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PETALUMA -- Brian Sobel is  the principal consultant for Sobel Communications, based in Petaluma. He has extensive experience working in both the public and private sectors. He has worked in radio and television and was news director for two radio stations.  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. He is also past chairman of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and a current member of several other non-governmental and governmental boards and commissions including the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District Board of Directors.

What do you view as the North Bay’s biggest challenges as a region at the moment?

Attracting new business in a tough economic climate, along with retaining our core businesses in the face of competition from out of the area, including from other states, many of which are actively recruiting in California.

You’re based in Petaluma, which has recently seen an uptick in the commercial real estate sector. To what might you attribute this to and what can other cities and the county learn from this?

Well, the jury is still out as to why we have seen an uptick, but Petaluma has always enjoyed proximity to Marin and San Francisco. Many businesses serve the Bay Area and therefore being in Petaluma shortens the time it takes to reach other cities. Additionally, rent pricing for Class A  office space has come down and may now once again be affordable to a larger number of businesses, especially relative to other cities in Sonoma County.

What can or should the state of California be doing to create a more business friendly environment?

The easy answer is to become more business friendly. Legislation in California has made it very tough to do business in this state. Whether it is well-intentioned environmental legislation, tax constrictions, or other demands on business before the first dollar is made, such legislation results in driving companies from California, or sending companies out of business. We have to realize that being business friendly will produce more jobs, more industry, and more revenue for California.

You’ve worked in both the public and private sectors in the North Bay. Is there a sense of disconnect between the two? If so, what can be done to overcome that?

Well, there has always been an uneasy alliance between the public and private sectors. The public sector worries about being taken in business transactions with the private sector, while the private sector views the public sector as plodding and not very good in a business environment. More interaction is required to build trust and examples of solid public/private deals that went well should be trumpeted and analyzed for why they succeeded or failed.