As we begin a new year, few of us feel ready to break out party hats and celebrate the state of our economy. Cities throughout the region are staggering from the dual blows of budget cuts and disappearing redevelopment funds. Still, most indicators have turned positive, however slightly, and economic forecasters say the worst is behind us. In fact, the most optimistic experts claim risks are being overblown and progress ignored.
When I look around our region, I find myself agreeing with these optimists. All too often I see media ignoring progress while broadcasting problems. So, I’d like to begin 2013 by focusing on just a few of the positive developments that are evidence of our region’s emerging recovery.
Take the real estate market. Traditional home sales — where sellers actually walk away with cash — have reached their highest numbers across the region since the housing boom peaked in 2005. Houses are selling quickly in cities like Citrus Heights, Antelope and Elk Grove, thanks to buyers who are moving up or downsizing.
Commercial real estate is also showing new signs of life. McClellan Business Park has signed four new leases totaling 54,000 square feet, creating a year-over-year net gain of 100,000 square feet for the office park and about 175 new jobs.
In West Sacramento, Southport Business Park has also added new tenants. Saladino’s, a Fresno-based food-service business, is opening a 135,000-square-foot distribution warehouse, while Japanese food producer Nippon Shokken is building a $16 million headquarters and production plant.
Yet another gain for West Sacramento is American Pasteurization Co. Its new facility will make high-pressure processing technology for the food industry, eventually hiring up to 80 people.
In fact, food processing and agriculture continue to be a bright spot in the region’s economy, with the $1 billion-plus industry largely untouched by the recession. Likewise for health care, a driver of our region’s economy. Eye-care company VSP Global in Rancho Cordova is hiring some 400 new employees and was recently named to Inc. Magazine’s list of the nation’s top job creators. Sutter Health is opening a new central services center in Roseville and promises to staff it with more than 1,000 employees in the first 18 months.
All this, and I have yet to mention the range of technology companies — from computers and electronics to biosciences and clean energy — poised to lead our economy through the next decades. We’re seeing expansion from large, existing companies, including Telefunken Semiconductors in Roseville and Advanced Call Center Technologies in Rancho Cordova.
Start-ups and small technology companies are also continuing to grow despite the recession. The Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance catalogues more than 100 enterprises in the fast-growing area of medical technology and nearly that number in clean tech.
Finally, to add some pizzazz — and perhaps salve some of the wounds inflicted by the Maloofs — the city will soon welcome a new professional sports team, an expansion franchise in the United Soccer League. Team investors hope the franchise will eventually lead to a Major League Soccer team for Sacramento. City leaders say they’re excited about adding both jobs and family-friendly activities to our region.
All of this gives me reason to cheer as we start a new year and the confidence to say we are at the beginning of a true recovery. Happy New Year to all!