2011 top stories: New hospital, tech advances define year of the economy

The national and local economy was on everyone's mind in 2011. But as the Business Journal editorial staff set out to develop its Top 10 Stories of the year, it quickly became clear that the North Bay was blessed with multiple economy-boosting projects and new commitments to job creation.Top 10 stories of 2011Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa breaks ground on $284 million hospital.Enphase Energy plans $100 million IPO, leases 96,000 square feet in Petaluma.Agilent Technologies posts record year.Buck Institute for Research on Aging expands.New leaders at three North Bay colleges.Napa Destination Council posts some major gains.Marin-Sonoma IPA network of physicians formed.Sonoma County job-creation program Building Economic Success Together (BEST) moves to 'execution phase' in 2012.Fetzer sold to Chilean wine company for $238 million.Turnover in Petaluma commercial properties spurs company expansions.1. Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa breaks ground on $284 million hospital

[caption id="attachment_34895" align="alignleft" width="302" caption="An artist’s rendering of the new Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa under construction near the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts."][/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- After nearly 10 years of regulatory maneuvering and an arduous approval process that included legal challenges, construction on Sutter Health's new $284 million Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa is well under way.

The project will replace Sutter's current facility on Chanate Road that has long been deemed seismically unfit. The new medial campus, next to the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts just north of Santa Rosa, will ensure the delivery of health care in the event of an earthquake, will be a state-of-the art facility for Sonoma County and will provide over 1,500 construction jobs through 2014, when construction will be completed, Sutter has said. Sutter also said the new medical campus would help attract physicians to Sonoma County, and that it hired as many local contractors and subcontractors as possible for the project.

The project has faced legal challenges. The North Sonoma County Healthcare District, which oversees Healdsburg District Hospital, was joined by the Palm Drive Healthcare District and the California Nurses Association in a suit that alleged Sutter's forthcoming 82-bed hospital would negatively impact health care delivery in the county as well as environmentally. The new hospital will include space for an expansion of up to 27 beds.

Earlier this year, however, Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau mostly sided with Sutter and the county Board of Supervisors, which approved the plan last summer, and construction continued unabated on the project.  The judge ruled that the health care districts did not have legal standing to sue under the California Environmental Quality Act, and that they are economic competitors of Sutter Health.

Sutter officials have said construction is right on schedule. The site will include 80,000 square feet of medical office buildings. Sutter said the hospital is expected to open in the fall of 2014. --Dan Verel2. Enphase Energy plans $100 million IPO, leases 96,000 square feet in Petaluma

[caption id="attachment_46470" align="alignleft" width="315" caption="Enphase Energy announced an expansion to 96,000 square feet in this Petaluma office complex along with its intention to file for an IPO."][/caption]

PETALUMA -- Enphase Energy, the fastest-growing technology company in the North Bay, announced it had filed for an IPO and signed a 10-year lease on a 96,000 square foot space in north Petaluma.

The IPO, as yet unscheduled, could raise up to $100 million for the 5-year-old maker of microinverters for the solar industry. Since its founding as PVI Solutions, Enphase has grown its staff to 243 and raised over $100 million in investor funding.

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