Monday, June 30, 2008

Solano County opens centralized Benefits Action Center 6/30/2008

County opens centralized Benefits Action Center 6/30/2008

The Solano County Benefits Action Center is now open for business.

One phone call to (800) 400-6001 connects people receiving Medi-Cal and Food Stamp benefits to a caseworker who can provide responses to questions and make adjustments to their case. The Benefits Action Center (BAC) is staffed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“The new telephone service center will increase the recipient’s access to information and reduce the time it takes staff to provide services,” said Christiana Smith, Health and Social Services deputy director for Employment and Eligibility Services division.

Instead of having to contact a specific caseworker, recipients can call the BAC and connect with a pool of caseworkers who can assist them. This will provide more immediate responses to questions, as well as reduce the need for recipients to wait for a return phone call.

This is part of new business model transformation that the division has been developing over the past year. The BAC was developed as a more efficient way to handle the needs of current Medi-Cal and Food Stamps clients over the phone and by mail.

“The input of frontline staff has ensured this new Benefits Action Center is a convenient resource to clients, providing them a place for ‘one-stop shopping.’ They can ask questions about services, renew their benefits, make changes to their case, or inquire about the status of their case easily right over the phone,” Smith said.

People receiving cash aid (CalWORKs or General Assistance) should still contact their assigned caseworker. Seniors and people with disabilities served by the Older and Disabled Adult Services Division will also continue to be served by an assigned caseworker.

New applications for Medi-Cal and Food Stamps will still be taken in person at 355 Tuolumne St. in Vallejo, 275 Beck Ave. in Fairfield and 354 Parker St. in Vacaville.

For more information on the BAC, call 800-400-6001 or call 211 after business hours.

Solano County marks its second year of Green Business program 6/30/2008

County marks its second year of Green Business program 6/30/2008

The County will mark the beginning of its second year of the Green Business pilot program with another certified green business.

Vineyard RV Park at 4985 Midway Road gets the nod as the third official green business in Solano County and the first business in the unincorporated area to get the green business certification.

“We are very excited to join the Solano County Green Business Program,” said Carl and Meaghan Bertram of Vineyard RV Park. “We look forward to spreading the word that becoming a green business is both good for the environment and the bottom line.”

Solano County launched a pilot green business program in July 2007 to encourage small-to medium-sized businesses that handle or generate hazardous waste to voluntarily undergo a rigorous certification process. The program has expanded to work with other businesses wanting the green business certification.

“Vineyard RV has the extra distinction of being the first green business certified as part of the expanded program,” said Narcisa Untal, Solano County Green Business Coordinator. “They serve as an example that all businesses, regardless of their operation, can benefit from the program.”

In April 2008, the Triangle Digital INX Company in Dixon certified its manufacturing site on Industrial Way and its shipping office and warehouse on Business Park Drive. In addition, at least two businesses in each of the seven cities are actively pursuing the green business certification representing the automotive, printing, painting, office/retail, restaurant, landscaping, dental and hotel industries.

The comprehensive Green Business Certification requires:

• Compliance with all federal, state and local regulations

• Meeting Bay Area Green Business Program standards for conserving energy and water, preventing pollution and minimizing waste

Inspectors from the Vacaville Sanitary Service, Solano County Water Agency, Small Business Energy Alliance and the Solano County Public Works Engineering Division completed onsite audits at the Vineyard RV Park to verify compliance with the comprehensive industry-based checklist.

The Bertrams own a similar RV park in Novato that was certified a green business by Marin County three years ago.


Command to change hands at Travis Monday

Command to change hands at Travis Monday
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | June 27, 2008

TRAVIS AFB - Col. Steven Arquiette will hand over command of the 60th Air Mobility Wing to Col. Mark C. 'Marshall' Dillon Monday morning, the Travis Public Affairs Office announced.

Arquiette called his two years at Travis 'a very fast-paced and extremely rewarding opportunity' working with all those 'who make Team Travis what it is.'

In addition to the 60th AMW, Arquiette praised the 349th Air Mobility Wing, the 615th Contingency Response Wing and David Grant Medical Center.

'It has also been rewarding to see all that the community does to support Travis,' Arquiette said Friday.

Arquiette lauded how well Travis personnel and their families have risen to the challenge of maintaining high operations tempos and supporting the base's missions.

The base's success through inspections and at last year's Air Mobility Command Rodeo competition are other noteworthy accomplishments, Arquiette said. Travis earned top honors in the rodeo.

