Tuesday, March 15th marked the first meeting of the City of Santa Rosa's Economic Competitiveness Task Force. The advisory only committee was formed by Mayor Ernesto Olivares and is Chaired by newly elected Councilmember Jake Ours. Councilmember John Sawyer also sits on the committee, and appeared to have a key organizing role for the group.
The official purpose of the task force is to "identify strategies to make Santa Rosa a stronger economic competitor, " with the ultimate vision of "a community that is a highly desirable place to live, work, and play." The official actions proposed to achieve this purpose and vision are "strategies focusing on business retention, business expansion, and business recruitment."
Besides Councilmember Ours and Councilmember Sawyer, the appointed members of the committee include:
- Cynthia Murray, North Bay Leadership Council
- Jane Bender, Former Councilmember
- Paul Schwartz, Commercial Real Estate Broker
- Bill Silver, Dean of Sonoma State University School of Business and Economics
- Tanya Narath, Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy and GoLocal Board Member
- Jonathan Coe, Executive Director of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce
- Stephen Gale, Wellspring Business Solutions
- Robert Cantu, North Coast Builders Exchange
- Lisa Shaffner, Sonoma County Alliance
The 7:30 a.m. meeting started with remarks from Mayor Olivares highlighting the need for economic "physical therapy" to get Santa Rosa back on track. Public comments were a mixed bag, with some community members applauding the mayor and task force for taking action on the economy, and others pleading for a holistic discussion that includes an emphasis on local business, sustainability, and smart growth.
Each task force member was then given a chance to state goals they would like the task force to achieve. Though comments from the committee members were varied, most centered on making Santa Rosa a more attractive place to do business. Many committee members stated the need to "roll up our sleeves" and "get to work," showing a commitment to action. One lone voice, Tanya Narath, emphasized the importance of considering the environment and eliminating the false dichotomy between a healthy environment and strong local economy.
A portion of the meeting involved the task force brainstorming on information they would like to have and questions they would like to see answered to inform the committee's work. GoLocal and the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy have created a survey with those questions to gather the opinions of our membership and fellows. Make your voice heard with this influential task force by completing the online survey here.
Want to get more involved? Besides completing our survey, you can attend the task force meetings. The next scheduled meeting is on Tuesday, April 5th at 7:30 a.m. in the Finley Center Cypress Room. The task force will be meeting every two weeks thereafter at the same time and location.