Now that California's economy is moving again, fewer of its consumers and businesses are likely to be on the move - which may be bad news for nearby states and their banks.
The Golden State's lengthy recession fueled a remarkable exodus to the adjacent Rocky Mountain states and sparked impressive loan growth for banks there.
Loans increased by 22.7% last year at First Security Corp., Salt Lake City, 21.6% at Washington Mutual Inc., Seattle, and 15.1% at West One Bancorp, Boise, Idaho.
First Interstate Bancorp, Los Angeles, which has a large franchise in western states besides California, enjoyed loan growth of 18.5% last year.
In contrast, Wells Fargo & Co., San Francisco, which has few operations outside California, had no net loan growth for 1994, though a pickup was clearly apparent in the fourth quarter.
Such numbers have helped lure investors and also spurred purchases of banks in the mountain region by banking companies from slower-growth states. Colorado, in particular, emerged as such a hot spot for acquisitions that it no longer has major independent banks.
But if the outflow of people and businesses from California is indeed slackening - as indicators such as new driver's licenses now hint - the still sparsely populated mountain region is itself likely headed for less spectacular growth.
Economist David Hensley at Salomon Brothers Inc., thinks population growth in the Rocky Mountain states peaked last year after California's economy finally hit bottom and its housing prices stabilized.
"The states most vulnerable to a California recovery are Nevada, Colorado, and Utah," he said. Oregon, Washington, Idaho, New Mexico, Montana, and Wyoming will also feel the effects.
Indeed, because it was in the doldrums so long, California may gather momentum as other areas cool down from the effects of Federal Reserve interest rate increases over the past year.
"I think California is in a countercyclical kind of recovery right now," said Carl E. Reichardt Jr., an analyst at Montgomery Securities, San Francisco.
"Obviously, sharply higher rates would hurt the state, but assuming they go up less this year than last year, we think the state's momentum will continue to build," he said.
"We're as optimistic now as we have been since the recession here began," he said. "Payroll jobs are growing some, building permits have come back, and household incomes are growing in relation to home prices, which have fallen for four years."
From 1990 to 1993, California lost 4.8% of its job base, shattering its postwar image as virtually recession-proof. A string of disasters, including severe earthquakes and a riot in Los Angeles, deepened the gloom.
The result was an outflow of disillusioned Californians and sharply lower inflow to California from elsewhere in the United States, blunting historical migration trends.
Mr. Hensley noted that population in the mountain states surged 3% last year, triple the national gain of 1%, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. About two-thirds of the region's growth came from domestic migration from the rest of the United States.
By comparison, California's population grew just 0.7% last year, compared with a long-term trend forecast for the state of 1.6%.
And that growth was principally from births and international immigration. Net domestic migration to the Golden State was negative 426,000 last year, the economist noted.
Mr. Hen sley was the director of the highly regarded Business Forecasting Project at the University of California at Los Angeles before migrating eastward himself, to New York.
But long-term trends are reasserting themselves. California is expected to return a growth pace faster than the national average in the remainder of the decade, but not as fast as during the 1980s because of its high costs.