The Santa Rosa City Council is expected next week to approve a package of rule changes designed to help business, such as fee deferrals, zoning extensions and waiving some parking requirements.

[See "Santa Rosa explores 'aggressive' plan to spur business climate," May 17, 2010.]

The efforts are welcome and the relief badly needed. And they are a validation that the devastated budgets of the city and other public agencies are inextricably tied to the success or lack thereof a community's businesses.

But amazingly, even some of these 25 modest rule changes were questioned by some council members. And that's why business must step up and extend efforts to make its case that a more friendly business climate provides broad benefits for communities.

Behind the scenes, those efforts are under way. Whether it is the continuing efforts to sustain the Marin Economic Commission, plans for an economic development effort for Sonoma County or a new emphasis on jobs and tracking the voting records of elected leaders on the economy, business is stepping up to the plate.

On a national level, last week's scathing rebuke of the White House and Congress from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reflected the deep distrust that has developed between the private and public sectors.

Administration and congressional officials "took their eyes off the ball," the letter said. "They neglected America's number one priority -- creating more than 20 million jobs we need over the next 10 years." And Washington did so while it "vilified industries while embarking on an ill-advised course of government expansion, major tax increases, massive deficits and job-destroying regulations."

The chamber suggests a path out of the current economic uncertainty, including lower taxes, more regulatory clarity and an expansion of trade agreements. The chamber specifically  urges the White House and Congress to quickly approve pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

"Failure to act quickly will cost Americans many new job opportunities," the chamber noted. "But that's not all. At least 380,000 existing jobs will be lost to our competitors in the EU and Canada, which will soon implement free trade arrangements in these markets."

On the local level, businesses must make the case more clearly to the public and reluctant elected officials that only the private sector can propel the economy forward in a way that will last and create new jobs and new wealth. Government clearly has a role, but it ultimately can't do it by itself.

That message is starting to get through and is destined to become loud and clear in the days ahead.


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