Friday, April 1, 2016

Speaker: Outside pressures could shake Solano economy

Speaker: Outside pressures could shake Solano economy

By From page A4 | April 01, 2016
FAIRFIELD — China, the presidential election and, of course, the whims of Wall Street could have significant effects on the Solano County economy.

That was one of the primary messages given to business leaders by economist Robert Eyler at the annual Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn.

“The news is good . . . (but) there are still a lot of challenges,” said Eyler, president of Economic

Forensics and Analytics in Petaluma. “Those challenges are global, national and state that Solano has to absorb.”

Eyler in an interview after his presentation of his 2015 Index of Economic and Community Progress said some of his specific concerns are China’s position in the economic market; whether Europe will be more stable, particularly in light of the terrorist attacks in the recent past; and how American businesses will react to interest rates as they likely will climb.

In addition to those points, he also noted the presidential election and his concerns that the business climate will become more uncertain and “grind the economy” to a near halt in the coming months.

Eyler also emphasized the need for Solano County to recognize the regional nature of its economy, including the fact that more people leave the county to work than come in for jobs.

“Is that a bad thing?” he asked.

The answer, like many points on the economy, was yes and no.

The good part is that people are bringing back generally better incomes than they apparently can find in the county. The negatives include a drain on workforce talent and traffic congestion.

At the same time, job growth is at an all-time level in Solano County, Eyler reported. Similarly, the housing market is on the upswing.

The single biggest reaction from the crowd, however, was the news that local schools have a better graduation rate and a lower dropout rate than that of the state. In his presentation to the Board of

Supervisors earlier this month, he said those numbers are the best since 2003.

How that translates to the kind of skilled workforce local employers are looking for is not entirely known.

Moreover, Eyler expressed concern about how a forced minimum wage hike to $15 an hour will affect that growth, particularly in a county where small businesses drive so much of the economy. Eyler also emphasized that the impact of the drought on the local economy goes far beyond agriculture, adding it is not just an issue of how much rain the state gets.

“The reality is we have an archaic way of distributing water,” he said. “It really is a water systems issue.”

Reach Todd R. Hansen at 427-6932 or