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Sonoma County a hot spot for at-home workforce

  • Jeff Thomas, a promotional products consultant, works out of his 50 square foot office in the garage of his Rohnert Park home on Thursday, October 4, 2012.

    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Freshly showered and shaved, Jeff Thomas gets to work regularly about 7 a.m., settling down at his desk with computer and telephone at hand.

Unlike most workers' offices, Thomas' workplace is in a well-lighted, walled-off corner of the garage at his tract home in Rohnert Park.

His commute for the past 11 years from bedroom to office is about 50 feet, and Thomas wouldn't have it any other way.

"I love it," said Thomas, a sales representative for a promotional products company based in Iowa. "I have no desire to ever work in an office again."

He's part of burgeoning corps of home-based workers, which numbered more than 5.8 million in 2010 -- up more than 1.6 million over the past decade and accounting for 4.3 percent of the nation's workforce, according to a Census Bureau report on Thursday.

Sonoma County is a hot spot in the home-based worker boom, with nearly 1 in 12 workers spending most of their workdays at home.

The county has the fifth-highest concentration of home-based workers in the United States, behind Boulder, Colo., Medford, Ore., Santa Fe, N.M. and Kingston, N.Y., the report said.

All five are upscale areas that "attract talented people who value quality of life," said Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.

Stone said he was not surprised by the county's high ranking as a work-at-home incubator, noting that more than 300 people attended the board's first home-based business conference in the mid-1990s, just as personal computers and the Internet improved the pathway for telecommuting.

"We were floored by the response," Stone said.


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