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Success!

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About six years ago, in the midst of a nationwide economic downturn, the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce and regional business representatives came together to discuss the need for an economic development entity that would help to lift up our local economy in its time of need.

After much planning and fundraising, they created the Sonoma County BEST (Building Economic Success Together) program in 2011.  With the financial support of over 70 public and private investors, BEST set out to help companies create over 2570 new jobs over the next five years.

BEST has since assisted over 300 local companies and helped to attract five new companies to the area, resulting in the creation of over 2700 new jobs, exceeding that goal.

But even though the five-year program has ended, the Santa Rosa Chamber will continue to support the local economy with the new Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Initiative.  Details of this program are currently being formed.

December: Steris Corporation opens

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In August of 2014, Sonoma County welcomed a new sterilization company called Synergy Health. This was the result of collaborative efforts between Sonoma County BEST, the City of Petaluma, PG&E, and was spearheaded by Petaluma medical device manufacturer Labcon.

After a merger in late 2014, Synergy Health now goes by Steris Corporation. On December 1st, 2015, local manufacturers and community members celebrated the opening of the new facility with a ribbon cutting.

The new Petaluma location provides solutions to those in the medical devices and pharmaceuticals industries, specialized applications and contamination control sectors. “The services [Steris Corporation]will offer will be a key to expanding medical device manufacturing in Sonoma County and all of the North Bay,” said Jim Happ, President of Labcon.

The opening of Steris brings new resources and capabilities that many advanced manufacturers in the region will utilize. This type of company acts as a catalyst in the already growing life science and medical device sectors in Sonoma County.

November: FIG honors pioneer in the food/beverage industry

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BEST hosted the 2nd Annual Food Industry Pioneer Awards on November 3rd, seeing nearly double digit attendance over the previous year. Attendees filled the room with 180 food-industry representatives, BEST investors, and partners at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa to honor Drake Sadler, co-founder of Traditional Medicinals for his vision and support for the North Bay food and beverage industry.

Traditional Medicinals is seen throughout our region as a leader in sustainability and fair trade business practices, and Drake was at the helm from the beginning. These acts paved the way for others within the industry to take similar principles into their businesses, making Drake Sadler a true pioneer. BEST was proud to honor him with the 2015 Food Industry Pioneer Award.

The event was co-hosted by Bank of America and the North Bay Business Journal and sponsored by Pisenti & Brinker LLP, Redwood Hill Farm, Straus Family Creamery and Traditional Medicinals. Lined around the room were 17 local food and beverage producers giving samples of their products.

September: Tech Industry Supplier Fair helps localize supply chains

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In early 2014, members of BEST’s Tech Industry Group (TIG) asked for assistance to localize their supply chains by connecting with regional suppliers. BEST saw this as an opportunity to build stronger connections among regional manufacturers and keep the flow of money in the area. “It offered a great opportunity to help several regional manufacturers with a single event, as well as strengthen the industries regional supply chain,” said Brandon Jewell, Director of Business Development.

The result was the creation of the Tech Industry Supplier Fair. The second annual Supplier Fair was held this year on Thursday September 24th in Santa Rosa. The event focused around 10 original equipment manufacturers (OEM) including Altwork, General Dynamics, Keysight Technologies, L-3, Labcon, Medtronic, Reltek LLC, Small Precision Tools, Trivascular and Viavi Solutions (formerly JDSU). Approximately 30 local process and component manufacturing companies attended to meet these OEMs in the hopes of making connections that may lead to future deals.

This event focused on building quality interactions, allowing suppliers to see the particular needs of the OEMs and gave the ability to schedule half-hour meetings blocks away from the main floor. BEST was aided in the planning of this event by TIG Co-Chairs Pat Harper of Keysight Technologies and Jim Happ of Labcon.

August: BEST hits job goal early for 2015

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By August 2015, BEST helped companies create 533 direct new jobs in Sonoma County and reached 88% of its five-year goal of 2570 jobs, showing confidence to exceed that goal by the end of 2016. BEST counts a job when a business that it has helped adds additional full time employees.

“Throughout the years, we have identified more efficient ways of helping businesses. Our industry groups, for example, have been very successful and we see an incredible amount of engagement from participating companies,” said Jonathan Coe, President of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.

A majority of the job growth came from the food manufacturing industry, in contrast to the previous year, where most of the jobs were created in the tech manufacturing industry. BEST’s Food Industry Group (FIG) and Tech Industry Group (TIG) are strong drivers to this success.

