Searching for Santa Rosa's business-friendly solution

What should Santa Rosa stop doing to make the city more business friendly, and what should it start doing?

Those are the key questions the city's Economic Competitiveness Task Force began trying to answer Tuesday.

Rip out the parking meters. Have a public relations campaign. Eliminate the public art fee. Address the homeless problem. Give appreciation awards to businesses. Hire an ombudsman.

These and myriad other suggestions were floated by members of the 11-member body at its second meeting.

No consensus has yet formed, and the conversation will continue at the group's next meeting April 19.

But the group's first stab at the subject showed no shortage of ideas for how the city could build a stronger economy.

The first step is for Santa Rosa to figure out exactly what kind of city it wants to be, said Paul Schwartz, a commercial real estate broker.

"What do we want to be when we grow up?" Schwartz said. "We've got define that before we go out and market ourselves."

Former Mayor Jane Bender agreed that work needs to be done in defining what makes Santa Rosa special. She referred to the 2007 effort to rebrand the city "California Cornucopia" after years of calling itself "A City Designed for Living." The city and business groups paid a consultant $80,000 to come up with the new slogan and logo, but the city never officially adopted it.

"What is the brand of Santa Rosa?" she said. "Cornucopia? Is this working? What is Santa Rosa to a business looking to locate here?"

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