Anyone who attended the Sixth Annual Inland Southern California Economic Forecast Thursday must have left feeling optimistic about the state of the two-county region.
Economist Chris Thornberg, a founding partner with Beacon Economics in Los Angeles, painted a rosy picture of both the U.S. and California economies before the crowd of about 250 at the Riverside Convention Center.
Jordan Levine, Thornberg’s colleague at Beacon, then zoomed in on the Inland Empire, declaring that the region may now be as strong economically as it’s ever been.
“For the past two years we’ve been optimistic about the future of the Inland Empire economy, and how that optimism is being borne out,” Levine said at the event sponsored by the UC Riverside School of Business Administration’s Center for Economic Forecasting and Development.
“At this point, I’m ready to declare the Inland Empire an economic success story. Virtually every economic sector is growing.”
Levine, who was recently appointed the center’s director of research, pointed to an overall strong job market along with growth in the industrial and manufacturing sectors as signs that the region has moved beyond the recession.
“Of course there are challenges, but the fact is that the Inland Empire is one of the largest economies in the United States,” Levine said. “It’s an industrial market and a tech market and it’s adding manufacturing jobs, despite what you might hear,” Levine said. “The Inland Empire is a lot more than cheap dirt and low-skilled jobs.”
With the recession more or less behind it, the Inland Empire should start working on fixing long-range problems, Levine said.
“There are a lot of issues that we should be pressing in Sacramento,” Levine said.
Thornberg, who was recently named the center’s director, painted an equally optimistic portrait of the state and U.S economies, dismissing any naysayers who are predicting another recession anytime soon.
“Of course there will be another recession – there’s always going to another recession – but the truth is we’re nowhere near an economic bubble right now,” Thornberg said. “California is adding jobs and unemployment is down. The people who say the state is over-regulated and that no one wants to work here have been proven wrong over the past few years.”
The forecast ended with a panel discussion during which Greg Devereaux, San Bernardino County’s chief executive officer, called for more cooperation and less competition between San Bernardino and Riverside counties, particularly when they’re trying to attract businesses.
“The truth is the two counties really aren’t in competition,” Devereaux said. “If Riverside County brings in a business some people from San Bernardino are going to work there. So we both benefit.”