Monday, March 30, 2015

Transportation funding topic of next Solano EDC breakfast

The Solano Economic Corporation monthly breakfast will focus on “Transportation Funding ... Running on Empty” with keynote speaker Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Solano.

Frazier is the assemblyman for the 11th District and is the chair of the California State Assembly Committee on Transportation.

The April 24 event begins with registration from 7:30 to 8 a.m., followed by breakfast and the program from 8 to 9 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield.

The cost is $25 for Solano EDC members and $35 for non-members.

Complimentary tickets are available, varying on Solano EDC member level.

Notify Solano EDC of cancellations as no-shows will be billed. To register, call 864-1855 or e-mail

Make checks payable to/mail to Solano EDC, 360 Campus Lane, Suite 102, Fairfield, CA 94534. To pay by Visa/Mastercard call the office.

The breakfast is sponsored by NorthBay Healthcare and Travis Credit Union.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

North Bay Business Journal - Solano’s Icon preparing for takeoff

Monday, March 16, 2015, 7:00 am

Solano’s Icon preparing for takeoff


Kirk Hawkins of Icon Aircraft
Kirk Hawkins, founder and CEO, Icon Aircraft at the new Vacaville manufacturing plant during an open house May 14, 2014. (Icon Aircraft)

FAIRFIELD — Reinvesting in agriculture, and commercial expansion among the county’s seven cities in 2014, topped the agenda at the 32nd annual meeting of the Solano Economic Development Corporation earlier this year in Fairfield.

As evidence of continuing growth, guest speaker Kirk Hawkins, founder and CEO of Icon Aircraft in Vacaville, provided an update on the production of its initial A5 amphibious sport and recreation model with first customer deliveries planned later this year, saying that Icon eventually will have a $350 million economic impact on the region.

The first Icon Aircraft production planes are currently undergoing flight verification testing, and 20 of its A5 amphibious light sport aircraft are scheduled to roll off the Vacaville production floor in 2015, following the completion of construction at the facility in August, Hawkins told the meeting audience.

He praised Solano for its business-friendly environment.

“Solano County is a great center for sports enthusiasts with amazing terrain, nearby lakes, year-round flying weather and proximity to world-class destinations,” he said. “The region wanted us and we wouldn’t be here without you. There is a strong labor and talent pool in the area, and we can also pull from the Bay Area’s design and technology community.”

The company has received more than 1,250 aircraft deposits, representing nearly $300 million in backlog. By comparison, Tesla Motors had approximately $100 million in order backlog just prior to its production start, Hawkins noted.

“The idea of democratizing and humanizing flying for sports enthusiasts originated when I attended Stanford University eight years ago,” said the former pilot of F-16 U.S. Air Force fighters and American Airlines 767 jumbo jets.

“The Federal Aviation Administration recognized that there were barriers to flying involving extensive training and flight time experience required for commercial aviation licensing, and established a new sport pilot license as part of its general aviation category allowing the market to grow,” he said.

This new FAA rule change transformed the industry and reinvented the category, allowing flying to become a personal, recreational and lifetime pursuit. This license takes half the time, 20 hours compared with a 40 hours for a private pilot license.

“We want to scale our solution, not scale problems that may be found along the way,” Hawkins said. “That is why we’re starting production with only 20 aircraft this year, rising to an estimated 400 deliveries in 2016 and eventually up to approximately 1,000 aircraft annually in the future, as we establish global awareness and a brand presence in the marketplace.”

Hawkins said there is “deep and pervasive global interest. Some 30 percent of our customers today are outside the U.S., and there is an aviation gold rush in China equal to that in the states.”

Icon has 100 employees. The workforce is expected to ramp up to 500 within the next year and a half.
Currently, Icon is based in Los Angeles, and research, development and production is in Tehachapi. In the third quarter of this year, all these functions will be consolidated in Vacaville when construction activities are completed.

“Flying is fairly easy at the stick-and-rudder level,” Hawkins said. “There is widespread motivation to fly as part of our pursuit of freedom and adventure — which is innate to human nature — creating an emotional connection. … People have fallen in love with our product.”

