Thursday, October 22, 2015

Solano reps pitch Travis on Capitol Hill

By Todd R. Hansen From page A1 | October 22, 2015

FAIRFIELD — The future of Travis Air Force Base – from expanded missions to new development projects and water – was on the agenda of area representatives who lobbied Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

“Another base realignment and closure (debate) is inevitable,” Fairfield Mayor Harry Price said from the nation’s capital. “And that’s why we are doing what we are doing to keep Travis off that list.”

The discussions marked the need to maintain the KC-10 Extender mission, and perhaps expansion with the KC-46 aerial tankers, the community partnership efforts that include two development projects and the less-sexy but vital talks about securing a reliable water source for the base.

Price said he was encouraged by the local group’s meetings with Reps. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, as well as their meetings with staff members for Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

Perhaps even more rewarding, Price said, was the discussions they had with Gov. Jerry Brown’s office staff in Washington, D.C. Price said Brown’s staff surprised him with their knowledge of the Travis situation.

“I think we were encouraged by the governor’s role on the military council,” said Price, adding the local representatives also met with professional staff members from the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services.

The group, which was scheduled to meet Thursday with Pentagon officials, includes Mayor Len Augustine and Councilwoman Dilenna Harris from Vacaville, Fairfield City Manager David White and Solano County Economic Development Corp. executive Sandy Person.

Harris is there as chairwoman of the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee. Augustine spent 28 years in the Air Force, including assignments at the Pentagon and nearby Andrews Air Force Base.

The trip was funded through the Travis Community Consortium. The cost of the trip was not immediately known.

Price said it is critical that the KC-10 tankers remain at Travis, and if they were to be replaced by the new KC-46, then that mission be assigned to the 6,383-acre base located about 3 miles east of Fairfield.

Price said it is the Air Force’s position is that both the KC-10 and KC-46 tankers are necessary.

“And Travis has land space for both of them,” Price said.

Two development projects were also on the agenda.

The first is the on-base development of a new central civil engineering facility to replace more than 50 scattered and sometimes antiquated engineering operations and buildings. Officials said it would make the base far more efficient.

Augustine said the general budget for the project is between $20 million and $30 million. He said it would not only centralize those operations, but also free up space needed around flight operations on the base.

What is most unusual about the proposal is it would be funded through the Solano County bonding capacity, rather than the base trying to qualify for federal construction funding, which is not available at this time.

There is no specific time line for the project, officials said, but they would prefer sooner than later.

“Our plan is we want to move forward with the base as quickly as possible,” White said.

The group also received encouragement for the concept of developing about 70 acres not far from the Fairfield-Vacaville train station project, also part of the Air Force Community Partnership Initiative. If the plan moves forward, it could provide additional revenue for base operations through lease of the land.

“Nothing is on paper, so anything is possible,” Augustine said. “But I don’t think it would be housing. It would more likely be commercial and maybe some light industrial.”

While expansion on and around the base is vital, Price said, it is just as important to establish regulations that prevent negative impacts by future development, everything from solar and wind turbine projects to meteorological towers.

Also at the forefront of the discussions was the need for Travis to secure a more reliable water source.

The base gets its water from Vallejo and on-base wells. Eventually, the Vallejo Lake Frey and Lake Madigan sources will end, and the plan is to develop more groundwater resources.

White said Travis officials are in discussions with Fairfield and Vacaville to supply a secondary water source to the base in the event there are short-term problems with a well, or as yet to be determined by an ongoing groundwater study, the overall impact on the regional aquifer.

A $1 million infrastructure project has been outlined. White said the base has available funds to pay for the work, which would be completed by Fairfield.

“It’s important to get your project to the top of the list,” Augustine said of the trip. “And it renews (Washington officials’) confidence to know that there are people who support Travis Air Force Base.”

Reach Todd R. Hansen at 427-6919 or

City leaders carry message of support for Travis Air Force Base to Washington D.C.

