                                                                    
FAIRFIELD — Steph Curry shooting the winning three-pointer Saturday in overtime against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Draymond Green making a three-point shot during overtime Tuesday for the Golden State Warriors against the Atlanta Hawks.

David White, city manager of Fairfield, said he feels the same accomplishment week after week because of the amazing work of city employees.

Speaking Wednesday at the State of the Cities breakfast hosted by the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce, White recounted how Fairfield once had 650 city employees but that now 530 people work for the municipality.

“We run a very lean shop,” he said. “We’ve done a really good job with our resources.”

White also said at the breakfast meeting at Courtyard by Marriott on Holiday Lane in Fairfield that the city thinks holistically about community safety.

“It’s not just about arresting people on the street,” the city manager said.

He called the 2015 closing of Talk N Win on North Texas Street in Fairfield a huge win for the city and said officials took on the Internet gambling site in different ways, including successfully seeking state legislation about such operations.

Parkway Gardens, the 240-unit condominiums on Del Paso Court, is a more stable asset because of the city’s efforts, White said.

Measure P, the sales tax measure that ends in March 2018, is crucial to the city’s finances, he said.
Some people ask, “Why would you talk about this now?” White recounted.

“I lose $16 million of money to run the organization,” he said when the five-year tax ends.

Discussions about extending the measure have begun, said the city manager, who added that he and department heads for Fairfield are available to talk to groups about how the city is doing.

Suzanne Bragdon, city manager for Suisun City, spoke next and said the path for the municipality is stabilizing. But she said was shocked when 40 percent of residents in a poll responded that they believe the city’s finances are excellent or good.

Suisun City does not benefit from the 250,000 vehicles that drive daily along the Interstate 80 corridor where Fairfield and Vacaville are located, Bragdon said.

“We can fund the status quo,” she said of Suisun City’s financial status.

Sandy Person, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, said about 75,000 commute out of the county on workdays – while about 33,000 drive into Solano County.
Person also called Travis Air Force Base “more than just the largest employer.”

“This is a key catalyst,” she said.

Person said the second phase of Moving Solano Forward, an effort to develop a countywide strategy to further diversify the economic base of Solano County, is underway. A $453,460 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Economic Adjustment, pays for the new phase of the project.

Sean Quinn, former Fairfield city manager, is working for the Solano Economic Development Corporation as project manager for the Moving Solano Forward effort.
Solano County is contracting with the economic development corporation for the project.An economic development corridor strategy and a website to assist business, government and brokers are part of the second phase.

Solano County received a $370,000 grant from the Office of Economic Adjustment for the first phase and paid consultant Economic Planning Systems Inc. in an 18-month undertaking for an economic diversity report.

The first phase recommended 13 strategies and 39 actions for local jurisdictions during the next five years.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or