Icon A5 details

Base price: $189,000
Prerequisite: FAA medical or valid driver’s license
Top air speed: 120 mph (105 knots, 194 kph)
Takeoff speed: 60 mph
Takeoff: 750 feet on land, 800 on water
Range: 300 nautical miles
Altitude limit: 10,000 feet for sport pilots
Flight plan: Not required
Mileage: 20 miles/gallon, aviation or automobile gas.
Engine: 100-horsepower, four-cylinder Rotax 912iS
Maximum takeoff weight: 1,510 lbs.
Useful load: 430-450 lbs., depending on options
Training: 14 days for A5 customers and new pilots or much shorter for those with existing experience. Training beyond the sport license will be added later. Sport pilots can fly only in daytime, with good weather conditions and clear of controlled airspace, unless additional training is received.
Cockpit: Two-seat, sports car-style with Garmin 796 GPS navigation, VHF radio, transponder, intercom and USB music port
Wings: Foldable for trailer transport (custom trailer optional)
Steering: Water rudder, retractable landing gear and Seawings platforms for easy access and water docking
Safety: Spin-resistant airframe, BRS complete airframe parachute, angle-of-attack gauge, LED landing and taxi lights

Other Solano developments

‘Substantial’ agribusiness reinvestment

The county added more than 1.5 million square feet of new commercial and industrial space last year, with wine production, storage and distribution facilities leading the way, according to Colliers International market data presented by Sandy Person, EDC president.

Solano had a 9 percent vacancy rate last year, but that is now down to 6.9 percent (with only 2.1 percent in Vacaville). Unemployment is also down from 7.4 percent a year ago to 6.1 percent in December — with Benicia having the lowest jobless rate of 3.7 percent followed by Dixon, Rio Vista and Vacaville in the 4 percent range, according to the state Employment Development Department.

“There has been a substantial reinvestment in our agriculture infrastructure. Superior Farms, the largest meat packer on the West Coast, is modernizing and expanding, and 4,000 acres of row crops in the county are being converted to walnuts and almonds yielding higher market commodity prices while also increasing land values.”

She said last year “we celebrated the Caymus Vineyards expansion, and the Suisun Valley Farm to Market project featuring a series of Class II bike and pedestrian routes connecting residents to agribusinesses.”

In addition, access to premium grapes and water fueled the purchase by Gallo of two local wineries and vineyards, Ledgewood Creek and Winterhawk.


A highlight for Fairfield last year was Buzz Oates Development’s new Solano Logistics Center, occupied by Saxco International and Encore Glass bottle suppliers.

The current industrial vacancy rate in Fairfield is 3.5 percent. Wine-related businesses now occupy more than 2.5 million square feet of such space, including newcomer Guala Closures.

The Wiseman Co.’s Westside Professional Center II at 2470 Hilborn Rd. off Interstate 80 was the only speculative office building built in 2014.

Suisun City

Suisun City’s Wal-Mart Supercenter is set to open this spring with 300 jobs and be a “significant” source for capturing a portion of the annual $77 million in sales tax dollars needed for city services but are leaking to other communities, according to Person.

The new $700,000 train depot improvement project, to begin construction in 2015, is designed to modernize the region’s commute center for rail and bus services.


The city of Vallejo has two new attractions, the Mare Island Brewing Company Tap Room in the Vallejo Ferry Terminal and the refurbished 1910 Lighthouse event venue at Glen Cove Marina.

The $3.7 million expansion and remodeling of Medic Ambulance facilities has led to an increase from 45 employees and 10 ambulances in 1993 to 220 employees and 55 ambulances today.

Last May, Mare Island Dry Dock was awarded a $5.1 million U.S. Coast Guard contract for dry dock services and ship repairs for the icebreaker Polar Star.

The city of Vallejo also released a request for qualifications (RFQ) on July 18, 2014, seeking qualified respondents to develop all or part of more than 150 acres at the north end of Mare Island.

The city received 11 responses and is currently evaluating three industrial-focused proposals.


The Sacramento Bee’s California Traveler published a color feature on Benicia, and Diablo Magazine named the city of Benicia as the “Best of the East Bay for First Street Retail and a Late Night Spot.” also named Benicia as a “Best City in Northern California for Young Families,” enhancing the city’s tourism and residential appeal.

