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Economy snapshots

Sonoma County’s competitive position (2011-2016)

Job Growth: 14%

Population Growth: 3%

Labor Force Growth: -1%

Jobs Paying Below CA Average: 60%

Commuters Using Public Transit: 1%

New Households 6,801

New Homes Permitted 4,441

Homes Lost to Fires: 5,300

White Residents/BA Degree+: 40%

Latino Residents/BA Degree+: 13%

Sources: US Census, EMSI, Avalanche Consulting

Top Sonoma County occupations most at risk of automation (2017 jobs)

Cashiers: 6,006

Office Clerks, General: 3,906

Secretaries/Administrative Assistants: 3,144

Bookkeeping, Accounting Clerks: 2,719

Landscaping/Grounds Workers: 2.027

Cooks/Restaurant Staff: 1,997

Receptionists/Info. Clerks: 1,593

Packaging Machine Operators: 1,502

Driver/Sales Workers: 883

Shipping/Receiving, Traffic: 870

Team Assemblers: 818

Tellers: 566

Billing/Posting Clerks: 557

Inspectors/Testers/Weighers: 556

Hosts and Hostesses: 551

Sources: University of Oxford, EMSI and Avalanche Consulting

Benchmark gross regional product growth (2010-2015)

Sonoma County: 28%

Sacramento Metro: 24%

San Luis Obispo County: 22%

Santa Barbara County: 22%

Monterey County: 17%

_________________________________________

San Francisco Bay Area: 34%

California: 27%

U.S.: 21%

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and Avalanche Consulting

Sonoma County employment by major industry (2016)

Trade/Transportation: 36,390

Education/Health Services: 32,490

Government: 27,430

Leisure/Hospitality: 24,860

Manufacturing: 22,150

Professional, business services: 12,710

Construction 12,140

Financial Activities: 8,270

Natural Resources: 6,160

Information: 2,730

Sources: U.S. Census, EMSI and Avalanche Consulting

Focus on developing workforces for and expansion of certain Sonoma County industry “clusters” as well as creation of an employer housing council are among the recommendations in a Strategic Sonoma Action Plan released Thursday by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.

The board partnered in 2017 with the Sonoma County Workforce Investment Board, Santa Rosa Junior College and the Morgan Family Foundation in hiring Avalanche Consulting, Inc., of Austin, Texas, to prepare the report.

After the October fires, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors extended Avalanche’s contract so this team could assist in developing a year-long, postfire recovery plan.

Recovery from the October wildfires tops the list of six priorities for Sonoma County outlined in the report. The others are building necessary housing, educating and supporting the workforce, being a leader in environmentally-sustainable practices, and improving mobility and access to services.

“This year’s plan is especially relevant to today’s issues,” said Ben Stone, executive director of the EDB. “Some important topics included in prior plans — such as housing — are now an even higher priority, while other concerns must be addressed to further support, revive and maintain the economic vitality of our county.”

He said of all of the ideas listed in the plan’s cafeteria of opportunities, two key project proposals stand out. One is creation of a Sonoma County Employer Housing Council to work on ways to provide more workforce housing and formation of a Target Alignment Council as part of a Sonoma County Cooperative Education Program designed to retain graduates in the county.

“We lose about two-thirds of our college graduates each year who opt to work elsewhere. I would like to see than number reduced to 50% or less over the next five years by working with the employment community to welcome students into their firms full time during the summer and half-time during the school year. SSU, SRJC and Empire College are interested in this approach and I believe it can work with private sector support. Internships and mentoring can provide work exposure and build relationships that can keep our young adults employed locally.”

He said another key objective and outcome from the report is to bring diverse groups together who have never sat down with each other to work through pressing issues and generate fresh ideas.

In developing the plan, the consulting team spoke with 200 local stakeholders representing 140 organizations countywide to collect and analyze their input, examine trends and to prioritize a list of strategic issues vital to Sonoma County.

The key areas, or industry clusters, in the report include advanced technology; agriculture and food; healthcare; hospitality and recreation; outdoor products and craft goods, as well as professional services and IT.

