Marin County employers believe the economy will be better six months from now and nearly 62 percent rank the county’s overall business climate as favorable, according to a survey conducted by the Business Journal and Bank of Marin.

The results of the first-ever survey were released April 3 at the seventh annual Impact Marin conference underwritten by the bank and the Marin Healthcare District.

[caption id="attachment_71932" align="alignleft" width="243"] About the economy in general, what do you think that six months from now general business conditions will be?[/caption]

“The results show that, for most Marin businesses, the county is a good place to be,” said Business Journal Editor and Associate Publisher Brad Bollinger. “After all, what’s not to like about Marin? It is beautiful, generally wealthy, it has many admirable assets, including a baseball team, and the people are friendly.”

But that sense of tranquility comes at a cost. Among the other challenges identified in the survey:

– More than half of respondents, 54 percent, said they feel it “is necessary to go outside Marin” to expand their businesses.

– Nearly two-thirds of employers said less than 75 percent of their employees live in Marin County. One in five employers said fewer than 25 percent live in the county they work in.

– Sonoma County came through loud and clear as the primary source of employees outside Marin. Asked to identify the counties where their employees live, 83 percent said Sonoma County; 41 percent said Alameda and 28 percent said Solano.

[caption id="attachment_71933" align="alignright" width="270"] How would you rank the overall business climate in Marin?[/caption]

– Asked if they were able to recruit the talent they need in Marin, 45 percent said “no” or “only for certain positions.” Nearly one-quarter of respondents said they had current job openings they cannot fill.

In open-ended responses to the question “what is the single-most important problem facing your business today?” 44 said the economy and lack of access to capital. Thirty five mentioned the business climate, regulatory environment and taxes,

To the question “How could Marin County improve its business climate?” by far the most often mentioned was having a more business friendly atmosphere, including streamlined permitting and lower taxes.

The survey was conducted by email in January and February. About 2,300 businesses were contacted and 198 responded. The survey was anonymous.

[caption id="attachment_71934" align="alignleft" width="243"] Do you plan to expand your business in Marin in the next 1 to 5 years?[/caption]

In a panel discussion on the survey, SSU Economics Professor and CEO of the Marin Economic Forum Rob Eyler noted that an effort is under way to make the region’s permitting process more transparent and predictable. He said the value of the survey will increase in future years because it will identify changes and trends in what businesses are thinking.

Bank of Marin President Russ Colombo noted that the county’s foundation of wealth and high levels of education bode well for its future as long as it continues to innovate and be a place where businesses can start and grow.

The seventh annual conference also included three other presentations:

[caption id="attachment_71937" align="alignright" width="243"] To expand your business, do you feel it is necessary to go outside Marin?[/caption]

– Jon Friedenberg, chief fund and business development officer for Marin General Hospital, highlighted the critical health care functions the institution provides to residents who suffer serious trauma, heart and brain emergencies. The district plans an approximately $350 million bond issue late this year to modernize the hospital and bring it into compliance with earthquake safety requirements.

– Farhad Mansourian, executive director of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, updated the 200 conference attendees on the progress toward establishing commuter rail and bicycle and pedestrian paths to better link Sonoma and Marin counties.

– And Nancy Mackle, city manager for the city of San Rafael, noted the recent economic wins for the county’s largest city and employment center and said the city is committed to working with business.

The survey presentation and other information about the conference is available at NorthBayBusinessJournal.com.