By Melissa Murphy, The Reporter, Vacaville

Posted: 10/21/15, 10:23 PM PDT | Updated: 7 hrs ago

A trip to Washington D.C. by local leaders this week was all about Travis Air Force Base.

“We’re here to show our support for the base as part of our community,” said Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine. “We want to maintain that relationship.”

Augustine was joined by City Councilwoman Dilenna Harris, who went representing the Travis Regional Armed Force Committee, Solano Economic Development Corporation President Sandy Person, Fairfield Mayor Harry Price and Fairfield City Manager David White.

Augustine said the group is there to show the leaders in the Senate and Congress that the entire county supports Travis.

“We want to show that we work together to provide assistance to the base and that the base supports the community,” he said.

Also, they were there to meet with leaders and their staff to discuss their ideas for the future at the base and to voice some concerns.

He explained that they met with the staff of Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, Congressmen Mike Thompson, D-Solano, and John Garamendi, D-Solano, as well as Gov. Jerry Brown’s Washington D.C. staff.

With a goal of helping the base be more efficient, the Mayor said that building one civil engineering complex would pull several offices together that are scattered throughout the base. Additionally, moving the passenger terminal near the cargo terminal would be helpful.

We want to see changes that will allow for more opportunities that will help the administration and the mission of Travis, Augustine said.

“We want to make sure that Travis Air Force Base not only stays open, but adds missions,” he said.

He added that there are certain things that are of concern and that includes the lack of money and authorization for new projects as well as continued threats of sequestration.

Meanwhile, Augustine said leaders are focusing on the KC-46 aircraft scheduled to replace the KC-10, both are refueling jets.

The mayor emphasized that Travis wants to be considered for the next procurement, but at the same time make room available at the base. The replacements don’t necessarily mean that they’ll be at the current bases of the KC-10. If the jets aren’t replaced then it’s important that the remaining KC-10s continue to receive financial support for maintenance at the base.

Also, the group of leaders wants to make sure that nothing stands in its way of conducting its mission, not wind turbines, not solar developments, not housing developments, nor bird strikes.

Solano County has a moratorium on the new development of wind and solar projects until an Airforce Land Use Compatibility Plan is in place.

“Moratoriums run out, we want something more permanent,” Augustine said.

While the schedule for the short trip — the group left Tuesday night and will return this evening — has been busy he said the government leaders on the East Coast have been very receptive and supportive.

Harris said taking the trip is more beneficial than just talking over the phone from Vacaville.

“There is strength in numbers,” she said. “It’s been a very productive trip.”

“Coming here shows them that we’re working together and that we’re committed and making the sacrifice for the trip,” Harris continued. “It’s always easier to sit down across the table with the staffers, that way they can see the genuine passion and commitment. It does make a difference when you’re face to face.”

Augustine agreed and added that while they were there to share a message of support of Travis, they also gained a lot of information.

“We want to protect the base,” he said. “It adds to the economy of our entire county.”

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Local congressman, CEO share insight into success

The Reporter

By Kimberly K. Fu,, @ReporterKimFu on Twitter
Posted: |

Congressman Mike Thompson, D-Solano, was keynote speaker at Friday’s breakfast of Solano Economic Development Corporation members. Kimberly K. Fu — The Reporter

Shelley Berkley, CEO and senior provost of Touro University Western Division, was a guest speaker on Friday at the Solano EDC breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield. Kimberly K. Fu — The Reporter

Powerhouse leaders Congressman Mike Thompson, D-Solano, and Shelley Berkley, CEO and senior provost of Touro University Western Division, shared insight on success at Friday’s Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast gathering.

With humor and heart, the pair — once coworkers in Washington, D.C. when Berkley served Nevada’s 1st congressional district — detailed their pathways to high-powered positions.

Thompson, a Vietnam veteran, talked about growing up in a middle class St. Helena neighborhood and being a high school dropout who thought he was too cool for school.

The real world taught his younger self otherwise, he said, especially when he joined the Army. So when he got out, he obtained his GED, got his bachelor’s, then his high school diploma, and, finally, his masters. It was a backwards way of getting his education, he said, but it worked for him.