Each of the report’s six strategic goals contains a list of projects and related metrics to help track success moving forward.

RECOVERY

Recovery-related projects encompass debris removal — while also addressing environmental health and safety; the implementation of capital improvement plans and assisting local businesses with capital programs and support; establishing a Marketing Task Force; aligning recovery efforts and organizations; developing an online portal providing real-time tracking of recovery progress, and developing an active communications plan around fire recovery.

Metrics for assessing recovery progress involve gathering statistics on the amount of debris cleared, the number of homes rebuilt and businesses assisted, the value of U.S. Small Business Administration and Housing & Urban Development loans granted and approved, as well as the amount of capital investment made for infrastructure.

Economy snapshots

Sonoma County’s competitive position (2011-2016)

Job Growth: 14%

Population Growth: 3%

Labor Force Growth: -1%

Jobs Paying Below CA Average: 60%

Commuters Using Public Transit: 1%

New Households 6,801

New Homes Permitted 4,441

Homes Lost to Fires: 5,300

White Residents/BA Degree+: 40%

Latino Residents/BA Degree+: 13%

Sources: US Census, EMSI, Avalanche Consulting

Top Sonoma County occupations most at risk of automation (2017 jobs)

Cashiers: 6,006

Office Clerks, General: 3,906

Secretaries/Administrative Assistants: 3,144

Bookkeeping, Accounting Clerks: 2,719

Landscaping/Grounds Workers: 2.027

Cooks/Restaurant Staff: 1,997

Receptionists/Info. Clerks: 1,593

Packaging Machine Operators: 1,502

Driver/Sales Workers: 883

Shipping/Receiving, Traffic: 870

Team Assemblers: 818

Tellers: 566

Billing/Posting Clerks: 557

Inspectors/Testers/Weighers: 556

Hosts and Hostesses: 551

Sources: University of Oxford, EMSI and Avalanche Consulting

Benchmark gross regional product growth (2010-2015)

Sonoma County: 28%

Sacramento Metro: 24%

San Luis Obispo County: 22%

Santa Barbara County: 22%

Monterey County: 17%

_________________________________________

San Francisco Bay Area: 34%

California: 27%

U.S.: 21%

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and Avalanche Consulting

Sonoma County employment by major industry (2016)

Trade/Transportation: 36,390

Education/Health Services: 32,490

Government: 27,430

Leisure/Hospitality: 24,860

Manufacturing: 22,150

Professional, business services: 12,710

Construction 12,140

Financial Activities: 8,270

Natural Resources: 6,160

Information: 2,730

Sources: U.S. Census, EMSI and Avalanche Consulting

HOUSING

The most urgent necessity is housing construction — encompassing both the rebuilding of homes destroyed by fire and creating enough new housing to match unmet demand. This will require building 30,000 new housing units or more to avoid losing residents who cannot find, or afford, a place to live. Without more housing, Stone said it will be difficult for businesses and other organizations to operate if employees and future hires do not have a place to live locally.

To meet this goal, the report calls for creation of a permanent Sonoma County Employer Housing Council and for exploration of solutions for short-term workforce housing. Engagement in a campaign to vote “yes” for passage of the $300 million housing bond is recommended, in addition the report recommends creating a communications campaign to help fund a progress report with the theme “Building Housing for All.”

Developing a system for conducting an inventory of priority new housing sites is listed under this heading, as well as lobbying the State of California to ease state regulatory burdens. Another proposed project would establish an advisory group that can guide others through development processes. A separate plan calls for updating public policies to expedite the expansion of new housing alternatives.

Tracking results would involve monitoring the number of building permits in various stages of the approval process as well as the number of housing units built. Data about the ability to retain residents in the working age cohort (ages 25-64) and changes in population density statistics would also be compiled.

