BEST forms task forces to tackle employment issues in 2012

SONOMA COUNTY – Swiftly enacting a five-pronged strategic plan and partnering with existing economic development efforts will be some of the hallmarks of Sonoma County’s Building Economic Success Together or BEST group in 2012, said the organization's newly appointed Executive Director Carolyn Stark.

Five “task forces” will focus on the individual elements of BEST’s strategic plan this year, with overarching goals that include creating 4,100 jobs and enhancing the business environment in Sonoma County over a five-year period.

“I want the BEST program to be a catalyst for economic development,” Ms. Stark said.

Each task force will be headed by a member of BEST’s 13-member board of directors.

Kevin Smith of Agilent Technologies will chair the group focused on business recruitment; Bobbi Beehler of Redwood Credit Union will chair the effort to foster business innovation; Anthy O’Brien of TopSpeedData will chair efforts to create a supportive business environment, and Karen Fies of the county Workforce Investment Board will chair the group focused on creating “a world-class work force” in Sonoma County.

Ms. Stark said that the group was considering a co-chair arrangement for the final task force, with her joining BEST Vice-Chair Kevin Smith heading a group focused on business retention.

“That’s because it’s such an important effort,” she said.

Work remains in developing specific strategies among the various task forces, but Ms. Stark said that quick execution was a high priority.

“Economic development can – and should – be long term, but we have a need now,” Ms. Stark said.

The Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce launched BEST in March of 2011, taking aim at an unemployment rate in Sonoma County that has hovered around 10 percent during the recession. A national search resulted in the appointment of Ms. Stark, a veteran of economic development efforts in California as well as Texas.

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