The focus at this year's Sonoma State University Economic Outlook Conference was on education, tourism, innovation and the environment. The 22nd annual event was held in Santa Rosa on February 25, and included presentations from leading innovators and philanthropists in technology, educational investment and economics.
Dr. Rob Eyler, SSU economics professor and director of the university's Center for Regional Economic Analysis gave his annual economic forecast, covering how the six North Bay counties are finally breaking out of the recession's wake and catching up to the rest of the Bay Area in terms of stability. "One of the main differences this year is simply the move from recovery to expansion," said Eyler.
The turnaround has two factors, said Eyler. First is the North Bay's focus on biotechnology and life sciences, which tend to have a long shelf life. This, in turn, provides more stability in housing and real estate. The second factor is the shift in the dollar's value and how that affects tourism. Low interest rates and low values of the U.S. dollar internationally have provided tourists with cheaper travel opportunities.
"The beauty of the North Bay is its proximity to the Bay Area, and people seeing the Wine Country and the North Bay generally as a regular escape," said Eyler. "Food and beverage manufacturing, our cheese and beer and bakeries expansion, may be the next step in driving more tourism here and going beyond--and complementing-- the wine experiences."
Joan Weill, vice-chair of the Green Music Center and Dr. William Silver, dean of SSU's School of Business and Economics, participated in a panel discussion.