SANTA ROSA – The Sonoma County Board of SupervisorsTuesday approved a three-year grant for $100,000 annually to the public-private economic development program Building Economic Success Together, or BEST.
The vote was 4-1 with Supervisor Valerie Brown voting no.
The funds are to come out of the county’s advertising fund in the fiscal year 2010-2011 adopted budget, and the economic development board will be administering the memorandum of understanding. There agreement includes an option to extend the investment for two additional years.
The BEST program, launched in March, is a five-year collaborative partnership between the private and public sectors for business retention and expansion, job creation, economic development and more projected to create 2,500 jobs. Sonoma County lost more than 10,000 jobs since the economy turned south in 2008.
Board Chairman Efren Carrillo, responding to a question from another board member about increasing spending, said the memorandum of understanding contains quarterly reports that the program is accomplishing what it is supposed to in job growth.
“How we look at economic development has a direct impact on how we provide services,” Supervisor Carrillo said.
He said that this leverages a “modest involvement” from the county to expand employment in the private sector, because public employment in the next four years likely will be declining.
Supervisor Mike McGuire, who represents the north end of the county, where Cloverdale faces a more than 15 percent unemployment rate, said that BEST needs to be a data-driven program and needs to look beyond traditional big industries in the county. A major data driver will be growth in property tax revenue to local government, he said.
“What I think BEST will complement efforts between the Economic Development Board and the Workforce Investment Board — getting individual back into jobs created by the BEST program,” Supervisor McGuire said.
Supervisor Valerie Brown voted against the grant. Her concerns include transient-occupancy tax, or TOT, dollars from lodging businesses, regional parks and where job growth is focused.
“I can’t weigh out cutting 70 jobs from the county and then spending $100,000 to create jobs that may not be in the county,” she said.
The 2,500 foretasted jobs created by the BEST program with a 0.6 economic multiplier used in Sonoma County could become 4,100 total jobs, $268 million in payroll earnings, $182 million in disposable income and $37 million in state and local taxes, according to a county staff report for today’s board meeting.
The five areas BEST is focusing on are business retention and expansion, creating a strong, vibrant and supportive business climate, fostering innovative businesses, attracting new businesses providing high quality jobs and building a world class workforce based on educational attainment.
BEST came about through the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce and is going to operate under its umbrella, though the program seeks to embrace the entire county.
CORRECTION, May 26, 2011: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the funds were to come from the EDB advertising fund.
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