How can Orange County become a better place to live for all of its residents? Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky explore the challenges and solutions in Orange County Focus: Forging Our Common Future, a research brief from Chapman University’s Center for Demographics and Policy. Read an excerpt from the report below:
<em>Orange County is, in many ways, among the nation’s best of places to live and work, but also one whose very attractiveness threatens its long term social, economic and environmental sustainability.
Much of this report is built around the assumption that Orange County will retain its allure for those who have the means and opportunity to live here. Few locations possess its combination of cultural and natural assets, talent, and innovative spirit. These attractions have helped make Orange County the nation’s sixth largest county in terms of its output, which is larger than that of 25 states.
Yet, as we discovered in our initial report, “The OC Model,” Orange County faces severe challenges on numerous fronts. The area has continued to lag competitors in high paying job creation in relation to its most dynamic high cost rivals, the Bay Area and Seattle, as well as to those like Austin, Dallas, Denver and Phoenix, that offer lower housing prices, a more pro-business environment, and often more compelling career opportunities. This can be seen in such crucial fields as professional and business services, and in high-technology and finance, where our relative strength, while still impressive, has been stagnant and, in some cases, has even decreased.
Maintaining and then expanding OC’s presence in these fields should be the dominant focus of future development efforts, along with expanding the opportunities for middle-skill jobs. Given the current regulatory environment in California and the likely persistence of high housing prices, Orange County must nurture high wage employment in promising fields like data analytics, medical technology, and design, which pay enough to allow millennial and Generation X workers to stay here. At the same time, we must maintain our strengths in real estate and finance. Without growth in these select sectors, the county will continue to age rapidly, and become akin to places like Hawaii or Palm Beach, Florida — retirement-oriented communities serviced by low-wage workers.</em>