Return to Meetings Focus Supplements

September 2014

Green, locally-inspired initiatives propel the Golden State's group appeal

by Jeff Heilman

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When area codes were introduced in 1947, California had just three: 916, 415 and 213. Today there are around 30, for a population topping 32 million people. How to connect with this giant exchange, which venture capitalist Tim Draper wants split into six separate states? By dialing in locally, as individual group destinations focus on sustaining their appeal.

From Humboldt County’s towering redwoods to Silicon Valley’s economic pillars, Northern California continues to raise the bar for groups.

After undergoing a $56 million renovation and achieving LEED Gold Certification in 2012, San Francisco’s Moscone Center is now targeting LEED Platinum Certification, part of a $500 million expansion expected to begin this December for completion by fall 2018.

With its new offices merging cutting-edge technology, local art and sustainability for an alignment of “innovation, creativity and collaboration,” San Francisco Travel assists groups with local CSR programs and “touring like a local” via its online ambassador program.

In the East Bay, ever-evolving Oakland is hub of cultural diversity and its evolving Jack London Square is an expanding, community-oriented waterfront development with restaurants, a popular farmers market, arts and cultural offerings, and recreational activities. New options at Jack London Square include Plank, a restaurant, beer garden and entertainment destination offering more than 50,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space.

Farther east, the Tri-Valley is raising its profile as a wine region. The area is home to numerous wineries geared toward corporate retreats and events, including Wente Vineyards, renowned for its wine, cuisine and sustainable farming and winemaking practices.

North of the San Francisco, eco-leader Marin County, “Birthplace of mountain biking and Obi Wan Kenobi,” offers Certified Green lodging properties and meeting venues, agri-tourism and farm-to-table experiences, and environmental programs under its Green Marin initiative.

While Napa Valley shakes off the August earthquake and continues investing in sustainable wellness concepts such as the Napa Valley Wine Trail (see “Path to the Good Life,” page 4), Sonoma County is also focusing on sustainability. Initiatives include the Sonoma Green Business Program, covering most area hotels, vineyards and venues like the Charles Schulz Museum in eco-focused Santa Rosa. Meanwhile, Sonoma County Winegrowers is aiming to become the nation’s first 100 percent sustainable wine region within the next five years.

Farther north, Mendocino County, boasting a newly minted national monument, Point-Arena Stornetta Lands, offers the highest percentage of organic and biodynamic vineyards in the U.S. And at the Humboldt Bay Tourism Center in Eureka, a local oyster farmer/boat captain offers tours of one of the world’s most productive oyster habitats.

Association and SMERF business leads the way in Sacramento, where regional marketing is the focus, and “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital” (see “As Good As It Gets” F&B; section, page 13) is attracting more food and agricultural groups.

“As these attendees are discovering, our farming, food and California history bring unique depth to their meeting or convention experience,” says Sonya Bradley, chief marketing officer for the Sacramento CVB.

“Authenticity” remains North Lake Tahoe’s touchstone.

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