Expert consensus: Crisis is over

The last of three speakers during the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce's presentation of its 2014 Economic Forecast on Wednesday put plainly for the crowd what many in Orange County have long hoped to hear: The crisis is over.

"We have to get out of that reality," said David Young, founder and chief executive of financial consulting and investment advisory company Anfield Group, referring to a lingering concern if not pessimism about our recovery from the recession.

"It's over."

About 300 people gathered at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa for the third annual event, which struck a tone of cautious optimism for the local, regional and U.S. economies.

Orange County in particular is among areas in California recovering relatively well from the recession, said Dan Walters, a political columnist for the Sacramento Bee.

Silicon Valley has also seen improvement, while the Inland Empire continues to struggle, he said.

The Newport Beach housing market offers evidence of local economic strength. Prices have increased 13.5% year over year, based on a local home price index, Young said.

In other words, as Young put it, "housing's back" — at least in Newport.

The speakers also sketched tenuously improving economic landscapes on the national and state levels.

The government shutdown and debt ceiling debate created "fiscal drag" on the U.S. economy, while the Affordable Health Care Act added uncertainty, said Robert Dye, senior vice president and chief economist at Comerica Bank.

But, he noted, more full-time employment could be coming.

California's economic health likewise correlated with policy decisions, Walters said.

He discussed a series of questions whose answers he predicted would affect the state's global competitiveness for investment capital.

Will California develop a dependable water plan?

Will educators be able to prepare the labor force adequately?

Can officials address traffic congestion that is worse than anywhere else in the country?

Other forces at play include slowing population growth, Walters said.

Still, Newport Beach may be insulated — at least to a point — from some of these factors.

"Newport Beach is not Orange County, which is not California, which is not the rest of the country," Dye said.

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