The Ventura County Economic Development Association had its 59th annual installation ceremony Jan. 17 at the Spanish Hills Country Club in Camarillo. VCEDA advocates for policies, legislation and programs that stimulate business in Ventura County, a portion of which extends into the Valley. During the meeting, it was announced that Michael Salacci of AT & T; will be incoming chair. Salacci replaces outgoing chair Howard J. Smith of Morgan Stanley. Asked what the group has in store for the year, VCEDA President and CEO Bill Barado said, among other things, that they are in the process of planning their 38th annual outlook business conference, to take place in October. “This year, our primary priorities are going to revolve around our continued advocacy for the Ventura County business community at the local, federal and state level,” Barado said. “Major advocacy issues are going to be the state budget, health care and water.” In light of budgetary concerns, Vickie Bradshaw, California Labor and Workforce Development Agency secretary, addressed the estimated 200-plus businesses in attendance at the conference. “I thought it would be interesting to have someone from the Governor’s office speak to what the major issues facing California are,” Barado said. Bradshaw said that the budget is the major issue at hand. “The governor really is proposing a budget stabilization act that is meant to keep the state from going though these major ups and downs. Right now, we don’t have a revenue problem. We have a problem with our budgeting system in that 90 percent of our spending is on autopilot,” Bradshaw told the Business Journal. “It continues to go up, no matter what happens because of either contractual obligations or statutory obligations. So, the Governor’s budget stabilization act is meant to correct the problem. It’s meant to bring our spending in line with our revenues.” As a result, the Governor has required all state governments to take a ten percent across the board cut, Bradshaw said. She believes that if the budget stabilization act had been in effect in 1998, California would not have the budgetary problems it does now. While California’s economy may be in peril, Bradshaw said that the numbers indicate that Ventura County is doing better than the state as a whole. “If you look at the different unemployment numbers between 2006 and 2007, Ventura County was 4.3 percent in 2006. As of November of 2007, it was up to 5.4 percent.” On the other hand, California as a whole had an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent in 2006 that rose to 5.6 by the end of 2007. The per capita income of households in Ventura County is also higher than California households as a whole. The average income of a Ventura County household is $43,350. Compare that to the average for a California household, which is $36,936. “Ventura County, both in terms of unemployment as well as per capita income, is doing better than California,” Bradshaw said. She attributes this to the kinds of industries found in Ventura County. Chemical manufacturing, crop production and electrical equipment application and component manufacturers are the top industries there, according to Bradshaw. “It’s a diversified group of industry sub-sectors that are considered cutting edge. It’s what makes Ventura County unique,” she said. Now, all the County has to do is make sure that it produces a workforce prepared to meet the growth in those areas, Bradshaw said. This can be done by getting K-12 schools and colleges to work in sync to produce students qualified to work in the area’s top industries. Forming such an alliance is crucial, Bradshaw feels. “If businesses don’t find a qualified workforce, they relocate someplace else,” she said.