Monday, December 8, 2014

Celebrating ‘Spirit of Solano’

Celebrating ‘Spirit of Solano’

By Robin Miller


RMiller@TheReporter.com @RobinMiller1883 on Twitter


It was a packed house at Fairfield’s Hilton Garden Inn for lunch Thursday afternoon as civic and business leaders from across Solano County gathered to honor companies they feel best exemplify the “Spirit of Solano.”

The annual event marked its 19th year honoring Solano County’s chambers of commerce and businesses, each chamber selected for embodying a spirit of helping the community and improving the local quality of life.

Vacaville’s chamber nominated and honored its business of the year, Kaiser Permanente, with chamber board president Tracy Mitchell noting the healthcare provider’s commitment to Solano county dating back to 1946, when it first opened its Vallejo facility until today, with its new Vacaville Hospital designated a Level II trauma center.

“Each year, Kaiser Permanente provides nearly $5 million in grants and sponsorships to nonprofit organizations serving Solano and Napa counties, in addition to providing subsidized health care to many low-income families,” he noted From Dixon, family-owned Cat­tlemen’s Restaurant was honored with the chamber noting “their long relationships in Dixon have been extremely important to the success of their business.”

Abby Becker accepted the award and in brief comments said the restaurant “realizes the important of giving back to the community that has supported us” and thanked the community and chamber for the years of support.

The Fairfield-Suisun Chamber honored Chick-filA in Fairfield and The Salvation Army Kroc Center in Suisun City.

Chick-fil-A franchise owner Annette Fortney thanked the chamber for its support and offered a word of encouragement for young people, who may still be looking “for their dream” and uncertain of their future. “Yes, you can,” she said. “If I did it, you can as well.”

The Salvation Army’s Capt. Jonathan Harvey was also grateful and vowed to continue to uphold a “vision of excellence” laid out for the center, which provides a host of programs from art to music, education and recreation.

“We are proud to be able to serve this county,” he said. “Tens of thousands visit and use the facility and like the song says, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

The Vallejo Chamber of Commerce recipient brought down the house, though.

Medic Ambulance and the Manfredi family (its owners) were honored by the chamber for being “all that is good in business and the community,” said Tom Atwood, chamber board president. He noted that from the founding of the business in 1979, the firm has grown from 10 employees and 2 ambulances, to a company with 225 employees and 75 vehicles serving Solano, Sacramento and Placer counties. In addition he noted the company’s plan to open new headquarters in Vallejo in 2015 that will include a state-of-the-art dispatch center, education center, and logistical and administrative office.

Rudy Manfredi then took the stage and joked that he’d been waiting for the honor for years. Praising Vallejo, he quipped that when his family came to America and landed in New York, he wanted nothing to do with the big city. “I said, ‘No, I want to go to Vallejo!’” he insisted, as the crowd roared with laughter.

The list of chambers and honorees included: Benicia Chamber: Alonzo & Small Insurance Agency, Inc.

Dixon Chamber: Cattlemens Fairfield-Suisun Chamber: Chick-fil-A and The Salvation Army Kroc Center Filipino-American Chamber: Skyview Memorial Lawn Solano County Black Chamber: U.S. Military Veteran Family Resource Center, Inc.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014, 6:25 am

Impact Solano to highlight three unique county enterprises

By Gary Quackenbush, Special to the Business Journal

FAIRFIELD — Executives from three Solano County enterprises will be panelists at the Nov.21 Impact Solano conference, which will focus on the State of the Solano Business Climate.
 
Business leaders from HM.Clause, Guala Closures North America and Mare Island Dry Dock will join Robert Eyler, Ph.D., economics professor and director of the Center for Regional Economic Analysis at Sonoma State University. He will provide an outlook for the global and local economy in 2015.
 
“Solano County has a growing mix of agriculture, wine, high-tech, research and manufacturing firms that collectively add to the rich texture of our economic community,” said Sandy Person, executive director of the Solano Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
 
“These firms are often part of a larger supply chain essential to the overall success of key local, national or international industries.”
 
She said the three companies to be highlighted at Impact Solano are examples of the wide breadth of firms included in the county’s expanding industry cluster that is putting Solano County on the map.

HM.Clause, Inc.

Located at 260 Cousteau Place in Davis, HM.Clause specializes in the breeding, production and commercialization of vegetable seeds varieties for professional growers.
Tamiko Michelle Gaines of HM.Clause
Tamiko Michelle Gaines is director of institutional relations for HM.Clause, which has an Americas office in Davis and is part of Groupe Limagrain of France.
 
