Economist Christopher Thornberg: Sonoma County’s economic recovery hinges on home building

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Sounding optimistic about Sonoma County’s ongoing recovery from last year’s devastating wildfires, respected economist Christopher Thornberg on Thursday urged local business leaders and elected officials to keep building houses.

Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics, a Los Angeles economic research firm, acknowledged in his remarks during the county’s annual economic forecast breakfast that the wildfires pushed the North Bay housing shortage into a “crisis.”

Indeed, more than 5,200 homes countywide were destroyed in October 2017 during the Tubbs wildfire, the most destructive in California history. Thornberg projected Sonoma County would end up approving 2,500 to 2,600 building permits in 2018, a “fantastic” figure he said represented “a giant surge” in construction.

“My only wish for this community is that you make that same number appear for the next four years,” he said. “Because you should take this momentum and keep it going. It’s not just about rebuilding. It should be ‘rebuilding’ directly into ‘building.’”

Last November, in the wake of the historic Tubbs fire that ravaged the county, Thornberg urged local business leaders to rebuild soon to maintain economic growth. Data since then, he said, has shown the area’s economy has weathered the short-term chaos in the aftermath of the blaze.

“This region has pulled together, and you’re bouncing like nobody’s business,” said Thornberg, who made his 15th appearance at the county’s yearly economic breakfast. “It’s all about maintaining that particular momentum.”

The event, hosted by the county’s Economic Development Board, was held at the DoubleTree Hotel in Rohnert Park.

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