In its analysis of the recently released unemployment statistics for May, Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics listed the Santa Rosa-Petaluma MSA among three regions in California that gained jobs -- 1,700 to be exact between April and May.

The other two regions were Ventura and San Diego. Meanwhile, Marin County continues to have the lowest jobless rate in the state and Napa County’s jobless rate dipped nearly a full percentage point to 8.7 percent in May. Napa has added 400 jobs in tourism over the course of the year.

What do these numbers tell us?

They tell us that, relative to many other places in California and across the U.S., the North Bay economy is faring a little better.

There are many factors, but chief among them are:

Innovative companies. In just the past two weeks, two young companies in the renewable energy and pharmaceutical spaces made significant announcements. Petaluma-based Enphase Energy, a leading supplier of performance boosting technology for solar installations, announced its intent to raise $100 million in an initial public offering. The company also announced it had signed a lease for 96,000 square feet of space and is growing rapidly in Petaluma. The company is hiring. Then last week, the Novato startup Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical, which is developing drug therapies for rare diseases, said it had raised $45 million in series A venture capital..

Economic development. Multiple organizations in all three North Bay counties are making jobs, training and education a priority. Although it is hard to quantify the impact in hard numbers, raising public awareness of the importance of attracting and retaining employers and developing a high-wage work force is fundamental to creating a favorable business climate.

Significant building projects. Whether it is the $284 million Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa, the new wing at the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato or the ongoing flood control and downtown revival in Napa, having these projects in our communities separates us from those that don’t. Still, the construction industry remains severely bruised from the long recession. The key going forward is to keep the project pipeline stocked with new, job creating activity as these existing ones are completed.

Even if all these things go right as they should -- innovation, economic development and a flow of important projects -- the road toward putting many thousands of currently unemployed or underemployed North Bay residents back to work will be challenging.

But the evidence shows that the efforts being made are producing results.


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