NORTH BAY — Brian Sobel is principal consultant for Sobel Communications, based in Petaluma. He has extensive experience in both the public and private sectors. Additionally, he has worked as a news director for two radio stations and in television . Before opening his consulting firm, Mr. Sobel spent several years working for a major corporation as a writer, training consultant and video producer. In the public sector, he has been active as a past candidate for the California Assembly and is a former planning commissioner and vice-mayor of Petaluma.
Q: What can political leaders in the North Bay do to attract and retain new businesses in the region?
Mr. Sobel: Simply stated, businesses in California and particularly in the Bay Area, are suffering from excessive regulation and taxation. While no business expects to avoid all regulations and other constraints, it is also true that each new law, new regulation or tax, whether it a state related or local tax, adds an additional burden and drain on the bottom line. Taken individually, some of the regulations make sense and benefit the greater good, however, most businesses that have been in operation for more than a few years now labor under multiple layers of regulations, taxes and assessments, including many that have been added in just the last few years. We really need to put a moratorium on nearly all business regulations until California is healthy again.
Q: What obstacles need to be overcome for new businesses to emerge and thrive in the region?
Mr. Sobel: First, the bureaucratic belief that businesses are ATMs waiting to give ever-increasing amounts of money to government must come to an end. The fact is that governments, at all levels, from the state to municipalities, must come to grips with the fact that placing ever increasing burdens on companies wishing to do business in California and the region have, and has had, a profound and deleterious effect on their ability to function successfully. Other states are busy recruiting our businesses by utilizing incentives of all types.
Q: In your consulting business, what is the single biggest issue raised by clients in the North Bay, and how does that compare with other areas such as the South Bay or East Bay?
Mr. Sobel: North Bay clients, along with those from the South Bay and East Bay are uniformly complaining about governmental strictures and the ongoing worry that each new day seems to bring additional bureaucratic interference in their attempt to produce an acceptable bottom line and in doing so build their companies, add jobs and be part of a California resurgence.
Q: You’ve said before that there is an uneasy alliance between the public and private sector. Have things improved in this area? Gotten worse? What can be done to bridge the gap, so to speak?
Mr. Sobel: There remains the uneasy alliance between the public and private sectors, because often the two are in conflict over their respective missions. I contend that an “exchange program” of sorts where government employees would work in the private sector once a week, or for three or six months, combined with private sector employees doing the same within government, would provide everyone with a solid sense of the challenges faced by those in each sector.
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