With about 1,000 Travis personnel deployed overseas, this has been a time when those remaining at the base have had to work harder, he added.

'The team has really performed and I am proud of each and every member,' Arquiette said.

Dillon has served as the U.S. Transportation Command's liaison officer to the Southern command in Miami since 2006.

Arquiette said his successor 'comes with a great wealth of mobility knowledge. He will come in and take the wing even higher. We are giving him a well-oiled and well- functioning team.'

Dillon is no stranger to Travis, where he once commanded the 22nd Airlift Squadron.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

City spotlight: Dixon

City spotlight: Dixon
East Bay Business Times
June 27, 2008

Michael C. Smith was elected to the Dixon City Council in 2004. He is a journeyman electrician and is an instructor for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union Local 180 teaching future electrical contractors. He is also an active Boys & Girls Club director.

Michael C. Smith:

What excites you the most about Dixon's future? It's our proximity to UC-Davis. We have 1,000 acres ready to be developed and a pending rail stop. In our General Plan, we have 640 acres in the northeast quadrant zoned commercial/light industrial and 477 acres in the southwest quadrant zoned commercial/industrial and we have infill property.

What troubles you the most about Dixon's future? The flip side is that the citizens stated in the General Plan that development must pay its own way. The city can't stimulate development in any way. It's a catch-22. We have 1,000 acres, but it will take a developer with deep pockets. ... We have plenty of ground water, but a developer must pay for the well.

What is the biggest opportunity in Dixon? Interstate 80 frontage is $1 a square foot and there are buildings ready to occupy. There is a lot of potential here. ... There are 60 acres of the former Milk Farm site to be developed. ... We are eight miles from UC-Davis and its wealth of intellectual knowledge.

What is Dixon's biggest asset? Its small-town charm.

What is its biggest liability? Growth. Growth generated by being on highway frontage. The county is competing with us. We have green belts to preserve open space, but the county is coming in with an overlay to change 600 acres of county land to industry and agriculture from agriculture.

What is the most important development project to come soon? The Home Depot across from Wal-Mart.

What is something people don't know about Dixon? We sell tractors on Main Street. We have an old downtown that's two blocks long that looks like the '50s and '60s. It's laid back. There's no rush. People slow down. People hold the door for you.

History: The Dixon area was first settled in 1852 by Elijah S. Silvey, who operated a roadhouse in a farming community known as Silveyville about two miles northwest of where Dixon now stands. The community changed overnight when rancher Thomas Dickson donated 10 acres near the California Pacific Railroad line for a town site and depot. Silveyville buildings were placed on logs and rolled to the new site. One of them, the United Methodist Church, still stands. The new town was to be renamed after its benefactor, but the name was misspelled by a shipping clerk, and the name stuck. Dixon was incorporated in 1878. In its early years, the area was known for grain, alfalfa and dairy farming. Today it enjoys a national reputation in the sheep and lamb industry. The city is home to the Dixon Lambtown USA festival and the May Fair, the oldest state-affiliated fair in California. Dixon Public Library, Image: Downtown Dixon recalls a quieter time.

Population: 17,644
Biggest private employer: CSK Auto Inc. (Kragen)
No. of CSK employees: 400
No. 2 private employer: First Northern Bank
No. of First Northern employees: 263
No. of business licenses: 800
No. of jobs in Dixon: 7,310
Median household income: $72,000
Median home price, May '08: $350,500
On the Web:

Magazine names Copart a 'most admired' company

Magazine names Copart a 'most admired' company
Article Launched: 06/30/2008

FAIRFIELD - Copart, Inc. has announced it was named one of the Most Admired Companies in the Bay Area by San Jose Magazine in its July 2008 edition.

San Jose Magazine also named Copart one of the Best Places to Work in the Bay Area in March and Forbes' Magazine has named Copart to its Best Small Companies list eight consecutive years.

Founded in 1982, Copart currently operates 145 facilities in the United States, Canada and the UK.

Favela's changes more than address

Favela's changes more than address
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | June 27, 2008

Paintings by the late Mexican painter David Villase√ɱor line the walls of the newly opened Favela's Fusion restaurant in Fairfield. Photo by Brad Zweerink

FAIRFIELD - Favela's Fusion shares only a few things in common with the more modest downtown predecessor it came from.

There's the name, of course, and the classic tacos and burritos on the back of the menu. But that's about it.

The goal when opening Favela's Fusion was to create an entirely new experience, owner Veronica Favela said. The store opened June 19 in the Fairfield Corners shopping center on Oliver Road.

