Brexit is an example that it is a small world after all

Robert Eyler, Ph.D

By Robert Eyler
Marin Independent Journal

The recent passage of Brexit by voters in the United Kingdom raised many questions and had far-reaching consequences. And despite our small footprint, Marin County potentially will feel the repercussions.

Some good; some not so good.

Nonetheless, whatever the local outcomes, they should make us realize that this is an interdependent financial world that we live in.

And all the more reason that such organizations as the Marin Economic Forum continue to be an important informational, networking and idea exchange.

Because we (and the North Bay region) have several companies that compete on a global basis, there are three immediate issues to contemplate: housing and financial market performance, shifts in tourism flows, and trade links to the UK as either a marketplace or a gateway to mainland Europe.

The Brexit decision assures that we are likely to remember 2016 as one of the most politically intense years of the century.

While our presidential election is slowly building to a crescendo in November, the UK vote to leave the European Union has already changed the scenario that whomever we elect will have to face.

Because the UK’s currency is the pound sterling and not the Euro used in EU countries, the unwind will be more about how currencies are trading for each other and less about compliance.

But the disconnect from trade and financial infrastructure based on EU membership will be a large enough headache.

Marin County, housing may be positively affected for two reasons.

First, the outflow of capital toward the United States from the UK will further reduce pressure on interest rates; the Federal Reserve knows this and may now further delay interest rate increases to prevent the U.S. from becoming a magnet for UK wealth seeking the slightest of interest rate gains.

Mortgage rates should remain stable and low, and housing demand will remain supported.

Those residents with global investments may find losses from emerging markets that have ties to the UK (e.g., Indonesia and Malaysia); countries like Japan may be financial beneficiaries although auto sales to the UK (and wine sales there for the North Bay region) may suffer.

For Marin County businesses, trade and labor connections to the UK may be delayed or hampered.

U.S. trade relations otherwise should be little affected.

Businesses such as Autodesk and BioMarin may need to consider the size and scope of offices and business branches in the UK if they are utilized to service Europe more completely.

This may slow progress in life sciences generally, especially if global uncertainty is exacerbated by this situation.

For tourism, we may see a flip of British tourism for Americans.

Marin County residents may now plan trips to London that they have delayed if the pound’s value falls significantly. For UK travelers, the opposite might be the case, reducing their visits to Marin County, wine country and the greater Bay Area.

Businesses in Marin County, such as hotels and B&Bs and restaurants, may hear fewer UK accents.

Under the assumption that global uncertainty ebbs a bit after the tidal wave of opinions and concerns is done crashing over news channels, Marin County should be economically good after this is all said and done.

The UK has multiple reasons to sort the aftermath out quickly, and allow us to prepare for November and more political zaniness.

Robert Eyler is dean of the School of Extended and International Education at Sonoma State University as well as the chief economist for the Marin Economic Forum.

Sustainable Development and Marin Clean Energy

By Alex DiGiorgio, Marin Clean Energy

In Marin County, ‘sustainable development’ is a core value among residents, businesses,consumers and environmentalists—but what does it look like?  Meet Marin Clean Energy (MCE), California’s first ‘community choice’ energy program, and the County’s namesake public power agency.

Since 2010, MCE has been providing Marin’s electricity consumers with access to more renewable energy than ever previously available.  MCE offers a choice of 50% (‘Light Green’) and 100% (‘Deep Green’) renewable energy at highly competitive rates, as an alternative to PG&E’s energy supply.  In 2014, MCE’s customers collectively saved about $5.9 million, due to MCE’s lower electric generation rates. Chief among the beneficiaries of these savings were Marin’s businesses, public schools and local government agencies. The City of San Rafael, for example, saved nearly $50,000 on its energy bill last year, even while it purchased substantially more renewable energy than most California cities. This year, MCE expects its customers to save more than $10 million.

Stephanie Plante Purchases Family Business

Third generation of Bramante family now sole owner

SAN RAFAEL, CA – Stephanie Kirby Plante, granddaughter of the late Martin Bramante, has purchased Cal-Pox, Inc., the San Rafael-headquartered real estate management and development company her grandfather founded in 1967. Plante, along with her aunt and cousins, has operated the family owned business since 1999. With the purchase from the other family members, Plante assumes sole ownership and will continue in her current role as president and CEO of the company that has operations in Marin, Sonoma and San Francisco counties.

“The purchase of Cal-Pox is a dream come true for me,” said Plante. “My grandfather was 94 when he passed in 2014. He spent a half century building a business and teaching his children and grandchildren about it. I am honored to be able to continue that tradition.”

MEF Forms Working Partnership with the  Marin HR Forum:  Creative Solutions to HR Challenges Facing Marin Employers

By Edna Nakamoto, SPHR
Board Member Marin HR Forum,
Founder, The HR Manager LLC

A thriving economy means more jobs and a strong reliance on talent or employees to contribute to business growth. In Marin County, employers face unique challenges of attracting and retaining top talent because of our location, demographics and the lack of local affordable housing. Even more challenging is the fact that Marin residents often find it more desirable to commute to neighboring counties for work.

