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Happy Anniversary

Columnist: Mike Martini
March, 2015 Issue

Mike Martini
All articles by columnist

The advertisements from local grocers were enticing and you could buy a pretty nice home for $40,000.

Happy Anniversary, NorthBay biz! Congratulations for 40 years of providing the North Bay with articles on business and the economy during a time of growth, innovation, expansion and challenges. You’ve shown us successes, you’ve disclosed failures and you’ve provided a forum for ideas and opinion. At 40, you’re still going strong.
No one starts a business—or any kind of enterprise—thinking about what would happen in 40 years. They’re too busy keeping the doors open. I’m reminded daily that it’s hard to remember your job is to clear the swamp when you’re up to your butt in alligators.
I wasn’t in Sonoma County 40 years ago. I’d been out of college for one year, having graduated from Georgetown University in 1974. I had no idea what to do with my degree and (as my picture circa 1975 indicates) I had little fashion sense. I moved to California in 1975, driven from Washington, D.C., by a breakup with a woman named Irene. It was the best thing to happen, as it led to scuba diving lessons, skiing in the Sierras and living with a blind date sent by my brother. That date became my wife of more than 36 years. We started a winery here in Sonoma County and had a son. That son is now working with us in the winery and, by all accounts, life is pretty good!
I thought it would be interesting to explore what was going on in Sonoma County when NorthBay biz first rolled off the press. Once again, the idea is easier than implementation. I called Chris Smith at the Press Democrat to see if I could review old editions of the local paper. He informed me that, while they do have copies, they aren’t available to the public. He told me the Sonoma County Public Library maintained copies.
I confess that I haven’t been inside the library for 25 years. Who needs a library when you can ask Siri on your iPhone or use Google on your Android? Well, it turns out I did, and Google doesn’t have access to the Press Democrat archives. So, I went into the library and was greeted by an incredible staff member who moved me to a microfiche machine. This isn’t new technology. There were three machines and no lines—while every computer terminal was occupied. I’m not sure you could get parts if these machines broke down. The staff member located the two rolls covering my time of interest and we warmed up the machine. In a little longer than an instant, the screen lit up and brought me to Santa Rosa in March 1975.
The differences were obvious and expected. Everything was cheaper in 1975. The advertisements from local grocers were enticing and you could buy a pretty nice home for $40,000. The Dow Jones average was at 750. The classified ads section was eight pages of job opportunities, cars and housing. There was a full-page cigarette ad boasting more puffs per pack.
It was the similarities that were surprising. Sewage treatment was debated. The demise of Social Security was reported. Voter turnout for the Rincon Valley School Board was 11 out of 863 registered voters. The Santa Rosa City Council was calling for the introduction of new blood for boards and commissions. There was a call for the consolidation of the county’s numerous school districts. Environmental impact reports were being challenged in lawsuits. The PD ran Blondie, Family Circus and Rex Morgan on its funny pages. It seemed little had changed in 40 years.
If you want to take the pulse of any community, you turn to the letters to the editor. In 1975, there was no shortage of opinions. But the opinions of 1975 were very similar to what you read today. There was even one letter supporting Ukiah High School’s decision to support a young man as its homecoming queen.
Anniversaries force you to think about where you’ve come from and how you’ve changed. It’s said if we fail to learn from the past, we’re doomed to make the same mistakes. It can also be said that if we make our decisions by looking in the rearview mirror, we’re probably going to run into a telephone pole.
That's the value of NorthBay biz: For 40 years, it's reported on the innovators, those who consider the past but plan for the future. This is the key for any successful business.



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