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CBPR release reports highlighting socioeconomic challenges, opportunities

NSJV Index, annual conference tools to build regional identity, spur action
Nov 17, 2017

Business, civic and community leaders from across the Central Valley gathered in Modesto Thursday for the 2017 State of the North San Joaquin Valley conference, hosted by Pacific's Center for Business and Policy Research.

Researchers at the fourth annual event presented the findings of the 2017 North San Joaquin Valley (NSJV) Index as well as the results of the 2017 NSJV Small Business Survey. A panel discussion focused on the skills gap in the region.

"Our North San Joaquin Valley project highlights key socioeconomic challenges facing the region and opportunities for interregional collaboration," said Jeffrey Michael, executive director of the center. "The NSJV Index and the annual conference are tools to help build regional identity, and spark conversation and action about opportunities for regional action to further common goals for economic and community development."

Michael presented the NSJV Index of indicators for the three-county NSJV region that includes San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties. Some of the notable findings include:

  • NSJV population grew 1.18 percent between 2015 and 2016, equating to another 18,000 new residents. The NSJV population is now more than 1.54 million.
  • The poverty rate dropped substantially in 2016. The poverty rates in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties are now equal to the California average, closing a long-standing and persistent gap between the NSJV's two largest counties and California.
  • Median household income experienced the best growth in a decade in 2016, but is still below its pre-recession level after controlling for inflation. After a long period of stagnation, wages for lower-paying jobs are growing, which has reduced regional income inequality.
  • Median home values continued to grow across the NSJV, since bottoming out in 2011 median home values in Stanislaus County have risen by 81 percent, while in San Joaquin County they rose by 73 percent and Merced County saw a 71 percent increase. In comparison, the statewide growth in median home values has been 42 percent and nationally growth between 2011 and 2016 has been 25 percent.
  • Educational attainment in the NSJV is improving. Between 2010 and 2015 the NSJV had the second highest growth in human capital among 15 regions in California. However, the NSJV still ranks second lowest in human capital statewide.

A panel discussion followed Michael's presentation, focused on workforce skills development, one of the key challenges for the region, according to moderator Thomas Pogue, assistant director of the center.

"Our region has the second lowest level of human capital in California, but it's increasingly interconnected with high-skill economies in Northern California," Pogue said. "So, it's very important that we examine the features of existing skills and the confidence gap, and look at how technology companies are leaning in to solve these problems. Opportunities for the NSJV to more meaningfully engage with its neighboring regions depend on its bridging the skills and confidence gap."

The panel discussion, titled "Bridging the skills and confidence gap," featured David Darmstandler, CEO and co-founder of Datapath, an IT services and network security provider in Modesto, and Tammy Brecht Dunbar, an educator from the Manteca Unified School District and Teacher College of San Joaquin. Darmstandler discussed successful strategies that Datapath has deployed to attract and retain tech talent, including investing and growing from within rather than trying to recruit young talent from the Bay Area. Dunbar discussed ways that she has modernized curriculum that leverages the way that students today embrace modern technology such as video games.

The discussion also highlighted the increasing number of partnerships involving policymakers, businesses and educational institutions working together to create training programs that equip workers to engage in more knowledge-intensive jobs.

"Both panelists were excellent and complimentary in that they spoke to the need to change the education system to focus more being  knowledge-friendly when it comes to needs of industry, and the need to think collaboratively with partnerships among businesses, local government and nonprofits to move forward and make the region more competitive," Pogue said.

For a copy of the 2017 NSJV Index click here.

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