'If you want to have the burritos and tacos, we have them,' she said. 'But it's a higher-end cuisine.'

As a teenager, Favela opened her first restaurant in 1989 on Texas Street. Since then, she has opened other locations on North Texas Street and in Vacaville. About two years ago, Favela said she started thinking about trying something new.

Retaining the recognizable name and little else, Favela said she wanted to create a full-service restaurant with an upscale menu that incorporated traditional Mexican foods.

The other key was to offer the dishes in an environment that did them justice, Favela said.

'We had never put them on our menu before because I think they needed the appropriate place,' she said. 'Mole, for example. Mole is not something you can serve quickly. It takes a long time to put together.'

See the complete story at the Daily Republic Online.

New Kaiser hospital is taking shape in Vacaville

New Kaiser hospital is taking shape in Vacaville
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | June 27, 2008

VACAVILLE - It is almost time to start moving in all the equipment the new Kaiser Permanente hospital will need when it opens in April 2009.

The four-story, 340,000-square-foot facility will provide an array of medical services, including the city's first maternity ward.

'It will be the first time that 'born in Vacaville' will be on the birth certificate,' Kaiser spokeswoman Joanie Erickson said.

The new Kaiser hospital on Vaca Valley Parkway is more than 90 percent complete. Plans are to open the medical offices in November and the hospital itself in April 2009.

'We are on time and on budget,' Kaiser Senior Projects Manager Andrew Fellows said.

The hospital will boast state-of-the-art facilities that include a 24-hour emergency department, ambulatory surgery unit and cardiology, radiology, oncology, orthopedics, podiatry and urology departments.

'We will be bringing more specialized medical services here,' Erickson said. 'In November, more of our Vacaville patients will be able to stay here instead of driving to Vallejo.'

A standard set of plans Kaiser has used in building other hospitals saved the company time in obtaining the state building permits for the Vacaville facility. That, in turn, saved time in construction.

The buildings have been erected. Installation of piping, cabinets, lighting, flooring and heavy medical infrastructure is nearly complete.

Crews are in the process of testing the air, water, steam and ventilation systems, and installing some of the heavier equipment in the surgery unit.

Kaiser is particularly proud of the hospital's green design that includes recyclable rubber flooring and recycled asphalt parking lots. The building design incorporates a greater number of windows that are designed to filter out UV rays.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Installation held

Installation held
Article Launched: 06/29/2008

The Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce held its annual installation luncheon recently, installing a new chairman and board of directors.

Scott Reynolds of Gaw Van Male was installed as chairman of the board. Randy Dawson of Premier Commercial Inc. and Anthony Russo of B&L Properties were installed as board members.

MV Transportation of Fairfield received the Business of the Year Award. The Ambassador of the Year Award was split between Frank Newton of Security-Shred Inc. and Tawni Jones of 1st Pacific Credit Union. Educators of the Year were Lisa Christensen of Dan O. Root II Elementary and Dan Gutowski of Armijo High School. Herman Rowland of Jelly Belly Candy Co. received the Distinguished Citizen Award.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Copart opens car auctions to the public

Copart opens car auctions to the public
East Bay Business Times - by Michael Fitzhugh
June 26, 2008


Copart Inc. is expanding its auction services beyond insurers to the public in a move that will increase its supply of resale vehicles as the company continues its rapid worldwide growth.

CopartDirect, its new consumer service, will open the door for individuals to the company's more than 100,000 buyers in 90 countries, offering a guaranteed bid cars within about a week.

The automotive salvage giant acts as a middleman, auctioning vehicles for parts and reuse to dismantlers, rebuilders, used vehicle dealers and exporters through daily online auctions.

"We recognize there is a need in the country today for the general public to have a way to sell their car that doesn't take up a lot of their personal time, require them to show their car to strangers or deal with collecting money or filling out DMV paperwork, said Jay Adair, Fairfield-based Copart's president.

The company also hopes to make Copart, the largest provider of auction and related services for the salvage market according to analyst firm Robert W. Baird & Co., into a household name by promoting the company in ways it never has before.

Copart's profits have grown steadily every year since it went public in 1994, reaching $136.3 million on sales of $560.7 million in 2007. Most of that money has come from fees insurers paid Copart to auction damaged vehicles deemed a loss or not economically repairable, or recovered after a theft for which an insurance settlement with the vehicle owner had already been made.

The company sells 1.4 million vehicles each year worldwide.

