North Bay Perspective

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The Big Picture 2015

Author: Julie Fadda Powers
December, 2014 Issue
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Sometimes the best way to see the big picture is to first take a look at all of its different parts. This year is the second time NorthBay biz set out to do just that. Our goal was to illustrate each of Napa, Marin and Sonoma counties’ true strengths in industry, personality, lifestyle and economics—with details and numbers to back it all up—and provide a comprehensive, easy-to-read and enjoyable overview that would truly illustrate our region as a whole. After all, there are many reasons both residents and visitors often refer to where we live as “paradise.”

Land, transportation and housing

After collecting all the information for this issue, it became quite clear how important maintaining the region’s natural beauty and open space is to each county. Thanks to the continued efforts of organizations such as Napa Land Trust, MALT and Sonoma Land Trust, vast amounts of North Bay acreage remain undeveloped and natural. And yet, as our area’s population increases, the balance of development and open space remains a constant debate, as do the issues of affordable housing and improved transportation to ease traffic congestion. Aside from that, Napa’s 6.0 earthquake in August brought up a lot of issues that needed to be discussed, while at the same time the community and surrounding areas demonstrated exemplary efforts to recover and thrive. Water is also an obvious issue this year and is addressed in all three features.

Agriculture, technology and education

While agriculture is obviously on top as far as our region’s industry goes, each county has its own take on what to bring into focus. Napa County is obviously known for its winegrapes, as is Sonoma County (along with meat, produce and dairy products), while Marin County’s agriculture is mostly focused on meat and dairy.
Technology-wise, Napa’s best efforts have been focused on the education system, where Napa New Technology High School has become a leader nationwide for new ways of learning, and NapaLearns is spearheading a similar effort for younger children. On the other side of the hill, Sonoma County has created a niche for itself by housing companies focused on developing scientific know-how for practical purposes. In Marin, biotech and software rule the technology roost.
Educational and entrepreneurial opportunities abound, whether people are seeking a traditional or specialized college degree, or the means to incubate startup businesses of virtually any kind. An example is Marin’s new SchoolsRule nonprofit program, which is getting great accolades.
Tourism is big in all three counties, naturally, with most visitors seeking outdoor activities—and finding a plethora in all areas, whether it’s cycling, swimming, hiking, bird watching or simply taking in the view from a well-placed perch above a valley, hill or coastline.


The Wine Country lifestyle in Napa and Sonoma counties attracts visitors to the region’s many wineries, restaurants and boutique hotels, while Marin County offers a wide-open Bay Area or coastline view from many directions. Locals in all areas enjoy lively arts and entertainment scenes, with music venues, festivals and galleries of all kinds. Chefs from all over the world flock to the North Bay to work with local (often organic) produce, wine, meat and artisan cheeses.
A moderate climate is another reason to stay and enjoy everything the North Bay offers, as is a health care system that offers a focus on preventive and specialized services. In Sonoma County, Sutter Health Santa Rosa opened its new hospital in October 2014, while in Marin County, Marin General Hospital has plans in the works to build a new space as well. And (not surprisingly) it’s certainly advantageous to have a population that’s focused on sustainability, environmental stewardship and philanthropy.

What to expect

In each of the Perspective features in this issue, you’ll find a well-illustrated, detailed overview of all the subjects discussed here—and more. We hope your take-away is as positive as ours, because in gathering all this information, it’s become even more obvious how lucky we are to call the North Bay home.


In this Issue


A gleaming bottle of fine wine with a perfect, natural cork has a special mystique. And while the wine within is the primary focus, the cork has a vital role, too. The distinctive pop that goes wi...

The Great Gravenstein

The drive to Walker Apples in Graton is as picturesque as Sonoma County gets. What were once miles of apple orchards along Graton Road are now seemingly endless views of vineyards. West County looks...

The Mondavi Legacy

The name Mondavi has been woven into the fabric of Napa Valley lore for as long as anyone can remember. The story begins more than 100 years ago, when Cesare and Rosa Mondavi moved to Minnesota from...

See all...



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