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State of Yuba-Sutter's economy: Recovery appears under way
Largest employers in Yuba-Sutter, as of May
• Beale Air Force Base: 5,797
• Rideout Health Group: 1,714
• Yuba City Unified School District: 1,338
• Marysville Joint Unified School District: 1,200
• Sutter County: 950
• Yuba County: 902
• Wal-Mart (two stores): 850
• Caltrans: 800
• Sunsweet Growers Inc.: 765
• Sutter North Medical Foundation: 527
• Sysco Food Service of Sacramento: 460
• Yuba Community College District: 432
• Pacific Gas & Electric Co.: 341
• City of Yuba City: 339
Source: Yuba-Sutter Economic Development Corp.
Sales tax revenue received to date (cities and counties), 2012-13
Sutter County: $6.248 million
Yuba County: $2.317 million
To come this year
Figures do not includes sales taxes specified for transportation or special districts.
• Continued work on expansion of Rideout Regional Medical Center in Marysville.
• Establishment of new medical glove factory in Olivehurst, eventually bringing as many as 175 jobs.
• Government construction jobs with Sutter County jail expansion, several new interchanges on Highways 70 and 99, and the Sutter County animal shelter.
• Possible defense spending cuts through sequestration, expected to affect Beale Air Force Base and surrounding region.
• Implementation of federal health care reform, leading to expected growth in local medical services but also possibly slower hiring among businesses.
When Brynda Stranix took the helm at the Yuba-Sutter Economic Development Corp. in 2009, it wasn't an easy time to work for business expansion in the region.
The economy, lagging behind the rest of California even in good times, was still headed for unemployment rates nearing 20 percent, hundreds of home foreclosures and budget cuts by local governments.
In early 2013, Stranix said, she believes the worst is behind the region.
"I don't have a crystal ball, but the feeling is different from a few years ago," Stranix said. "We receive more job notices, and it's amazing how quickly they're filled."
Among the other positive signs Stranix said she sees is local manufacturers, such as RelyAid Global Healthcare LLC, making plans to open or expand this year, potentially adding dozens of jobs.
"I'm excited about the possibilities," she said.
Unemployment rate down, but still many jobless
Receiving steady doses of labor force data doesn't mean Diane Patterson makes predictions, or forecasts, about where a region's economy is headed.
Instead, in her role as a labor market analyst for the state Employment Development Department, Patterson simply can report what the numbers suggest now, relative to what they suggested awhile ago.
And when looking at such indicators as unemployment, what the numbers suggest is Yuba-Sutter is doing better than a few years ago, but still far from its best showing in the last decade.
"Like we see in the nation and in the state, it's widely publicized that there are areas still struggling," said Patterson, even though most indicators show the Great Recession peaked in mid-2010.
The number of unemployed people in Yuba-Sutter has fallen by 10 percent between 2010 and 2012, she said, though there are 6,300 more people out of work than in 2006.
And if one is looking for caveats, Patterson said she would acknowledge unemployment rates provide only a partial picture. They don't include people who, for a number of reasons, aren't working but also aren't looking.
Unemployment rate in Yuba-Sutter in January: 16.9 percent.
Diane Patterson, labor market analyst for the state Employment Development Department, said the figure is improving for the region relative to 2010, when it was 19.4 percent.
"That said, the rate is still among the highest in the state," Patterson said.
The low in the last decade-and-a-half was 6.1 percent in September 2000, before the bust in the high-tech sector, and more recently as low as 6.8 percent in September 2006, before housing began to decline.
Going back to 1990, she said, the region began to see an overall growth in jobs from 1993 through 1997, and still has more jobs than it had 23 years ago.
Since 2007, only two sectors, leisure & hospitality and agriculture, have seen actual gains, while two others, information technology and financial activities, have remained steady.
Local employers concerned job seekers lack proper skills
At the North Counties Central Consortium, director Nancy Crooks said she goes beyond just numbers as indicators of the local economic forecast and thinks instead in terms of equations.
Such as, workers + training = better fits for available jobs.
"Now it's about working in collaboration," said Crooks, who has been in workforce development for 17 years. That means finding the jobs and the skills they need, offering classes to teach the skills and getting students to take them.
Crooks said she hears from business owners and leaders who are concerned they're offering jobs few locally can do because the education isn't there. In a global economy, those jobs, skills and workers are in constant flux.
"We just go with the flow at the time and place," she said.
Training workers is key
Percentage of the North Counties Central Consortium budget for 2012-13 devoted to workforce training: Between 25 and 30 percent.
Consortium Director Nancy Crooks said in the next year, her push is to match up workers with skills for the available jobs.
"We're trying to get the connection back," she said.
Brynda Stranix and Crooks said training is a key component of ongoing economic recovery. But the trick, Crooks said, is making sure the training matches the fields expected to have demand, such as health care.
There is also a need for training aimed at certain sectors, such as returning military veterans, she said.
Clearly, there is work to do.
On a scorecard comparing regions by the Center for Economic Development at California State University, Chico, the Yuba-Sutter region finished at the bottom among nine comparable areas between 2009 and 2011 for the percentage of its labor force with a college degree, and also last for the percentage of workers with specialized training in 2011.
Ag stays dominant in Y-S
Gross regional product growth among nine regions:
First, the ranking for Yuba-Sutter in the 2013 Economic Scorecard, complied by the Center for Economic Development at California State University, Chico.
The gross regional product represents the final value of all goods and services produced within a region, calculated using a formula involving consumer spending, capital investment, government spending and net exports.
Brynda Stranix, president and chief operating officer at the Yuba-Sutter Economic Development Corp., said she sees it as a strong indicator because it's connected to the federal gross domestic product.
To find the driver for Yuba-Sutter from 2005-2010 from which the gross regional product figure was derived, look outside the city, Stranix said. "I think it's our incredible ag business," she said.
Agricultural production and sales have remained strong during the Great Recession, even leading to labor shortages last year.
Among the regions compared to Yuba-Sutter in the 2013 Center for Economic Development Scorecard were Sacramento; Reno, Nev.; Boise, Idaho; Portland, Ore.; Fresno; and Redding.