On August 23, the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the “Marin County Economic Vitality Strategic Plan.”
It represents the first economic strategy in the county’s history and comes at a crucial time as we recover from the coronavirus pandemic and manage uncertainty in the economy over the next few years, while trying to ensure the quality of life that Marinites know and expect. .
But there are other reasons why the strategy is important to our county. As indicated in the in-depth environmental scan and stakeholder interviews that shaped the plan, Marin’s economy has long-standing and newer issues that have not traditionally been viewed as “economic” issues. , nor their solutions.
Let’s start with childcare, where the lack of available slots relative to demand persists. This forces many parents to unsuccessfully choose to stay home to care for children or pay high fees for care, which can offset income from work.
This dynamic is a direct threat to our economy by removing a cadre from our workforce that would otherwise fill jobs and contribute to productivity – not to mention robbing children of the opportunity for education and social growth that comes to daycare.
The economic plan recognizes child care shortages as a direct threat to the economy and proposes to connect the business sector with child care providers to create dialogue and seek solutions.
What has also been analyzed, and which is well known to residents, is that we have a growing income gap. The wealthiest residents (in the 80th percentile of earners) earn six times the income of the lowest earners (20th percentile of earners) and the median wage for whites is $45 an hour, compared to $19 for our Latin American community.
The county plan identifies “economic mobility” as a key outcome of the strategy, with specific actions to create more high-wage jobs locally, provide training for residents to access those jobs, and mobilize resources that will create more opportunities for residents to start their own businesses.
No discussion of the county economy is complete without acknowledging the cost and affordability of housing. As the county and municipalities create housing elements that will increase the volume of housing, access to funds to secure housing – whether apartments, single family or otherwise – will become increasingly most important.
A myriad of new housing finance vehicles, both public and private, are coming online and the county has a unique opportunity to work alongside residents to capture these funds. Strategies include the state-created home ownership program or new private “rent-to-own” ventures increasing the workforce’s access to housing.
Finally, Marin’s geographic proximity to major Bay Area employment hubs means the county and municipalities have not had to focus on traditional economic development activities such as business attraction. and job creation. However, the pandemic and other previously known disruptive forces, such as e-commerce, mean that our small businesses, mostly serving the local market, will face increased pressure and competition.
Meanwhile, a new wave of entrepreneurs are starting businesses in Marin at a faster rate than ever. The growth of the life sciences and “green” sectors presents significant opportunities for more well-paying jobs, while our opportunities in tourism and hospitality remain as strong as ever. It is essential to intentionally focus on the opportunities that will be created in our economy in the future.
The Strategic Vitality Plan provides the county with a roadmap to leverage the power of our local economy to create a high quality of life for all residents. That’s why it’s important, and that’s probably why it passed unanimously.
Mike Blakeley, of San Anselmo, is CEO of the Marin Economic Forum.