SOURCE: Milken Institute

October 02, 2012 09:15 ET

Contra Costa's Blueprint for Growth

Report Provides Comeback Strategy for the Bay Area County

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - Oct 2, 2012) - California's Contra Costa County should be the envy of its peers, with a mature industrial base that generates more than $50 billion in annual sales, and close proximity to the world's most dynamic commercial and technology center -- the San Francisco Bay Area. But Contra Costa's growth has fallen behind its neighbors, with lagging creation of high-paying jobs, contraction in its industrial base, and unbalanced economic growth across the county.

A new report from the California Center of the Milken Institute presents a strategic plan for creating more widespread prosperity across the county. "Contra Costa County: A Blueprint for Growth," provides a platform to engage county and city development officials and civic and business leaders, to help them chart a brighter future for the county. The study lays out a broad array of specific strategies for Contra Costa leaders, both public and private, to consider in order to forge a more vibrant, balanced, and sustainable economy. It also includes specific recommendations for the county's largest cities.

In the 1990s, Contra Costa was one of the best performing counties in California, with average wages matching the rest of the Bay Area. But since 2003, lower-paying jobs have grown more rapidly than higher-paying ones, resulting in a widening wage gap. Since 1990, the county's traditional manufacturing sector has shed more than 10,000 jobs. Finally, the economic growth within the county is imbalanced, with job creation centered on a handful of metros: Concord, Walnut Creek, San Ramon, Richmond and Martinez account for nearly two-thirds of all jobs in the county.

To accelerate the diversification of Contra Costa's economy, the report recommends three main objectives:

  • Build on its existing industry strengths by capitalizing on potential synergies, with special consideration to clean technologies.
  • Leverage its under-utilized resources, including its technically skilled workforce, abundant land and cheaper rents than its high-priced neighbors.
  • Local governments and agencies must better coordinate their efforts, working closely with the private sector.

"Contra Costa County has an impressive mix of resources, not only in terms of business, but also in terms of human capital, infrastructure, and even significant regional initiatives," says Kevin Klowden, director of the Milken Institute's California Center and one of the authors of the report. "If county leaders can better coordinate their efforts and retain more of the skilled workers who call the county home, the benefits could be tremendous."

"The report from the Milken Institute was created in close cooperation with and input from Contra Costa county's committed civic leaders," says Linda Best, director of the Contra County Economic Partnership. "It provides a great foundation for stakeholders, including business, education, and local government to come together to act on the report's recommendations and build a vibrant county economy."

The Contra Costa Economic Partnership commissioned the report, which was sponsored by Chevron.

The report will be presented at a panel discussion at the Concord Hilton on Oct. 2 starting at 7:30 a.m., which is open to credentialed media.

"Contra Costa County: A Blueprint for Growth," by Armen Bedroussian, Kevin Klowden, and Haoran Zhu with I-Ling Shen, is available for download at http://bit.ly/VkpvK9.

About the Milken Institute
A nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, the Milken Institute believes in the power of capital markets to solve urgent social and economic challenges. Its mission is to improve lives around the world by advancing innovative economic and policy solutions that create jobs, widen access to capital and enhance health.

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