California’s nearly 400 redevelopment agencies are an economic powerhouse that plays a particularly important role during tough times.
That was one of the key messages keynote speaker John Shirey of the California Redevelopment Association had for approximately 250 people who attended the 17th annual Placer County Economic Development Summit at Sun City Lincoln Hills March 19.
The summit is an annual breakfast meeting sponsored by the county’s Economic Development Board.
“Redevelopment, to my mind, is one of the best-kept secrets in California,” said Shirey, the association’s executive director.
Placer County Chief Assistant CEO Rich Colwell agreed during introductory remarks.
“The importance of redevelopment in today’s economic climate cannot be overstated,” said Colwell, who serves as director of the Placer County Redevelopment Agency.
“Redevelopment primes the revitalization pump of the private sector and helps ensure their success. It gives local communities tools and the flexibility to pay for needed public infrastructure in an era of diminished state and federal assistance.”
Each of the five redevelopment agencies in Placer County was recognized with a Community Service Award during the summit. The agencies and the projects that earned them accolades are:
- The Auburn Urban Development Authority, the Auburn School Park Preserve;
- The city of Lincoln Redevelopment Agency, efforts to revitalize the community’s historical downtown and develop affordable housing;
- The city of Rocklin Redevelopment Agency, an innovative public-private partnership that is financing the new interchange at Interstate 80 and Sierra College Boulevard;
- The city of Roseville Redevelopment Agency, revitalization efforts in Old Town; and
- The Placer County Redevelopment Agency, the Kings Beach Downtown Revitalization Project.
Shirey told the gathering that redevelopment agencies are particularly important during downturns because their spending tends to be counter-cyclical. He noted, for instance, that the state’s redevelopment agencies are the second largest financier of affordable housing in California behind only the federal government.
“There has been no downturn in that market,” he explained.
Shirey reported that the state’s redevelopment agencies contributed almost $32 billion to California’s economy in 2003 and their construction activities generated $1.58 billion in local and state taxes that year.
Research, he said, shows that each $1 spent by a redevelopment agency typically stimulates about $14 in economic activity, including between $6 and $7 in private investment. The rest results from the ripple effect agency and private investments have on the economy.
In a typical year, the agencies provide more than 300,000 full-time and part-time jobs in California, and most are construction jobs that offer good wages and benefits, Shirey said.
During his introductory remarks, Colwell noting the nationwide economic downtown is taking a toll on Placer County, pointing out that new housing starts were down 25 percent last year and construction contracts for projects such as roads and bridges dropped 42 percent.
On the other hand, he said, office and retail construction was up 15 percent in Placer County last year and 12,400 jobs were added to the region’s economy during 2007 by three sectors: government; educational and health services; and professional and business services
Colwell noted that Placer County ranks in the top 10 among California’s counties in per-capita income, is among the 50th wealthiest counties nationwide and has the lowest poverty rate in the state.