"Finally, we asked ourselves, 'Why aren't we selling cars for other people too? We already have the facilities. We already have the technology. Maybe we should open it up to them," said Marla Pugh, Copart's communications director.

"One of the clients we're targeting with Copart Direct are the people who have liability-only (insurance) and don't have comprehensive or collision (coverage). Their insurance will cover the other person's car, but they're left with a wrecked car and they don't know what to do with it," said Pugh.

About one-quarter of the nation's drivers have liability-only insurance, according to Don Griffin, vice president of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a Des Plaines, Ill., insurers group.

Griffin expects the launch of CopartDirect to be a positive development for consumers, especially for consumers getting rid of damaged vehicles, for which he believes Copart's buyers are likely to pay higher prices than junk yards might.

"The title would be properly marked as salvaged vehicle because it has gone through an auction," Griffin said.

"One of the things we've tried to do countrywide is to make sure once vehicles are totaled the title reflects that and the cars are sold for parts instead of whole vehicles put back on the road," he said.

The supply of such vehicles, which sustains Copart in large part, could diminish somewhat as gas prices rise, leading to a reduction in miles driven and consequently accident rate, the company noted in a recent regulatory filing.

But that trend could be more than offset by other factors, notes Craig Kennison, an analyst with Baird.

"As cars become more complex and the vehicle population ages, we expect accident severity (percent of accident claims that result in a totaled car) to rise - driving modest industry volume growth," he wrote in a June 5 report on Copart, noting in a chart that that the number of vehicle appraisals deemed as total losses has climbed above 13 percent.

No matter a vehicle's condition, Copart will accept it, Pugh said, so long as there's no lien on it and the seller can provide a title of ownership. Cars don't even have to be registered or, in California, to have passed smog testing.

CopartDirect's minimum service fee is $50, due when individuals either drive of tow their vehicle to one of Copart's more than 100 facilities nationwide. That covers the listing, vehicle storage, sale preparation and the cost of running the bidding process.

If a seller approves the high bid, Copart charges 2 percent of the sales price, plus a $25 title processing fee, money taken directly out of the proceeds from the sale. If the seller doesn't approve the high bid and the car doesn't sell, those charges don't apply. Sellers can also pay $75 to establish a minimum acceptable bid for their cars.

To get the word about CopartDirect out to potential customers, the company has started small, encouraging employees to tell their friends and family, and providing them business-card sized promotions of the service. Banners advertising the service have been strung up at Copart's 130 North American auto yards. And the company has purchased Google Inc. ads guaranteeing legitimate offers for sellers cars in about a week.

Copart's Fairfield operations center, from which it monitors its auctions.

Copart Inc.

Business: Automotive sales
Headquarters: Fairfield
Founded: 1982
CEO: Willis Johnson
Employees: 350 in Fairfield
2007 revenue: $560.7 million
2007 income: $136.3 million
Address: 4665 Business Center Drive, Fairfield 94534
Phone: 707-639-5000
Web: | 925-598-1425

