Saturday, January 30, 2016

Panel shares insight on Solano economic, community growth

Audrey Taylor, president of Chabin Concepts, speaks at the Solano Economic Development Corporation Annual Meeting, at the Hilton Garden Inn, on Friday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)
Audrey Taylor, president of Chabin Concepts, speaks at the Solano Economic Development Corporation Annual Meeting, at the Hilton Garden Inn, on Friday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)


Panel shares insight on Solano economic, community growth

By From page B8 | January 30, 2016 
                                                                  
FAIRFIELD — A three-member panel shared insight on economic and community growth in Solano County during the Solano Economic Development Corporation’s 33rd annual meeting luncheon Friday.

Robert Eyler, Don Schjeldahl and Audrey Taylor spoke on the theme of We’re Moving Solano Forward, before an audience of more than 300 who gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn.

The trio is part of the team recently contracted through the Solano Economic Development Corporation to develop the knowledge and tools to position the county economy for growth.
Eyler started off by saying 2015 was robust for Solano County, with 4,300 new jobs – the most since 2005.

“There’s been a lot of good news about Solano County and what’s been going on,” he said.

Many people question what’s next, Eyler said. Interest rates look like they’re going to start rising, the Chinese economy is showing some issues and there is uncertainty in politics, he said.

There are points to consider in moving ahead, Eyler said. There is a need to be mindful of the global, national and regional economic context, he stressed.

It’s important to build businesses looking at the future, not so much looking at the past, he said.


“We want economic diversity and we also want to be bulletproof against the next recession, which we know is going to come,” he said.

“You’re never going to be totally bulletproof, no matter how economically diverse your communities are,” he said, however.

There will still be some exposure to a recession, he said.

Eyler also pointed to the need for balance.

One of the other challenges here is to identify what businesses export beyond Solano County, because about 25,000 people leave the county every day to do a job someplace else, he said.

He also spoke of opportunities that are ahead.

“The bottom line is that businesses are going to want to migrate when prices start to rise. And the Bay Area is a great example of this,” he said. “Are you ready for that migration? Our project is going to have some of the answers to that.”

Corporate site selection is much different now than in the past, Schjeldahl said in his presentation. The world is much more complex, he said. The markets are rapidly changing, he said.

A successful business today must be flexible and adaptable, he said. You need to know where you sit in the global economy, he said.

Schjeldahl also spoke of the younger workforce. They have a different view of quality of life, he said.
Businesses need to have a vision to train the workforce of tomorrow, he said.

Schjeldahl also talked of changes in Solano County. The county was isolated 20 years ago, he said. That isolation is going away, he said.

There is a choice of what to do, he said. There is a need to figure out what to do to attract a diversified economy, he said.

Taylor, meanwhile, said she was impressed with the county and its long-term planning. What you have here is distinct, she said.

She talked of the need to be ready for opportunities. In a global context, the speed of a business is critical, she said.


Businesses must also know their surroundings. Economic development has to understand what growth is taking place, she said.

Taylor also focused on workforce development. It’s important that the skill set matches the economy you want, she said.

Businesses must be prepared for disruptive changes as well, she said. We have to adjust to those, she said.

Taylor pointed to the need for sound city government as an attraction. Businesses also look at fiscal management of cities, she said.

Among the points she made, Taylor said there is a need to share value and vision. Typically there is a vision of what sectors you want to grow, she said.

Eyler is president of Economic Forensics and Analytics Inc. and professor of economics at Sonoma State University. Schjeldahl, principal at DSG Advisors, is a corporate site consultant. Taylor is president of the economic development consulting firm, Chabin Concepts.

Reach Kevin W. Green at 427-6974 or kgreen@dailyrepublic.net.

Solano leaders discuss how to move Solano forward economically

Solano leaders discuss how to move Solano forward economically


Kimberly K. Fu — The Reporter Audrey Taylor with Chabin Concepts was one of three economic specialists who spoke to Solano EDC members about key economic factors that can help the county move forward.


A new year, another opportunity to help Solano move forward economically.

Such was the discussion Thursday at the 33rd annual meeting of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield.

Myriad community leaders and three economic specialists threw out ideas and potential best practices, all in the aim of promoting #TeamSolano.

“We can move Solano forward if we work collectively,” advised Sandy Person, Solano EDC president.

Supervisor Erin Hannigan agreed, saying the need is definitely there.