TALENT

To support this goal, a Talent Alignment Council and a construction skills training center should be established, the report concludes. The formation of a Sonoma County Cooperative Education Program is also proposed, as is the development of industry sector partnerships around Sonoma County’s target clusters. Two functions are mentioned as in need of expansion, the Workforce Investment Board’s Dislocated and Incumbent Worker Training programs, and scholarship offerings and support programs for students. Retiree volunteers would be engaged as mentors, educators and career coaches to carryout this goal.

Methods for determining success of the talent goal would include assessing education alignment disparities, higher student test scores, increased high school graduations, postsecondary enrollment gains and awards, a rise in the number of students qualifying for free lunches, and overall labor force participation data.

DIVERSIFICATION: RESILIENCE

Launching Sonoma County AgTech Innovation and Manufacturing Alliance initiatives would enhance diversification, report authors said. The development of an annual countywide business retention and expansion report is also proposed, along with exploring the possibility of having a revolving loan fund earmarked to help finance specific strategic objectives.

A portion of this project would involve finding ways to proactively market the availability of existing financial resources, as well as suggested methods to examine the feasibility of a research-and-development center for applied technologies in target clusters. Facilitating a gap analysis of commercial real estate in Sonoma County is also proposed, plus a curricula for preparing businesses for the future through topics such as adoption of new technologies, utilization of e-commerce tools to sell products online, and “up-skilling” existing workers to increase productivity.

The yardstick for measuring diversification gains would measure increases in target cluster employment, number of small-business startups, tally of women and minority-owned businesses, county average wage levels, income disparities, exports, and e-commerce sales and capital investment.

SUSTAINABILITY

Projects in this category include exploring the development of a public crowdfunding platform for sustainable businesses, and incentives to encourage environmentally sustainable building practices. Again, the previously mentioned communications funding campaign would help finance information programs directed toward various constituencies and to involve environmental organizations in efforts to proactively engage, listen and educate the public. This sustainability goal could also support continued efforts to convert all government fleets to electric vehicles.

Another subgoal in the five-year plan would be to seek collaboration with research universities to investigate opportunities for local field studies. This objective encourages planning to host a global conference focused on green technologies, practices and services, and to work with local employers to develop incentive programs for reducing vehicle usage.

The level of water quality achieved, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, rate of electric vehicle adoption, open-space preservation advances and environmental-business employment could be measures of sustainability, the consultants stated.

MOB8ILITY: ACCESS TO SERVICES

To achieve greater access, support for Access Sonoma Broadband’s efforts to close the digital divide is encouraged, as well as collaboration with regional planning organizations to ensure that Sonoma County is leveraging regional transportation networks and resources, while continuing to review and update comprehensive transportation plans and exploring creative last-mile solutions.

Working with private employers, nonprofits and educators to establish shuttle services is recommended, along with facilitating public-private partnerships to create affordable transportation solutions. The plan calls for methods to ensure transportation and capital improvement plans include efforts to make transit stops safer and more attractive.

The mobility goal would be measured by shorter commute times, population served by public transit and ridership data, hike and bike trail mileage, transit-oriented development square footage, and the amount of infrastructure capital investment provided.

“The practice of economic development continuously evolves, along with the overall economy and the needs of communities,” the report said. “It is sometimes interrupted by disasters that change, alter or place greater or lessor emphasis on previously identified priorities — as was the case last year.”

Stone said developing a collective impact framework involves having a common agenda, clearly defined objectives, and a joint approach to achieving them, along with agreement on a coordinated plan of action with complementary and supportive roles for everyone involved.

Furthermore, he said, all participants have to share common and consistently measured metrics to determine the level of success and to ensure alignment and accountability, while engaging in transparent and continuous communications internally — and with the public — to build trust and maintain focus.

“Communities today typically are required to address more issues with fewer resources,” the report said. “Pressing topics include affordability, equity, infrastructure, technology adoption, environmental changes and education. These subjects have broad economic implications. Interconnected issues are increasingly part of economic development conversations, and subsequently, part of economic development strategy. The 2018 Strategic Sonoma Action Plan is for the entire community to implement, including the public sector, private businesses, educators, community-based organizations and residents.”