With its vibrant, varied communities and budding economy, the East Bay
has moved out of the foggy shadow shadow of San Francisco and is living up to its name as the sunny side of the bay.
"The East Bay is more diversified, not only in demographics but types of industries," contends Brian Kirking, senior regional planner with the Association of Bay Area Governments. "It's not a high-tech-only type of region. It has more to offer than a lot of places."
He says the area didn't experience the dot-com boom so it has avoided the bust affecting other parts of the bay. The region is still "a good place for employers to locate," he reports, thanks in large part to the region's able-bodied and talented workforce which is projected to expand since the East Bay is slated for more new housing than other regions.
ABAG says firms in the services sector - from computer and business consulting to restaurants - will continue to be the fastest growing sector in the area, creating many highly skilled professional, technical, and managerial positions. Other major sources of new jobs are expected to include durable goods manufacturing and retail.
In comparison to California, the East Bay has a greater percentage of jobs in transportation, public utilities, wholesale trade, and considerably more government jobs. The high concentration of public-sector jobs is due to the two large public universities and other educational and research institutions in the region.
Oakland: Full Steam Ahead
Al Auletta, the Oakland Workforce Investment Board's executive director, concedes the area has experienced an economic downturn and a sharp rise in the unemployment rate, doubling from 2.8 to 5.6 percent in the past year as a result of the recession and the impact of 9/11 on the airline and related industries.
Yet Oakland has a lot going for it.
"The construction industry is robust and the outlook for years to come is favorable," he relates. "Employers in Oakland and surrounding areas have agreements to hire Oakland residents in apprenticeship programs and initiatives are in place to get as many as possible into those openings. There are career opportunities in those trades."
Auletta reports there are major construction projects on the table including the $1.5 billion expansion of the Port of Oakland, the five-year airport expansion project, the Oakland Army Base conversion and creation of the new Oakland to Treasure Island span of the Bay Bridge. In addition, Mayor Jerry Brown wants to revitalize the downtown area.
"There are opportunities galore," he declares. "We want people to take advantage of the huge investment in construction. Oakland is definitely on the move."
Bullish on Berkeley
John DeClercq, new president of Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, is also bullish on the area.
"There has been some softness, but it is still the land of opportunity," he says. "The community is both financially and economically diverse."
He says the fields of construction, health- care, technology and biotech are very healthy. In addition, the increased population is fueling a growing demand for housing. A lot of money is being spent on transportation systems to help move people around.
"On the negative side, the county and city school boards are in serious budget crisis and a lot of charity and nonprofit services will be curtailed because of the money that went east after 9/11," he says.
Pleasanton's Economic Crossroads
Situated midway between Oakland and San Jose, Pleasanton's central location benefits employers and jobseekers.
"Pleasanton offers a healthy and diverse mix of businesses with a variety of jobs and more are moving in," contends Gail Gilpin, manager of the city's Economic Development Division. "One of the largest employers is Safeway which is enlarging its headquarters. In addition, Applied Biotech is expanding into the area with potential openings for 2000 more jobs down the line while high-tech and software and telecom firms flourish."
The building boom began in 1982 with the construction of Hacienda Business Park. There were cancellations, but other tenants filled the vacancies. She says about 53 percent of employed residents work in the Tri-Valley area and many employers locate here because of the highly educated, skilled workforce. "By having our own job website (pleasantonjobs.com), we're hoping businesses here will find employees locally and residents will have more time for family and community involvement," she explains.
Hopeful in Hayward
Down the 580 corridor from Oakland lays Hayward, where biotech, telecom and high tech continue a steady climb up from the dot-com implosions of last year.
"The market has cooled," admits Hayward Chamber of Commerce president Scott Raty. "Prior to the crashes, we had more openings and more people looking to hire than we had candidates."
Although employers are not as desperate as a couple of years ago, he says the employment outlook is for a strong market.
"The experts say things are turning around, but others say those who are nearer Silicon Valley will be adversely impacted a little longer.
Concord, the most populous city in Contra Costa County, boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in California at 4.3 percent, according to Nicholas Virgallito, president and CEO of the city's chamber of commerce.
"We were not affected by dot-com unemployment and we have space for business expansion and for new businesses coming in," he explains. "As an example of our pro-business stand, we have a new 475,000 square foot office building under construction that will offer many more job opportunities.
"It's a positive thing that Concord is . . . looking to the future."
For more East Bay information, contact these organizations:
Oakland Chamber of Commerce - (510) 874-4800, oaklandchamber.com
Bay Area Construction Sector Intervention Collaborative – (510) 891-8773 x303
Berkeley Chamber of Commerce - (510) 549-7000, berkeleychamber.com
Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce - (925) 846-5858, ci.pleasanton.ca.us
Pleasanton Office of Economic Development - (925) 931-5038, pleasantonjobs.com
Hayward Chamber of Commerce - (510) 537-2424, hayward.org
Concord Chamber of Commerce - (925) 685-1181, concordchamber.com
Association of Bay Area Governments - (510) 464-7900, abag.ca.gov