I love Santa Rosa for many reasons. I know you do as well; there is a lot to love.
Our assets are diverse and incredible. We are Beer City in the heart of Wine Country. We hold an important history in agriculture and regional commerce. Our outdoor recreation events and opportunities are world class, and the foundation of our tourism economy.
Underneath all of what makes Santa Rosa amazing is our people, diverse and resilient. Our Latino population is nearly 30 percent. While we are certainly an older city – 23 percent of residents are over age 65 – our younger generation (under 18) is nearly a quarter of our city and growing. The metro region of Santa Rosa is the “second gayest” in the country, with 12.4 same-sex couples per 1,000 households according to a 2010 study.
We also face challenges. For one, approximately 18,500 people must commute into Sonoma County to work every day, and more than double that leave Sonoma County every day. With virtual full employment locally, this commute pattern shows two critical needs: more housing and more high-wage employment opportunities.
The cities in the photo are also wonderful in their own way. While also facing challenges, they are thriving with downtowns boasting interesting skylines providing a mix of civic, residential and commercial uses necessary for the health and prosperity of their residents.
Providence’s nightlife attracts young professionals and has driven its reputation as a vacation destination. Downtown Grand Rapids has a bourgeoning art district, Souix Falls’ a well-used greenway and outdoor sculpture garden. Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002, and Vancouver has built a positive reputation for urban renewal. Little Rock has long been an attraction for history buffs, and the pulse of its downtown entices tourists to stay.
The cities in the photo are also each the same size as Santa Rosa, give or take a few thousand. With a population of just under 180,000, Santa Rosa is the 5th largest in the Bay Area and 26th largest in California.
Nationally, Santa Rosa is in the largest 150 cities by population. That Santa Rosa is a major city, diverse in its assets and people, is an unassailable fact. But we have yet to embrace this fact and are pushing prosperity away as a result.
It is vital we ask ourselves not whether Santa Rosa is a city, but what kind of city do we want Santa Rosa to be. It is vital that we strive for a prosperous city, where business, industry and the environment thrive so that our residents can thrive as well. This prosperity isn’t only for today; it is for tomorrow.
After all, if we don’t provide housing for our teachers to live in our city, how prosperous can the future of our children — and of our businesses — truly be?
That question drives our action at the Metro Chamber.
We work every day to address our housing crisis, knowing that environmentalism isn’t about living alone in the wilderness. It is about building what we need to live amongst each other.
We work every day in support of our education system, knowing that providing all children with opportunity is as much an economic development issue as is business attraction.
We work every day to help create a more vibrant downtown with a bustling center of commerce and arts, knowing that doing this benefits the city as a whole.
Peter Rumble is CEO of the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber.