Marin business forecasters see slow, steady expansion

Marin business forecasters see slow, steady expansion in 2015 By Janis on Twitter 07 Dec 2014, 10:52 PM Manufacturing associates prepare buffers for protein purification operations at BioMarin’s facilities in Novato. In January, the drug company bought the San Rafael Corporate Center campus for about 117 million. (Courtesy BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc.) After years of struggle followed by recovery, nearly every industry in Marin is growing and on course to continue slow, steady expansion for years to come, experts say. “Marin County was recovering in 2011 and 2012, but it was really in 2013 and this year when you saw the fruits of recovery blossom throughout Marin’s various industries,” said Robert Eyler, head of the Marin Economic Forum. “In the first few years of recovery, we saw industries connected to tech and biotech doing well, while others languished,” said Eyler, a Sonoma State University professor. In the last two years, housing, retail, manufacturing, personal services and construction have shown growth, he said. Personal income is projected to grow at an average rate of 2.2 percent between 2014 and 2016; payroll employment shows continued growth; Marin’s taxable sales per capita are the third-highest in the state; and the median home price has hovered around $1 million all year. Sources across Marin had similar observations. Commercial occupancy has continued to improve in San Rafael, said Tom Adams, an economic development specialist with the city. “One significant activity this year is that BioMarin (Pharmaceutical Inc.) purchased the Corporate Center for their corporate campus in January,” Adams said. “They have been working with their tenants as their leases expire and to buy some of them out. An instance of that is that Marin Clean Energy will soon be moving into a downtown office building at Fifth and Mission.” Sales tax revenues are increasing in San Rafael, Adams said. For example, he said, sales tax receipts for San Rafael’s second quarter this year were 10 percent higher than those in the second quarter of 2013. Lumber and building materials saw an increase, Adams said. “So construction is continuing to come back.” Also, “New auto sales were a large part of it. We have new dealerships, and we also had a temporary Porsche dealer here as Mill Valley offices were being renovated,” Adams said. “Things improved in 2013 and 2014 and all indications are that they will continue to improve in 2015,” Adams said. Auto sales likely will continue to be strong with the low price of gas, he said. Corte Madera hub Auto sales have been strong in Corte Madera as well, said George Warman, the town’s finance director. Corte Madera is among the retail hubs in Marin, boasting major shopping centers The Village at Corte Madera and the Corte Madera Town Center. “Auto sales tax receipts went up 15 percent, by $126,000,” Warman said. “The Chrysler-Plymouth-Jeep dealership just opened and the Tesla dealership is doing quite well.” On the other hand, “if you take those two away, the Town Center is treading water,” Warman said. Sales tax receipts from the Town Center remained basically the same in the fiscal year 2012-13 and the fiscal year 2013-14. “We’re showing that our stores the last couple years are showing about a 2 to 3 percent annual (sales) increase on the average,” countered Stan Hoffman, general manager of Town Center Corte Madera. “The numbers are down not because the stores are doing fewer sales, but because we have kept four stores vacant because of a pending construction project. Every store here could be up but we still could be down compared to last year because of a couple of vacancies.” Regarding another Corte Madera center, Warman said, “The Village’s performance is not as strong as you would expect it to be. What’s happening with retail stores are that people are buying on the Internet. They look at stuff in the store and then go home and buy it.” “Overall, we’re doing better. The sectors that are doing it are auto sales and electronic sales. Those are the two sectors that are doing well” in Corte Madera, Warman said. Mill Valley projects “There is just a ton of development going on in this town right now,” said Jim Welte, director of membership for the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce. “The residential piece of it has gotten the most attention this year, but there have also been a number of commercial redevelopment projects. “The most prominent corner of downtown has been a construction site for all but one month of the year,” Welte said, acknowledging that there have been growing pains. Other challenges include controversy around a half-dozen super-sized houses under construction at the same time on Lovell Avenue. “But once it’s done, it will be fantastic,” Welte said. “We are certainly heading in the right direction.” Novato’s pipeline The same appears to be true for Novato, which has seen several wins in the commercial arena in 2014, according to Chris Stewart, the city’s economic development manager. After years of deterioration and neglect, The Square shopping center in Novato will get a facelift and its long-empty grocery store building will be demolished to make way for up to 100 apartments. Owner Jeffry Chang has plans to tear down the former DeLano’s and build 50 to 100 apartments in two or three buildings. Also, “I think we’ll see (developer) ROIC move forward with their development on the North Redwood Corridor. They say they have found two anchor tenants,” Stewart said, referring to another project long in the making. Stewart also brought up a trend mentioned by others: San Francisco spillover. As commercial and residential rents soar in San Francisco, companies move to Marin and other surrounding counties and towns. This has led to increased rents for commercial buildings in southern Marin, causing further spillover to the north. “I think we’ll see the commercial office space start to lease up (in Novato) in 2015, which will be exciting,” Stewart said. In 2014, Stewart announced the new North Bay Bio/Life Science Cluster Alliance. He is working with the Marin Economic Forum and representatives from Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties three-year, $1.5 million marketing campaign to bring life science firms to the city, Marin and the North Bay. “I think we’ll continue to see the participation of other cities and counties in the alliance and stepped-up activity growing that industry in the North Bay in 2015,” Stewart said. Small business scene Going from the macro to the micro level, Marin small businesses seemed to feel the experts were on the right track. “We are projecting our best year yet for next year, because the economy is improving,” said Nicole Hitchcock, who co-owns NH2 Salon in Novato with Nina Husen. “People are not going to go to a luxury salon during a recession. Now that the stock market is up and they have equity back in their homes, they feel more confident coming here instead of a mid-range salon,” Hitchcock said. Revenue for the seven-year-old salon is up 39 percent since 2008 and 16 percent since 2012, she said. “Things are going well,” said Christian Dean, owner of San Rafael’s Magic Flute music store. “Revenue is up this year. As far as Christmas shopping, so far, so good.” Shoppers also seemed upbeat. “Things have improved,” said Ivagene Brauner of San Anselmo. She noted that living through the recession had left her insecure, though. “After the market dropped, you wonder if it will happen again.” “I remember coming to Northgate (mall) in 2008 when it was like a ghost town. It’s improved greatly,” said Carla Grandy of San Rafael. “It looks like things will continue to improve.” by Taboola Sponsored Links From The Web Watch: 2015 KTM 390 Duke Motorcycle Review RevZilla 15 Celebs Who Are Aging Gracefully POPHitz 9 Places Where You Can Retire In Paradise Cheaply! Explaining EmDrive, the ‘physics-defying’ thruster even NASA is puzzled over Digital Trends David N. 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