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SSU's Silver: 'I think that people believe in the North Bay'

NORTH BAY – “This is a call to action,” said Dr. William Silver, dean of the School of Business and Economics at Sonoma State University when he opened its annual economic outlook conference Feb. 25.

This year, in addition to the political and economic outlook by Brian Sobel, Dr. Rob Eyler and Brian Pretti and the panel of speakers, Dr. Silver handed out a “Call to Action” that he asked the more than 200 attendees to sign.

He wanted people to pledge whether they are willing to do any or all of the following: be an ambassador for the North Bay; connect a start-up businesses to the Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster; elect public officials who support sustainable economic development; help create or fund a regional economic development corporation; advocate for policies that support regional prosperity; invest in North Bay businesses; play, eat, drink and give local; and invest in local education.

“It is interesting,” he said of the information that has been aggregated so far from more than 100 forms returned. “The first thing that struck me is how many people are checking more than one or almost all of the boxes.”

He said he was surprised people were willing to fill it out and to do so enthusiastically.

“I think that people believe in the North Bay,” he said. “Sometimes you have to hold a mirror up for people to see that there are things they can do.”

He said in addition to the individual pledges, he thinks that collectively there is a shared vision of economic development, and if people come together and get an inventory of existing resources and align them, and create a strategic action plan and move on key initiatives, real economic development can take place.

“We should focus on a couple of programs that are already in place,” he said, “triple bottom line programs like the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program.”

He also mentioned the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce’s Worksite Held Employee English Learning courses, the Small Business Development Center and the Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster.

“Businesses that exist in groups like the business cluster,” he said, “have an 85 percent chance of success versus 10 percent chance that is the national standard.”

People who filled out the call to action will be contacted throughout the year so at next year’s conference the school can publish the results.

The rest of the conference was as follows: Brian Pretti, senior vice president at Mechanics Bank, provided a macroeconomic forecast indicating a dramatic shift from past economic cycles and suggestions for how businesses should prepare differently for the future.

Dr. Rob Eyler, chair of economics at SSU and director of the Center for Regional Economic Analysis, gave a North Bay economic analysis.

Brian Sobel, principal consultant for Sobel Communications, talked about the local and national political climate and its impact on conducting business.

Tracey Grose, vice president of research and strategic development at Collaborative Economics, shared numbers on the emerging green economy, described the core concepts of a green economy and outlined the opportunity that exists for North Bay policy makers to spur business growth.

Naheed Ali of the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program covered how this program has translated into economic development, generating money going into the community.

Michael Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp., discussed how Solano has structured its economic redevelopment according to the broader context of growing clusters in the greater mega-region.

Jeri Gill, CEO of Sustainable Napa County, gave an example of successful private-public-NGO collaboration in Napa.

The speakers' PowerPoint presentations along with the Call to Action form are available at www.NorthBayBusinessJournal.com in the resources section of the Web site. Readers can also find a PDF of a special "The Time is Now" section prepared for SSU by the Business Journal.