In its first two years, Benicia’s Business Resource Incentive Program (BRIP) helped 20 businesses achieved annual savings of over $200,000 in reduced energy costs with yearly reductions of 267 metric tons of greenhouse-gas emissions.

The city also received the League of California Cities Helen Putnam Award for “Excellence in City-Business Relations.”

In response, the Benicia City Council allocated an additional $500,000 to the program, creating BRIP2.

Rio Vista

In Rio Vista, the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are considering two sites for a new Fish and Wildlife Service Technology Center, either at the Rio Vista Army Base or at a site across from the Port of Stockton. Final site selection is set to be completed by fall 2016. This center will create an estimated 160 jobs and involve some $85 million of state and federal spending.

Rio Vista was also awarded the 2014 Solano Transportation Authority Award in November for “Rio Vision.” It was a Rural/Urban Design Assistance Team project via the American Institute of Architects that involved a community workshop.


Dixon has added a Brookfield Cottages housing community with 101 units at Parklane. Ms. Person said the Brookfield project is part of the most active building permit period seen in Dixon since 2007.


Vacaville continues to expand with more food retailers and other tenants at The Nut Tree: China Stix, Fuji Sushi, Pieology Pizza, Buckhorn BBQ, Firehouse Subs, Noodles & Co., The Habitat Burger Grill, Travis Credit Union and Verizon Wireless. Vacaville Premium Outlets welcomed North Face Outlet, Oakley Vault, Seven For All Mankind, Kate Spade New York, Bass Shoes, Starbucks, Express, and Toys ‘R’ Us Express. Other new businesses include Journey Coffee and Chick-Fil-A.

The incoming EDC Chairperson is Laura Kuhn, Vacaville city manager. She succeeds Immediate Past Chair Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, former CEO of the Travis Credit Union.

Economic Index highlight of Solano EDC breakfast

Economic Index highlight of Solano EDC breakfast

By Melissa Murphy, The Reporter, Vacaville
Solano County has made some “profound progress” and the business community wants to see that momentum continue.

Friday was filled with good economic news for the county during the monthly breakfast of the Solano Economic Development Corporation.

Congressman John Garamendi, D-Solano, stopped by and commended the business community for enduring the recession and coming out back on top.

“Growth and jobs in our community is absolutely essential,” he said and added that it was great to see the competing business community working together for the good of the county.

Economic Forensics and Analytics Principal Robert Eyler, the morning’s guest speaker, said he had “decent news” to share and that Solano County has gone from recovery mode to expansion mode.

The full 2014 Solano County Index of Economic Community Progress is available online at

Eyler explained that the recovery momentum slowed in 2014, but that is a sign that continued expansion will linger.

A highlight that excited those attending the breakfast is there is a rise in graduation rates in Solano, more than the state of California. Additionally, more students are ready for University of California and California State University than any school year since 2007-08.

Eyler noted that when the economy improves, children stay in school longer because they’re not needed to earn an income for the family.
He also added that the county needs to stay business friendly since the Bay Area is the most important region in the world for now, a plus for Solano County.

The county also needs to be aware of, according to Eyler, the aging population.

“Don’t forget about our seniors,” he said.

In 2014, Solano expanded with 2,300 new jobs, a growth of 1.8 percent and the county’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is at 6.9 percent as it begins 2015.

Additionally, the Index shows that “with a growing economy and reduced government resources, the private sector is becoming more of an engine for growth” in the county.
All standards of living measures are rising in the 2013 data and suggest that 2014 and 2015 also will be years of rising living standards for the county.

While base employment fell a bit in 2014, locally serving jobs grew, a “sign of economic expansion,” according to the Index.

The Index also pointed out that the county is “becoming more diversified in its number of employers/economic base with the private sector leading the way.”

Report on county receives enthusiastic response

Report on county receives enthusiastic response

From page A1 | March 14, 2015 |
 FAIRFIELD — Robert Eyler received an enthusiastic response in reporting on the health of Solano County during a Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast event Friday in Fairfield.

There’s been a shift from recovery to expansion; with growth in jobs, housing and income, Eyler said in presenting his 2014 Index of Economic and Community Progress.

