SONOMA COUNTY -- A partnership between private and public sectors in Sonoma County is being forged to form a singular entity that would address economic challenges while creating jobs.

Sonoma County BEST – “building economic success together” – will be implemented over the next five years and will be governed by a board of directors representative of the entire county. The Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce served as a catalyst for the program.

The program is expected to be officially launched next month.

The five-year project includes a five-part plan that identifies the following goals: Business retention and expansion; creating a supportive business climate; fostering innovative business; attracting new businesses and providing high quality jobs; and building a “world class workforce based on educational attainment.”

That five-part plan is expected to cost $3.25 million over five years, with attracting new businesses a high priority item at $1.25 million. The chamber, however, projects big gains from the plan for the region – the creation of 4,100 jobs, $155 million in consumer expenditures, $37 million in state and local tax revenues and $87 million in bank deposits.

The program will focus on the entire county and is expected to be funded by both the public and private sectors, according to its case statement. It looks to expand on Sonoma County’s base economy—companies that sell products elsewhere and tourism activity that bring dollars from other regions.

Development of BEST started in early 2010, shortly after the Santa Rosa chamber, along with other Sonoma County chambers, business leaders and advocacy organizations, prepared a draft strategic plan on the county’s needs, opportunities and threats.

The threats and challenges in Sonoma County include a 10 percent unemployment rate, persistent high foreclosure rates, and office space vacancy rates, among others.

A consultant was hired to conduct interviews with leaders from the public and private sectors throughout Sonoma County, part of a feasibility study that was presented to the Santa Rosa Chamber’s board of directors in May 2010.

According to the study, conducted by STELLAR Fundraising Executives Inc., there was “significant positive enthusiasm for the strategic plan and its potential implementation in this community.” The new program was relevant to the needs of the county and $3 million to $3.25 million could successfully be raised from private and public sources, the study found.

The chamber accepted the findings of the study in June 2010 and voted to move forward with a capital campaign.