Business loves Sonoma County

Sonoma County is full of rich and diverse talent, with large companies like Keysight, JDSU and Medtronic to smaller ones, come for the innovation and stay for the quality of life. From tech to advanced manufacturing, specialty food and more, Sonoma County has many thriving industries.

Grow your business in Sonoma County

Whether you’re growing a mature company or founding a startup, we provide individual support to businesses in Sonoma County in order to help them grow and prosper. According to research approximately 80% of job growth comes from companies already in your region. That’s why we are focused on supporting the amazing businesses in Sonoma County.

Do you need help growing your business? Sonoma County BEST is here to help. We meet with companies 1-on-1, providing assistance to the business so they can grow and prosper. If you need help, contact us today. We have a range of resources and solutions for helping your business grow.

Are you starting a new business? Contact us for help starting out! We have ample resources at your disposal as your traverse through the steps of creating a new business. We can help throughout the process, from creating a business plan to signing a lease, we are here for you.

Resources

New Business/ Entrepreneur

Small Business Development Center – Provides small business counseling at no cost and offers many seminars and workshops.

SCORE – Comprised of active, retired business men and women than provide clients with free and confidential business mentorship to entrepreneurs and new business owners in the region.

Sonoma County has several co-workspaces that are shared by several other small businesses and entrepreneurs.  These shared workspaces offer low cost working space and offices and often spur creative collaboration among tenants.  Incubators and accelerators offer assistance in many aspects of entrepreneurial endeavors through a support system, mentorship, and often access to a physical space. Incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces in Sonoma County include:   North Bay iHub | North Bay Small Business Incubator | Work Petaluma | Share Exchange |  SoCo Nexus | Sebastopol Entrepreneurs Project |  Venture Greenhouse

Business Assistance Programs

Business Assistance Guide – The Sonoma County Economic Development Board (EDB) gives free personalized assistance to business dealing with regulatory, licensing, permitting, and planning and can be a direct link to the public sector.

Business Development Tools – The Sonoma County Economic Development Board provides FREE tools to assist in starting and growing your business in Sonoma County. These tools are designed to address four key challenges often faced by businesses: 1) access to industry trends, 2) market demographics, 3) site selection and 4) reaching new markets.

Foregin Trade Zone – Goods can be brought into a zone without formal Customs entry or without incurring Customs duties or excise taxes until they are entered into American commerce. The geographic scope of FTZ #3 has since been expanded to include all most of Napa and Sonoma Counties.

Business/ Community Organizations

The goal of local Chambers of Commerce is to further the interests of businesses by advocating on behalf of the business community.  These organizations provide a structure to encourage business growth and economic development through events, networking and advertising opportunities, and leadership and workforce programs.  Local Chambers include: Santa Rosa | Rohnert Park | Healdsburg | Petaluma | Sonoma Valley | Windsor | North Bay Black Chamber | Hispanic Chamber | Russian River | Sebastopol | Bodega Bay

GO LOCAL Sonoma County – GO LOCAL is a network of locally-owned businesses, residents, non-profit organizations, and government agencies working together to build a resilient, thriving, local economy by supporting local, independently owned businesses and promoting sustainable practices.

Sonoma County Alliance – The Sonoma County Alliance is a coalition of business, agriculture, labor and individuals incorporated to encourage a healthy economy, maintain a sound environment, protect private property rights and promote a responsive political process.

North Bay Leadership Council – Over twenty years ago, business leaders founded the North Bay Leadership Council (NBLC) on a simple premise:  We can accomplish more by working together.

PASCO – Professional Association of Sonoma County for Human Resources is a group of professionals within Human Resources and to companies who support human resources in a consulting capacity.  PASCO has workshops, provides up-to-date information and resources, facilitates connections and networking opportunities, and is involved in the community through schools and mentorship programs.

WIMP – (Web and Interactive Media Professionals) WIMP is a community of designers, programmers, marketing specialists, search engine optimization experts, social media gurus and just about anyone having to do with the evolving technological world.