Eyler, principal of Economic Forensics and Analytics, offered a point of view on the difference between recovery and expansion.

“Once you start to go beyond recovery, it’s like a gigantic cruise ship,” Eyler said. “It’s tough to turn around, which in this case is good, since it’s going up.”

With news of growth comes some concerns, however, he said. Those concerns include increased traffic and housing costs, with a decline in affordability, he said.

“So, we’re seeing that on the small negative side of the positive growth,” Eyler said.

His presentation also included positive news about the community, with a decline in foreclosures and graduation rates in Solano County that rose above the statewide levels.

There was also an increase in domestic immigration into the county, from places inside the United States; which outpaced foreign immigration to Solano for the first time since 2009. It’s a sign of attraction toward jobs and businesses, Eyler said.

His annual report also indicated the county is following a trend with regard to its aging population.

Solano’s population continues to get older, along with that of other Bay Area counties and the state, the report said.

“Generally speaking, it’s all good news, expect for some of those traffic and housing issues, which are just byproducts of growth,” Eyler said of the report. “And Solano County’s still a real good place in terms of opportunity, because wages are still relatively low here, commercial space is still relatively plentiful and housing prices are relatively low compared to the rest of the Bay Area or to the rest of Northern California.

“So, Solano is a good place to do business,” he said. “If you add all those parts up, 2015 and 2016 look pretty good for Solano County.”

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who was in attendance at the breakfast Friday, commended members of the Solano Economic Development Corporation for working together for economic growth.

“You’ve got to do it as a group, as a community,” he said.

Fairfield Mayor Harry Price echoed that point.

“I’m just thrilled that the seven cities and the county working together has been a very proven strategy for continued economic development and sustained growth,” he said.

Price said news contained in the report reflects well on the city and the county.

“I think it bodes very well for the city of Fairfield and Solano County in general,” he said. “It’s encouraging to know that our land use policies are paying great dividends now. And the idea that we can improve our transportation network to make it easier for people to get to and from work, whether it’s in the county or outside the county, is great.

“The fact that the train station is ready to come on-line and that ground breaking is now scheduled for late in May,” Price said. “That bodes very well for those who want to live where the quality of life is much better, but work elsewhere. It means we’re going to get some of those folks coming our way.”

Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine was also pleased with information contained in Eyler’s report.

“I think it was good news, obviously,” he said. “Coming from an expert like this, it’s good to hear.”

Augustine did, however, outline future concerns for his community.

“We find in Vacaville, that things are improving,” Augustine said. “However, we have some issues that we’ve got to take care of in our city on a way of expenses, not just income. That is, we’ve got these unfunded liabilities, which concern me greatly. If you look into the future on pension and health care costs and so forth, you’ve got to make up a lot of income to do that or else you’ve got to cut expenses somehow.

“Even though it looks rosy county-wise, I’m cautiously optimistic that the next year or next two years will provide enough impetus to carry us through in the long term,” he said. “That’s where the problem lies. In the short term we had Measure I and M that passed and it allowed us to catch up. But if you go out five years, you’ll see that there’s a sharp decline after Measure M goes away and as a result of that there’s going to be a lot of expenses that we will have to bear in order to stay whole.”

Measure M, approved by Vacaville voters in November 2012, imposes a quarter-cent sales tax on the purchase of goods and services within Vacaville for a five-year period.

Augustine indicated, meanwhile, that he is looking for increased activity in Vacaville.

“The housing market has not heated up,” he said. “It’s potentially there. We haven’t really started seeing the number of housing permits, as an example.”

While Vacaville has received good news in terms of commercial growth, Augustine says more is needed.

“We do have a couple of things happening, with Icon (Aircraft) coming in and Genentech expanding,” he said. “Those are good things, but we still need more.”

Augustine pointed to a concern about the ratio of housing units and jobs in the county.

“I think the biggest thing we face in Solano County is the jobs/housing balance,” he said. “We have less than one job per housing unit. The Bay Area, when you see San Francisco’s numbers, they have six jobs per housing unit. That’s a big difference. Somehow we’ve got to entice those businesses to come out our way. They’re still not coming in great numbers.

“It’s a very complicated system,” Augustine said. “I’m looking forward to the next couple of years. I think we’re going to do better. But as far as doing great, as you heard, we expect slower growth not rapid growth and that’s going to be a concern.”

