Only in Marin

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Cash Caches, Real Estate, Organics and Cow Dung

Community banks are something of an endangered species while the mega depositories grow larger, busting the rules along the way.

Hello Wells Fargo.

So when Bank of Marin buys up Bank of Napa in a deal valued at $51 million, it’s notable. With 10 ATMs and branches in Marin, six in Sonoma , three in Alameda and one each in Napa and San Francisco, Bank of Marin has moved beyond the North Bay. And with the addition of two new Napa outposts as well as $246 million in assets, Bank of Marin will end up with 22 branches and $2.4 billion in assets.

This is the first time that Bank of Marin has made a move into Napa on its own. In 2011, the FDIC asked the Novato-based bank to pick up Napa’s Charter Oak Bank.

Renovations, sell offs and build outs up Novato Way

Speaking of locals making good, BioMarin Pharmaceutical has opened a new manufacturing facility in Novato, the result of a renovating a 25,000-square-foot building that is now the world’s largest gene manufacturing facility, according to the company. The gene therapy produced in Novato has the potential to eradicate the root of the bleeding condition known as hemophilia A.

The biotech company specializes in developing treatments for rare diseases with small patient pools. Its products are often granted orphan disease designations by the Food and Drug Administration, which gives the therapies certain competitive advantages in the marketplace, including protecting the approved drugs for seven years from competing treatments.

The Novato campus has 700 staffers while the downtown San Rafael headquarters clocks in at 1,000 employees.

After sitting empty for better than a decade, the building that Pini Hardware used to call home downtown was sold to Bromich LLC by the Prado Group for $2.6 million.

A Novato stalwart, Pini moved to Nave Center years ago. At this writing in early August, Bromich is kicking around ideas about a mixed use project that would include both commercial and living space, though it is being careful not to get too far out over its skis before taking to locals on what they think would be a good idea.

A non-empty building is a dandy start.

The successful conversions of the old hangers at Hamilton Landing into office buildings, has inspired a 53,000-square-foot building to be slated for Hanger Avenue. Over the years, the unique office park has had plenty of high profile tenants moving on but now is leased up tight, making a construction project pencil out. Building permits should be finalized by the first of the year.

Orgasmic pie and organics

Fans of loud paint and decent pizza are in mourning as Pizza Orgasmica is no more. The brew house that caused ripples in San Rafael with its bright paint closed without warning or reason. A San Francisco location is still open for locals needing a fix.

Amy’s Kitchen, the Petaluma organic packaged food ace, is planning on opening a drive-through in Corte Madera in the spot where Denny’s died. Amy’s was founded in 1987 and employs 2,400 folks. The company already has a drive-through location in Rohnert Park where patrons dine on vegetarian organic fare that also includes vegan and gluten free options.

What could be more Marin?

Well maybe the sale of the 100-acre Star Route Farms by Warren and Amy Weber for $10.4 million to the University of San Francisco. USF plans on using the farm for field research, teaching and community education.

Star Route has been in business since 1974 and is considered the oldest continuous certified organic grower in the state. Moreover, Star Route produce has been a staple in some of the best restaurants in the Bay Area in addition to making folks happy at Marin’s farmer’s markets as well as the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

Who knew the Fighting Don’s were in the market for a legendary organic farm?    

Your Marin moment

From the “You can’t make this crap up department”…

In addition to producing delicious products like organic ice cream, West Marin’s Strauss Family Creamery cares about the environment, which is why it has added an all-electric feed truck that gets its fuel from methane derived from cow manure processed by a methane digester.

The truck, which Strauss converted, is used to feed the cows so in addition to producing milk the heifers are also generating fuel, essentially multi-tasking, making them the hardest working farm animals in show business.

The self-sustaining organic farm has been producing energy since 2004 thanks to the 120 pounds of manure produced by each cow every day.

Which dwarfs even the Trump White House. 


Bill Meagher is a contributing editor with NorthBay biz magazine and an associate editor for The Deal and TheStreet where he writes about smallcap finance, healthcare and does investigative reporting from the west coast office in Petaluma.




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