On January 13, 2012, OCBC Chair Julie Miller-Phipps of Kaiser Permanente led her 2012 Board of Directors in developing the year’s activities, priorities and performance review. The meeting began with an economic overview by Dr. Wallace Walrod who shared the following findings: Slow and solid economic growth is what can be expected for 2012. Unemployment rates are expected to lower, high-tech industries will grow and housing prices will remain stabilized. And while the rest of the nation works to get onboard with this recovery, Orange County is, and will continue to lead the pack in economic growth and recovery. OCBC’s 2012 theme, Nothing Rhymes with Orange, celebrates the unique innovation-driven culture that shapes the county. It is a county that has become famous for its tourist attractions and beautiful coastline, but is also a community thriving with pioneering, forward-thinking businesses.
Unemployment is slowly lowering in Orange County, down to 8 percent at the end of the quarter, and should dip below 8 percent this year, which is lower than both the state and the nation. While the county is sixth in the nation by population, it the second highest in paid employees; employing about 250,000 more employees than San Diego, which is fifth in population.
Orange County is home to a growing, diverse high-tech industry, which will help further economic growth. But as the business service industry also expands, there will remain a large skills gap between the jobs available and the education and experience of the workforce to fill those higher-wage jobs.
Another area that is showing improvement, but still needs a lot of attention is the rate of imports and exports in and out of Long Beach and Los Angeles. All inbound containers carry products, while half of all outbound containers go empty. The number of empty outbound containers is slowly lessening, but remains a concern for economic growth.
There are milestones to be celebrated in 2012 and challenges that still need to be addressed, but with that Orange County is still a unique and great place to live, work and do business. It is a center of innovation with its Pharma, BioTech and MedDevice industry leaders like Allergan and Edwards LifeSciences. It is the home of notable high tech companies like Broadcom, Visio, and it is the gateway to the world with regional headquarters for international businesses like Toshiba, Toyota, Samsung, Kia Motors, Mitsubishi and Hyundai.
And with proximity to the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and a highly-developed infrastructure, Orange County is a commerce interchange, which is opening to trade for Southern California and the nation. The County has developed into one of the most economically competitive and prosperous regions in the world.
Though, while Orange County is certainly a cut above the rest, it is not without its challenges. We are in the midst of an economic crisis that has forced us to rethink the way we do business. Businesses are struggling to navigate these uncertain times, with each day bringing new and unexpected challenges. Add to that ever-changing regulations and laws coming daily out of Sacramento, and a state government so plagued by partisan bickering and a perpetual budget crisis, that economic development is little more than an afterthought.
Maintaining Orange County’s competitive edge will require an intense commitment to preserving and enhancing a positive business climate in the evolving global economy. After deliberation, the Board unanimously approved its aggressive work plan for 2012. For more information contact Dr. Wallace Walrod, Chief Economic Advisor.