Reach Kevin W. Green at 427-6974 or

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Just Desserts to open manufacturing plant in Fairfield

By Kevin W. Green
From page A1 | March 11, 2015 |

FAIRFIELD — The award-winning bakery Just Desserts will open a 75,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Fairfield, the city’s Economic Development Department announced Tuesday.

The bakery, founded in San Francisco in 1974, will open its new location at 5000 Fulton Drive in May, according to a press release announcing the move.

Fairfield Mayor Harry Price, when asked about Tuesday’s announcement, spoke of the message the Just Desserts move sends to those who live here.

“It’s more good news for Fairfield residents seeking to work for a first-class facility without having to commute,” Price said. “It tells our young people you don’t have to spend two hours commuting to a job out of the area.”

“This is helping to make Fairfield a center for quality food products,” Price said, referring to other local food producers such as Jelly Belly Candy Co., Calbee America Inc. and Guittard Chocolate Co.

The Fairfield location will house the company’s production facility and some administrative offices; while the company’s San Francisco location will have administrative offices and an innovation center, including a test kitchen, the release said.

“Our business enjoyed double-digit growth in 2014 through the introduction of our new organic and vegan product offerings,” Michael J. Mendes, Just Desserts’ chief executive, said in the release.

“With the introduction of new products, our new proprietary-packaging platform and expanded production facility, we expect accelerated growth in the future.”

The company is moving from Oakland because of its need for a larger facility, the release said. The Fairfield site is double the size of Just Desserts’ current bakery in Oakland. It is being designed and equipped to handle the company’s new organic and vegan baked items and will have enhanced production capabilities, as well as an in-house quality control laboratory, the release said.

Mendes said the company conducted an exhaustive search for a new site, even looking as far away as Nevada and Texas.

“We chose Fairfield because of the value of real estate, the city’s business-friendly environment and the fact that the transportation lanes are attractive for shipping and transporting product,” he said.

“We also found that the access to skilled workers in the area is well-suited to our needs.”

At full production, Just Desserts estimates it will create more than 100 new jobs at the Fairfield facility.

“We are pleased that Just Desserts will be joining our community of top food and beverage companies that have found a sweet spot in Fairfield,” said Ken Cantrell, senior economic development project manager with Fairfield’s Economic Development Department, in the release.

“We have attracted companies because of our commitment to building a strong infrastructure that includes an ample supply of water and a state-of-the-art wastewater system.”

The addition of Just Desserts will also contribute to the city’s industrial base, the mayor said.

Price commended the city’s Economic Development Department for continuing to go out and attract businesses like Just Desserts, with a strong growth pattern and proven track record.

Just Desserts is an artisan-inspired baking company that makes premium desserts and wholesome sweet snacks that are sold in grocery and convenience retailers from coast to coast.

Reach Kevin W. Green at 427-6974 or

Report: Solano economy beyond recovery, into expansion

By Kevin W. Green
From page A3 | March 11, 2015 |
FAIRFIELD — Moving beyond recovery and into expansion was the theme to an economic report presented to the Solano County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
“One of the things that is the theme of this report is the idea that we have now moved beyond recovery and are in what we think, or what economists call economic expansion,” said Robert Eyler, principal of Economic Forensics and Analytics.
Eyler presented the board with his 2014 Index of Economic and Community Progress. The annual report was prepared for the Solano Economic Development Corporation and the county. Eyler will be the keynote speaker when the report is presented at a Solano EDC breakfast event Friday at the Hilton Garden Inn, 2200 Gateway Court.

In anticipating expansion, Eyler cautioned not to expect an expansion like recent ones.

“The expansion won’t necessarily look like the expansions we saw in the ’90s or in the last decade,
but it’s an expansion nonetheless,” he said.

Eyler pointed to plenty of positive points in making his presentation to the board.

“There’s a lot of good news in terms of the economy,” he said.

There was job growth and income growth, he said. It was slightly slower growth in 2014 than 2013, however, something he attributes to the housing market in 2013.

Eyler did outline some concerns, meanwhile, in his presentation.

