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Marin County needs action now to ensure coronavirus economic recovery

About the writers

Joanne Webster is president and CEO of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce.

Cynthia Murray is president and CEO of North Bay Leadership Council.

Both of their organizations are part of Keep Marin Working which also includes: Marin Realtors Association, Marin Economic Forum, Marin Builders Association, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Marin, Latino Council and Novato Chamber of Commerce.

Read other perspectives on business recovery during the coronavirus pandemic.

The shock from the pandemic and subsequent economic crisis is unlike anything experienced before and demands urgent attention and action to help recover, rebuild and reset Marin County’s economy.

In assessing the current economic situation and envisioning what is needed to take us to the next normal for economic vitality and competitiveness, Keep Marin Working (KMW) recommends adopting the 10 Point Economic Recovery Plan Framework. We urge the Marin County Board of Supervisors, and the City and Town Councils of Marin to take immediate action.

Here are the 10 points:

Creation of a Marin County Long-term Economic Development Strategy

A Strategic Marin Plan should be created to reflect the new realities of 2020. The strategy will define activities to support existing businesses while planning for the expansion and attraction of new businesses. This will require an immediate identification and collection of countywide economic data to allow us to create a countywide road map and implement plans that make Marin County a more attractive and competitive place to work, live and play.

Diversify the Economy

Major sectors that have been a large part of the Marin County economy have been impacted by the pandemic and are predicted to be unable to return to what they were pre-pandemic. An assessment of those losses will determine the sectors that would help diversify the economy and the initiatives that can be taken to foster diversification and bring in new businesses such as higher paying job opportunities in technology, “green-tech,” and other sectors.

Provide Governmental Relief

Every effort should be made to provide governmental relief to businesses and nonprofits by not adding financial burdens. Local governments should hit the pause button on existing fees, mandates, regulations, and other costs, including consideration and adoption of new policies and nonessential regulatory functions not urgently needed to protect human health. Permitting should be expedited.

Focus on retention and expansion of current employers

Setting the stage to enable and support growth requires planning, funding and the right systems, staff, processes, technology and partners. Identify the needs, issues and policies that would be the driver of keeping our existing employers in Marin. Attention should also be given to help employers better prepare for the next disaster.

Invest in infrastructure

Now is the time to make investments in infrastructure that will improve the county’s ability to create well-paying jobs, improve economic sustainability, and reduce climate change impacts. This includes non-punitive programs to incentivize retrofitting of buildings to help decarbonize them and adapt to changing commercial needs, creating solar grids for resiliency, starting shovel ready road improvements, and doing a county-wide broadband system.

Make housing a top priority

Based on the enormous housing shortage in Marin, it is essential that the county begin to break down the barriers to create more housing at all levels of income. To spur development of more housing, Marin needs to remove barriers like too high inclusionary requirements, reduce fees and streamline permitting.

Give preferences to local vendors

The pandemic has shown the importance of having a local supply chain including food and local services. It is also shown that we need redundancy in that supply chain. The county should look at essential products and ensure that there is a local supply available and if not, work to create one. Purchasing should be from local vendors and providing support to those vendors, if needed.

Joanna Webster, president and CEO, San Rafael Chamber of Commerce
Joanna Webster, president and CEO, San Rafael Chamber of Commerce

Strengthen workforce development support in underserved communities

Centralize the coordination of workforce development programs and establish one point of information and entry for all programs. Improve access to multilingual, multicultural resources for underserved communities of color. Increase collaborative business partnerships with higher education that result in paid internship and apprenticeship opportunities. Provide resources to support an aging workforce (e.g. technology skill building). Assess the workers who have been displaced by the economic shock and create training programs to reskill or upskill them to fill jobs in Marin County.

Cynthia Murray, president and CEO of North Bay Leadership Council
Cynthia Murray, president and CEO of North Bay Leadership Council

Create solutions to a child care shortage

The pandemic has caused a great loss of child care slots. Subsidies are needed to help child care providers stay open while not being able to operate at full capacity. Other needs to address include inadequate licensed supply for infant/toddler and school age care, lack of subsidized child care slots for working families with financial need, licensed and licensed-exempt childcare facilities staffing, and streamlining policies and procedures required for establishing a childcare business and converting spaces for childcare.

Change land use and zoning to reflect new reality

The pandemic and recession have changed how businesses will operate going forward. There needs to be flexibility in the zoning and land use regulations to allow businesses to pivot to new models of operations or production, and where feasible, use vacant commercial space to creatively address housing needs.

About the writers

Joanne Webster is president and CEO of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce.

Cynthia Murray is president and CEO of North Bay Leadership Council.

Both of their organizations are part of Keep Marin Working which also includes: Marin Realtors Association, Marin Economic Forum, Marin Builders Association, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Marin, Latino Council and Novato Chamber of Commerce.

Read other perspectives on business recovery during the coronavirus pandemic.

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