With over 2,000 varieties in more than 23 vegetable crop species, HM.Clause provides innovative solutions to growers worldwide. The company has about 1,600 employees in more than 30 countries.
The firm’s varieties are available in more than 100 countries through 16 commercial subsidiaries and local sales networks.
 
As one of the world’s top four seed producers, the HM.Clause hub office for the Americas is based in the heart of Solano County’s agricultural region close to hundreds of farmers that use its products.
The company also has a research facility in Solano County staffed by 26 percent of the workforce.
 
Fifteen percent of annual sales are invested in research at two main laboratories in France and California, along with 12 varietal breeding centers in eight nations — including three in the U.S. (California, Florida and Wisconsin).
 
Tamiko Michelle Gains, director of institutional relations and development for HM.Clause, will provide an overview of the company, describe its operations and talk about future plans at Impact Solano.
 
HM.Clause, Inc., is a business unit of Groupe Limagrain, an international cooperative headquartered in France. It markets its seeds under two brand names, Harris Moran Seed Company, headquartered in California, and CLAUSE Vegetable Seeds, headquartered in France.

Guala Closures North America

Guala Closures enhanced decoration capabilities for newest plant, in Fairfield.
Guala Closures in early 2014 installed new small-run aluminum screw cap production equipment with enhanced decoration capabilities at its newest plant, in Fairfield. (image credit: Guala Closures)
 
Guala is a multi-national manufacturer of custom closures (screw caps and non-refillable closures) for firms in the wine, spirits, water, beer and olive oil industry sectors. The company established its presence in the U.S. with a new facility in Fairfield initially dedicated to small production runs.
Alessandro Bocchio
Alessandro Bocchio is general manager of Guala Closures USA
 
General Manager Alessandro Bocchio, will present an overview of this firm that markets to producers representing the entire beverage and olive oil industry spectrum.
 
The world headquarters is located north of Milan, Italy. However, Guala produces 14 billion closures a year at 16 plants around the globe.
 
“We saw an opportunity to produce screw caps for the wine industry in California and decided to invest in a manufacturing facility that is now up and running in Solano County,” Mr. Boochio said.
 
“As part of our entry strategy, we developed new technology to serve the job-lot market and invite clients to work with professionals at our Guala Closure Design Studio to develop branded closures for small production runs нн- as few as a single box — often used for special promotions, weddings, anniversaries, company milestones or other events.”
 
He said over the next two to three years the company plans to expand operations at Fairfield and gear up for large-scale manufacturing.

Mare Island Dry Dock

Coast Guard ship at Mare Island Dry Dock
U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star had $5.1 million in repairs in August 2014 at Mare Island Dry Dock in Vallejo before setting off for Antarctica. The project employed 70 for three months.
 
Mare Island Dry Dock, LLC, is a privately held firm with more than three decades of experience in the maritime industry along the East Coast. It is now based at 1180 Nimitz Ave. in Vallejo with 86 employees.
 
Executive Vice President Christine Snyder is set to talk about how Mare Island Dry Dock is able to handle ships of all types, including cruise ships, coastal tankers, barges, commercial freighters, ferries, Military Sea Lift Command, Coast Guard and U.S. Navy vessels.
 
The company’s 18-acre site has berth space up to 1,300 linear feet, and two concrete gravity dry docks (680 and 720 feet long) that can handle ships under fully loaded conditions.
 
“We’re no longer in the moth-ball fleet dismantling business and now provide a wide range of services for active carriers,” said Ms. Snyder.
 
Services include essential ship repair and conversion, turbine overhaul and welding, vessel berthing, reduction gear repairs, structural steel renewal as well as steel and aluminum fabrication and emergency ship services.
 
This special event is presented by North Bay Business Journal, in cooperation with co-hosts Travis Credit Union and the Solano EDC, and with underwriting from NorthBay Healthcare. The session starts at 7:30 a.m. at the Fairfield Hilton Garden Inn.
 
Limited seating is available. To register, visit NorthBayBusinessJournal.com or call Linda Perkins at 707-521-5264.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Solano business leaders told state election likely to be a quiet one

By Melissa Murphy
mmurphy@thereporter.com @ReporterMMurphy on Twitter
Posted:   10/29/2014 08:50:54 PM PDT

Given that the November election is Tuesday, the Solano Economic Development Corporation isn't taking sides, but wants to stay informed.

Sacramento Bee Political Columnist Dan Walters shared with those gathered for the monthly Solano EDC breakfast Wednesday morning what voters should expect to see when polls close next week.
Walters characterized this election as "bizarre" and "weird" given that the most interesting race is for state schools superintendent, otherwise, he said, it will be another sweep by the Democrats.

