In 2016, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties formed the Sonoma-Mendocino Economic Development District (SMEDD). Following guidelines from the United States Economic Development Administration (EDA), the two Counties created a multi-year Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). By forming the SMEDD and developing a CEDS according to EDA guidelines, Sonoma and Mendocino are now eligible for certain programs and resources offered by the Federal government. This collaborative effort was an important step in strategizing for Sonoma County’s future.
Following completion of the 2016 Sonoma-Mendocino CEDS, the Sonoma County Economic Development Board (EDB) identified a need for a Sonoma County-specific Action Plan. This Action Plan is to provide a foundation for making decisions related to economic development in Sonoma County. In partnership with the Sonoma County Workforce Investment Board and Santa Rosa Junior College, the EDB issued a request for proposal for assistance with the strategy. Through a national search and competitive bidding process, the EDB selected Avalanche Consulting, Inc. to assist in developing this Action Plan, titled Strategic Sonoma.
Strategic Sonoma builds on the 2016 Sonoma-Mendocino CEDS and expands the analysis of Sonoma County’s specific competitive position. Across three reports, Strategic Sonoma includes an assessment of the economic development issues most relevant to Sonoma County; prioritizes needs and new opportunities; evaluates business clusters of opportunity that best match Sonoma County’s assets, values, and goals; and provides a five-year collaborative Action Plan tailored specifically to Sonoma County.
Developing Strategic Sonoma occurred in three phases, with each phase concluding with a report of findings.
Phase 1 – Refine and Expand the CEDS and Prioritize Economic Development Issues
During this phase, Avalanche Consulting and the EDB engaged with stakeholders throughout Sonoma County to hear their stories; conducted an extensive data and benchmarking analysis; examined national and international trends to monitor; refined the 2016 CEDS SWOT analysis; and developed a prioritized list of strategic issues facing Sonoma County. The results of this phase are presented in the Competitive Assessment Report.
Phase 2 – Evaluate Clusters of Opportunity
Phase 2 presented a more detailed Sonoma County industry cluster analysis; recommended target clusters of opportunity for local economic and workforce development; presented profiles of those clusters; and offered an inventory of supportive resources. Phase 2 findings are available in the Target Cluster Report.
Phase 3 – Develop Strategic Sonoma Action Plan
In the final phase of Strategic Sonoma, the consulting team crafted an actionable plan to address strategic priorities. This report, Strategic Sonoma Action Plan, represents the conclusion of Phase 3 and includes a vision statement, strategic goals, and specific recommendations aimed at creating a more resilient, vibrant economy. This Action Plan includes a discussion on implementation, suggests lead and partner organizations to be involved with each goal, and offers metrics to track progress and provide accountability.
Strategic Sonoma began in June 2017, and midway through Phase 1, the October wildfires occurred. Recognizing the importance of focusing on the immediate needs of county residents and businesses, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors extended the contract with Avalanche Consulting to assist in developing an Economic Recovery Plan. Focused on the first 12 months after the fires, the Economic Recovery Plan is designed as the first year of Strategic Sonoma. Recommendations in the Plan are seamlessly integrated into this longer-range, five-year Strategic Sonoma Action Plan.