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(Winners are listed by size category and then alphabetically by company name.)

15--50 employees

51--100 employees

101--250 employees

251--500 employees

501--1,000 employees

More than 1,000 employees

How the winners were chosen

Photos

PDF of Best Places to Work special SectionBank of MarinSeven-time winner

NOVATO -- After nearly a quarter century in business, Bank of Marin continues to delivery legendary service due to the positive energy of its 254 employees combined with sound lending practices and superb customer relations.

"Customers think we're great. I can proudly say I work here. Training is excellent and we all can express ourselves freely and openly while being rewarded for our efforts through the incentive program and recognition from senior management," employees said.

The bank embraces a collaborative team approach for accomplishing the company's mission, and has a welcoming community culture characterized by integrity, trust, accountability and commitment.

"We are passionate about supporting our local communities and partner with hundreds of non-profits, schools and civic organizations," said President and CEO Russell Colombo. "Our employees donate over 10,000 hours a year in volunteer service, and we have representatives serving on more than 80 non-profit boards."

"Some of our customers have been challenged by the economic slump. We've worked closely with them, particularly from the loan side, to be flexible and accommodating."

An employee noted, "We are taking increased regulation in stride and making significant advances in our technology use and accessibility so we can continue to be a strong, profitable bank -- while also maintaining customer and employee loyalty."Becoming IndependentFour-time winner 

SANTA ROSA -- Becoming Independent is the North Bay's largest nonprofit human services organization dedicated to helping people with developmental and physical disabilities seek their own paths to personal fulfillment.

"We help people make better lives for themselves. It's nice to see the smiles on people's faces when we help them," an employee said. "Management is constantly striving to create a happy, healthy work environment."

Under new leadership, BI has stepped up efforts to create more robust, updated programs to promote community inclusion and participation for over 1,300 clients.

"Becoming Independent is an amazing community resource serving adults with disabilities on many levels. Our 330 employees assist with life skills training that allow a very dependent population gain the foundation and skills to move toward independence," said CEO Luana Vaetoe.

Another employee said, "The BI culture of compassion and advocacy is excellent, and employees are constantly recognized for their efforts. I leave work feeling inspired every day."

To help sustain the organization, management invested in employee wellness, which has paid forward in terms of both morale and cost savings for benefit renewals.

"Our key to success is having a positive, optimistic and supportive outlook, despite state budget cuts," another employee said.

BI has increased its fund development efforts, from an employee-giving program and art sales to seeking legacy gifts and community donations.Bradley Real EstateFive-time winner

SAN RAFAEL -- With 400 agents and 12 offices, Bradley Real Estate is one of the largest brokerages in the Bay Area.

"I don't feel alone when there is a major decision. There's always someone to encourage you. The owners offer training, technology tools (Top Producer, Docusign, etc.), and managerial support while keeping us abreast of the market," an agent said. "We've grown despite a tough market and are heads above other real estate companies in terms of benefits and compensation. We hired new agents and support staff that helped increase business over 30 percent last year."

Owner Melissa and Robert Bradley said, "We enable and empower our realtors and employees to exercise their entrepreneurial spirit to improve and grow their own business. We have great retention among our agents."

What makes this company great? "For me, it's the generosity of the owners in sharing their time and expertise in an effort to support us in accomplishing our goals, an employee said. "They focus on employee success, which in turn, makes the company successful."

Bradley Real Estate supports local volunteer efforts and events through Chambers of Commerce, local schools, recreation departments and non-profits. In recent years the brokerage has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Marin charities as cash donations, sponsorships or in-kind contributions.Exchange BankEight-time winner

SANTA ROSA -- Since 1890 Exchange Bank has been a good neighbor and a trusted business partner by investing in the local community.

"Ours is a culture of consistent improvement where people make the company great. We've stayed loyal to our customers and our values -- Respect, Integrity, Teamwork and Service. It's this dedication that drives me to give 100 percent," an employee said.

President and CEO Bill Schrader added, "As a community bank we differ significantly from national and regional banks by our commitment to the community and the high level of service provided to our customers."

Exchange Bank has worked diligently to restore its dividend and bring back the Doyle Scholarship. In addition, the bank makes donations to more than 300 non-profits and charities throughout Sonoma County.

"Forward thinking and innovative ideas will keep us competitive in today's market," an employee said.

EB created a pilot "branch-of-the-future" based on relationship banking that mirrors today's technology and trends. The goal is to make banking a one-stop experience with the added flexibility of a mobile app.

"We've refreshed our product line and upgraded branch offices to make them more efficient and customer friendly," another added.

During the weak economy, EB avoided layoffs and preserved jobs by focusing on expense management.

"We controlled costs without negatively impacting employee salaries or benefits," a manager said.La Tortilla FactorySeven-time winner

SANTA ROSA -- At La Tortilla Factory, employees say owners and management do an excellent job of creating an environment of teamwork and compassion consistent with their family culture.

"There is a sense that everyone adds value, and that our thoughts and actions contribute to success," a co-worker said.

According to CEO Sam Tamayo, "We are a family of 261 employees committed to satisfying our customers' needs through innovative and great tasting products that contribute to a healthy lifestyle."

New products and successful marketing campaigns have led to continued growth.

"The company is very good at adjusting to difficult times and the staff is open to change," a co-worker said.

La Tortilla Factory continues to contribute at the same level to employee benefits, employee events and through a partnership with SRJC to offer continuing education and training.

It also donates extensively to community organizations focusing on youth and education.

There are also on-site ESL and literacy classes as well as financial education and leadership development courses.

Employees enjoy monthly parties, a summer picnic, a health and wellness fair and a Christmas party.

"Everybody works hard and appreciates each other from the top down. Company uniforms are provided, and they even supply watermelon and Gatorade on a regular basis on hot days."Redwood Credit UnionEight-time winner

SANTA ROSA -- "Our people are the number one reason why Redwood Credit Union is a great place to work and do business," said CEO Brett Martinez. "As a cooperative, our purpose is described as people helping people. At RCU, it's also our passion. We focus on doing the right thing."

Everyone is engaged and committed to this eight-time winner's mission, vision and values. "The energetic, dedicated atmosphere starts at the top. People are approachable and have big hearts."

Serving over 225,000 members in eight North Bay counties with 374 employees, RCU's goal is to provide its communities with the most affordable financial services available and helping them through difficult times.

"We change lives and give people opportunities. Management reaches out to make sure we are taken care of when we have personal issues," an employee said.

RCU employees participated in more than 440 community events in 2012 and volunteered a total of 2,023 hours.

Staff members enjoy an annual holiday party, and a reception for those with five years service. There are barbecues, ice cream socials plus a variety of employee awards and performance incentives. Acknowledgements and certificates are also given at monthly staff meetings for exceptional service, along with employee of the month and employee of the year awards.

"I'm proud to say I work here."