June 2008 State of California Economic Update

June 2008 State of California Economic Update The latest readings on real estate activity give reason for hope. Single-family home sales have been gradually trending up since October 2007. It is still uncertain how long it will take for this trend to translate into improvement in other factors, such as construction employment and consumer spending.
April yielded scant employment news as housing troubles continued to dominate labor market conditions. California’s nonfarm payroll employment was essentially unchanged, dropping only 800, while the nation as a whole lost 20,000 jobs. n Four of the state's 11 major industry sectors gained jobs in April, with the biggest gains coming in government, 5,400, and leisure and hospitality, 3,300. Government employment was boosted by an unusually large gain in federal government employment in the state and a gain in state government that was increased by Caltrans projects and seasonal activity in forestry (fire fighting) and state hospitals.
The remaining seven major industry sectors lost jobs. Construction lost 4,100 jobs; information, 3,400; manufacturing, 2,600; professional and business services, 1,400; trade, transportation, and utilities, 300; financial activities, 100; and other services, 100.
From April 2007 to April 2008, the state gained 23,400 nonfarm jobs—a mere 0.2-percent gain. And even this gain was largely due to the state having lost 39,300 jobs in April 2007.
Eight of the 11 major industry sectors gained jobs and three lost jobs over the 12-month period. The biggest gains came in educational and health services and government. Employment rose 54,800 in educational and health services; 48,200 in government; 31,000 in professional and business services; 19,800 in leisure and hospitality; 6,700 in other services; 800 in natural resources and mining; 600 in trade, transportation, and utilities; and 300 in information.
Most of the job losses were associated with slumping housing activity. Over the year, employment fell by 81,700 in construction; 36,200 in financial activities; and 20,900 in manufacturing.
The state's unemployment rate in April, 6.2 percent, was unchanged from March. Household employment grew by 53,300 and unemployment dropped 1,200. This unusually large employment gain, however, followed three consecutive month-over-month losses totaling nearly 47,000. A year ago, the state's unemployment rate was 5.2 percent.
Home building was again disappointing in April. The pace of residential permitting—73,500 units at a seasonally adjusted annual rate—recovered somewhat from an extremely weak level in March—52,800 units. New home permitting during the first four months of 2008 was down nearly 48 percent from the same months of 2007 and down 62 percent from the same period of 2006.
On the bright side, the pace of existing home sales in California perked up substantially in April—albeit from a very subdued level. Sales of existing single-family detached homes reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 366,720 units, a 15-percent increase from March. Moreover, home sales improved in five out of the six months ending with April. n This turnaround, though, coincides with a significant drop in home prices. The median price of existing single-family homes sold in April fell to $403,870, a 32-percent drop from a year earlier.
All of this activity had a positive impact on home inventories. The unsold inventory index—the number of months needed to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate—dropped from a high of 16.8 months in January 2008 to 9.2 months in April 2008. The median number of days needed to sell an existing single-family home was 52.1 in April, much improved from the 71.6 days posted in January. Monthly Cash Report Preliminary General Fund agency cash for May was $34 million above the 2008-09 May Revision forecast of $5.561 billion. Including an adjustment for actual April personal income tax receipts that were not known when the May Revision forecast was being prepared, year-to-date revenues are $39 million above the $89.987 billion that was expected. Although May is a significant revenue month, June is more important, because estimated payments for personal income tax filers and calendar-year corporations are due mid-month. Nearly $10.5 billion is forecast for June.
Personal income tax revenues to the General Fund were $267 million above the month’s forecast of $2.38 billion. Withholding receipts were $38 million above the estimate of $2.584 billion and other receipts were $393 million over the projected level of $640 million. Refunds issued in May were $160 million more than the anticipated $801 million. Proposition 63 requires that 1.76 percent of total monthly personal income tax collections be transferred to the Mental Health Services Fund (MHSF). The amount transferred to the MHSF in May was $4 million above the estimate of $43 million. Year-to-date General Fund income tax revenues are $272 million above estimate.
Sales and use tax receipts were $300 million below the month’s forecast of $2.625 billion. May cash includes the remaining portion of the final payment for first quarter taxable sales, which was due April 30, as well as the first prepayment for second quarter sales.
Corporation tax revenues were $101 million below the month’s estimate of $250 million. Prepayments were $39 million below the forecast of $221 million and refunds were $68 million above the projected level of $78 million. Other payments came in $6 million above the estimate of $107 million. May is not a particularly large payment month for this tax.
Revenues from the insurance, estate, alcoholic beverage, and tobacco taxes were $148 million above the month's forecast of $170 million. Receipts from the insurance tax alone were $147 million above $134 million expected for the month; it is expected that this gain will be offset by the lower insurance tax receipts in June. Pooled money interest income was $38 million over the estimate of $26 million. According to the State Controller’s Office, the May interest income cash total included a $36 million transfer for a prior misallocation to a special fund. Without this transfer, the pool money interest income would have been only $2 million above the month’s estimate. "Other" revenues were $18 million below the month's forecast of $110 million.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not Just Another Jelly Bean

Not Just Another Jelly Bean

The Jelly Belly innovation was to add flavors to the inside.

Easter may be long gone, but the Jelly Belly Candy Company is still producing jelly beans, 300,000 pounds a day.

An anomaly in the stagnant $29.1 billion candy industry, the company, based in Fairfield, Calif., continues to grow and increase market share, with sales up 25 percent since 2006. Jelly Belly’s success, industry experts say, is because of wider availability and global expansion. And, according to candy connoisseurs, it just makes a better bean.

“All you have to do is look at them, and they are brighter, shinier and prettier,” said Sarah Gencarelli, a candy reviewer for, a blog about sweets. With unusual and, in her opinion, superior flavors like buttered popcorn, kiwi, margarita and cappuccino, she said, “Jelly Belly has this artisanal niche.”

The challenge for the company now is to maintain that gourmet image as it moves into more retail outlets. While Jelly Belly beans used to be hard to find, available only in large glass jars in mom-and-pop candy shops, they have been gradually appearing since 2000 packaged in more grocery and convenience stores as well as at mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart, Office Depot and Bed Bath & Beyond.

