The news about a recent surge in orders for North Bay manufacturers like electrical components maker Schurter, reported in the upcoming issue of the Business Journal, is welcome.
And it’s also good news that insurer ProSight is planning to open an operation in Santa Rosa and that the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors moved the new Sutter Medical Center of Sonoma County a step closer to reality.
But no one should kid themselves that the North Bay economy is anywhere out of the woods. We are in a deep, deep hole. And while the North Bay’s small manufacturers and other sectors that are performing against significant headwinds are bringing scores or perhaps a few hundred jobs, we need thousands more to begin to replace the tens of thousands that have been lost.
That is why the launch this week of the North Bay Jobs & Prosperity Project is a milestone for the region. For the first time, voters and potential voters now have a non-partisan source of information about where their candidates and, eventually, their elected officials, stand on issues that impact jobs.
The launch of the project was made possible by the North Coast Builders Exchange, Sonoma County Alliance and North Bay Leadership Council. But its aim is to garner the support of chambers, labor and community groups that know jobs are the foundation of a vital private and civic life. Without jobs, little else is possible.
It’s amusing to see pundits and letter writers claim that business has been dominating what happens in their communities. How to explain, for instance, that just in the last week two groups that sued to delay projects in Sonoma County were paid a combined $850,000 to settle.
Stories of delays, surprise fees and reports are commonplace among builders and businesses across the board. Far from dominating anything, these people who create jobs, fees and taxes for local, state and national governments have been worn down.
But they have not given up.
Modeled on similar projects in 40 states, the North Bay Jobs & Prosperity Project (NorthBayProsperity.com) believes jobs should be part of the conversation along with other critical issues such as the environment.
The two are indelibly connected. Just one small example: A maker of biodegradable foodservice supplies in Napa has seen sales of his products, which cost a little more than the plastic versions, decline with the recession. It’s a good bet that when jobs and incomes come back, so will his sales. A stronger economy helps the environment.
What differentiates the North Bay prosperity project from others is that it will focus on local candidates for city councils and boards of supervisors rather than state and federal officeholders. And nothing could be more important that those local races today.
Officials with the North Bay Jobs & Prosperity Project calculate that 26 of 50 city council positions in Sonoma County are in play this November.
Obviously, it’s up to voters to decide who will occupy those seats. But for the first time, they will have access to non-partisan information, supplied by the candidates themselves, about where they stand on jobs and the conditions that help create them.