In keeping with Marin Economic Forum’s (MEF) goal to create partnerships and initiatives that stimulate job and business growth for entrepreneurial businesses within Marin County, MEF has formed a working partnership with the Marin HR Forum. The goal of this partnership is to facilitate conversations between business leaders and HR professionals so together, we can better understand the issues of today and tomorrow and find creative solutions to human resources challenges that face Marin County employers.

MEF Unveils Marin Business Emergency Readiness (M’BER) Program

By Garry Lion, MEF Executive Committee, Marin Disaster Council, Mill Valley Vice Mayor 

The Marin Business Emergency Readiness (M’BER for short, pronounced em-ber) program is designed to help Marin County businesses (for-profit or not-for-profit) to better prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies/disasters (e.g., fires, floods, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, pandemics, etc.). It was developed in conjunction with the Marin Disaster Council (aka Marin DC3) to improve disaster preparedness in the local business community. This program is intended to benefit the ~12,000 payroll employers (with ~110,000 employees) as well as the ~38,000 sole proprietorships in Marin.

A number of disaster studies have concluded that a significant percentage of small businesses impacted by a natural or man-made disaster cannot stay open after the disaster and eventually fail. Those that have planned ahead for potential disasters, however, have a higher rate of staying open to serve their customers and employees after the disaster and of eventually surviving. The M’BER program helps businesses think through the important steps in preparing for the types of disaster to which they are most vulnerable and then build a customized Emergency Plan to ensure their continuity of operations and long-term survival.

The M’BER program starts with an assessment of a business’ vulnerabilities and an evaluation of steps already taken to protect it. This is accomplished through an American Red Cross (ARC) website called Ready Ratingwhich provides a numerical readiness score and suggests what further steps should be done. Working with their local em

About Marin Center and the Marin County Civic Center

By Gabriella Callichio

Marin Center performances have delighted Bay Area audiences for over 26 years. As the major performing arts, events center, and fairgrounds in Marin County, Marin Center serves the community by presenting and expanding a variety of multi-cultural theater presentations, affordable rental venues, and professional expertise. Bringing music, dance, and performance of all kinds to audiences around the Bay, attendees also enjoy visiting the beautiful Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium inspired by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Venture Greenhouse’s LOKL: Bringing Farm Fresh

By Mary O’Mara
Executive Director

Venture Greenhouse 2.0, a MarinLink sponsored project, is a Marin-based business accelerator, helping promising entrepreneurs from the North Bay and Greater Bay Areas by launching and growing innovative business models in a variety of market segments such as clean technology, energy, software, medical, consumer products/services, internet and transportation. They are open to supporting entrepreneurs in driving non-profit business models, requiring sophisticated business strategies and external funding.Venture Greenhouse 2.0 requires an element of their product, service, business process, or operations to change the status quo of their industry and/or market to become more sustainable, helping companies integrate resource-efficient strategies and processes to enhance revenues, increase bottom-line profitability, and make the company more attractive to investors and customers.

Education & Workforce Development in Marin

By Nanda Schorske, MBA
Executive Dean
Indian Valley Campus and Workforce & Economic Development

Marin’s unemployment rates are deceptively low. Both the unemployment rates and the extremely large proportion of older adults can be interpreted as symptoms of unbalanced economic and workforce development pressures in the county.

Middle-wage workers and working families are squeezed out of Marin County due to high cost of living, as are people who lose jobs; it’s too expensive to stay in Marin after losing a job, so the unemployed are forced to move away. Those who are left are much older, including many retirees and people who have steady, relatively high-paying jobs.  Those higher paid professionals also tend to be older, resulting in the older, more affluent community as seen in the data.

Commercial & Group Insurance

Commercial Insurance

 by Paul Perlite/David Hofele, Intl. ProInsurance Associates, LLC

The outlook for the Commercial Insurance sector in 2015 overall is positive.  Rate reductions and increased carrier competition for most industry segments are projected for Property and Casualty insurance.   Multi-family and the Construction industry will however continue to see rate increases ranging from 10-15%.  The available marketplace of insurance carriers offering Multi Family insurance will constrict in 2015. Wood Frame construction projects will also experience rate increases and a limited marketplace due to recent fire losses in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Non wood frame construction projects will not be impacted and expect to see more competitive rates and wide availability of insurance carriers offering the coverage.

Small Farmers, Big Impact: The Marin Farmers Market Takes Root

by Brigitte Moran

Each Thursday and Sunday the Marin Farmers Market, operated by the nonprofit Agricultural Institute of Marin, brings together hundreds of farmers, specialty food purveyors, and artisans, with thousands of patrons, to celebrate our vibrant local food movement.  But the Marin Farmers Market is more than just a great place to shop – with more than $15 million in goods sold each year, the Market is an important driver of the local economy – and a healthy community – providing direct access to exceptional goods from regional fields, dairies, and ranches.  The Market is the economic engine and critical venue for the survival of local family farms and ranches, who depend on this direct access to consumers to make a viable living.