“It used to be a coup to score Jelly Bellies, but now it’s gotten so they are everywhere,” said Marcia Mogelonsky, senior analyst with the market research firm Mintel in Chicago. “Without the search, you’ve got to wonder if they’ll lose some of their appeal.” In response, company officials said they were not concerned because the popularity of Jelly Belly beans is based on taste not exclusivity.

Jelly beans have been around since the 1890s, but Jelly Belly claims to have made the first gourmet jelly bean in 1976. “We were making candy corn before then and we were starving,” said Herman Goelitz Rowland, the chief executive of Jelly Belly. The company was then called the Goelitz Confectionery Company and was founded in 1898 by Mr. Rowland’s great-grandfather, Gustav Goelitz. The name changed to Jelly Belly in 2001.

Unlike traditional jelly beans that have only flavored shells, the Jelly Belly innovation was to flavor the chewy insides as well. Jelly Belly beans are also smaller and come in 50 flavors using real ingredients like fruit, peanut butter and coconut, not, industry consultants said, the six or seven usually artificial and often unidentifiable flavors available in regular jelly beans. Ms. Gencarelli described the other jelly beans as “the kind that were probably stuck together in your grandma’s candy dish.”

Jelly Belly beans sold well enough. But in 1980, word got out that Ronald Reagan was a devotee. “Our sales went from $8 million to $16 million in one year,” Mr. Rowland said. Coping with the media attention and running the California factory around the clock to try to keep up with demand, he said, was “very traumatic for our little company.”

Sales today are $160 million, and the company is aiming for $200 million by 2010. The number of employees has jumped from 10 in 1980 to 675 today, with an additional 50 expected with the completion of a 50,000-square-foot-plant under construction in Thailand.

“International sales are our biggest growth area,” said Robert Simpson, president and chief operating officer. Jelly Belly beans are available in 40 countries, up from 20 two years ago.

The Thai plant, which will be capable of producing five million pounds of Jelly Belly beans a year, will supply markets in Asia and the Middle East, company officials said. The company also has plants in Fairfield, Calif., and Chicago as well as a warehouse and distribution plant in Pleasant Prairie, Wis.

While Jelly Belly beans appeal to a broad audience, Sports Beans, introduced in 2005, are marketed specifically to athletes as a “performance bean” with electrolytes and vitamins. The Beanboozled beans, also started in 2005, were inspired by the “every flavor beans” described in Harry Potter books and are meant for children.

In 2006, Jelly Belly bought the Ben Myerson Candy Company in Los Angeles that makes the Sunkist line of fruity and chewy candies. And this year, Jelly Belly signed a deal with Cold Stone Creamery to sell a line of Jelly Belly beans that taste like some of the chain’s popular ice creams. Jelly Belly is also developing lines of bulk candies like JBz, hard-shelled chocolate candies similar to M&Ms, that come in flavors like fudge brownie, Mr. Rowland and Mr. Simpson said.

“We’re always trying to extend our reach,” Mr. Rowland said, adding that he does not believe in focus groups, preferring to go with his gut in making business decisions. He is the undisputed leader of the company, supported by Mr. Simpson, whom he met golfing, and his four adult children who are Jelly Belly employees and who sit on its board. “I get approached to sell all the time but unless my kids say it’s time to move on, I’m not going to,” said Mr. Rowland, who is 67 and has no immediate plans to retire.

Despite broadening its product line, Jelly Belly’s original gourmet beans remain the company’s focus and represent 85 percent of its sales. The candies have an enthusiastic following. In myriad personal Web sites and online food and confection forums, fans argue passionately over what flavors are best and the tastiest flavor combinations (for example, toasted marshmallow, chocolate pudding and cinnamon toast, making s’mores).

Around 700,000 tourists, some dressed as jelly beans, visit the Jelly Belly California and Wisconsin plants each year to observe the manufacturing and see portraits of notables like Reagan, Abraham Lincoln and George Clooney made out of Jelly Belly beans.

Increased public concern about obesity has not hurt sales, perhaps because at four calories a bean and no fat, Jelly Belly beans are perceived as healthier than many other kinds of candy, said Ms. Mogelonsky at Mintel. And a 10 percent price increase since 2006 because of increased sugar, corn syrup and other ingredient costs has so far not had a significant impact on unit sales, according to the company and Mintel.

