2011-11-11 / Front Page

Full recovery to take years

Camarillo doing better than most cities
By Stephanie Sumell
Special to the Acorn

Camarillo’s economy is nowhere near as healthy as it was five years ago, but it looks as if the city is ahead of the curve in a slow recovery that may take years before jobs and the real estate market return to pre-recession levels.

Economist Bill Watkins delivered a cautiously optimistic economic forecast for the city during a Nov. 3 luncheon at Spanish Hills Country Club in Camarillo.

Despite a continued slump in the real estate market—especially for office space—Watkins said Camarillo’s 8 percent unemployment rate was better than the county’s and the state’s—10 and 12 percent, respectively.

He also predicted ongoing growth to the city’s retail numbers.

“For a California community, (Camarillo is) doing really well,” said Watkins, the executive director of the California Lutheran University Center for Economic Research and Forecasting.

Watkins said a number of factors, including the volatile social and political landscape of the U.S. and Europe, make it difficult to pinpoint a time when the city’s— or the nation’s— economy will rebound.

However, he said numbers indicate that the city’s economy is no longer faltering but slowly improving, which is better than other cities in the county and state.

Real estate

Watkins said homes in Camarillo have dropped about 40 percent in value since the real estate boom of the early 2000s. He said the median home prices will continue to decline but that foreclosures, expected to taper off in 2013, should help stabilize the market.

Camarillo’s retail space continues to do well.

Vacancy rate for retail is “ remarkably low” at around 3.5 percent, Watkins said. “It’s slipping up a little bit but it’s still much lower than most other places.”

The vacancy rate for industrial space is at 8 percent, a number that Watkins said is “slowly falling.”

Less promising is the 20 percent vacancy rate for office space that Watkins described as “scary” and without signs of improvement.

Retail

Watkins said Camarillo’s shops are doing well. He pointed to The Promenade—an extension of the Camarillo Premium Outlet Center— on Ventura Boulevard as a shopping center with brisk sales.

“The retail’s taking off here,” Watkins said. “The new center is doing far better than I thought it was going to do in this economy.”

Watkins said Camarillo should see a continued growth in its tax dollars over the next two years.

The economist predicted the city will see a 1.6 percent increase in tax dollars in 2012.

He said the completion of Paseo Camino Real shopping center—which will be built just off the soon-to-be-completed Springville interchange between Las Posas Road and Central Avenue—will bolster the local economy. The 44-acre shopping center, in development since 2007, is slated to have nearly 500,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

Camarillo Mayor Mike Morgan said construction may begin on Paseo Camino Real by early 2012.

“It will probably be the prettiest center we’ve got once it’s finished,” Morgan said. “It’s going to have towers, an arbor and different water effects.”

Employment

Watkins said Camarillo’s job losses appear to be over but it will be a long road of recovery.

The city has 5,000 fewer jobs in than it had at its pre-recession high in 2008.

Job growth has been slow in relation to other Ventura County communities.

Camarillo’s slow job growth “reflects the story of Ventura County,” Watkins said. “I think the people who live here aren’t the same people who work here.”

Mayor Morgan agreed with Watkins that job growth will increase, adding that the addition of new retail centers in the area will bring more jobs to the city.

Morgan encouraged Camarillo citizens to look at the positive side of things.

“ We’re one of the top 20 financially rated cities in the United States,” he said. “We have been doing well compared to a lot of other people.”

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