Ventura facing strong economic future

Ventura facing strong economic future

Original Article Posted Here:

By Rachel McGrath
Ventura County Star
Posted June 14, 2008

Despite the current tough financial times, the city of Ventura has a bright economic future, a leading economic forecaster told the Chamber of Commerce on Friday.

“We expect Ventura to do rather well in a poor economy,” Bill Watkins told about 150 business and community leaders at the Marriott Ventura Beach Hotel for the chamber’s annual economic forecast breakfast meeting.

Watkins, executive director of the UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project, said Ventura has a relatively stable economy compared with the rest of the state and nation. He pointed to the city’s slow growth as one of the major factors that has helped make the area’s economy less volatile.

“Single-family homes haven’t declined (in price) as much in Ventura as elsewhere,” he said, “and there’s been an almost 1 percent increase in jobs in the Ventura metro area. Ventura will ride out the situation better than will many communities.”

Watkins said economic growth outside the city has slowed sharply, partly because of troubles at two of the east county’s major employers, Amgen and Countrywide. The residential real estate market remains uncertain, but overall, Ventura County has fared much better than other counties in Southern California, such as San Bernardino and Riverside, he said.

Real estate developer and investor Harvey Champlin said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the Ventura economic forecast.

“It was more optimistic than I expected, and I’m encouraged,” he said.

“I was glad to hear him project such good things for the future,” said Kay Faulconer-Boger, dean of economics and community development at Ventura College.

“When we hear so much negativity about what’s happening in the real estate market and sales, it was really hopeful to hear the good news that he had based on his information,” Boger said.

As far as California’s outlook, new job data shows the state is generating far fewer jobs than it did the last two years and sales tax revenue has declined.

“California is not the land of opportunity anymore,” said Watkins.

Many longtime residents are moving out of the state, he said, although the population continues to grow by about a half-million people a year.

Watkins said the national economy is still growing.

“All the data indicates we are not in a recession,” he told his audience.

“The consumer is not that badly off. Most bank delinquency is due to change in circumstances, but there’s no sign the average consumer is in trouble,” Watkins said.

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