Marin County’s businesses have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact will have lasting effects on our local economy. Leading Business Associations at Keep Marin Working launched a survey to understand the immediate stability and financial needs of our businesses to better support them moving forward. This survey was created for businesses throughout the County to provide information to be used to inform initiatives and activities that forge opportunities for their survival and success during and after the pandemic.
Keep Marin Working (KMW), a collaboration of business and economic development organizations, drafted and distributed the survey in both English and Spanish. The results painted a picture of major financial struggle for businesses across the County during this time. Of these participating businesses, 78% percent had seen a decline in revenue causing much concern about their financial security and economic stability and not knowing how long they can survive. In fact, 58% of the businesses that participated in the survey said they are using their personal savings, accumulating massive credit card debt or borrowing from family members just to stay in business. Seventeen businesses have said they have permanently closed, and thirty-two additional businesses say they plan on closing for good in the near future. Almost 70% of respondents stated their business decreased by 10% or more with 35% stating revenues were down between 50-100%. When asked what their businesses needed to survive, surprisingly 25% of businesses said they could maintain in operation for six months if they received a grant of $5,000 or less, while twenty one percent felt that $20,000- $50,000 would be necessary to survive.
Of the participants, 70% of the businesses that participated have been in operation for over 10 years. 74% had 5 or less employees and 92% had 20 or less employees. 44% were single owner businesses and over 66% were women owned. 67% percent of the participants were from the city of San Rafael, 8% from Novato, nearly 6% from unincorporated Marin, and 5% from the city of Mill Valley with the remainder from every other local jurisdiction.
In review of the survey data, it was revealed that the businesses in Marin County were affected dramatically by the COVID-19 pandemic and went to great lengths to survive. In fact, without personal financial support and support from a local, state or federal source a significant portion would not survive. This shows us the temporary tenacity that these sole proprietors and brick-and-mortar entities have, yet many of these businesses are hanging on by a thread.
The most alarming fact was that 58% of the Marin businesses have been forced to use personal
savings, credit card debt or family loans for a means to continue operations. The life-blood of
Marin’s economy is in the retention and expansion of our small businesses. As we have witnessed
many of our local businesses adapting and embracing the changes in our environment, they are
taking on more and more debt. Uncertainty is still a factor and it is our concern that many of these
local businesses will simply not be able to take on more debt. If our businesses do not re-invest in
their operations and grow in the coming years, it will slow down or even shut down our local
Given these findings, there is an urgent need to assist Marin’s businesses now to help them stay
afloat, so they can continue to provide us with the jobs and services we need. Based on the
collected information, the KMW group strongly recommends another county-wide business relief
grant program. It is estimated that if the program was funded up to $2,000,000, the county could
provide immediate relief to save our local businesses. This would drive a quicker economic recovery
that would benefit all of Marin. However, we need more than a program that provides immediate
relief; we need a program that provides ongoing support until the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic
have dissipated. KMW recommends a longer-term commitment to recover affected industries to
secure an economic base in Marin that is strong, diverse and resilient.
Using a well-known survey tool, the survey was emailed out through newsletters and posted on
websites and in social media channels by all organizations in collaboration with the cities and the
County. The survey was available for three weeks from February 3rd to February 24th. A total of 1191 surveys (capturing over 10% of the total licenses countywide) were completed, and in these results, there was a fair distribution sample of small, medium and large businesses representing every major business sector. Although we translated the survey in Spanish, distribution of the survey to Spanishspeaking business owners proved to be more complex, due to digital literacy and the digital divide that exists in Marin. We acknowledge that more work needs to be done to reach both Latino and other BIPOC owned businesses and we will continue to work with our community partners to capture and track this data. This survey is a strong start that represents an ample array of businesses across the region.
Keep Marin Working (KMW), is a collaborative of diverse Marin organizations, whose purpose is to
coordinate and strengthen the voice of business throughout the county and take positions to create a more business-friendly climate. This group includes the North Bay Leadership Council, Marin Realtors Association, Marin Economic Forum, Marin Builders Association, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Marin, San Rafael Chamber of Commerce, Latino Council, Novato Chamber of Commerce, Marin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Canal Alliance.
Contact: Josh Townsend