He entered politics to make a difference and focused on creating and growing jobs.

“I feel very privileged and highly honored to go to Washington and represent the people of my district,” Thompson said.

When at his office in Solano County, Thompson enjoys visiting local businesses, learning more about them and lending a hand when he can.

“I think we can do more,” he pledged.

Berkley, meanwhile, spoke of being the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants.

Her family — which included a waiter dad and homemaker mom — moved from New York to Las Vegas when she was a child.

“They spoke no English, had no skills, no money. The only thing they had when they came to these shores was a dream,” she said. “Their dream was that their children and their children’s children would have a better life.”

Berkley said she always wanted to be in public service, so that’s what she pursued. She entered politics and served in the Nevada State Legislature beginning in 1983. Decades later, she retired. And was called out of retirement to serve at Touro.

“What I’m doing now is the thrill of a lifetime,” she said. “Touro University is nothing short of amazing.”

Next to the University of California system, Touro graduates the most doctors in the U.S., she pointed out.

For more information on the Solano EDC, visit

Thompson, Touro CEO talk of origins

By Ryan McCarthy From page A3 | October 17, 2015                                                                 
Daily Republic
Congressman Mike Thompson speaks at the Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast, at the Fairfield Hilton Garden Inn on Friday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)
Congressman Mike Thompson speaks at the Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast, at the Fairfield Hilton Garden Inn on Friday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD - The high school dropout who became a congressman from Northern California spoke Friday at the Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast – and so did a former congresswoman from Nevada who said she often thinks of herself “as my grandparents’ American dream.”

The “Modest beginnings to national spotlight” event brought U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and Shelley Berkley, a congressional representative from 1998-2013 in Nevada, who is now chief executive officer of Tour University Western Division, to talk about their youths.

Thompson’s 5th District includes part of Solano County.

Thompson said he dropped out of high school after the last basketball season, served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, went to Napa Community College and received a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Chico.

He talked about growing up in a middle-class family in St. Helena.

“I thought I was in pretty tall cotton,” Thompson said at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield. Berkley, elected to Congress the same year as Thompson, said she is the granddaughter of immigrants who came to the United States to escape the Holocaust during World War II and arrived in America with no money or skills. All they had was a dream, Berkley said.

Her father took the family from upstate New York in the 1960s with plans to work in Southern California as a waiter, and stopped in Las Vegas for a night.  “We never left,” Berkley said.

Fewer than 100,000 people lived then in Las Vegas Valley, which is now home to about 2 million residents.

Berkley spoke about her work as CEO and senior provost for Touro University Western Division.

“I visited Mare Island,” she said of the university campus in Vallejo. “I thought, this is the most extraordinary place on Earth.”

“We love what we do at Touro,” Berkley added about the campus in Solano County, one of 32 Touro facilities in the world, including others in Jerusalem, Berlin and Paris.

A total of 135 medical students are admitted yearly from 6,300 applicants, she said. Touro has pharmacy, nursing and education programs as well.

“We are creating professionals who are going to take care of all of you for a generation to come,” Berkley said.

Thompson spoke about the mix of industries in Benicia, the business home of Muscle Milk and where equipment for oil refineries is also manufactured.

The congressman said the most recent fiasco in Washington, D.C. is talk about shutting down the government to end funding for Planned Parenthood. “When you shut down the government everything comes to halt,” Thompson said.

Solano County, he said, receives about $1.4 billion yearly via the federal government – $770 million in Social Security, $370 million in Medicare and $200 million in veterans benefits.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or

Friday, October 2, 2015

Solano County seeks firm for economic diversity study

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times-Herald

Posted: 10/01/15, 11:20 PM PDT

Solano County officials expect to have a specific plan for diversifying the countywide economy by 2017, ensuring it’s not overly reliant on Travis Air Force Base or any other one industry, they said.

To do that, the county has issued a Request for Proposal seeking qualified consulting firms to conduct a comprehensive study of the local economy, with a focus on developing a countywide strategic approach for diversifying the economic base. The submission deadline is Oct. 19, county officials said.

