The North Bay — and the entire nine-county Bay Area — is increasingly becoming an economic force to be reckoned with on an international level, rising from the 21st-largest economy in the world to 19th in three years, according to the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.
“Whether you are looking at GDP growth, income growth, employment growth or productivity growth, we are outpacing all of our peer regions in the rest of the country,” said Micah Weinberg, president of the institute, during Thursday morning’s State of the North Bay Economic Insight Conference, hosted by the North Bay Leadership Council at the Sheraton Sonoma County – Petaluma hotel.
Population growth is the one area where the Bay Area isn’t a leading player in the world economy, he said.
“You can’t grow population if you don’t have anywhere to put the population,” Weinberg said. “We’ve been at very low rates in housing construction for decades now,” even with the recent uptick in housing in the urban core.
In some ways, the North Bay is distinct from its neighboring counties, Weinberg noted.
“It’s important to emphasize that the economy of the three-county North Bay area is actually more of a locally based, internally coherent economy, less dependent on commuting across the broader Bay Area than any other part of the Bay Area,” Weinberg said.
Weinberg’s presentation about the North Bay’s economy concentrated more on the importance of building a resilient and inclusive community than October’s wildfires and ongoing recovery.
“Certainly, that event colors everything we think about when we think about development here in the North Bay,” he said, “not only about the fires we did have, but making sure we’re resilient to the future.”
Here are the key findings from the institute’s latest report:
Number of people considering moving away from the Bay Area:
• 46 percent in the Bay Area
• 43 percent in the North Bay
• 50 percent among millennials
No. 1 place listed for relocation:
North Bay residents’ main concerns:
• Traffic and congestion
• Cost of living
“What’s extremely important to understand is that transportation and housing are very much linked,” Weinberg said. “If you don’t build housing near where people’s jobs are, those jobs don’t go away. Those people just go a little further, and then they clog the transportation networks that people are trying to use to get to work.”
Thursday’s program also included three speakers with the common theme of “disruption.”
Chris Schmidt, business development manager at Boise, Idaho-based Guerdon Modular Buildings, said there are several advantages to constructing modular buildings rather than traditional structures: controlled environment, safer for workers (one floor), and faster turnaround. The company’s Bay Area projects include hotels and multifamily homes.
Bill Silver, CEO of Santa Rosa-based CannaCraft, which sells 150 cannabis products, discussed the evolving industry and the financial hurdle it continues to face.
“Banking is going to have to be involved in this industry in some way,” he said.