Ever wonder where the wealth created in the tech boom went?

For sure, some paper gains vanished from those frothy years around 2000. But tech's impact on the North Bay's communities and their quality of life  continues to manifest itself in incredible and very positive ways.

Just the latest example came on June 12 when former Optical Coating Laboratory CEO Herb Dwight and his wife, Jane, celebrated the opening of the Dwight Center for Conservation Science.

This stunning, environmentally sensitive building sits on the one-of-a-kind, 3,117-acre Pepperwood Preserve northeast of Santa Rosa, which is managed by a foundation the Dwights founded. The foundation took over stewardship of these diverse Mayacamas Range wildlands in 2005 from the California Academy of Sciences, which remains a partner along with the Community Foundation Sonoma County and Santa Rosa Junior College.

In this outdoor nature laboratory and Dwight Center classrooms, labs, library and historical exhibits, researchers conduct studies, SRJC students attend classes and local elementary and middle school students are exposed to wonders and knowledge of the preserve's plants and animals. The aim: to help "solve out society's 'nature deficit disorder.'"

What in large part made this possible, beyond the generosity and community commitment of the Dwights,  is private sector entrepreneurship and innovation. It is itself an ecosystem of ideas, investment, job generation and creation of products that better lives.

An example of that: Who today would give up their high-speed Internet connection? The companies  founded by telecom pioneer Don Green ending with Advanced Fibre Communications in Petaluma played a sizeable role in developing DSL technology. Without the support of Don and Maureen Green, the music center that bears their name at Sonoma State University would not be nearing completion.

Similarly, wealth created in wine and across a broad spectrum of industries is responsible for community assets such as the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato and, recently, the Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center and Trinchero Surgery Center at St. Helena Hospital, to name just two.

So why bring all this up now? It happens all the time, right?

Here is the reason: the private and public sectors in California and the U.S. are locked in a battle for dominance. Neither can survive without the other. But it is a question of balance, and not in memory has the private sector been under the kind of uncertainty and assault that it is today.

Projects like the Pepperwood Preserve provide a reminder that, while innovation and wealth creation in the private sector can be volatile and uneven, it is fundamentally vital to making our communities better places to live and work.


Brad Bollinger is Business Journal editor in chief and associate publisher. He can be reached at 707-521-4251 or bbollinger@busjrnl.com.