Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - October 21, 2011

New study highlights region's economic assets, challenges

A new study by the East Bay Economic Development Alliance shows that our local economy is increasingly dependent and driven by innovation. Thanks in large part to the presence of three national research laboratories (Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia) and UC Berkeley, the East Bay is more than three and a half times more concentrated in scientific research and development than other regions. Projected to grow at an average annual rate of 3% over the next eight years, the region's professional, scientific and technical service industries are certain to be significant accelerators of that growth.

The study, entitled "Building on Our Assets: Economic Development & Job Creation in the East Bay," was produced by the East Bay EDA in partnership with Workforce Investment Boards in Alameda and Contra Costa counties and Oakland as well as the East Bay Community Foundation. The report examined trends in the two counties over the past 15 years and looks ahead to ways to keep the economy strong and growing.

It shows that despite the current economic situation, the East Bay has underlying assets that bode well for the region's future: a highly educated workforce, world-class research and development institutions, growing innovation industries in life science and clean and renewable energy, a central location, vital goods movement infrastructure at the Port of Oakland, and a wide variety of housing options, open space and recreational opportunities that give our area an edge over other regions.

Although the recession has taken a heavy toll on East Bay jobs and recovery is currently limited, Karen Engel, East Bay EDA's Executive Director points out that the report shows why this region is poised to return to prosperity in the long term -- across a variety of industry sectors.

Notably, the report shows that venture capital trends reveal the strength of the innovation sectors in the East Bay. In a 2010 national ranking of U.S. counties, Alameda County was in the top 10 in receipt of VC funds in nine of the 14 industries tracked. We ranked second in three industries, just behind Santa Clara County in each case. Local firms in those industries -- industrial (or clean) energy, semiconductors and electronics instrumentation - received more than 11% of all such investments nationwide. The East Bay is also a leading recipient in computer technology, consumer and business products and biotechnology. The East Bay's top 10 VC investments exceeded $1 billion in 2010.

The report also reveals the strength of the East Bay's advanced manufacturing sector. Here, we are seeing an increasing concentration of employment in advanced manufacturing even while employment in manufacturing overall continues to decline. This reveals a more subtle story: the key role the East Bay is playing in providing production space for high technology companies that are located in Silicon Valley. In fact, the report provides evidence of the very close economic ties between Silicon Valley (Santa Clara and San Mateo counties) and the East Bay in terms of employment and establishments.

The full report is even more optimistic about the economic future of the Tri-Valley and the East Bay. Copies can be found online at: www.eastbayeda.org/research_facts_figures/building_on_our_assets_2011_Report.htm.

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