Business leaders find ways to thrive in Antioch

September 26, 2008 5:53:13 PM PDT
The financial crisis has hit the East Bay city of Antioch harder than anywhere else in the Bay Area. Thousands have lost their homes and jobs and last month 630 more families were facing foreclosure. On Friday, business leaders held an economic summit to find ways to deal with the failing economy.

The "Pride and the Power of East County" is an economic summit designed to inform business leaders in Antioch, Pittsburg, Brentwood and Oakley about the state of their local economy. Many didn't like what they heard.

"We heard last year at this event that it will take several years to come back, but a lot people wanted to think that wasn't true, but today it really came to roost that it's a while away for recovery," said Devi Lanphere, from Antioch's Chamber of Commerce.

The economic downturn is especially pronounced in Antioch, a ground zero, if you will, for the mortgage meltdown in the Bay Area.

Since January, 4,300 homeowners in Antioch received foreclosure notices. Many residents have simply walked away and so have many business owners.

Those who've stayed, like chiropractor Sean Wright see fewer people coming through their doors.

"I'm starting to see families come in and they're starting to say they can't afford care anymore," Sean Wright, an Antioch chiropractor.

Terry Ramus is a chemist, who believes the economic struggles in the east county are partly due to the exodus of high-tech workers to other less-expensive states.

"The development side is still done in California, but a lot of the manufacturing, a lot of the high-tech sector that would have ongoing jobs, those tend to not be competitive here," said Ramus.

Realtors see some promise in a recent uptick in home sales, now that prices have plunged by 40, even 50 percent in the past year here.

"Houses are more affordable now, so we're seeing a lot of buying activity. You know homeowners who couldn't afford it anymore and investors, because rentals now are making sense," said Ralph Garrow, an Antioch realtor.

Each participant at this summit was given one of these. A Fortune Ball is considered by organizers to be as a good a tool as any in predicting the future of the economy.

Most here likely hope their fortunes change before next year's summit.


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