“We are creating the work force of the future,” she explained, adding that Solano must create jobs for them and help employers find ways to not only remain in the county but also to grow.

Robert Eyler, president of Economic Forensics and Analytics, Inc. and an economics professor at Sonoma State University, said 2015 was a robust year for Solano, boasting 4,300 new jobs, the most since 2005.

That said, Solano must be aware of what’s going on in the world around us in order to be better prepared for what’s coming, he said, as the state of other economies will impact ours.

He suggested a one-stop monitoring system that will provide dynamic, relevant, up-to-the-minute information that will keep Solano relevant in the marketplace.

Don Schjeldahl with DSG Advisors, emphasized that the world is more complex than ever and that to compete, business leaders must be able to compete with rapidly changing markets and technology. They must be more flexible and adaptable, he continued, think global and act local.

Millennials will soon make up the work force and they have a different work ethic and view of quality of life issues than traditional workers, he said, which employers must keep in mind.

Audrey Taylor, president of Chabin Concepts, shared six keys to a better economy:

• Being ready for businesses to show up — work at the speed of business, not the other way around.
• Understand industry clusters, the economic drivers of the future.
• Develop talent.
• Know the disruptive changes, like regulations, that will impact businesses.
• Know place development. Location is key.
• Have a shared value vision with local communities and get involved. Maximize shared assets and
benefits.

Collaboration and strategy, the economists said, can move Solano in the right direction.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Is Solano County Competitive for Business? Hear from the experts on Jan. 29


FAIRFIELD, Calif. – The opportunities for economic and community growth will take center stage at Solano EDC’s 33rd annual meeting on Jan. 29.  Solano County businesses can meet the experts implementing the “Moving Solano Forward” project
 
The panel presentation will focus on Solano County’s future; specifically, how the region can develop its own way forward as the Bay Area and Sacramento grow on either side of it. In practical terms, that means asking, “Is Solano County competitive now, and how can we be more competitive in the future?”

Speaking at the event are Dr. Robert Eyler, Don Schjeldahl, and Audrey Taylor, part of the team recently contracted to develop the knowledge and tools to position the county economy for growth.

Dr. Eyler, president of Economic Forensics and Analytics, Inc., and professor of economics at Sonoma State University, will address the state of today’s economy, what he predicts for tomorrow and how that affects economic development and diversity.

Schjeldahl, principal at DSG Advisors, is a corporate site consultant who has facilitated the relocation and expansion of more than 300 companies and is the person who makes the call when multiple communities compete for new business, He will talk about changes in what industries are looking for.

Taylor is president of Chabin Concepts, a nationally known economic development consulting firm, will talk about changes in economic development practices and what new trends are likely to affect Solano County’s efforts to remain competitive for both existing and new businesses.

The event will also include a new video presentation of Solano’s community highlights from 2015.

The annual meeting will be held on Friday, January 29 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield. 

Registration and networking begins at 11 a.m. with lunch and program at 11:45 am

Cost is $45 per person, $350 for a table of eight. Early reservations are encouraged since the event sells out annually.

Sponsors are: the law offices of Favaro, Lavezzo, Gill, Caretti and Heppell, NorthBay Healthcare, Northern Solano County Association of Realtors and Travis Credit Union

The Solano EDC membership programs are underwritten by the EDC Chairman's Circle Members:  Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.; Electrical Contractors Trust of Napa and Solano; Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District; Manex; Solano Garbage/Republic Services; Solano Transportation Authority and Syar Industries.

To register, call Solano EDC at (707) 864-1855 or email pat@solanoedc.org.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Area companies earn Spirit of Solano awards


Area companies earn Spirit of Solano awards


By Kevin W. Green From page C1 | December 06, 2015

FAIRFIELD — Ten area companies were honored Thursday during the 20th annual Spirit of Solano luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn.

The program, sponsored by Westamerica Bank and the Solano Economic Development Corporation, recognizes companies that embody the spirit of Solano County. Chambers of commerce in the county chose the honorees.

Businesses selected for this award have two things in common, said David Payne, chief executive officer for Westamerica Bank.

“They run very efficient businesses, and they provide leadership in their communities and their chambers,” he said.

“Because of their individual commitment, they’re also the kind of people who inspire their employees to give back whenever anything is needed,” Payne said. “Because of them, Solano County continues to be a beacon for business, demonstrating best practices for success. They represent what Solano County is and how we choose to do business.”

The Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce presented two awards. The Fairfield business honored was Texas Roadhouse, with Randy Blankenchip taking the award. Blankenchip shared his experience of rebounding after being financially wiped out before starting his restaurant in Fairfield.

For Suisun City, the spirit award went to Republic Services-Solano Garbage Company, with Travis Armstrong accepting on behalf of the company. Armstrong talked about the role his firm has played in the community, telling how one driver got involved in a child’s life.

Tony and Sherry LoForte of Zio Fraedo’s of Vallejo received this year’s spirit award from the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce. With his wife at his side, Tony LoForte spoke with pride about opening his business and becoming part of the Vallejo community.

The Solano County Black Chamber of Commerce honored businesswoman Elease Minor with its award. The chamber pointed to her passion for helping mothers and children.

The Solano Hispanic Chamber of Commerce bestowed its honor to Miriam Sammartino, of the Law Office of Miriam Sammartino. She was recognized for her service to her community and the positive influence she has had in people’s lives.

Stars Recreation Center received the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce award, honoring Ernest Sousa and Ken Sousa. Stars was noted for its service to local youth.

The Dixon Chamber of Commerce honored second-generation florists, Dixon Florist & Gift Shop, with its spirit award for this year. Courtney Kett, Melissa Taylor and Dana Martin accepted the award for the family owned business that opened more than 50 years ago.

Touro University received the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce spirit award, which was accepted by Marilyn Hopkins, the school’s provost and chief operating officer. The university was recognized for its service to the community, which includes free health classes and a student-run health clinic for uninsured residents.

The Benicia Chamber of Commerce honor went to Todd Bigelow and his Round Table Pizza. Bigelow was recognized for his generosity and loyalty to the community.

Jim and Shirley Lira of Lira’s Supermarket received the award from the Rio Vista Chamber of Commerce. Lira told those in attendance at the luncheon of the opportunity his partner, Bill Dutra, provided in purchasing the market 25 years ago.

Reach Kevin W. Green at 427-6974 or kgreen@dailyrepublic.net.

Matt Miller: Special businesses do indeed show the Spirit of Solano


Matt Miller: Special businesses do indeed show the Spirit of Solano

By Matt Miller, The Reporter, Vacaville

Posted: 12/05/15, 5:18 PM PST | Updated: 1 day ago

 
The Spirit of Solano was indeed alive and well on Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield as the county’s business community gathered for its annual luncheon honoring companies that thrive among us.

The stories were warm and genuine from this year’s recipients in regards to their love of the region and the humbleness to which they credit their success. Local chambers honored 10 businesses in this the 20th anniversary gala sponsored by Westamerica Bank and the Solano Economic Development Corporation.

Vacaville’s Chamber of Commerce honored Ernest and Ken Sousa this year from Stars Recreation Center. It was more than appropriate to honor this family that has brought family entertainment to the county for more than 50 years. The Sousa family opened Stars in 1998 and who among us hasn’t spent time on their lanes and in their arcade sharing time with our own families.

“It’s a true honor,” said Bill Bollman, the bowling center manager who accepted the award along with banquet manager Kelly Thaanum. “This is really great fun. It’s what we do. We sell fun.”

The Sousa’s opened Fairfield Bowl in 1957 before moving to Vacaville and opening Vaca Bowl in 1986. Stars is greatly involved in the community through events like Grad Night, Girls Scout lock-ins and the Gotcha program that honors some of the top middle school and high school students in the district.

Bollman talked about the Special Olympics athletes that bowl every Saturday in preparation for an upcoming tournament. The joy they exude is contagious and he said it is what make his job so much fun.

Dixon’s honoree this year was the famed Dixon Florist & Gift Shop. Kevin Johnson from the Dixon Chamber was amazed and a bit apologetic that this community icon hadn’t been honored before with its 50 years of exceptional service. Courtney Kett runs the business with her sisters Melissa Taylor and Dana Martin as a proud family venture. Step into the store at times of the year like Christmas and it is a winter wonderland.

The Dixon Florist and & Gift Shop also gives to multiple causes in the community. As one customer said in their biographical information in the program, “You come in as a customer, but you go out as a friend.”

