Marilyn Ponton, Rohnert Park’s normally low-key development services manager, laughed and spoke in exclamation points as she said, “We’re on the map! We’ve been discovered!”
The Friendly City’s economy, if not quite booming yet, is making loud noises as 2014 starts. The shift in fortune buttresses city leaders’ claims that they have been laying the groundwork for an economic recovery and further development.
The Rohnert Park City Council unanimously approved its city manager’s request to look into hiring an assistant city manager, but not without pressing home the message that they wanted economic development to go to the top of the to-do list.
Zoning changes designed to make it easier for businesses to locate in Santa Rosa were lauded by the City Council majority Tuesday as wise economic development policy but lambasted by others as handouts to developers and private property owners. The council unanimously approved giving wineries and breweries more flexibility to operate tasting rooms and production facilities in the city, in some cases without any land-use permits.
City services most Santa Rosa residents take for granted — from litter removal downtown to attracting new businesses — could soon cease unless new ways to fund them are found. That grim picture was outlined for the Santa Rosa City Council during a briefing Tuesday that addressed how the loss of redevelopment will affect the city’s downtown program, economic development efforts and services to poorer neighborhoods.
Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday approved spending $204,000 through June on four new jobs centered on economic development and business attraction. It is the first step in hiring plan that calls for $591,000 in new county spending annually over the next five years.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously endorsed a plan to boost annual county spending on economic development by $600,000, but put off a decision on how to pay for the project. “The whole goal is to improve the business climate for job creation and job retention,” said Ben Stone, director of the county’s Economic Development Board.
Two Sonoma County supervisors are calling for a $600,000 increase in annual spending on economic development, saying any turnaround in the county’s 9.4 percent unemployment rate requires public-sector support. Do you think it makes sense? What would you recommend?
Rohnert Park’s new economic development director on Tuesday outlined steps to rejuvenate the city’s business climate. Linda Babonis said her priorities include working to keep businesses in Rohnert Park and helping them to expand, as well as getting new businesses to set up in the city of 41,000.
A sharply divided Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday supported finding ways to fund a job creation effort by the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce. A majority of council members praised the Building Economic Success Together program and vowed to find the $60,000 per year the chamber requested the city contribute toward it for five years.