The South Orange County Economic Coalition and Saddleback College co-hosted the 2nd annual South Orange County Economic Report luncheon at the Saddleback College main campus on February 5th.
More than 275 business, government and community leaders attended the luncheon to learn about the economic health of south Orange County and shed light on opportunity gaps that may limit future growth. The report, for instance, showed that the south Orange County economy grew in several areas, including gross regional product, employment and average earnings.
“South Orange County is potentially the hub of future growth,” said Anthony Teng, the report’s principle author and dean of Saddleback’s advanced technology and applied science division.
But Teng also pointed to signs of potential trouble. Three “economic opportunity gaps,” as he called them, threaten to limit prospects for future growth, including affordable housing for young professionals and middle income families, lack of workforce training and development as well as continued transportation challenges along the I-5 corridor.
The luncheon drew over 50 public officials from throughout the area, including State Senator Pat Bates, Assemblyman Bill Brough, as well as mayors and council members of the 11 cities included in the report: Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, and San Juan Capistrano.
Lisa Bartlett, chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, also spoke at the event. She expressed confidence that the region can overcome the challenges cited in the report. “If we all collaborate – the business community, the cities, the board of supervisors, transportation leaders – we can work through these issues and get to really great solutions,” she said.
Along with Supervisor Bartlett and Dean Teng, Lake Forest City Councilmember Scott Voigts and Orange County Business Council President and CEO Lucy Dunn also spoke at the event.
Mayor Pro Tem Scott Voigts of Lake Forest noted, “The 11 cities combined in this report will soon become the size of Nashville and Seattle, but businesses are struggling and find the need to reinvent themselves. Our city leaders need to be open to sensible and strategic growth to evolve with changing times and remain vibrant cities.”
Among those offering to take a lead in developing solutions to these challenges was Dr. Tod A. Burnett, president of Saddleback College and host of the event.
“Not only does Saddleback serve as a bridge for students transferring to four-year institutions and preparing for the workforce, but also as an important – in fact critical – resource for growing our local and regional economies,” said Dr. Burnett. Saddleback College is committed to its role as south Orange County’s first choice for preparing the workforce, and encourages the business community to look to the college as a partner in development and training.
In just its second year, the South Orange County Economic Report luncheon has quickly become a can’t-miss event due to the unique nature of the subject matter.
“No one else provides this kind of in-depth analysis of this special place we call south Orange County,” said Paul Simonds, government affairs manager for SoCalGas and chair of the south Orange County Economic Coalition board of directors. “We’re honored to partner with Saddleback College to present this one-of-a-kind analysis of our area’s economy.”
Dr. Burnett agreed and encourages more local businesses and local government leaders to take advantage of the many insights presented at the economic report luncheon next year.
Simonds continued: “Our goal for this annual event is that the local business community and local jurisdictions can walk away with a true sense of what’s happening in south Orange County, which accounts for 17.5 percent of Orange County’s total economy. The economic report is a road map for what the future has in store.”
About the South Orange County Economic Coalition
The South Orange County Economic Coalition serves as the leading voice for business throughout the region. Through advocacy, education and representation, SOCEC works to advance policies and legislation that promote a strong south Orange County economy and business climate. For more information, visit www.economiccoalition.com.
About Saddleback College
Located in Mission Viejo, Saddleback College provides quality higher education and training to the greater south Orange County community. Having served more than 500,000 students since 1968, Saddleback College offers over 300 degree and certificate programs to help students reach their personal, career, and educational goals. Each year, Saddleback College adds more than 5,000 degree and certificate holders to the workforce, and transfers over 3,500 students to four-year colleges and universities throughout the nation. For more information, please visit www.saddleback.edu.