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A better year for business? Fingers crossed as Sonoma County leaders offer ‘22 insights

Owner Mercedes Hernandez at Holee Vintage in Santa Rosa on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021. (Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)
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Welcome to 2022, and here’s the prayer for an economic restart.

This is the general meaning of local business leaders, traders and entrepreneurs who are hoping that their growth plans for the new year can be relaunched nearly 24 months after crossing COVID-19.

There remains optimism despite the ongoing challenges of a tight labor market, which is exacerbated by a lack of affordable housing, along with the effects of climate change that have contributed to wildfires in the past years.

But many frontline business owners are also seeing opportunities with more residents and visitors coming to the area and the continuing popularity of products made here.

To gauge local sentiment, The Press Democrat asked a few Sonoma County business and economic development leaders their vision for 2022. Their answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Mercedes Hernandez, owner of the iconic Bow N Arrow in Cotati and the recently opened Holee Vintage in Santa Rosa.

Q: What is the biggest obstacle to growing your small business?

A: A challenge that can affect business growth is marketing, especially digital marketing. Digital marketing, like social media, is constantly evolving, making it difficult to keep up with the latest features and algorithms.

Q: What more needs to be done to make downtown Santa Rosa a visitor destination?

A: The downtown area appears to be seeing a drop in visitors when parking was no longer free and when the plaza was developed. The city began using the plaza for special community events, attracting traffic to the area and businesses around it. As long as this continues, it will continue to attract visitors to the downtown area.

Q: What more types of traditional businesses would you like to see open in the county?

A: It would be amazing to see more creative social bars in the downtown area staying open late. A place that offers an experience where you can have a drink with friends.

Rick Tejner, CEO of Jackson Family Wines of Santa Rosa.

Q: What are you watching in the new year?

A: I’m actually really excited about the return of the restaurant community. The amount of growth we’ve had in the last six months with restaurants reopening… gives me hope. It just reinforces how strong the wine market is I think. I think people are in high demand to spend quality time with family and friends, and wine consumption in restaurants will continue to grow.

Q: The growth in digital wine demand has continued into 2021. What are you doing at Jackson Family Wines to prepare the company for more of these purchases?

A: The consumer buys wine online. This is exciting. We invest in consumer-oriented activities. We have a whole team of people who just call people like Instacart and Drizzly, those people who have a web retail business. We have our own website yourwinestore.com which we didn’t have 20 months ago, and you can go to one site and buy wine from all our wineries. We use this platform to find new consumers. Digital wine sales are likely to be 1% of our sales. It will likely be 25% of our profits, whether it is increase or take.

Q: Is this profitable?

A: The investment that you see in companies in the next few years or several years will be to improve their position in the digital space.

David Rendino, broker with RE/MAX Marketplace in Cotati.

Q: Will the housing stock remain low next year? What factors could bring more homes to market, or make supply restricted?

A: The secret is that Sonoma County offers some of the best quality of life in the Greater Bay Area. There is also still a significant shortage of new construction to sustain migration from the south and east of the Gulf. Skyrocketing building supply costs, along with labor shortages, all ensure that demand remains high compared to current stock in 2022. Many of the more than 6,000 homes lost during the recent fires have not been reconstructed, while some wealthy homeowners have opted to build massive homes On two or three pieces. These factors provide a perfect storm of declining inventory. In my view, only an improbable large change in the market will increase supply over demand.

Q: Will the vacation and second home market continue to stay hot?

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