The outlook for Sonoma County's business climate is inching towards a slow recovery — perhaps one sign that's true is recent data on the county's commercial vacancies in both office and industrial spaces.
"Almost a quarter of Sonoma County's offices and storefronts are still empty, but local brokers and property owners say the commercial real estate market is slowly improving," the Press Democrat reported last week. "The commercial real estate market has long been a barometer of the health of the county economy. And what moves it forward is job creation at both new and existing businesses."
That's great news for Rohnert Park, a town with slowly shrinking population and growing commercial vacancy rates.
The numbers on what the real vacancy rate is are conflicting. The Sonoma County Economic Development Board put vacant office space here at 43.4 percent, and empty industrial sapce at 11.6. That doesn't include shuttered businesses such as State Farm Insurance, however, or new ones including the new and 24-Hour Fitness that just moved into the North Bay Centre and Hooters on Redwood Drive.
The city says commercial vacancies here range between 30 and 43 percent, and recent data from Cassidy Turley, a Northern California-based commercial real estate firm, put vacant office space here at roughly 32 percent, and industrial at seven percent as of the end of 2011.
But, local real estate firms say despite some sun on the horizon, the gloom and doom of the economic collapse hasn't cleared in Sonoma County — yet.
"Despite the lack of overall progress, Coppin and others said they're seeing more companies signing leases or buying their own office buildings. The gains, however, have been offset by the departure of some larger companies, most prominently State Farm Insurance, which closed its doors in Rohnert Park last summer," the Press Democrat stated.
Cassidy Turley experts agreed.
"The good news for landlords is that we expect leasing activity to pick up going forward," according to the most recent real estate report put out by the company. "Based on a number of deals we are tracking, we expect the market to record some additional occupancy growth..."
Countywide, commercial vacancy rates reached "nearly 24 percent in the first quarter, 1 percent higher than a year earlier, according to Keegan & Coppin, the North Bay's largest commercial real estate company," the Press Democrat stated.
The article continued: "Today's vacancy rate is essentially back where it was two years ago, a time when Keegan & Coppin President Al Coppin said both the commercial market and the economy were bouncing along the bottom."
What do you think the city needs? In the last two years, we've lost businesses such as Latitude, and . But, we're gaining some. Chipotle is coming, 24 Hour Fitness is new and so is Hooters. What do you think the city needs to turn the economy around?