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San Rafael, CA
July 18, 2024 11:56pm
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San Rafael, California is an ideal place to set up a business. The city is a little north of San Francisco, and set in a beautiful open area amidst rolling hills. The city is the economic and cultural center of Marin County and provides amenities that support a good quality of life for its residents. The business base here is healthy and diverse.  Public schools and stable income levels have made the city a desirable place for people to buy homes and start families.

San Rafael’s businesses are located around the city with some clustered in the downtown area. The businesses in San Rafael are primarily represented in the following industries: auto, business and professional, food services, education, financial services, fitness, healthcare, construction, lodging, marketing, government, organizations, retail, and services.

Autodesk and Westamerica Bank are both headquartered in San Rafael.

Autodesk, Inc. creates 3D design, engineering and entertainment software for use in the manufacturing, architecture, building, construction, and media and entertainment industries. Autodesk customers have collected 16 Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects using their products. Recently the company has moved into the mobile space with apps for iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Android.

Westamerica Bank is a regional community bank with more than 90 offices and two trust offices in 21 Northern and Central California counties throughout Northern and Central California state.

Based on the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce, the following companies make up Marin's largest private-sector employers:

• Kaiser Permanente
• Marin General Hospital
• Fireman's Fund Insurance
• Autodesk
• BioMarin Pharmaceutical
• Safeway
• Comcast
• Macy's
• Bradley Real Estate
• Dominican University of California
• Wells Fargo Bank
• Kentfield Rehabilitation & Specialty Hospital
• Community Action Marin
• Costco Wholesale

San Rafael has had a long relationship with the movie industry. The Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, which screens local and international films, was featured in American Graffiti. Portions of American Graffiti were shot in downtown San Rafael.

In 1970, George Lucas shot the film THX 1138 at the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael. The city soon became a center for the entertainment industry, especially for special effects and technology used in films. In 1970 George Lucas founded Lucasfilm. Lucasfilm was the production company for Star Wars and Indiana Jones. The production company still remains in San Rafael with some operations having moved to San Francisco in 2005. Lucasfilm became an anchor in San Rafael for video game developers, with several major studios located in the city, including Brøderbund Software, Stormfront Studios, Visual Concepts, Totally Games, THX, Factor 5, Telltale Games, and Mind Control Software.

Lucas founded Industrial Light & Magic in 1975 to create special effects for his films and as a service to other filmmakers.


San Rafael has two wineries Starry Night Winery and Homefire of Sonoma. Starry Night Winery is in its 12th year as a bonded winery.  Starry Night Winery uses the finest grapes available and processes them gently with the least impact to their quality and flavor. The Winery has three unique brands Starry Night Winery, Michael Forrest Winery and Kovács Nimród Winery.

Homefire of Sonoma specializes in creating robust Zinfandels sourced from select vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley sites.

Local Business Spotlights

Marin County Health & Human Services is an excellent example of a business that serves San Rafael. The organization is dedicated to ensuring residents of San Rafael are healthy and safe and offer services that range from helping consumers apply for health insurance to free community clinics. This is the place to report suspected abuse of a child or elder, get a birth certificate or keep up to date on vaccinations. Marin County Health & Human Services also helps residents apply for welfare, food stamps or employment training assistance. It is no wonder that Marin has been ranked the number one healthiest County in California three years in a row.

The Dominican University of California is another great educational institution in the city. This university ranks as a major employer in the area. It offers undergraduate and graduate courses, and professional and continuing education for working adults. The athletics department has both women and men's teams including basketball, cross country, golf, and soccer. There are sports camps for those who are looking to get back into sports.

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