[caption id="attachment_31173" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Speakers at the Sonoma County BEST program kickoff conference in Santa Rosa on March 18. (click to enlarge)"][/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- A proactive and coordinated effort from the public and private sectors targeting job growth, Sonoma County BEST -- "Building Economic Success Together" -- officially kicked off with a breakfast this morning at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The program has already raised $1.66 million toward its $3.25 million goal for this five-year partnership for business retention and expansion, job creation, economic development and more projected to create 2,500 jobs. Sonoma County lost more than 10,000 jobs since the economy turned south in 2008.

"There are a lot of passionate people in Sonoma County trying to do this," said Brett Martinez, president and chief executive officer of Redwood Credit Union and a support council chairperson of BEST. This effort, he said, is going to get those passionate people together in a coordinated way.

The 2,500 jobs foretasted jobs with the 0.6 multiplier used in Sonoma County, translates into 4,100 total jobs, $268 million in payroll earnings, $182 million in disposible income and $37 million in state and local taxes.

But said, Shirlee Zane, Sonoma County Third District supervisor and co-general chair of BEST, it is not just the numbers.

"We are talking about people's lives," she said. "When we have a healthy economy, we have a healthy community."

The five areas BEST is focusing on are business retention and expansion, creating a strong, vibrant and supportive business climate, fostering innovative businesses, attracting new businesses providing wigh quality jobs and building a world class workforce based on educational attainment.

BEST came about through the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce and is going to operate under its umbrella, though most cities and their respective chambers of commerce are in support of the effort. The program seeks to embrace the entire county.

The program will have a board of directors and will launch this summer.

"BEST is designed by Sonoma County leaders to address Sonoma County problems," said Randy DeCaminada of Pacific Gas & Electric Company and Ms. Zane's co-general chair.

"This is a truly public/private effort," he said.