“Jelly Belly is not the only one raising prices,” said Bernard Pacyniak, editor of Candy Industry, a monthly trade magazine. “We’ve had announcements of price increases from all the major candy companies due to ingredient costs.”

Yet with the price of corn sweetener alone up 50 percent since 2005, manufacturers are reluctant to pass on the full costs to customers, and large retailers, particularly Wal-Mart, are extremely resistant. “Margins have shrunk significantly,” Mr. Pacyniak said. “These are tough times for everyone.”

But the confection industry is often thought to benefit from economic anxiety as people eat candy in response to stress. Moreover, candy is seen as an affordable luxury.

“We’re definitely seeing an increase in traffic lately, which is the case anytime something major upsetting happens” like a flood or 9/11, said Tino Ramirez, part owner of Candylicious, a candy store in Houston that carries all kinds of sweets, including a rainbow of assorted Jelly Belly beans. “It’s a comfort thing,” he said. “People get their fix and feel better for a while.”

Vacaville to purchase natural gas buses

Vacaville to purchase natural gas buses
Daily Republic staff | June 25, 2008

VACAVILLE - The days are numbered for the city's diesel buses, which will be replaced by Compressed Natural Gas buses in 2009.

The Vacaville City Council approved the purchase of 10 new buses at its meeting Tuesday night. Once the new buses arrive, the city's entire 15-bus fleet will be running on natural gas.

The buses will save the city more than $100,000 a year in fuel expenses and allow the City Coach system to expand its services, Transit Manager Brian McLean said in a press release.

The natural gas buses are expected to arrive in October 2009.

Checking Things Out

Checking Things Out
Crowd gathers at new library in Suisun City
By Danny Bernardini
Article Launched: 06/26/2008

A crowd gathers Wednesday outside the new Suisun City branch of the Solano County Public Library to wait for its official opening. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)

There was no shortage of compliments and handshakes Wednesday as state, county and city officials gathered to celebrate the opening of the new Suisun City Library.

As politicians, board members and employees gave speeches to commemorate the event, the over-capacity crowd spilled out from beneath the canopy set up between the new building and the YMCA on Pintail Drive, next to Suisun Elementary School.

Sitting in the middle of a neighborhood, the building was designed to resemble the area, but still stand out. Those entering the library Wednesday - which doubles as the school library for Suisun Elementary - were met with brand new equipment and full shelves.

It didn't take long for Melody Osborne and her two daughters to find a couple Barney DVDs to check out, before heading to sign up for a summer reading program.

"We've been waiting. We've been going to the library in Cordelia and Fairfield," Osborne said. "Wow, we have our own now."

The library is lit primarily with natural light from the skylights and numerous windows. But even during stormy weather and rain, the library will stay illuminated, said Bonnie Katz, assistant director of library services for Solano County.

Some other highlights include:

•A research lab filled with 15 computers where classes for the public can also be held. The library offers a total of 26 computers and WiFi access.

•Four self-checkout machines, similar to those in grocery stores.

•A group study room that may also double as an area for one-on-one tutoring.

•A meeting room equipped with a retractable projector screen.

•A teen zone to study with friends and find materials that interest them most.

•Two separate entrances that can only be used by students at Suisun Elementary School.

At 10,000 square feet, the $5.4 million joint-use project replaces the former library, which was 5,400 square feet of space on the second floor of an office building. Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez said the new building was well worth the wait to replace the old library built in 1992.

"Oh boy, we finally have a real library with no stairs to climb or elevator buttons to push," Sanchez said before the event. "It's amazing how much can be done with great patience and cooperation. That's the kind of thing that should happen in every city. You have to make arrangements with your neighbors."

What Sanchez was referring to is the joint-use aspect of the library. It's the result of a collaborative effort among Suisun City, Solano County, the Suisun City Redevelopment Agency and the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District.

Starting in the early-1990s, a new home for the library was sought. But because of tough economic times, it wasn't until Solano County voters approved a 1/8th of a cent sales tax in 1998 to restore library services that the ball got rolling.

The search for a new home continued until 2005, when the four partnership groups came up with land and funds to build the new library.

Supervisor Jim Spering said he was most proud that 70 percent of the city could either walk or ride a bike to the library without crossing a major roadway.

Assemblywoman Lois Wolk added that a library can double as a community center, especially when located correctly as the new one.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Vallejo council approves new Touro cancer center

Vallejo council approves new Touro cancer center
By JESSICA A. YORK/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 06/25/2008

Pushing aside the city's bitter medicine for the evening, the Vallejo City Council concentrated Tuesday night on its spoonful of sugar.

