Employers, others put up another $180,000 to keep effort movingMARIN – The Marin County Board of Supervisors has approved giving the Marin Economic Forum $150,000 to continue its work.

The county pledged last year to match what the group raised up to $150,000. The economic forum raised $180,000 through various sources to provide economic data, forecasts and forums to the businesses and residents of Marin. The mission of the forum is to “create an environment that supports startup, expanding and entrepreneurial businesses within Marin’s economic sustainability strategy.”

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Judy Arnold, the fifth district county supervisor in Marin, has been one of the leading backers of the forum and worked with its predecessor, the Marin Economic Commission.

“One of my main goals was to put the emphasis on the economy,” she said. “I felt it was time for this. Then it became more imperative after the downturn of the economy as a whole.”

Dr. Rob Eyler is the chair of the Economics Department at Sonoma State University and the director of the Center for Regional Economic Analysis, also at Sonoma State.

He was hired last year to work with the forum and provide economic analysis for businesses and the county. The forum was started with an initial $150,000 from the county.

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He said it has been difficult to work in Marin from a “business-first” perspective.

“Growth is a four-letter word in many parts of Marin,” he said.  “I knew that, and seeing it on the ground has been intriguing.”

He said he has begun using a concept he calls “shaped growth.”

“If you are not growing as a society and a community, you are going to fail,” he said.

He said recognizing there are entrepreneurs in the area and fostering healthy growth that focuses on the community and the needs and wants of the community will result in healthy growth needed to sustain the economy.

But it is not just the economy that the forum is focused on.

“We look at the environment, social equity and economy,” said Ms. Arnold.

She said they will be publishing the first economic report in September, and out of the report will come areas of focus.

Of the $180,000 raised, Dr. Eyler said the first $70,000 came from businesses that needed consulting.

“The next $70,000 was from several large companies in Marin,” he said. “Circle Bank, Autodesk, Lucasfilm, Bank of America, Comcast and Kaiser all gave funds.”

The rest came from small businesses and residents.

“The real thing we have to do is to find businesses that want to come to and stay in Marin and hire local residents,” Dr. Eyler said.

Ms. Arnold said the website, marineconomicforum.org, will have links to all the municipalities on getting permits.

“Prospective business owners get frustrated,” she said. “They apply for a permit, and then what?”

This was the impetus for her to have a conference called “Everything you wanted to know about getting a business permit but were too angry to ask,” which will be in the early fall.

“Above all,” Dr. Eyler said, “I want the Marin Economic Forum to be the first stop for businesses and residents when they want to know what is going on in business in Marin County.”