“You have some movement in the employment versus labor force, which is natural in a place like Solano County,” he said. “It’s also true in other North Bay counties and other places outside of major urban areas.

“You see labor force growth, residential employment growth, but not necessarily commensurate local employment growth – meaning that people are coming to Solano County to live and they’re outbound commuting to where there are higher wages or better incomes for the time being,” he said. “And usually what happens is the local economy slowly catches up to that, which is basically where Solano County is.”

Board Chairwoman Erin Hannigan asked Eyler about details concerning the number of people who live and work in Solano, compared to those who live in Solano and work outside of the county. While he did not have specific numbers, Eyler pointed out that there are also those who travel into Solano for work.

“There’s a lot of outbound commuting,” he said. “There’s also some inbound.”

Another concern in the report is the county’s aging population, Eyler said. The aging populace is probably the top consideration of the demographics, he said. Solano County’s population continues to get older, along with that of other Bay Area counties and the state, the report said.

While some other regions are doing better in terms of economics, Solano still has a lot to offer, Eyler pointed out.

“We’re not as robust as other places, but there’s still some beautiful opportunities in terms of economic development as a result of having relatively lower housing prices and relatively lower wages and commercial space that’s still available,” he said. “You jam all that together, Solano County should still be seen as a place of opportunity.”

Hannigan questioned how a decrease in unemployment corresponds to a rise in Solano residents on Medi-Cal.

“You expect as growth takes place, you would have a reduced demand,” Eyler said.

He pointed out, however, that there has been an anticipated effect due to the Affordable Care Act and changes in eligibility.

Another highlight cited in the report was a population growth for Solano County of 1.15 percent, based on an increase of 4,844 people in 2014. A change was noted, meanwhile, as domestic immigration – from places inside the United States – outpaced foreign immigration to Solano County for the first time since 2009.

A positive note contained in the report was in regard to education in Solano. Graduation rates in the county rose above the state in 2012-13 and more students are ready for University of California and California State University schools than any school year since 2007-08, the report said.

Reach Kevin W. Green at 427-6974 or

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Index of economic progress shows positive strides for Solano County

By Melissa Murphy, The Reporter, Vacaville

Posted: 03/07/15, 7:46 PM PST |

Solano County has moved out of recovering from the recession into a state of expanding its economic base, according to the 2014 Index of Economic and Community Progress.

The index report prepared by Robert Eyler, a principal at Economic Forensics and Analytics in Petaluma, will be presented to the Solano County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. Additionally, Eyler will bring the report forward during a monthly gathering of the Solano Economic Development Corporation at 8 a.m. Friday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield.

The Index tracks key economic and community indicators that are shaping the local economy. The Index is part of a project that was launched in 2007 with an aim to obtain more fact-based information to guide efforts to expand the long-term viability of the county’s economy.

The 2014 Index set out to answer the question, “How is Solano County doing economically?”

In a report to the board, staff noted that the Index shows that “Solano County is becoming more diversified in its number of employers/economic base with the private sector leading the way into this long-awaited expansion.”

The full Index is available online at

The “key highlights” from the Index, according to the report, note the county’s changing economy.

In 2014, Solano expanded with 2,300 new jobs, a growth of 1.8 percent and the county’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is at 6.9 percent as it begins 2015.

Additionally, the Index shows that “with a growing economy and reduced government resources, the private sector is becoming more of an engine for growth” in the county.

All standards of living measures are rising in the 2013 data and suggest that 2014 and 2015 also will be years of rising living standards for the county.

While base employment fell a bit in 2014, locally serving jobs grew, a “sign of economic expansion,” according to the Index.

Solano continues to change.

The Index reports that the population grew by 4,844 people in 2014, a growth of 1.15 percent, most of the growth was from places within the United States instead of foreign migration, a first since 2009.

Even though the Index shows that the county’s population continues to get older, it also is forecasted that Solano and Sacramento counties will be the two fastest growing counties in Solano’s region between 2014 and 2060.

Other highlights include a rise in graduation rates and more students are ready for University of California and California State University than any school year since 2007-08.

Meanwhile, housing prices have continued their recovery and government revenue from property and sales taxes continued to rise in 2014.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the County Government Center, 675 Texas St., Fairfield.