It was a year dominated by a struggling economy that touched virtually everyone.
But it was also a year marked by the roll out of an innovative energy program, some significant venture capital investments in telecom and biotech and at least the beginning steps toward regional commuter rail and transit-oriented development.
Here are 10 stories from Business Journal headlines in 2009.
1. The economy and jobs
NORTH BAY – Whether it ends up being remembered as the Great Recession or just passes into history books as a particularly bad downturn, the economy and unemployment were clearly the top story of 2010.
As the year came to a close, the jobless rate in Sonoma and Napa counties stood at above the historic level of 10 percent. Marin had the lowest rate in the state. But at 8.1 percent, it was three percentage points above a year earlier with no major relief in sight.
The budgets of cities, counties, education at all levels are just now feeling the full impact of California's $20-billion-plus budget deficit and disastrous 12.2 percent unemployment, the highest in decades.
"In some areas of California, including depressed urban neighborhoods in Los Angeles," wrote the Los Angeles Times recently, "1 in 5 people in the labor force is out of work. The fallout from prolonged unemployment is pounding those regions as businesses close, homes tumble into foreclosure and frustration mounts."
"Elsewhere in the state," the Times said, "some parts of Kings, Fresno and Imperial counties are experiencing unemployment rates that top 30 percent."
The UCLA Anderson Forecast said early last month it expects double-digit unemployment to persist into 2012.
If there is good news it is that the worst is over for California's enormous and diverse economy, according to UCLA.
That would be welcome, indeed.
--Business Journal Staff
2. All eyes on banking
NORTH BAY – In 2009, banking regulators were telling banks to be careful making loans if they made them at all, while the White House was encouraging them to lend, setting up a tension that persists today.
More than 170 banks nationwide were shut down in 2009 by regulators. During the years 2003 to mid 2008, only 10 banks were shut down. Two North Bay banks were under federal orders to improve their balance sheets.
The Small Business Administration rolled out a program funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act intended to spur lending to small businesses. The SBA increased its guarantee to 90 percent from 75 percent and waived the fees associated with SBA loans.
3. Innovative energy program spurs projects
SONOMA COUNTY – The passage of Assembly Bill 811 allowed cities and counties in California to create financing districts where property owners could take loans for energy improvements and pay them over time through their property tax bills.
The Sonoma County Energy Independence Program was the first county-wide program in the state to implement this kind of project.
Since the Board of Supervisors approved the project, $100 million in bonds has been allocated to making the loans. The loans are for projects such as insulation, windows, solar, HVAC, cool roofs and energy audits.