As we come to the end of another year, you get to thinking about all the things that transpired last year and the upcoming challenges for 2014. I think that 2013 was a year that we can all see was the return of some sort of economic normalcy. We are not quite there yet and there are still lots of problems. I would argue that it is clear that we have turned a corner. And that is a good thing.
This next bit is not directly about Sonoma County but is an opinion about why this is happening. Not the recovery, but the bubbles. I blame the Internet. What I have seen is a lot of people investing in things that they have no idea of why they are doing it. We have always had a herd mentality in investing. Growth and Momentum plays are big. Now however, people believe they are better informed and are doing their own reasoning on these topics. But truly, we are not smarter than we used to be. I put it (with intended humor) that if your buddy that you know is stupid is making big money in something then that is the thing that you should get out of. So let's not think reading a couple of Internet posts makes us an expert!
In my adult life, I have heard two or three times that this bubble was different. That the economy had fundamentally shifted. Each and every time it didn't. Real companies making real profits did fine, until they overextend themselves. People who jump in without knowledge get burned as they don't think about the possible risks. If you all have taken nothing from my tales of AFC, then take this - LUCK played a part in our success. Pure unadulterated luck. We planned well sometimes. We executed well sometimes. And sometimes we just stumbled into things. That should be the lesson here. Humility. Realizing that good companies with good products or services fail or struggle, sometimes because of poor luck.
Back to Sonoma County, what I am hoping for in 2014 is a push to diversification in the local economy. The wine business is great and we seem to have found a niche in the Food Processing Industry as well. The Sonoma County Economic Development Board had a nice showcase of the growth of the brewery and distilling businesses locally. I think all of that is great, but I would like to see some more technology businesses here. I came from a small town in Upstate New York that was devastated economically when its primary employers left. The first link is about my home town.
I think the second link is the most poignant and impacts my views on this topic. Around 2000 we did a number of things to try to help the local tech sector, including opening up the Master's Program in Engineering at Sonoma State University. There are now feeder programs at Sonoma State for this. I used to sit on the endowment board for this program and I am glad it is here. Of course, it is rarely talked about and we don't take advantage of SSU like we should.
So, as we wander through this time of holiday mixers lets chat about these things. And have a wonderful day.
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