Sonoma County: News and Notes

Well, my year in review piece today takes a look at the two major stories of the year. They are Water and Housing.

It seems to me that given the lack of stories on Water recently that the rains we have experienced this year have pushed us out of crisis levels. I can't be sure of that, but the lack of discussion says we have moved on from this. There was a lot of talk about how the modernization of our water system could improve things. Well, I don't think that will go anywhere at this point. Perhaps we can see some infrastructure money spent on this. More likely we will put money in sexier things that have lower returns to us.

Housing is another matter. We had the Rent Control debacle - and it was a debacle no matter what side you were on. I saw all the candidate literature about how they were going to encourage housing and put Rent Control in place again. Wow, talk about your overpromise and underdeliver. Let's be clear. The cost of Housing in Sonoma County is going to wreck our economy without a solution. Many of our jobs are in Agriculture, Hospitality, and Tourism. In fact, most of our jobs. These are not high paying professions and do not have wages that a person can reasonably get an apartment to live in. This means that workers have to have a combination of multiple jobs, roommates or live with their parents. Given that these are growing sectors of our economy, we can not staff the jobs openings that we have.

I see this with my clients every week as we look to solutions to keep payroll in line with profitability and yet hire/employ everybody needed to do the jobs at hand. Here is the problem. We have to have places to build these new homes. As you recall, I estimated that we are 10,000 units short in Santa Rosa alone. We have limitations on where we can build. We have limitations on how high we can build. I am not sure that we can get 10,000 more units without tearing down single family homes and replace them with higher density housing. This is not going to go away until the economy turns down a bit. Nobody is having a real discussion on how to solve the problem. The last big developments in Santa Rosa (Skyhawk and Fountaingrove) are almost completely filled in. That is the scale I am talking about here. Not 20 homes here and there, but literally thousands.

I was hopeful we could find a commuter solution to the problem. The SMART Train is not it. It is too expensive for people making $15/hour to use, especially when they will likely have to transit to and from the train. Napa is bussing people in because they are so short handed. I don't have the answer either, but unless we talk about real solutions to these problems the Wine economy in the North Bay could collapse under its own weight.

Finally, I get a LOT of traffic on my Stock Analysis posts. I get 10x the traffic of other posts. I have considered expanding that topic area. If anyone has any suggestions, would be happy to take them on. They do not have to be Tech Stocks. Maybe Constellation Brands? Give it some thought and have a nice Holiday!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

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