North Bay Perspective
The Big Picture 2014
Julie Fadda Powers
December, 2013 Issue
Sometimes the best way to see the big picture is to first take a look at all of its different parts. This year, 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.”
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 area. Examples include Napa Land Trust’s 1,700 active members, who’ve so far protected more than 53,000 acres and completed more than 150 real estate conservation projects in the past 37 years. The result is a confidence that the area’s biodiversity and beauty will remain for generations to come. In West Marin County, Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) has so far preserved 76 farms on 46,000 acres, ensuring the land will always be used for agricultural purposes. And in Sonoma County, Sonoma Land Trust has protected more than 47,000 acres since 1976. While each of these groups is continually making strides, all say there’s a lot more work to be done to keep things headed in the right direction. Meantime, the balance of development and open space is a constant debate. After all, we can’t ignore population increases as time goes by. The key is to work together so everyone benefits and future generations can also enjoy the area’s health, beauty and bounty.
Industry 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. Agriculturally, Napa County is obviously known for its winegrapes, as is Sonoma County (along with produce and dairy products), while Marin County’s agriculture is mostly focused on dairy. Technology-wise, Napa’s best efforts have been found in 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.
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 the valley, hills 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 a lively arts and entertainment scenes, with music venues, festivals and galleries of all kinds. Chefs from all over the world flock to the area 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. 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.