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After applying for federal funds available through the bailout package, American River Bankshares, parent company of North Coast Bank in Sonoma County, was approved for participation in the U.S. Department of Treasury’s TARP Capital Purchase Program.

According to the U.S. Treasury, the aim of the CPP is to encourage financial institutions to increase lending activities to businesses and consumers and to support the economy.

In a joint press release from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision Under Treasury’s Capital Purchase Program, eligible institutions will be able to sell equity interests to Treasury in amounts equal to 1 percent to 3 percent of the institution’s risk-weighted assets. These equity interests will constitute Tier 1 capital for the eligible institution.

Ray Byrne of North Coast Bank said it is a very complimentary offer, as there are only a few strong banks that can get the money. But North Coast is not planning to participate since it is currently in a state of growth, he said.

Last month American River announced a 5 percent stock dividend payable on Dec. 18, 2008, to shareholders of record on Dec. 3, 2008.

The third quarter of this year marked the company’s 99th consecutive profitable quarter. Year-to-date profits exceeded $5.7 million,

“While the flexibility the capital investment would provide us is certainly appealing, American River Bankshares is adamant about controlling its own future. Participation in the Capital Purchase Program would be dependent upon a clear understanding of all ramifications of the Securities Purchase Agreement and related documents,” said David Taber, president and chief executive officer of American River Bankshares. “Our company is known for providing shareholder value and our ability to issue dividends and repurchase shares is paramount to that reputation.”

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While businesses of all sizes are doing what they can to weather the economic storm, many – small businesses in particular – are being forced to make significant cuts to their staff.

California’s unemployment rate is over 8 percent, according to the Employment Development Department. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the national unemployment rate is

6.1 percent, up from 4.4 percent a year earlier.

The unemployment rate in California is expected to rise to 10 percent over the next year, said Eric Aanes, president of Titus Wealth Management in Larkspur, which means that one in ten people in California will be looking for jobs.

Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties’ unemployment rates are less than the California average, at 4.9 percent, 5.4 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively.

The combined labor force of the counties is 489,400, with 461,400 employed.

Some sectors, however, can anticipate growth over the next several years.

According to projections by the EDD, the projected fastest job rate growth in California will be in the network systems and data analyst sector. It is expected to rise 58.8 percent by 2016 from numbers in 2006.

Marin County will see the most job growth in the area of biomedical engineers by 2016, with a 60.4 percent change from 2006. Napa County will see growth in bus drivers and transit-related jobs rise 60 percent by 2014. And in Sonoma County, network systems and data communications analyst jobs will increase 65.9 percent by 2016.

In the current employment climate, many people are turning to retraining as an option, and enrollment typically increases during tough economic times. Santa Rosa Junior College and Empire College both boast programs in network administration, and schools all over are looking into expanding their programs to include more training for the growing green-tech businesses. Napa Valley College and College of Marin are doing just that, and both are on the cutting edge of the solar technology industry.

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Submit items for this column to Jenna V. Loceff at jloceff@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4259 or fax 707-521-5292.