Dubroff: It’s time for Ventura County’s biennial checkup from the Civic Alliance
For nearly two decades, the Ventura County Civic Alliance has delivered a snapshot of the county’s economy and demographics.
Published first in 2002 and every other year since 2013, the “State of the Region” report has become a yardstick for measuring what’s happening in key industries and on issues like healthcare and housing.
David Maron, a software company owner and Civic Alliance executive committee member who lives in Camarillo, produces the report as a volunteer.
“State of the Region is like a flashlight,” he said during a Nov. 8 phone interview. “It helps you see the terrain.”
One reason State of the Region has staying power is that its charts, graphics and sector writeups provide nonprofit organizations with the facts and figures they need to apply for grants from private foundations and contracts from public agencies. After almost 20 years, it also provides a picture of how the Ventura County economy has evolved over a generation.
And this year’s State of the Region shows how Ventura County, like much of the region, is at a real crossroads. Population growth has all but vanished; Ventura County’s head count declined between the 2019 and 2021 reports, an extremely rare phenomenon in the West but one that is getting more common in California.
Housing is not affordable for the bulk of its citizens. And health care problems are growing, as the population has aged from an average of about 34 years to 38 years over two decades.
All that translates into a flat GDP number for Ventura County. “We’re not falling backwards, but we’re not progressing,” said Maron, who serves as vice chair of the Civic Alliance and director of its State of the Region committee.
Looking forward, a lot depends on housing, which Maron described as “a problem that needs to be solved.” With well-defined greenbelts, new housing is mainly limited to infill opportunities, but making those affordable for young families is hard when home prices have risen 20% in a year. In terms of rental housing, Maron added, “when a landlord can demand $100,000 salary, they are in the driver’s seat.”
Agriculture remains surprisingly durable, as growers adapt to environmental issues and introduce new technology to increase productivity. Blueberries have made a surprising surge into the top crops list, adding a new niche crop to the county’s lineup.
Technology has made an impact, particularly in West Ventura County, where The Trade Desk in downtown Ventura, Semtech in Camarillo and others have emerged as major employers.
“There are the raw materials for a bright future,” Maron said. “We need to make the fuselage more streamlined and reduce the friction of job growth and development.”
One chart that caught my eye is that in addition to COVID-19, which put the economy into a deep but temporary dive and sent unemployment soaring, Ventura County’s problems with opioid addiction and deaths are on the rise. In that it shares a common problem with San Luis Obispo County, also afflicted with an opioid-related health epidemic. Somehow Santa Barbara County did not see a similar rise in the past couple of years, something Maron said is worth researching to see if there are some strategies that could be replicated across the Central Coast.
One of the remarkable things about the State of the Region is that is shows a county that’s survived the Thomas Fire, Woolsey Fire, mass shootings and COVID-19 with a lot of grit and determination. Although the region has a history with Black Swan events, they seem to be happening more frequently. “Deep in Ventura County’s marrow, there is a strength that overcomes adversity,” Maron said.
Finally, a couple of notes. The 2021 edition of State of the Region was designed by Business Times graphic artist Cory Yniguez and it was printed by the Business Times. Business Times Managing Editor Tony Biasotti authored the articles and it appears in the Nov. 12 edition as a special supplement for our Ventura County subscribers.
State of the Region will make a live debut at a Nov. 17 event at 8.30 a.m. at the Ventura County Office of Education headquarters in Camarillo. You can find a copy of the report at and tickets to the event at civicalliance.org.
• Henry Dubroff is owner and editor of the Pacific Coast Business Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.