The Spirit of Solano stories were endless. Elease Minor was honored by the Solano County Black Chamber of Commerce for her construction company Important Details Inc. Minor retired as an executive at the University of California, San Francisco to fulfill her dream of owning her own construction company.

Minor not only has a passion for her business, but she also has a passion for helping mothers and children and giving back to the community. She assists with Heather House to improve their operational structure and assist clients with work and stability.

Miriam Sammartino lived with her family in the United States for many years without legal status. After a career in microbiology and quality control, she now practice law with a focus on Children, Family and the Law, as well as Public Interest-Elder Law. Sammartino has a law office in Fairfield and was honored by the Solano Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Randy Blakenchip was at a crossroads in his life. He asked for financial assistance from family and opened a Texas Roadhouse franchise in Fairfield. He now serves an amazing 32,000 guests a month at the popular restaurant and out of the 450 Texas Roadhouse franchises his is ranked No. 6.

Blakenchip hasn’t forgotten his community, either. Among the many service projects he has taken on is serving more than 1,000 veterans this past Veteran’s Day and hosting a dine-in event for firemen and families that were involved in the California wildfires.

The Vallejo Chamber of Commerce honored Touro University and its amazing growth at historic Mare Island. Rio Vista’s Chamber recognized Lira’s Supermarket, owned with love by Jim and Shirley Lira. It is indeed a family business with the Lira children now involved.

Other winners included Tony and Sherry LoForte of Zio Fraedo’s of Vallejo by the Filipino-American Chamber; Travis Armstrong and Republic Services-Solano Garbage Company by the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber; and, Todd Bigelow from Round Table Pizza of Benicia by the Benicia Chamber.

Congratulations to all the recipients.

The author is managing editor of The Reporter. E-mail him at mmiller@thereporter.com.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Chambers of Commerce present Spirit of Solano awards

Chambers of Commerce present Spirit of Solano awards


Kimberly K. Fu — The Reporter Bill Bollman, right, and Kelly Thaanum with Stars Recreation Center in Vacaville accepted a Spirit of Solano award from the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce. Stars was among several businesses honored by various Chambers of Commerce throughout Solano County.

Gumption and a dedication to the community are qualities shared by 10 businesses honored at Thursday’s 20th annual Spirit of Solano ceremony at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield.
The gala event was sponsored by Westamerica Bank and the Solano Economic Development Corporation.
The awards, given by Chambers of Commerce throughout Solano, honor businesses believed to embody the “Spirit of Solano.”
Sandy Person, Solano EDC president, spoke about the spirit of giving each recipient possesses. “These stories, when you hear them, will make your heart sing,” she said. “Bravo to everyone.”

Dr. Marilyn Hopkins with Touro University accepted an award from the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce.
She spoke of a dedication of excellence through education, of service through graduating caring, knowledgable students ready to hit the ground running.
“We are very proud to be part of this community and very proud to be part of this today,” she said to thunderous applause.
Ernest and Ken Sousa, owners of Stars Recreation Center, were honored by the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce for a 19-year community partnership and a dedication to the county’s future.

“This is really great and really fun to do what we do,” advised Bill Bollman, bowling center manager, who accepted the award with Kelly Thaanum, banquet manager.
He spoke of the people he’s met through the years and emphasized that his experiences have been a blast.
“It’s great to see people come ... and wreck the place,” he joked.
Kevin Johnson with the Dixon Chamber of Commerce described Dixon Florist as a community icon.
“For 50 years they’ve been doing what they’re doing,” he said, explaining the business’ uniqueness and the owners’ deep community involvement.

“They bring love and care to everything they’re doing,” he continued.
Courtney Kett, who owns the business with her sisters, Melissa Taylor and Dana Martin, said the family is proud to be a part of Dixon.
“Life’s good and we are so very fortunate,” she said.
Kett shared a truism passed down from her parents: “You don’t just live in a community, you actually create the community you want to live in.”
Other Spirit of Solano award winners include:
• Law Office of Miriam Sammartino, Solano Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

• Important Details Inc., Solano County Black Chamber of Commerce.
• Lira’s Supermarket, Rio Vista Chamber of Commerce.
• Zio Fraedo’s of Vallejo, Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce of Solano County, Inc.
• Republic Services - Solano Garbage Company, Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce — Suisun.
•Texas Roadhouse, Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce — Fairfield.
• Round Table Pizza of Benicia — Benicia Chamber of Commerce.