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'Instead of criticizing the design, we should be applauding the benefits'

In today's terrible economic times, it is rare to hear of any employer seeking to grow his business. George Lucas' readiness to complete the final phase of the master plan for Lucasfilm -- which was approved in 1996 -- is a welcome counterpoint to the news of layoffs and businesses leaving Marin.

Lucas' desire to execute this final phase of the plan is truly a vote of confidence for Marin County's sustainability. Instead of criticizing the design of a private complex, we should be applauding the benefits it will bring to our community.

Having Lucasfilm in Marin provides many benefits to the community. Lucasfilm creates hundreds of high-paying, high-value jobs. The large amount of property taxes help fund our overall community needs. Lucas has permanently protected 5,000 acres through Marin Agricultural Land Trust easements that would otherwise have been developed.

And he continues his quiet, consistent local contributions to nonprofits and schools throughout Marin. But none of those benefits captures the prestige of having one of the foremost creative minds and innovators living and working in Marin, and the numerous multipliers that the Lucas companies continue to bring to this county.

Lucasfilm has been a good neighbor for 30 years, respectful of both the people and the environment. Lucas implemented 11 miles of public trails, undergrounded utilities in front of Big Rock (the second phase of the master plan), bought Jaws of Life for the Marinwood Fire Department, continues to act as a first responder for accidents and fires in the vicinity, preserved 125-plus acres of Marin Dwarf Flax, restored wetlands and more. There has been full compliance with all of the conditions of approval set by the Board of Supervisors in the master plan, with Mr. Lucas often exceeding the requirements at his own expense.

George Lucas put his faith in Marin County 30 years ago when he built Skywalker Ranch and set the course for the other two phases of the master plan.

That Mr. Lucas chooses to stay in Marin and complete the plan -- which he could have put anywhere in the world -- gives Marin a great magnet for attracting jobs that match skill levels and housing costs in the county.

In these hard economic times, it is a blessing that Lucas has the fortitude and vision to continue to move forward. Grady Ranch will be the final phase of the original plan -- another unobtrusive, beautiful Lucasfilm building surrounded by the 800 acres of open space that Lucas donated years ago.

The North Bay Leadership Council, which represents the leading employers in Marin and Sonoma counties, applauds the vote of confidence that Lucas has given to the sustainability of Marin County.Marin County's economy will be stimulated by the Grady Ranch project and the employees who work there. Marin County's economic vitality will be strengthened by welcoming George Lucas' investment in the future of the county and his commitment to making all of his companies environmentally and socially responsible contributors to the county's quality of life.

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Cynthia Murray is president ant chief executive officer of the North Bay Leadership Council is an employer-sponsored, public policy advocacy organization For more information please call 707-283-0028 or visit us at northbayleadership.org.