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VALLEY AND VENTURA COUNTY BUSINESS | VENTURA COUNTY
REVIEW / LEO SMITH

Farming, Technology Aid County's Quick Comeback

May 27, 1997|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura County is recovering from the economic slump of the early 1990s faster than most of Southern California, thanks largely to the stability of the area's agriculture and high-tech industries, said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

According to the agency's report tracking seven years of retail sales trends, Ventura and Riverside counties were the only areas in the five-county region that saw inflation-adjusted sales in 1996 climb above pre-slump levels.

Kyser said the strength of the two key industries in Ventura County not only aided the upswing, but limited the damage in the first place.

"Ventura County was somewhat insulated from the economic fires that burned to the south," Kyser said. "The Ventura County economy has that very large agricultural component, and a huge component in higher-skill, higher-wage jobs. It has a technology industry that is larger than Riverside-San Bernardino-- a lot of growth in new technological applications."

The retail trade study, released last week, reported major retail changes in the area covering Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles counties, due to the economic restructuring of the 1990s, businesses entering and leaving markets and changes in consumer demand.

These changes, Kyser said, had a significant impact on retail sales.

Taxable sales in Ventura County, adjusted for inflation, went from $2.91 billion in 1990 to a seven-year low of $2.6 billion in 1992. In 1996, sales climbed to $2.93 billion.

The most significant year-to-year increase for Ventura County occurred between 1993, when inflation-adjusted retail sales totaled $2.6 billion, and 1994, when they jumped back up to $2.84 billion.

Kyser said the future for retail sales in the area looks equally promising. Unlike other Southern California regions, he said, Ventura County has not been over- saturated with shopping malls and other retail operations.

"There's the San Buenaventura Mall, the Esplanade, The Oaks--in terms of regional malls, Ventura County hasn't been over-stored," he said. "The trend in Ventura County is favorable."

The report forecasts that Orange and San Bernardino counties will top their pre-slump retail sales figures this year, with Los Angeles County following in 1999.

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