Sacramento has long been considered a core for employment opportunities in the region, drawing commuters daily from the surrounding suburbs into the city. That was part of a mid-20th century philosophy of land-use planning that people would be willing to drive greater distances to work in exchange for large homes, good schools and safe communities for their families.
In recent years, however, this trend has started to shift.
While many residents still commute from southern parts of Placer County into Sacramento every day, Placer Valley — the cities of Lincoln, Rocklin and Roseville — has also become a major employment hub, attracting a range of companies and sectors.
The employment landscape
Chris Burnley needed people. His Hayward-based company, Corefact, which markets automation software to the real estate industry, was struggling to find employees in the Bay Area. “It’s too expensive. Nobody can afford to live (in the Bay Area) anymore,” he says. So when his company was ready to expand, it added an office in Roseville in 2018.
A 2017 report by Beacon Economics found that Placer Valley is home to roughly 90 percent of Placer County residents and about 80 percent of its jobs, with total employment in the area at the time pegged at 121,000 jobs. Most of South Placer’s businesses at that point were small, with the report noting that around 3,400 of the nearly 3,800 establishments in the area employed fewer than 50 people.
“The backbone of our economy are small businesses,” says Sherri Conway, Placer County’s economic development director.
There are also major employers in each city. In Roseville — where there are 89,492 jobs, with a median house- hold income of $84,900 — the largest private-sector employers are Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Pride Industries, Adventist Health and Topgolf, according to City of Roseville data. With three of the city’s top five private employers health- related, Roseville has become a health- care hub, with the 2017 report noting that the city had 14,800 jobs in the sector, with average earnings annually of $78,800.
“That’s what draws people here. The combination of schools, of quality housing, (parks) and recreation, all those quality-of-life elements. … And employers see that as well.”
–Shawn Tillman, economic development director, City of Lincoln
Across sectors, Wendy Gerig, CEO of the Roseville Area Chamber of Commerce, says employers are encouraged by the city government’s attitude toward companies, how it provides all services and its level of responsiveness to concerns from the business community. “They don’t wait until there are problems,” Gerig says.
Laura Matteoli, Roseville’s economic development director, credits the local political atmosphere. “In the 24 years I’ve been here, I would say that every city council that has sat is pro-business,”she says.
Prior to Corefact opening its local office, which employs approximately 20, Burnley met with Matteoli and other city staff. “It just seemed to me like they were the most proactive, business-friendly community out there,” he says. “And you can see the growth. To us, it just felt like a safe bet.”
Meanwhile, Rocklin has 36,515 jobs, with its largest employers being Sierra College, Rocklin Unified School District, Oracle, American Health Care, and S.E. Scher Corporation, according to city officials.
Retail has also thrived in Rocklin, with specialty merchants like RC Willey, Bass Pro Shops and Pottery World, Marc Mondell, assistant city manager, says. “It’s been increasing year after year over the last decade or so, frankly, which is encouraging, because you’re seeing a reverse trend in other parts of the country,” he says.
Other sectors are doing well too, says Robin Trimble, CEO of the Rocklin Area Chamber of Commerce.
Bruce Capagli is chief operating offi- cer of Precision Medical Products, which has corporate headquarters in Rocklin with approximately 35-40 employees. “It’s the location,” says Capagli, whose company also recently opened a distribution center with 10-20 employees in Lincoln. “We’re a bunch of Placer County guys.” He says, “You can provide a great place to work in a Class A environment in a good, safe community that’s affordable for the people we employ.”
Lincoln, the smallest of the three cities, has the least amount of jobs, with fewer than 21,000, per the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, though it still features some major companies, including the largest employer in Placer Valley, Thunder Valley Casino Resort. According to Shawn Tillman, economic development director for Lincoln, the next four largest private employers are San Francisco Bay Coffee Company; Sierra Pacific Industries; BZ Plumbing Co.; and Gladding, McBean.
Being small has its perks too. John Coburn, president of GC Products, which makes trims and finishes for commercial buildings, consolidated operations from Sparks, Nevada, to Lincoln in June 2018. He says it has been easy to reach city staff, and the cost per square foot in Lincoln is affordable. “The hub for workers is much better here,” Coburn says.
Seeing the value
Tom Indrieri, who became CEO of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce in July 2019, says he’s already “heard several large employers mention” quality of life being a significant attracting factor. “It’s an absolutely wonderful place to live, probably first and foremost,” says Tillman. “That’s what draws people here. The combination of schools, of quality housing, (parks) and recreation, all those quality-of-life elements. … And employers see that as well.”
Key stakeholders are working to get more employers to see this. This month, officials from the region will travel to the South by Southwest event in Austin, Texas, to promote the region. “We’re not a household name,” Conway says. “We’re not the Bay Area. We’re not (Los Angeles). We’re not even Sacramento. So we have some brand building to do. And the best way to build the brand is strength in numbers.”
Mondell thinks the opening of a 160,000-square-foot events center at @the Grounds in Roseville will bring a large influx of visitors to the region. “Many of them are probably going to be thinking twice about whether they want to leave or not after coming to visit here,” he says.
Burnley sees the appeal with Roseville. “It feels to me like a very upscale little town,” he says. “And I think that bodes well for people who are coming in and visiting and thinking about working there.”