When the iPod in shuffle mode came upon the Moody Blues album “To Our Children’s Children’s Children,” it seemed a perfect analogy for today.

In fact, you hear a lot these days about the supposed “new normal.” It’s described as a semi-permanent state of lowered expectations and living standards for us, our children and grandchildren. We have too much debt, the thinking goes. China is beating us at every turn. Our government has become an entity somehow separated from the people (a North Bay city department head can retire on a public pension of $170,000 a year), and on and on and on.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Browse through the experts’ thoughts about the economy and jobs in 2011  and there are many reasons to believe 2010 will be remembered as more abnormal than normal.

For instance, nationally noted economist Christopher F. Thornberg of Beacon Economics notes “there are a lot of green shoots springing up after a long drought.”

Sonoma State University economist Robert Eyler said the outlook for technology is strong. “Technology-based companies are deploying computing efficiencies and, consequently, the business software industry is moving up,” he said.

Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, says “we are seeing real change.  Things are turning around.”

Meanwhile, staffing experts are increasingly optimistic.

“The outlook for temporary workers is excellent,” said Jane E. Hynes, president and CEO of W.A. Hynes & Company Inc. “We have been through five recessions, and we have seen the demand for temporary workers precede the demand to direct (full time) personnel.”

Of course, no one is forecasting boom times, and there are serious headwinds ahead, particularly for state, county and local budgets, real estate and jobs.

But on those fronts as well, there is no reason to accept the “new normal” malaise as our fate.

Indeed, across the North Bay, promising efforts are under way to help bring jobs – and the tax revenue that comes with them – to the region.

Behind the scenes, the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce is creating a new program funded by the business community to support economic vitality.

In Marin County, the Marin Economic Forum expects to increase its activity in 2011.

And in Napa County, the Destination Council is now funded at a level that it can take the tourism sector to a new level.

These and other efforts in education and public policy can ensure the notion of some lesser “new normal” quickly becomes a memory and is replaced by renewed optimism.

Happy 2011.


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