He also explained that there are enough seats in play where the Democrats could lose the super majority, but other than "bragging rights," Walters said it won't make that big of a difference.
He added that voter turnout will be low with a best case scenario of 40 percent or slightly higher of registered voters actually casting their votes.

"There is not much contest for governor, there are no barn burning ballot measures and no senate race," Walters said. He explained that the Republicans do have a better chance of getting a seat in low voter turnout elections because that's when the Democratic vote turnout drops.
"The real game in this election is the senate contest, which California has no part of," he said. "California is on the sidelines of the main game of politics."

Walters also shared his thoughts on California's economy.
"The good news is we're still coming out of a recession," he said. "Which is better than still being in the recession."

However, while it looks like the state has regained the jobs it lost during the recession, Walters said to look more closely at those numbers.
"The reality is that California's population has grown," he said. "It's growing slowly."

California, he said, continues to lose people to other states and its unemployment rate is still high.
"We haven't really gained ground," he said. "Our unemployment rate is still one of the highest in the country."

Also, he said that just because it shows the state has gained jobs "it does not mean those are the jobs we need or want for economic recovery."
He said poverty rate, when factoring in cost of living, means California's rate is at 23.8 percent.

"There is a higher cost of living in California," Walters said. "In relation to income, it's by far the highest rate."
He added that the Bay Area counties have the highest poverty rates in the state.

"The incomes don't keep up with the cost of living," he said.
Walters also noted that the cycle of one boom and one bust every decade has "corrosive effects" on the economy.

"It's difficult to encourage investment when they're wondering when the next bust will happen," he said and added that California has a difficult investment climate.
Walters said that while state elected officials say they're going to change the dense regulatory investment climate, they have yet to do anything about it.

"It's hard to do business in California," he said.
Another hit to the business climate in the state is its infrastructure, according to Walters.

"We have crappy highways in California," he said. "Your car tells you when you've hit the state line. ... It's simply falling apart because we've neglected it."
He added that the states in the South that some would consider "backward" have better roads.

Walters did say that California does have some positives including its entrepreneurial spirt, access to the coast and its University of California system. However, he said, the state can't continue to rely on those aspects without making some changes.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

California and Solano County wants businesses to stay



By Melissa Murphy
mmurphy@thereporter.com @ReporterMMurphy on Twitter
Posted: 08/13/2014 07:06:44 PM PDT

The state is reaching out to businesses through various tax exemptions to keep them in California.

Patrick McGuire, senior business development specialist for Gov. Jerry Brown and the Office of Business & Economic Development (GO-Biz), stopped by the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce Wednesday morning to share with business leaders that changes have been made for the state to invest in businesses already in California.

"We're helping existing long-term California companies," he said and added that while it might seem that businesses are flocking to outside of the state, businesses are also relocating to California.

GO-Biz services include investment services, permit assistance, international trade and innovation. They're also getting the word out about the Government Economic Development Initiative that provides sales tax exemptions, hiring tax credit and the California Competes tax credit.

California Competes is part of the governor's Economic Development Initiative (GEDI). A total of 396 companies applied and requested more than $500 million in total credits. GO-Biz evaluated the most competitive applications based on the factors required by statute, including total jobs created, total investment, average wage, economic impact, strategic importance and more.

The California Competes Committee approved $28.9 million in tax credits for 29 companies expanding and creating jobs in California.

"The inaugural round of California Competes awardees represents a broad range of industries and regions across California," said committee chair Michael E. Rossi, in a press release. "I am confident these companies will use the tax credits to invest in their business, hire more people and contribute to California's ongoing economic growth."

The awards approved by the committee are projected to help these companies create almost 6,000 jobs and generate more than $2 billion in investments across California. Awardees are exempted from paying state income taxes in the amount awarded.

An additional $150 million in tax credits will be allocated this fiscal year and companies not selected in the first round are eligible to reapply once the next application period opens.

The GEDI also includes a hiring credit for areas of high unemployment and poverty, and a sales and use tax exemption for the purchase of manufacturing, biotech and R&D equipment.

McGuire explained that one company cannot get more than 20 percent of the pot and that 25 percent has been earmarked for small businesses.

"It really benefits everyone more equally when everyone can apply," said Sandy Person, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation and added that the tax credits aren't targeting specialized districts.

"We're helping companies now apply for this," she said. "Economic development is a team sport. It takes the local leadership, the county and the state to work together."

