Lucas's Grady Ranch: A huge missed opportunity for Marin County

Marin County as a place to do business took a huge step backwards on April 10, 2012.  On April 10, Skywalker Properties decided not to continue the pursuit of its Grady Ranch project. Not only did a major project with great potential economic benefit for the County get derailed and ultimately canceled, an influential landowner trying to generate business on his land was thwarted unnecessarily.  Marin County supervisors are now trying to broker a solution as one leadership step forward; Marin Economic Forum has asked our state legislators to step in as well.

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Culpability can be placed at many a doorstep: the State of California, planning departments and commissions, Grady Ranch’s neighbors in Lucas Valley, but not Lucas and the proponents of this project.  There was a groundswell of vocal and physical support for this project in planning and county board meetings, and that support rallied around three major themes.  The business to be done on Grady Ranch creates jobs, provides tax revenue and services simultaneously for the public (a true rarity), and recognizes environmental balance in its practices concerning green building and dedicated open space.  Such a business is the essence, perhaps quintessence, of Marin County’s stated ethos around business expansion and retention.  As someone leading economic development efforts in Marin County, it was difficult to get the news that after decades of pursuing this project, the business felt the process was too problematic to continue.

The failure of the Grady Ranch project has greater consequences for Marin in the long run for several reasons:  

The loss of Lucas may not stop with just the end of this project.  Lucas Company's move to San Francisco from downtown San Rafael moved more than 700 jobs in a frontier technology business out of Marin County nearly six years ago.  There were more jobs lost that acted as services to both Lucas's operations and its workers here in Marin County whose employers saw a reduction in revenue due to the location shift. Not only does the loss of this project mean a loss of hundreds of construction labor hours and high technology worker hours, it also means less demand for local businesses, the same businesses that neighbors and the agencies involved who are fighting this project would like to keep in Marin County. 

A study conducted by Marin Economic Forum showed that this project would generate an estimated 690 jobs during construction and more than 270 jobs throughout Marin County for every 100 workers at the new facility once operations commenced. These jobs were across an array of wage levels, skills, and industries, a critical social factor in supporting the expansion of local businesses.

If the current state of Grady Ranch has achieved anything, it is to serve as a call to action to show support for local businesses, especially larger employers in frontier technology businesses that have positive economic and social impacts on the community and areas environmentally aware as Lucas.  We need leadership at all levels to rally around this project and try to reignite the momentum that has been lost before it is too late for current and planned operations.  Marin’s economic vitality depends on it. Please check out www.marineconomicforum.org for our report on Grady's economic impact on Marin County. ...

Dr. Rob Eyler is the interim CEO of the Marin Economic Forum, eyler@marineconomicforum.org.  For more info: www.marineonomicforum.org.


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