Ben Stone, Chairman of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board presented a program on the state of the economy in Healdsburg
Ben Stone, Chairman of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board presented a program on the state of the economy in Healdsburg and the rest of Northern Sonoma County. With a series of slides he presented details on the activities of this organization.
Ben was a Rotary exchange student in his early years. He was in an industrial town in England. He found the experience rewarding, which has led to a lifelong commitment to the principles of Rotary through donations and actual participation as a member in the past.
Been began his presentation with a review of the current economic status of Sonoma County. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, excluding Silicon Valley counties. Strong segments of the economy include health services, hotel/wineries and tourism. As a result of these activities, retail sales are very strong in Healdsburg. Home prices, although high, are at about the pre-recession levels. Property taxation is about average, reflecting the fact that many homeowners in Healdsburg have been in their property for greater than 10-15 years.
He next reviewed the services offered by the Economic Development Board. These include the Small Business Development Center that has a dedicated planning assistant to help with business plan development and exploration of alternative lending sources for business. They also have a dedicated department to find staffing which includes on-the-job training and assistance in finding and retraining employees for businesses.
They have dedicated department to help with expansion and diversification have established businesses along with personnel that helped focus on green business development. They have a bilingual division that is helpful in assisting members of minorities with their business planning and development.
They have expertise in assisting with the creative economy including support for the arts industry with support of nonprofit organizations (NPO’s), assistance with the artists themselves, and blending art and technology.
A question was asked about threats to our economy. Ben believes that if China’s economy slows our expenses will go up and there will be less tourism and spending on retail goods. He believes that transportation is important to get people to our area and the EDB Is supportive of having three lanes of the freeway from San Francisco to the northern part of Sonoma County as is currently in the works. He feels that housing prices need to stabilize and that there needs to be some form of affordable housing for people who continue to live and work in their community.
Photographs of representative slides from his presentation maybe found on the Club runner website in the folder Meeting  19 August 2015 More information about the Economic Development Board can be found at