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Industry Update

December 14, 2023 2:10 PM | Ty Mooney (Administrator)

This month, we had the pleasure of hosting five influential community leaders who graciously shared their insights on the 2023 industry landscape and highlighted key trends anticipated for 2024. Our esteemed speakers were:

  1. Amy Christopherson Bolten, representing Christopherson Builders
  2. Briana Ekandem, Chief HR Officer at Providence Northern California
  3. Brian Reed, President and CEO of Summit State Bank
  4. Claudia Vecchio, CEO of Sonoma County Tourism
  5. Dick Dowd, Co-Chair of the SoCo Alliance Water Supply Committee

Each speaker delivered a concise presentation, setting the stage for an engaging question and answer session. If you couldn't attend, don't worry—you can catch the entire event in this video. Short on time? Dive into the highlights from each industry segment below.

Looking ahead, mark your calendar for our upcoming General Membership Meeting on January 3rd. We're thrilled to welcome back Dr. Robert Eyler as our special guest speaker, offering valuable insights into the economic forecast. Secure your spot by pre-registering, and we'll ensure there's a seat waiting for you. Don't miss out on this enlightening session!


Amy Christopherson Bolten, from Christopherson Builders, spoke on the new homes residential market. She shared a recent comment by a city leader in Santa Rosa who mentioned that we haven’t had a normal housing cycle in 15 years, 1st we get the Great Recession, then the Fires, COVID shut down, now all the affordable housing mandates from the state. The market in not stabilized, now the highest interest rates in decades is throwing a wrench into everything. With lower rates and higher housing costs for so long, this gave the market the perception of having more affordable housing opportunities. Not with the higher interest rates now . Added cost of regulations from all levels of government has given Santa Rosa the distinction of being one of the least affordable housing markets in the United States. State and Local  governments have shifted their attitudes and have been trying to make it less expensive to live here, but with the various regulations at all levels of government as well as the increases in costs of materials and labor it is not working. 2023 with the raising interest rates seemed to freeze the new home market given the higher cost of money to borrow for construction and all the added costs. In 2024, the key will be having the interest rates coming down, and recognizing that the single family detached homes are under supply while we see all the high density apartments being built.  She is encouraged to see new life in downtown Santa Rosa with all the in-fill high density housing though.

Briana Ekandem, Chief HR Officer Providence Northern California spoke on the challenges faced with retaining their care givers, the cost of housing challenges on those moving here, and efforts to retain those during and after their first year of employment. Providence has restructured and consolidated their operation in Northern California with the appointment of Gary Olney as their Chief Executive, with oversight of all six hospitals within Providence’s Northern California service area. Briana discussed their employee engagement and how they can improve with going from an annual to quarterly surveys for feedback and hav more frequent check ins with their care givers. Her focus is on turnover, engagement and retention as her key priorities. Briana garnered much attention, receiving the overwhelming majority of questions form the audience, which she addressed very well.

Brian Reed, President and CEO of Summit State Bank, made the following observations about our banking market. $9 trillion was pumped into the economy primarily to the banking system. Banks expected that to be short lived since the stimulus and PPP were to pay for business expenses and investment but about $5 trillion remained through 2022. Many would argue that this represents the excess in those programs as they were pushed out quickly. This resulted in banks being very liquid and able to lend to help prop up the economy. With the ensuing supply chain issues resulting in high inflation, the Feds started increasing interest rates ultimately over 5% higher on the Fed Funds Rate. Prime rate increases mirrored those and longer term treasuries also moved up but not as much. This resulted in less real estate transactions penciling out and more caution around investing for business growth. People and businesses were sitting on more cash and with the higher interest rates began seeking yield. This led to money flowing out of the banking system and the money that stayed was at a much higher cost. In March go this year when several large banks failed, the result was much more stringent examinations from regulators. With less liquidity and more stringent regulatory oversight, bank lending has pulled back which does not help economic growth. He expects the beginning of 2024 to reflect a similar trend with a possible easing once the Feds start reducing rates (which many now fell it will be as early as end of the 1Q).

Claudia Vecchio, CEO of the Sonoma County Tourism - Tourism has been very volatile these past 6 years with the fires, floods, pandemic and everything else that we’ve been in crisis mode. We didn’t fare too poorly at the end of the pandemic, as a destination location from those in SFO and the urban areas came in droves. This kept the life blood of Sonoma County visitors going. We were an area that was wide open and did better than other areas. 2022 turned out to be a record year for Sonoma County, with $2.3 Billion contributed to the overall economy in visitor spending at retail, restaurants and hotels. $8 million was budgeted during pandemic and $12 million after the pandemic which in 2023 big projects were brought to the county, including the Today Show in April. 2023 rain early and often saw tourism down 20-25% year over year. Why? Well, seems many used that time to visit Europe and other out of state destinations, wine industry and local economy was down here.working on a 10 years Master Plan and in 2024, it is anyone’s guess what impacts will happen to tourism locally

Dick Dowd - Co-Chair (with Marlene Soiland) of the SoCo Alliance Water Supply Committee - Our Committee has been meeting for the past 2 years reviewing our Water Crisis that we will be facing in the future. Historically, there are 5 counties - Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake and to some extent Humboldt Counties, that our water is tied to.  By way of operation to supply water to retail customers, is simple - when it rains, we catch it, put it behind dams and during the drier weather part of the year we feed into the Eel and Russian River to supply the water. When not getting enough rain, water supply is in jeopardy.  The past 2 years we’ve met with Sonoma Water, the city of Santa Rosa, and others in finding ways to get water year round recognizing it will be a challenge. PGE has petitioned to close down the hydro feeding system water from the Eel River that flows into the upper Russian River that is going to stop.  Potter Valley area is totally dependent on water coming into Lake Mendocino and behind Van Arsdale Dam at the South Fork of the Eel River in Ukiah. Those with Agricultural interests in that area will be impacted, and water supply to Cloverdale and Healdsburg fed by that supply of water also will be in dire conditions. Santa Rosa, Marin and North Marin need to find a way to capture water when raining and save if for the rest of the year.  Santa Rosa is looking at Aquifer Storage and Recovery system that would remove water when the rain season ends, but the big thing is it would have around a $600 million price tag. Who pays? The game plan at this point is Sonoma Water along with the Mendocino Water & Power Commission to find federal and state assistance and/or grants to soften the burden on rate payers. 2024 should see some actions being put into place, stay tuned…..

Notes recorded by Ross Liscum, Sonoma County Alliance Board of Directors

Contact Ty Mooney, Executive Director for questions (707) 338-4767 or

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