Orange County Business Journal

2012 PREVIEW

Caution Vs. Optimism Jerry Sullivan Sunday, December 18, 2011

It seems that just about everyone has hit upon the same theme about the economy in 2012, with the general outlook “cautiously optimistic.”

Orange County’s version goes something like this:

In this corner is optimism, with key sectors of the local economy showing signs of sustained growth.

Various economic forecasts call for a modest gain in employment here, with anywhere from 17,000 to 21,000 new jobs expected. That would come to an increase of between 1% and 2% on the county’s base about 1.36 million jobs.

The technology industry here is positioned for a lift from growing demand for tablets, smart phones and other mobile devices.

The healthcare sector is busy, with several big additions to local hospitals in the works and new developments among medical device makers.

Tourism Up

Tourism continues to pickup, with the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park pushing new attractions.

Nonstop service to Cabo San Lucas and Mexico City is expected to start at John Wayne Airport’s new terminal around mid-year. The service holds the potential to boost the tourism business there and here, and brings a new business route between OC and the Mexican capital.

All signs point to more gains on occupancy and daily room rates projected for hotels here.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim increased their appeal as a regional draw, thanks to a new cable TV contract that paved the way for two big additions to the baseball team’s roster (see related story, page 1; Editor’s Notebook, page 39).

Commercial real estate continues to show signs of recovery. Apartments are flat-out hot, and the industrial market appears to be getting stronger. The office market remains a bargain for most tenants, with sale prices moving up for investors.

Finance is stirring, with banks that are locally based or have significant operations here talking about more lending in 2012.

Risks

In the other corner, there are several factors—one local and others that go well beyond OC—that could derail any progress here.

The residential housing market remains in tough shape.

Europe’s financial mess hangs over everything, with potential effects that could ripple throughout the globe.

And the run up to the 2012 presidential election has already put a wild-card stamp on just about everything.

The Business Journal offers outlooks for key sectors of the local economy—along with our tips on companies and business persons to watch next year—starting on the next page.

Now it’s time to set aside what everyone has said about “cautious optimism” and watch what they do. We offer these reports as an early guide for 2012, and will continue to track the action next year.