ON TRACK: Ventura County's economy is continuing...

ON TRACK: Ventura County's economy is continuing to show signs of improvement, according to a new report (B1). . . . The county's unemployment rate in July dropped 1 point to 8.2%, compared to the same time last year. . . . And while more people were out of work last month than in June, officials attributed this largely to seasonal factors. . . . Said Mark Schniepp, a UC Santa Barbara economist who tracks the local economy: "This is a really good report."

SUN'S UP: Siemens Solar Industries in Camarillo is getting some added exposure these days. The company's products are used to help power a solar art exhibit, "Secrets of the Sun," on display at Union Station in Los Angeles. "What's important for us is increasing the awareness of solar energy--how it works and how it can be used," says company spokesman Mark Stimson.

STRIKING OUT?: The fourth annual Unity Games between Simi Valley and South-Central Los Angeles get under way today at Jesse Owens County Park in Los Angeles (B1). . . . The softball match was first organized in 1992 to ease relations between the two communities after the Los Angeles riots. . . . But while the number of Los Angeles participants has grown, the same is not true in Simi Valley. Said Keith Jajko, a Simi Valley resident and player: "The people in Simi Valley have been a hard sell."

WASTE NOT: Oxnard is looking to turn its sewer sludge into dollars (B1). . . . The city is considering a joint venture with a private firm that would take the sludge and use it to grow crops, such as alfalfa and cotton . . . The crops would be grown on a 1,150-acre parcel in Kern County that Oxnard is proposing to purchase for $1.2 million. . . . But officials maintain that it is a good investment. "This type of project allows us to apply agriculture revenue to the cost of recycling," said Mark Norris, Oxnard's waste-water superintendent.

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