Talk of the Towne
Chapman University Economic Forecast

Back in 1977 when the first Chapman economic forecast was held in a classroom, the group of 25 who attended the presentation consisted of the school’s trustees.

“At the time, George Argyros said he saw the forecast as the beginning of something big,” recalled Chapman University’s President and economist James Doti when he addressed an audience of more than 2,000 on December 6th at the 34th annual economic forecast held at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Argyros, a local real estate investor and a Chapman University trustee, was obviously correct. Today, the forecast which comes out of the University’s A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research, attracts attention across the nation for its accurate predictions of economic trends.

According to this year’s forecast, while the economy is not expected to improve drastically anytime soon, it is likely to steadily creep upward in 2012. Orange County should experience higher employment growth this year–especially in the areas of professional business services, health care and leisure and hospitality. Personal income is projected to increase 5 percent, which when adjusted for inflation means a 2 percent increase in real income. On the downside, the housing market is expected to stay depressed, though the number of vacant homes and foreclosures is declining. And even though home prices are down, which should spur buying for those who can afford it, securing financing is much more difficult than years past.

In light of the economic forecast for the county and nation, things are also looking somewhat brighter for Orange and Old Towne.

“We are pleased to see that while we are still in a slow growth trend, the economy IS growing,” said Heidi Larkin-Reed, the Orange Chamber of Commerce president/CEO. “Old Towne Orange and other retail areas of our city, such as The Outlets in Orange, have seen an increase in customers,” she says. “We feel Orange offers unique shopping opportunities which are very attractive to people in Orange County and beyond. Because of this uniqueness we will continue to see growth.”

Orange Mayor Pro Tem and lifetime Old Towne resident Teresa “Tita” Smith comments on the continued popularity of Old Towne. “Judging by foot traffic, the Plaza area is buzzing almost continuously,” she says. “Some of that has to do with Chapman students and their families coming to town, and the other has to do with the fact that Old Towne has been named “Best Downtown” by The Orange County Register for many years. People enjoy our wonderful restaurants and wide variety of great shops and services.”

At the same time that Doti and his Chapman colleagues were building the economic forecast, Smith and other members of the Old Towne Orange Preservation Association have successfully worked to preserve Old Towne’s historic buildings, which had the added benefit of making the historic district economically viable.

Orange Realty owner and broker Dan Slater agrees that Old Towne properties have held their allure during the economic downturn. ”Old Towne as always remains more desirable and popular than other areas by the mere fact of its uniqueness and continuing improvement,” he says. “I do concur with the economic forecast when it comes to the housing market overall. It’s been soft this year and prices slipped a little bit more, but I think that is nearing an end. Short sales and foreclosures are diminishing. We have a very low inventory right now, but I’m optimistic we’ll see stabilization and possibly a slight increase in prices in the spring.”

Select to view 2012 Chapman Economic Update article

Published in the Jul/Aug 2012 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review

Written by Julie Bawden-Davis, Photograph by Mike Escobedo

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