McGuire also pointed to the California Capital Access Program, Cal-CAP, which encourages financial institutions to make loans to small businesses that fall just outside their conventional underwriting standards. Cal-CAP is a form of loan portfolio insurance that provides up to 100 percent coverage on certain loan charge offs.

Person said the challenge is where to start and that's when Solano EDC is there to help navigate.
"To bring those tools and resources to the businesses is a challenge, but California is making an effort," she said.

For additional information visit www.solanoedc.org. or visit http://business.ca.gov.

Monday, August 4, 2014

County unveils Solano economic diversification study

By Barry Eberling
From page A1 | August 02, 2014               

FAIRFIELD — Solano County wants to diversify the local economy, with ideas ranging from creating a new look along Interstate 80 to better training the workforce to meet local job demands.

Travis Air Force Base is the county’s largest employer, with 13,400 workers and an estimated $1.6 billion annual economic impact. The county’s stated goal is to find ways that the area can better weather defense spending fluctuations.

Solano County used a $369,860 federal Department of Defense grant over the past 18 months to address the issue. The result is 300 pages in economic reports by consultants Economic Planning System Inc.

Solano County calls the effort Moving Solano Forward.

The county Board of Supervisors will discuss the proposed Moving Solano Forward strategies Tuesday. The session takes place at 2 p.m. at the county Government Center, 675 Texas St. Supervisors will begin their meeting at 9 a.m. discussing other topics.

“As the county regains its footing after the recession, the next phase of commercial growth will be instrumental in setting the tone for future economic growth and development,” the county economic report said.

The report calls for county civic and business leaders to align themselves and work together to diversify the economy.

County Senior Management Analyst Stephen Pierce on Friday compared Moving Solano Forward to a barn raising. Each party has different skills, but when they get together, the barn goes up, he said.
The county conducted 10 forums over a year to engage public and private sector leaders on how to diversify the local economy, a county report said. The mayors from the county’s seven cities and the county supervisors participated in the Moving Solano Forward effort.

All of this has resulted in a number of proposed goals to be pursued by various local agencies and groups over the coming year.

For example, one priority is to conduct a “visioning study” on how to enhance the I-80 corridor. Ideas in the report include establishing countywide design standards for architecture and fencing, exploring various branding opportunities such as “Prosperity Corridor” and refining signage to highlight key gateways.

Pierce called the freeway the “Main Street” of the county.

Solano County is to take the lead on the I-80 study. It is to work with the Solano Transportation Authority, school districts, the brokerage community, colleges and Solano Economic Development Corp.

Among the other first-year goals are:
  • Determine real estate and labor needs for potential businesses in major county business clusters, such as biotechnology. Solano Economic Development Corp. is to be the lead group.
  • Develop an economic development messaging strategy. Solano Economic Development Corp. is to be the lead group.
  • Form a countywide crime rate improvement and prevention task force. The county Police Chiefs Association is to be the lead group.
  • Connect public and private schools and communities through formal partnerships with local businesses, nonprofit groups and community organizations. The Solano County Superintendents Group is to be the lead group.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider approving the economic study and Moving Solano Forward strategies. The reports will be presented Aug. 14 to the City County Coordinating Committee – a meeting of the seven mayors and Board of Supervisors. They will be presented at the Aug. 28 Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast.

Comments received will be incorporated into a final version of the economic report to be completed in the fall.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Solano County looks to strategically diversify its economy

By Melissa Murphy

The Reporter, Vacaville @ReporterMMurphy on Twitter
Posted: 08/02/2014 09:20:40 PM PDT
 
Solano County continues to explore ways to grow and diversify its economy.

Tuesday, the Solano County Board of Supervisors will receive a presentation and public comment at 2 p.m. on the draft 2014 Solano County Economic Diversification Study report, available online at www.movingSOLANOforward.com.

The need for economic diversification, according to the county, stems from Solano coming out of the great recession and to strategically strengthen promising industry sectors in order to hedge against Travis Air Force Base funding fluctuations. The county noted in the report that Travis is a primary driver of the county economy. It's the largest employer with annual economic impacts that reach $1.6 billion.

In a report to the board, staff explained that the Solano Economic Development Corporation was asked to assist the Office of Economic Adjustment in conducting an economic diversification study. The OEA, according to staff helps communities with local economies that have significant Department of Defense expenditures.

In January 2013, the board of supervisors accepted a grant to develop a countywide economic strategic approach "to further diversify the Solano County economy so that the local economy is not as dependent on defense expenditures at Travis Air Force Base and to create a sustainable economic base that enables residents and businesses to thrive and prosper independent of budget cycles and changing priorities related to defense spending."

