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2015 BEST Chamber of Commerce: Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce

Author: Stephanie Derammelaere
May, 2015 Issue

“[This award] is a reflection of our more than 100-year commitment to providing leadership and to taking on the tough challenges.” —Jonathan Coe

The Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce takes its mission—“to support, promote and advocate for our members and create a vibrant, sustainable economy in our region”—as seriously today as it did more than 110 years ago, when it first formed in the wake of the 1906 earthquake. Santa Rosa was hit harder, per capita, than San Francisco, and there was a need for a business organization to help rebuild a flourishing economy.
Since its inception, the Santa Rosa Chamber has not only played a pivotal role in making its immediate community vibrant and strong, it also played a key role in the development of the Golden Gate Bridge, helped Santa Rosa Junior College get started and raised funding for Memorial Hospital. More recently, it attracted commercial airline service to the Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport and played a critical role in widening Highway 101 and securing funding for the SMART Train.
For Jonathan Coe, president/CEO of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, this long-standing history in the community is part of the reason it was voted Best Chamber of Commerce for 2015.
“In many ways, [winning the BEST Of award] is a reflection of our more than 100-year commitment to providing leadership to the community and to taking on the tough challenges that make living, working and enjoying Santa Rosa and Sonoma County even better” says Coe. “We’re pleased and proud to continue to do that.”
Today, the chamber has approximately 980 members in industries ranging from accountants to yoga instructors. Its programs vary so widely that, for Coe, one of the challenges is “explaining concisely what we do!”
With a staff of 26, more than 300 volunteers and more than 20 committees, the chamber has its hands in many community endeavors, from operating the Welcome Center in Railroad Square to managing the Workforce Development Program and running six major events per year (in addition to about a dozen mixers, workshops and speaker forums).
One major program it’s been involved in over the last several years is Sonoma County BEST (Building Economic Success Together) which was started in response to the recession to improve the region’s economy through business growth and job creation. BEST focuses on promoting business retention and expansion, attracting new business and supporting innovation and entrepreneurship within the region. It also provides businesses with the information, resources and assistance needed to grow and succeed. With the financial and in-kind support of more than 75 private investors, as well as public funds from the county of Sonoma and some of its cities, Sonoma County BEST began implementation in 2012 with the purpose of helping companies create more than 2,570 direct and 4,100 total jobs (direct and indirect) by the end of 2016. In its first two years, BEST has worked with over 300 businesses and helped companies create over 1,600 jobs.
“In 2010 and 2011, we raised $2.5 million to fund a five-year campaign,” says Coe. “Our goal was to create 2,500 new jobs during those five years. We’re right on track to do that. We’ve helped create more than 1,600 direct jobs through this process as well as through attracting new companies into Sonoma County. It’s an important piece of what we do.”
Given the success of the program, the Santa Rosa Chamber will soon be launching a BEST 2020 capital campaign to raise another $2.5 million to continue the efforts another five years.



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