Doyle Scholarship back; housing, job market, wine industry improve

  • Evette Jauregui, left, and Gloria Hernandez, employees with La Prenda Vineyards Management, Inc., sort through Chardonnay grapes to remove leaves and debris at Nicholson Ranch on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 in Sonoma, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

It was a year of recovery in Sonoma County, as the economy in 2012 slowly improved. Local employers added workers to their ranks, single-family homes were sold at a faster pace, and foreclosures dropped throughout the county.

A near-perfect North Coast harvest pleased wineries and grape growers alike, and many wineries and vineyards changed hands, as proprietors retired or escaped the lingering effects of the recession.

Here's a look at some of the biggest business stories of the year.

Exchange Bank resumes scholarship

Exchange Bank announced it would resume the Doyle Scholarship for incoming Santa Rosa Junior College Students in 2013, restoring a beloved community program that was on hold for five years.

The bank had been prevented from paying dividends by the U.S. Treasury Department, which loaned it $43 million under the Troubled Asset Relief Program. But the Treasury Department sold its Exchange Bank shares, freeing the bank to resume paying dividends.

"The Doyle's back in business," an ecstatic Frank Chong, president of SRJC, said at the time.

The dividend would provide about $850,000 a year to the scholarship fund, far less than the $5.3 million the college received from the trust in 2007, the last year of full dividends, but surpassing the $668,000 the college awarded since 2009 under its "Bridging the Doyle" program.

"It's deeply satisfying to us as residents of Sonoma County," Exchange Bank CEO William Schrader said at the time. "It's something we're very proud of."

Housing market: Sales on pace for 7-year high, foreclosures drop

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