Moving SOLANO Forward was then created and input was collected from various public and private sector leaders that explored the county's demographic and economic profile, existing economic development ecosystem, and viable industries and clusters.

The vision of Moving Solano Forward is for the Solano County region to "work collaboratively to create a diverse and robust economy focused on city-driven growth, desired industry cluster growth in targeted locations, viable agricultural uses and strengthened recreational assets that expand economic opportunities for employers and residents."

The goals of the economic diversification include enhancing countywide development capacity, strengthening regional economic development and workforce development programs and services, and improving quality of life for county residents and businesses.

During the process the analysis refined the characterization of Solano County's existing targeted industry clusters by adding the "advanced materials industry" cluster to those clusters that already exist, energy, food chain, and medical/life sciences.

The advanced materials cluster, staff explained, includes a wide array of high-tech engineered materials, components, and systems, as well as the commodities, products, processes, and instruments to make and monitor the materials.

"Focusing economic development efforts on these clusters will support the potential job and wealth creation in the county as well as strengthen the local economy as a location for these distinct economic activities," staff said.

Additional presentations will be made before the 4Cs, Aug. 14, and Solano EDC, Aug. 28.
The final Diversification Report is expected to by completed in September.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors meets at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the County Government Center, 675 Texas St., Fairfield.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Orcem poised to make Vallejo a manufacturing mecca, officials say

Firm envisions Vallejo as a manufacturing hub


The Dublin, Ireland-based "green" white cement manufacturing firm Orcem could become a huge economic driver for Vallejo, the region and the state, speakers at a Thursday breakfast meeting agreed.

Representatives of several regional political figures, Vallejo's economic development department, city government and others filled the Courtyard by Marriott banquet room for the event, presented by the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce and the Solano Economic Development Corporation and hosted by Orcem.

Rebuilding the country's manufacturing capacity is fundamental to its economic health, the speakers agreed. Orcem's proposed reuse of the old South Vallejo General Mills plant is exactly the type of project they mean, they said.

Speakers at "Manufacturing Matters," the name of Thursday's presentation, all noted a need to capitalize on the nation's economic recovery by reinventing America's nearly lost manufacturing sector.

Kish Rajan, Governor Jerry Brown's Office of Business and Economic Development director, said that while some areas of the state, like Silicon Valley, San Francisco and San Diego, are already booming with high-tech manufacturing, other areas, like the state's Inland Empire remain in a quagmire of low job development and high unemployment.

"They lack the 21st Century infrastructure required to succeed and we must change that trajectory in those communities or risk further bifurcation between the high-tech hubs and the others who will be left behind," Rajan said.

This will be accomplished through a renewal of the faltering middle class, he said.

"The bread-and-butter industrial centers need to be rebuilt," as the ladder workers have traditionally climbed to higher social-economic levels, he said.

One of those is manufacturing and the state has recently created some incentives to encourage this, including business tax credits and, starting July 1, a sales tax exemption for the purchase of equipment, he said.

"From hot sauce to rocket ships, California is a leader and we must create the conditions where these industries can grow and thrive," Rajan said.

The state need not sacrifice environmental health to achieve these ends, he said.

"We know these objectives can be harmonized; that the infrastructure for industry can be re-purposed for modern use," he said. "I'm very pleased to see Orcem here, and encourage it. This seems to be the type of project we're talking about."

Orcem America president Steve Bryan explained how the product his firm is already creating in Europe can help propel Vallejo to the forefront of a new statewide manufacturing boom, by producing an environmentally friendly cement using an eco-friendly process.

Orcem produces a white-colored, durable cement out of a by-product of Japanese steel-making. They propose to bring the raw material, which looks and behaves like wet sand, to Vallejo in ships that already carry grain to Japan, but now return empty.

The material will be ground into the final product inside a machine, inside a specially-built structure, and shipped by truck to distributors.

The production process replaces the current high-C02-emitting cement-making process with one with a nearly zero carbon footprint, he said.

The firm proposes to invest $50 million in Vallejo, creating 140,000 hours of union construction work, and some 60 permanent jobs, half of those indirectly.

It will mean some $360,000 in annual tax revenue for the city, about $410,000 for Solano County and about $13 million annually to the area's GDP, Bryan said.

Should the project go forward, building will take about 18 months and officials hope it will be operating by 2016's second quarter.

He suggested that Orcem's project could inspire other economic development in Vallejo, as businesses often like to be near the source of their materials.

Vallejo Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rich Curtola said that as a Vallejo native, he can feel change in the air.

"There's something happening in my home town," he said. "It's palpable. I can't explain it, but something's going on here."

Call Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at 707-553-6824.