Education

Sonoma State University – Located in California’s premier wine country one hour north of San Francisco, Sonoma State is a small campus with big ideas in the CSU system.With a tradition of promoting intellectual and personal growth, leadership opportunities and technological proficiency, SSU offers its students a friendly, safe and informal atmosphere on a beautiful campus setting. Currently, campus housing accommodates students in both apartment and residential suite style facilities.

Santa Rosa Junior College – Santa Rosa Junior College, founded in 1918, is the tenth oldest of California’s 109 publicly funded two-year colleges. From its initial freshman class of 19 students, SRJC has become one of the largest single college districts in the United States, Sonoma County Junior College District.

Empire College – We are located in beautiful Santa Rosa, Calif., in the heart of wine country – just an hour north of the San Francisco Bay area. We offer the high-quality career training you’ve been searching for – whether you’re interested in business or law.

Sonoma County Office of Education – SCOE is a strategic partner to the county’s public schools, providing service and support to help them meet legal mandates, operate cost-effectively, and raise student achievement. SCOE’s career technical education (CTE) programs are offered as elective classes at every comprehensive high school as part of the county’s commitment to graduate college- and career-ready students.  SCOE facilitates and successfully implements the Common Core State Standards, pre-kindergarten to grade 12, builds college and career pathways, and provides financial and economic stability to all schools and districts.

K-12 Schools – Sonoma County has 40 school districts and 182 public schools, and employs nearly 8,300 dedicated staff. 78 of these schools have been recognized as California Distinguish Schools and ten have been recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools. Santa Rosa | Rohnert Park | Cotati | Petaluma | Healdsburg | Windsor | Sebastopol
Sonoma | Guerneville

Workforce Development

Sonoma County Labor Market Statistics & Data –  Profile of Sonoma County labor market as provided by the CA State Department of Employment Development.

Workforce Investment Board – partnership of innovative business and community leaders to provide information about numerous workforce issues and resources, including job training, employment, economic development, and Job Link, Sonoma County’s One-Stop career center.

Sonoma County JobLink –  Job Link is Sonoma County’s One-Stop career center that helps job seekers meet with job counselors, training scholarships, classes on resume writing and online job search, access to a computer lab and disability tools.  Job Link also assists businesses when hiring and planning on-site job fairs.

Wheel Program – The Worksite Held Employee English Learning provides English language and financial literacy classes for employees and their families at their pace of employment. The program is customizable based on a business’ needs.

Young Professionals Networks – Young Professional Networking organizations are designed to engaged and introduce young professionals to the regions resources and opportunities while providing networking and relationship building opportunities. Local groups include: Santa Rosa | Petaluma | Healdsburg | Windsor |

Affordable Care Act – Assistance with complying with the ACA in Sonoma County.

Sonoma County EDB iWork Well Program –  The Sonoma County Health Services Department offers free assistance to businesses to ensure compliance in the new healthcare laws.

Leadership Programs – Educational curriculum designed to develop and equip effective community leaders via exposure to pertinent issues within the region and community leaders.  Local programs include the Leadership Petaluma | Leadership Santa Rosa | Leadership Sonoma Valley.

Energy Efficiency

Sonoma County Energy and sustainability Division – The Energy and Sustainability division is responsible for the planning, evaluating and administering the County-wide Energy Management and Sustainability Program. Services include long and short range energy and green procurement strategies, effective and efficient energy use and sustainability practices, and County employee commute reduction planning.

Bay Area Green Business Program – Our partnership of local environmental agencies and utilities assists, offers incentives, and verifies that participating businesses conserve energy and water, minimize waste, prevent pollution, and shrink their carbon footprints.

Local News Organizations

The Press Democrat – Sonoma Media – The main newspaper for Sonoma County and the North Bay.

North Bay Business Journal – The main authority for business news and events.

North Bay Biz Magazine – A business centric magazine focusing on the North Bay Area.