July: BEST helps to place employees affected by company closing

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Petaluma based laser precision manufacturer, Raydiance, was a long-time member of the Sonoma County BEST Tech Industry Group. So when they were forced to close their doors, they reached out to BEST for help. They wanted to help the employees connect to other regional businesses for possible job opportunities.

BEST helped the Raydiance HR team connect to over 20 local manufacturers, who were delighted to have such high-quality machinists, technicians, and engineers available for hire. At the request of Raydiance, BEST also worked with the City of Petaluma to host an on-site job fair.

This same tactic was used the previous year when Brooks Automation Polycold closed with a similar number of affected employees. In both situations, several employees were able to land careers at other local companies and Sonoma County was able to retain this skilled talent.

March: Meet the Consultants Forum comes to Sonoma County

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On March 4-6 2015, BEST hosted the TeamCalifornia Fourth Annual “Meet the Consultants Forum”. This event brought approximately 80 economic development professionals, city and county staff, developers, and realtors together to gain insight from six global site selection consultants. These consultants help large organizations scour the globe in their relocation or expansion efforts. Consultants discussed topics such as economic forecasts, industrial trends, regional competitiveness, and shared tips on how to build relationships with site selectors.

As the host sponsor, BEST and several board members showcased our region by hosting a reception at Paradise Ridge the evening before the Forum and a breakfast and tour of Keysight Technologies the day following the forum.

Feedback was very positive. The consultants were impressed with Sonoma County’s diverse industry, and the concerted efforts of public and private organizations to help the economy grow. But most of all, they were overwhelmed by the amount of collaboration among businesses within particular industries, highlighted by the Sonoma County BEST Food Industry Group (FIG) and Tech Industry Group (TIG), and other community and trade organizations.

Looking Back at 2015

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BEST began in 2012 with the 5-year goal of helping companies create 2570 jobs. Since then, BEST has helped over 450 companies grow, which has helped to create over 2,000 jobs.

2015 has been a year of significant change for the organization, beginning with the departure of the Executive Director, Carolyn Stark, in January. As the organization began searching for a new ED, and the organization nears the end of its 5-year funding cycle, discussions arose about the best direction to take the organization.

Being a product of the Great Recession, when unemployment was almost to 11%, the goals of the organization focused on helping companies climb out of the red by utilizing available resources and collaboration with other businesses within the community. Now unemployment hovers around 4% and the needs of the current regional economy has changed significantly, so BEST must also change.

In late October, a task force was created consisting of BEST investors and Chamber Board members. This group began meeting in December to figure out the best course of action for BEST going forward. In the interim, BEST will continue to function as it has been and will continue its business retention, attraction, and industry group work.

Currently, BEST is on track to hit its five year goal in the first quarter next year, much earlier than expected.

“Big FIG” Meeting discusses future of the Food Industry Group

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The Food Industry Group (FIG) has grown to be one of BEST’s most successful programs to date. The group has several subcommittees that meet regularly – Human Resources, Marketing, Quality Assurance, and Growth. Whereas these subcommittees focus on topics within their respective categories, the FIG holds a quarterly “Big FIG” meeting meant to focus on topics that appeal to a broader audience within the food industry.

As BEST plans to grow the FIG and continue to add member value, BEST is looking to the members for guidance and will be using feedback from a recent survey as well as our latest Big FIG meeting for that purpose. Using this data, BEST will ensure that the FIG continues to meet the needs of its members and grow the food and beverage industry in Sonoma County.

Food Industry Group to Honor Drake Sadler at Pioneer Award

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The 2nd Annual Food Industry Group Pioneer Award will honor Traditional Medicinals co-founder Drake Sadler on November 3rd. Sonoma County BEST and the Food Industry Group are happy to honor Drake for his support in establishing and supporting the specialty food and agriculture industry in the North Bay.

In the 1960s, Drake met herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. The couple shared a vision of herbalism for North America, and in 1974 they co-founded Traditional Medicinals. Since then, the company has grown to become one of the largest natural foods companies in the North Bay, all while continuing the original vision of providing health through herbal supplements.

The 2nd Annual Food Industry Group Pioneer Award takes place November 3rd from 5pm-7pm at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa and is sponsored by Pisenti & Brinker LLP and Traditional Medicinals. This event is held the night before Specialty Food and Ag Conference which takes place the following morning, co-hosted by Bank of America and North Bay Business Journal. This is an invite-only event to all BEST investors, partners, and FIG members. Register online at www.sonomacountybest.com/pioneer-award.