This is the second phase of the Moving Solano Forward Economic Diversification Study project begun two years ago with another study that identified four main most promising industry “clusters” in the county, spokesman James Bezek said.

The first phase identified the clusters — energy, food chain, medical and life sciences — and set a five-year time frame to study those, said Bezek, managing analyst administering the project for the county.

“They had another grant opportunity and we applied for and got that,” said Bezek.

The grants are from the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Economic Adjustment.

The $369,860, 2013 Phase One grant paid for a study that identified not only the county’s important industry clusters, but also 13 strategies for retaining and expanding existing businesses and recruiting new ones in those clusters, Bezek said.

The $453,460 Phase Two grant is for a new study to build on those, he said.

“The Department of Defense routinely goes out and works on economic diversification of communities around their bases,” Bezek said. “People who work at the base often live in the surrounding cities and there is a potential resource for our economy to benefit from that.”

The process should take about 18 months, until February, 2017, said Bezek and Solano Economic Development Corp.’s Sean Quinn, who is involved in the project from that agency’s side.

“At the end we should have a better understanding of the county’s assets and how they can be showcased to recruit desired businesses,” Quinn said. “It will also develop a comprehensive data base for the public, identify key needs within the clusters and how to meet those.”

The first study determined what’s needed in terms of a labor pool, real estate and other specifics and how best to address them so officials can retain, expand and attract new business within those clusters, and the types of ancillary enterprises that support them, Quinn said.

“It’s a very hands-on approach to coming up with implementation efforts,” he said. “Getting down to individual sites. It’s not pie-in-the-sky at all.”

The study should also produce an assessment of countywide strategic projects and what improvements are needed along transportation corridors, Quinn said.

“And it will look for infrastructure improvements we can do to improve the prospects for private sector investment and then look for funding sources for achieving a lot of the goals,” he said. “Phase Two actually looks at key sites in the county and what it would take to development them to help diversify the economy,” Quinn said. “At the end, the county will have a comprehensive specific plan on how to diversify the economy and tools identified and individual sites prioritized.”

The Solano County Board of Supervisors approved the grant application in June and the grant officially started Sept. 1, Quinn said. The next step is the Request For Proposals, he said.

“The goal is to finalize the search process by mid November and make selection soon after that,” he said.

Anyone interested in receiving the RFP or finding out more about the project should contact James Bezek, Sr. Management Analyst with Solano County at (707) 784-6112 and

Contact Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Consulting firm sought for study of Solano County’s local economy

Solano County has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking qualified consulting firms to conduct a comprehensive study of the local economy with a focus on developing a countywide strategic approach for diversifying the economic base.

The deadline for submission is Oct. 19.

The purpose of the study is to develop specific actions to help reduce the reliance and vulnerability of the Solano County economy to fluctuations in defense spending associated with Travis Air Force Base. The intent is to create economic development activities and projects that grow the countywide economy.

“The County is committed to working with the Solano Economic Development Corporation and the seven cities to grow the local economy and create jobs for our residents,” said Solano County Administrator Birgitta E. Corsello. “Solano County has a lot to offer to help existing businesses expand and to attract new businesses.”
As the second phase of the Moving Solano Forward Economic Diversification Study, the comprehensive study aims to focus on implementation of activities and projects to grow the local economy.
The Solano Economic Development Corporation is a partner with the County in this project. The project is funded by a grant from the U.S Department of Defense, Office of Economic Adjustment.
Anyone interested in receiving the RFP or finding out more about the project should contact James Bezek, senior management analyst with Solano County at 784-6112 and

Friday, September 18, 2015

Water, economy topics at Impact Solano conference

By Kevin W. Green From page A3 | September 18, 2015

FAIRFIELD — Water and the economy were the major topics at the fifth annual Impact Solano business conference presented Thursday by the North Bay Business Journal at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Micah Weinberg, who heads the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, discussed the economy in the Bay Area and Solano County; while Wade Crowfoot, deputy cabinet secretary and senior adviser in the governor’s office, addressed water issues.

