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[caption id="attachment_42259" align="alignleft" width="198" caption="John Sawyer"][/caption]

 SANTA ROSA – John Sawyer, a fourth generation Santa Rosa native whose family came to Sonoma County in the 1890s, has served on the Santa Rosa City Council since 2004.  

Mr. Sawyer, currently in the third year of his second term at City Hall, was previously the owner and operator of the once-venerable Sawyer News Inc., on Fourth Street, which operated from 1945 to 2010, when it closed due to challenges in the print media industry.

In the past, he has served as chairman of the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens Board and president of Santa Rosa Main Street, among other civic and city involvements.

Mr. Sawyer, who will be a panelist at the Business Journal’s upcoming Impact Sonoma conference, is also running to fill a seat the seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors that is being vacated by current Board President Valerie Brown.

He recently shared some of his thoughts on the challenges faced by both Santa Rosa and Sonoma County and how to make the region more economically viable.

What do you view as Santa Rosa’s biggest challenge in remaining competitive with other cities?

It’s difficult to identify the single biggest challenge due to the pressures placed on us all in this current economy. One of the most obvious challenges is getting projects through “the process.”

We are currently working with city staff in the Economic Development Department and our Community Development Department to enhance our ability to provide a clear and predictable path to getting projects completed. The removal of unnecessary impediments to business growth, for both new and existing businesses is elemental to economic vitality in our city and the entire region.

Being known as “the city that can” would go a long way to making us much more competitive.

Is there anything specific that you would point to?

I do firmly believe one of the biggest challenges we face economically is the vehicular bottleneck in Novato, which once removed will go a long way in eliminating the perception and reality that we live in a county which is difficult to get to.

What are some ways the city council can assist in creating a business friendly Santa Rosa? Any specific policies?

We are working on some of the impediments within the mayor’s Economic Competitiveness Task Force, co-chaired by Vice Mayor Jake Ours and me.  Some of the policies to encourage business health in Santa Rosa have already been adopted by the Council and more are on their way.  Rezoning “priority sites,” making them “project ready,” will have a major positive impact on future business expansion or relocation to Santa Rosa.

I am very much in favor of policies which allow “use by right.”  Changes in some of our current policies will allow expedient re-tenancy of existing space. 

How can the city of Santa Rosa and the county work together in attracting business and or creating the right environment?

The county’s Innovation Action Council, on which I serve, is working on that very issue.  Programs such as BEST (Building Economic Success Together) will also prepare us for the economic turn-around which I believe is knocking at our door.

What can the city of Santa Rosa do to create jobs amid a stubbornly high unemployment rate?

It is not the city’s responsibility to “create” jobs.  If we do our best to get out of the way of the business community—they will bring jobs and prosperity to Santa Rosa.  The city’s job should be to responsibly and consistently facilitate, not create.