Incentives

California Competes – The California Competes Tax Credit is an income tax credit available to businesses that  want to come to California or stay and grow in California. Tax credit agreements will be negotiated by GO-Biz and approved by a newly created “California Competes Tax Credit Committee,” consisting of the State Treasurer,the Director of the Department of Finance, the Director of GO-Biz, one appointee each by the Speaker of the Assembly and Senate Committee on Rules.

Manufacturing Equipment Sales and Use Tax Exemption  – A statewide sales tax exemption on manufacturing equipment or research and development equipment purchases by companies engaged in manufacturing or biotechnology research and development. A business will be allowed to exclude the first $200 million equipment purchases from the state share of sales tax (4.19%).

PG&E Rate Reduction (PDF) – PG&E will soon begin offering businesses a reduced Economic Development Rate (EDR) to support job growth by attracting and retaining customers who would otherwise relocate to other states, close their existing California operations, or expand elsewhere because of high power costs. 

Financial Resources

Traditional Lending

Community banks, regional and national banks, and credit unions are highly liquid and looking to lend.  With attractively low rates banks and credit unions are most likely to lend to those with good credit and a proven track record of successful business.

  •  Examples: Banks, Community banks, Regional and National Banks, Credit Unions

Specialty Lending

It is estimated that lenders in this space make up to 30-40% of the total US loan market.  Many of these companies utilize the same credit guidelines and rate structures as the commercial banking system but often specialize in a particular area.  For example, one specializing in equipment financing where knowledge of equipment, or arrangements with equipment dealers, may allow the lender to be more flexible.  Asset-based lenders are also part of this category and can often be more aggressive since they focus on the most liquid of assets like accounts receivable and finished inventory.

  • Examples: Commercial Finance Companies, Equipment Finance Specialists, Supplier Captives, Asset-Based Lenders, Real Estate Trusts (REITS), Business Development Corps (BDC’s)

Industry-Specific Lending

Industry-specific loans are often provided by large companies within an industry.  For example, within the food industry, Whole Foods has a Producer Loan Program at low rates with their suppliers getting the most attention.  UNFI is one of the largest distributors of food products and also invests in a variety of food and food service companies.  Farm Credit does a great job for wine, farming and farm infrastructure clients and usually gets top credits.

  • Examples: Whole Foods, UNFI, Farm Credit

Governmental Programs

There are a wide variety of governmental sponsored loan programs at both the Federal and State levels.  SBA loans allow traditional banks to extend their credit reach.  Department of Agriculture makes micro loans to farmers and guarantees major Ag infrastructure loans.

Industrial Revenue Bonds are another useful and low-cost option. IRB’s are offered by cities under State programs that finance large projects to generate economic growth.  When the bonds are issued through public entities, the securities become tax-exempt.

  • Examples: SBA, USDA, Community Development (CDFI’s), SAFE-BIDCO, State/City Industrial Revenue Bonds

New Alternative Lenders (JOBS Act of 2012)

The JOBS Act was a major step to help promising up-and-coming companies. The legislation freed up regulation on crowdfunding, peer to peer lending, online lending, and relaxed a number of rules to help small companies.

Examples:

  • Peer-to-Peer – Lending money person-to-person over the Internet
  • On-Line Lenders – Business oriented using technology for a low-cost model, primarily automated.
  • Crowdfunding – Defined as raising money from related groups or individuals, also affinity groups (food and wine associations) or friends/social media followings.  This can be a donation, gift/promotion, debt, or equity funding.

Other Alternative Groups

Merchant Cards – Usually high cost but readily available to all types of small businesses.

Social Finance Funds – Uses investment capital from people who wish it to go for projects that benefit social good and improvements.

Seed Funds – Great for start-ups and are available for the right idea and business model.

Angel Funds – Venture groups aimed at the lower end of the market and are seeking to broaden activities.

Private Equity – Private lenders looking for high returns. Usually want 2nd or 3rd stage companies.

Family Offices – Family offices represent an interesting niche because these are the investment arm of high net worth families.  They often invest across the board from debt to equity.

Friends & Family – Starting place for most new companies.  This is the most patient and understanding of financing options.