In 1946, about 96 percent of the land area in Santa Rosa was devoted to agriculture. Most people are farmers raising rice, corn and vegetables, sugar canes, garden products, fruits of various kinds. Food production was sufficient for actual needs but without reserve for contingencies. A lot of people raised chickens, eggs, and pork from poultry and piggery projects. A few residents engaged in commercial agriculture. Coffee farming was also done. Fishing was carried on quite extensively in Laguna Bay waters. Until the late 1970s, Santa Rosa maintained its role as a food producing municipality actively producing and trading rice, corn, vegetables, livestock and fishes.
The general economic activity of the city is described by the actual land use that took place. Land use implications of this became pronounced as more agricultural areas gave way to industries, commercial and residences (Tables 6.1 and 6.2)
With the favorable opening of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) in the 1980s, at least 21 globally competitive locator companies, mainly in manufacturing and industry, invested in the town. First to come in was the Filipinas Synthetic Fiber Corporation (Filsyn) in Barangay Don Jose, Ani Forge Philippines Inc and Coca Cola-Bottling Company Inc. in Barangay Pulong Sta.Cruz, and Monde Nissin in Barangay Balibago. There were also 725 commercial enterprises established in the city. Investors and businesses came from the wholesale and retail sector, banking and finance sector, insurance and real estate, and services.
In 2010, the industrial locators in the city multiplied from 21 to 102 locators, mostly situated in the seven PEZA-registered industrial estates. The businesses generated a combined employment of 100,000 persons and contributing almost eight billion dollars to the country's export earnings. The city is the host to four car manufacturers and two bus assemblers with a combined manpower of almost 3,000 persons and a total production output of 698,859 units. It is also the home of the largest bottling plant of Coca-Cola Bottlers and the Philippines' first and only world-class theme park. The notable industry locators in Santa Rosa are in the manufacturing of electronics and semiconductors, automotive and automotive parts, metal, packaging, food processing, and the promising Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry in Santa Rosa (Tables 6.3 and 6.4).
The Services sector particularly from the commercial areas is the biggest employer of the working population both the formal and informal sectors of the local economy. The Industry sector comes second especially from the manufacturing industry of food and beverage, automotive assembly, electronics and related areas. The said sector is forecast to dominate the local economy in the future particularly the sectors related to the Off-shoring and Out-sourcing (0 and 0) industry such as call center, animation, medical transcription and software development, linked to the global business market.
With the full implementation of the City Investment Code of 2006, the fast growing growth areas of the local economy are expected to lead the way in the business development of Santa Rosa. Small scale and micro-industries are also prevalent operated by small entrepreneurs and cooperative enterprises. These forward and backward linkages of big, medium and small scale industries are the key to the long term sustainable growth of the local economy.
On the other hand, the Agricultural sector will shrink further in terms of employment in view of the decreasing hectares of land devoted to farming, livestock and fishing and seemingly lack of interest of farmers to cultivate the land. The Strategic Agricultural and Fisheries Zone Areas (SAFDZ) of Santa Rosa situated alongside the lakeside areas are not fully utilized by the farmers-fishermen for food production purposes especially the cultivation of high value crops and raising of livestock animals.