SANTA ROSA – In an attempt to foster mutual cooperation and enhance awareness of economic development activities throughout Sonoma County, eight government agencies came together at a Sonoma County Alliance meeting June 3 at the Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club to talk about retaining existing businesses, attracting new ones, creating jobs and leveraging private/public partnerships to stimulate growth.
The plans outlined city by city are:
City of Santa Rosa
“In 2007 we refined our economic sustainability strategy to focus on new employment opportunities and ways to grow spending by visitors to downtown retail stores,” said David Gouin, director of economic development and housing for the city of Santa Rosa.
“Jobs provide income that produces community cash flow. Our plan targets firms as far away as the East Bay that we want to bring to our city. We are building a brand image to support Santa Rosa’s Shop Local campaign through events such as Small Business Week, Getting Diners in the Door, the Retail Academy, the Amgen Tour, Scooter Rosa, holiday events and First Friday’s for the arts.”
Using the service LoopNet, the city is taking inventory of vacant retail space so the planning department can assess site decision data. A business visitation process has been initiated that interviews 30 to 40 firms annually to learn about challenges facing local firms and how the city can facilitate change.
Facade, Brownfield, SCIP and federal/state referral assistance loan programs are available to upgrade properties and aid in remediation. Parking signage is being improved to enhance the use of public spaces, and five city redevelopment projects have been identified.
The West Side project will create an estimated 700 jobs associated with the coming of the SMART train, new housing and emerging retail outlets while producing $4 million in new city revenues.
“The Environment, Equity and Economics are the three E’s of our local strategy. We want to expand this approach to encompass a regional effort that will place all of our concerns on the table,” Mr. Gouin said.
Sonoma County Economic Development Board
Providing tools to help businesses perform better and stay ahead of emerging trends is the role of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.
“Economic vitality has been stimulated in recent years for the technology, tourism and agricultural sectors,” said Ben Stone, director of the EDB. “Evidence of this can be seen in the science curriculum at Sonoma State University – where 70 percent of graduates are able to find jobs – and in the creation of the Sonoma Tourism Bureau and through an integrated marketing program for county agriculture.”
According to Mr. Stone, the Innovation Council was formed to focus on issues not being studied by other groups and to formulate economic models used to forecast possible future scenarios.
“Educational attainment is a priority. A well-educated work force will attract business. We have also initiated a Web site to show small businesses how to survive tough economic times. A better regulatory environment is a big part of the equation. We are conducting a permitting function study with the goal of accelerating operations as well as another project monitoring how climate change legislation will impact firms in our area,” he said.