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Economic slowdown creates an Inland Empire of the north

August 9, 2010 | 10:14 am

The Inland Empire of Southern California, encompassing Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, has often been considered among the hardest hit by the economic slowdown. But the inland areas of the San Francisco area have it just as bad.

Families flocked to cities such as Stockton, Tracy and Manteca to buy homes that could be half a million dollars cheaper than homes in the Bay Area, making a 60-mile commute every day. Developers created new tracts. Financial services and insurance companies blossomed. Inland cities invested in their city centers and things were looking up for towns that were once walnut groves.

But then the bottom fell out of the housing market. Home prices plummeted as much at 75% in some areas. Two industries that had grown in the  inland cities -- financial services companies and manufacturers of home parts --  started shrinking. To add to that misery, California's only auto plant, NUMMI, closed in April, leaving behind a network of dozens of inland suppliers that were forced to lay off staff or close their doors entirely. 

Now, housing tracts sit vacant. Cities beg retailers to enter their vacant malls. And jobs, people say, are nowhere to be found.

For more on the inland empire of the north, check out today's story in the Times.