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BUSINESS PULSE : ORANGE COUNTY ISSUES & ATTITUDES : THE PATH TO PROSPERITY : Executives Don't Want Paradise Lost in the Rush of a Booming, Changing County Economy

May 12, 1988|WARREN VIETH | Orange County Business Editor

Orange County's economy is booming and its life style hard to beat, but business executives agree that prosperity has its price.

Traffic congestion tops their list of concerns, followed by sky-high housing prices and a tight labor market.

That's the assessment of the 562 Orange County business leaders who participated in an executive outlook survey conducted for The Times by Mark Baldassare & Associates of Irvine.

Completed in April and supplemented with more than 50 follow-up interviews, the survey is the most extensive poll of its kind ever conducted in Orange County.

As they enjoy the benefits of a growing economy, executives here are generally upbeat. Most believe that their businesses will continue to prosper, and a majority plan to expand their Orange County operations.

Surprisingly, most executives support the pending slow-growth initiative, even though they expect it to hurt the economy and push housing prices even higher. That support reflects their belief that the measure will enhance quality of life in the county.

That's not to say all Orange County executives are marching in lock step. Many are convinced that the slow-growth initiative will exacerbate existing problems. Manufacturers are more concerned than others about what they see as a change for the worse in the county's business climate. And a small but worrisome number of executives are so concerned about rising costs and increased regulation that they plan to relocate their operations elsewhere.

The contrasting perspectives point to a new economic order in Orange County. Microchip manufacturers expand their operations as furniture makers contemplate moving away. High-rise office complexes spring up where single-story production plants once stood. Retail and service firms proliferate as older industries decline.

Prosperity isn't painless. But for most Orange County executives, the price is still worth paying.

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