The North Bay has no shortage of dedicated business leaders who work diligently every day on behalf of making their communities better places to work and live.

Because of people like them and because of the North Bay's remarkable and numerous natural attributes, the region continues to enjoy a high standard of living relative to many other places in California and across the nation.

These business leaders and their organizations provide support, critical information and networking opportunities and ably represent business in the public dialogue. They also support uncounted nonprofit and governmental efforts to help those most in need, whether it is health, education or basic necessities.  

They do this because they know -- and increasingly public officials are learning, albeit some belatedly -- that without a viable and thriving private business sector that employs people and pays taxes, communities ultimately suffer and decline. (See Detroit.)

But now, with 10 percent unemployment, a widespread financial crisis, high home foreclosures and an increasingly hostile business environment, those efforts by business leaders are simply no longer enough.

Business needs a unified voice.

That is the message on this page of Dr. William Silver, the dean of the Sonoma State University School of Business and Economics.

Dr. Silver, who came to SSU in 2008 from University of Denver, has high praise for the region's business activists. The backing of the SMART commuter rail and Sonoma County Innovation Council are just two significant examples of the high level of work being done.

The problem is not a lack of energy and desire to support business and promote the region's prosperity, it is the inability so far to execute a lasting, effective, coherent plan.

The Feb. 25 conference co-sponsored by SSU and the Business Journal is intended to be the catalyst for developing and executing such a plan.

Entitled "The Time is Now: Developing a regional strategy to attract and retain jobs," the conference is intended to be a call to action to create an economic development center or corporation that could speak for business and adopt best practices around economic development suitable for the region.

Consider just one small thing such a center could develop. Imagine, for instance, if the business community spoke with a single, positive message about the region. The word would soon get out.

Dr. Silver's hope, one worthy of the business community's energetic support starting on Feb. 25, is that we start doing so -- and now.