Forecasters are optimistic of continued growth in the region, Weinberg said of economic conditions in the region. The area has experienced a steady period of economic growth, rather than a spike, he said. Some forecasts predict the Bay Area economy will get even hotter, he said.

What happens with the economy during the next two to three years will greatly affect Solano County, Weinberg said. Large projects and some things that were anticipated prior to the Great Recession could come back into focus, he said.

One of the industries leading the way in job growth in the Bay Area is construction, which is also doing well in Solano County, he said. Housing permits, however, do remain well below peak amounts experienced in the 1970s and 1980s, he said.

Bright spots for Solano County include construction, agriculture, aircraft construction, falling unemployment and decent per capita income growth, Weinberg said.

Two major issues faced by the overall region are a lack of affordable housing and the lack of a comprehensive transportation plan, he said.

In wrapping up his presentation, Weinberg talked of a mega-region that would extend from the Bay Area to Sacramento. Solano County would be in the heart of such an area, he said. The county would be well positioned to take advantage of a mega-region, he said.

Water and the drought

Much of Crowfoot’s discussion centered on the drought. He also pointed, however, to climate change as a major issue contributing to the situation.

Droughts come in cycles and the state has endured them in the past, Crowfoot said. What has changed now is the climate, Crowfoot said. In addition to rainfall, California’s thirst for water has been sustained through dry months by the snowpack in the mountains. But now there isn’t a snowpack because it’s warmer, he said.

The situation has also affected the way major fires have spread, Crowfoot said.

Incident command teams that determine a strategy in battling a major fire develop computer modeling, running hundreds of forecasts in terms of how the fire will behave, he said. Those forecasts determine where they deploy assets, he said.

The Rocky Fire, the Valley Fire and the Butte Fire spread completely outside of the computer modeling that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had done, based on all the historic data, he said.

Crowfoot also pointed to the spread of the King Fire nearly a year ago.

“That fire made a 15-mile run in one day, which completely stunned the most seasoned Cal Fire veterans in the state,” he said. “Those are the conditions now that we’re facing fighting fires and those are some of the impacts of a changing climate.”

Crowfoot acknowledged the politics of the issue.

“Climate change is, obviously, a political football in Washington, D.C., certainly in the presidential primary – but I can tell you from somebody who’s living the impact day to day, it’s real and it’s impacting Californians,” he said.

Crowfoot also talked of the human impact of the drought.

While residents in Solano County and other regions have made big cutbacks in their water usage and experienced browning lawns, they have not felt the weight of the drought in the same manner as residents in San Joaquin County or parts of the Central Valley.

About 5,000 to 10,000 people there don’t have running water in their homes because domestic wells have gone dry, he said.

Crowfoot also discussed what El Nino might mean to Californians. Despite the predictions of El Nino, it won’t necessarily bring rains to Northern California, he said. The message is clear that we need to continue to conserve, he said.

While officials are pleased with the 30 percent reduction in water usage that has been reached in the state, they want to maintain that level, he said.

“We want to make sure when it does rain again that we don’t revert back,” he said.

Continued restrictions will be needed to assure there will be enough water for the future, he said.

Questioned about the distribution of water, Crowfoot said about 80 percent goes for agriculture and 20 percent goes to communities.

Growing food takes a lot of water, he said. It’s a major part of what is driving the economy in many parts of the state, he said.

He pointed out, meanwhile, that agriculture is working to be more efficient in its water use.

Also participating in Thursday’s business conference was a panel, representing three Solano County businesses. Panel members were Ron Lanza, vice president of Wooden Valley Winery; Brooks Pedder, senior managing director of the commercial real estate firm DTZ; and Kent Fortner, founder, Mare Island Brewing Company.

The conference was co-hosted by Travis Credit Union and underwritten by NorthBay Healthcare and Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty. The conference is produced in collaboration with the Solano Economic Development Corporation.

Reach Kevin W. Green at 427-6974 or