Future work force, natural resources, inventiveness key
Sonoma County – The strategic economic plan for Sonoma County is ready to go into action. Developed by the Sonoma County Innovation Council during 2008, the plan was approved by county supervisors on Jan. 13.
The strategic plan involves identifying factors driving regional competitiveness as well as finding ways to fundamentally transform how the public and private sectors can ensure the future availability of qualified workers, address possible shortages of natural resources and implement measures to help assure a strong economic climate in years to come.
Part of this process could involve a proposed initiative that would channel funds to these three critical areas.
“Sonoma County’s economy faces serious challenges in the years ahead, and business as usual will not suffice,” said Randy DeCaminada, marketing director for PG&E’s North Coast operations and co-chair of the Innovation Council. “Growing pressures on Sonoma County mean we will have to change how we live and work, requiring collaborative action from business, government, education and the community in finding solutions to adapt to changing times.”
The council believes that a renewed commitment to economic development through a variety of sustainable business initiatives, private-public partnerships and educational attainment measures can stimulate innovation in all facets of the area’s economy. Among other advantages, this process could lead to the creation of more than 14,000 new jobs.
“Sonoma is the only California county that made plans to get ahead of the recession by seeking better ways to create jobs and raise living standards while also efficiently using natural, human and capital resources to increase productivity,” said Cynthia Murray, co-chair of the Innovation Council and president and CEO of the North Bay Leadership Council. “This plan is a framework for action for the work that lies ahead by establishing benchmarks, timelines, roles and responsibilities designed to achieve results.”
The process began more than 16 months ago when the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, PG&E, the Workforce Investment Board and the Sonoma County Water Agency, in cooperation with other groups, proposed the development of an economic strategic plan for Sonoma County.
In September 2007, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors created the Innovation Council to look ahead at the opportunities and challenges facing the regional economy through 2018. Along with Ms. Murray and Mr. DeCaminada, the Innovation Council includes 32 other members who represent a cross-section of the economy.
After a year of fact-finding and research, in cooperation with economic consultant Moody’s Economy.com and Collaborative Economics, the firm serving as the project facilitator for strategic planning, the final report was ready for review in January 2009.
The Innovation Council is funded by a $50,000 challenge grant from the Morgan Family Foundation with matching funds from seven private firms. Strategic plan recommendations address three key areas:
work force development.
developing an innovative economic climate.
Separate task forces, under the oversight of the ongoing Innovation Council, will soon be organized to address each of these areas.
Without improvements in education levels, pending retirements of baby boomers coupled with a fast-growing Latino population and higher costs in Sonoma County’s communities will create skilled-labor shortages, the council found.