After some discussion the council unanimously approved Touro University's proposed $300 million cancer treatment and research center agreements while the city's budget and looming deficit were delayed until 6:30 p.m. today.

Though universally applauded, the Touro project did not pass without council scrutiny.

Council members asked city staff to explain the $1 sale price for the future north Mare Island cancer center. The property, officials explained, would have cost developers an estimated $8 million if fully developed.

Instead, Touro has agreed to fund about $22 million in road and infrastructure improvements to the island's north end and about $4 million in demolition costs for 17 buildings on the property. Also, due to the ground's instability, expensive support pilings will need to be installed under building structures.

"The council will be beaten over the head if we give it away for a $1 and beaten over the head if we don't attract new businesses," said Councilwoman Joanne Schivley. "We could hold out for several more million dollars' purchase price and have a bare piece of land."

Councilwoman Stephanie Gomes questioned city and Touro officials on contract details being considered, saying that the meeting was the first time the nuts and bolts of the agreements had been shared publicly. Specifically, Gomes said she is concerned about having design review control over the center's development and for the council to be kept in the loop on any problems arising during construction.

Resident Marti Brown also asked for explanations on what, if any, rights were being taken from residents to challenge the project. City attorneys said that the agreement was similar to a development agreement for the city's waterfront.

"I guess it just seems like we're throwing in everything and the kitchen sink, and that we're just giving everything away," Brown said, adding that there was "no doubt that this project is a bright star in what otherwise has been dark skies" for the city.

Francisco Da Costa, of the San Francisco-based Environmental Justice Advocacy group, urged the city to consider putting a holistic center in a holistic area, rather than a polluted one.

Public Improvements required of Touro would include widening and upgrading Azuar Drive from G Street to Railroad Avenue, part of Railroad Avenue near the project, and I Street. The State Route 37 interchange is also to be aligned with the north island's roads. Storm drains, utility lines and medians will be included in the improvements.

Loud applause greeted the unanimous vote approving the resolutions for the acquisition, right of entry and demolition, public improvement construction and development agreements. Only Councilman Michael Wilson abstained due to work-related conflicts.

• Contact Jessica A. York at 553-6834 or at

Suisun City unveils new library today

Suisun City unveils new library today
Article Launched: 06/25/2008

A ribbon-cutting event will mark the opening of the new Suisun City Library at 1 today.

Remarks from local and state officials, a Cub Scout color guard and refreshments will round out the ceremony.

Germar the Magician will be on hand for a bilingual magic show at 2 p.m.

Since 1992, the Suisun City Library occupied a 5,400 square foot leased space in a commercial building. The new Suisun City Library, at 601 Pintail Drive, almost doubles the size of the old library and provides enhanced access to computers, computer training and meeting spaces.

The building is the result of a partnership between Solano County Library, the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District, Suisun City and the city's Redevelopment District.

The library was built on city land donated to the school district, with the county, school district and redevelopment agency providing the capital from different funding sources to build the facility. The school district owns the building and Solano County Library will continue to operate the library.

Built adjacent to Suisun Elementary School, the library serves as both a public and school library. In addition to doubling the square footage of the former space, the new library features a study room, community meeting room and a 15-seat computer center. The meeting room will host library programs as well as serve as an "in-library" classroom by day and community meeting room at night. The library's collection of books, movie DVDs, recorded books and other materials combine the breadth of the public library's collection with materials that are specially chosen for Suisun Elementary School students as well as other students in the city.

The library is the first joint-use library in Solano County, operating as a public library and school library in the same building.

Educational Undertaking

Educational Undertaking
SCC unveils master plan for Vaca site
By Ryan Chalk
Article Launched: 06/25/2008

An artist's rendering shows an aerial view of the master plan for a completed SCC Vacaville campus. (Ryan Chalk/The Reporter)

It doesn't look like much now, but Solano Community College staff broke ground Tuesday on a dusty 60-acre parcel in Vacaville which is set to become the crown jewel in the community college's system.

Across the street from the college's current facility on North Village Parkway, about 50 people made up of college faculty and staff, board members, local government officials, architects, and members of the community showed up to witness the first spades of earth moved in celebration of a new $27.2 million Vacaville Center.

"It's just the beginning of something special for the people of Vacaville and surrounding communities," said Robin Steinback, SCC's vice president of academic affairs.

Phase One of the project, which is scheduled to be completed by fall 2010, will include a 40,000 square-foot, multi-story facility which will allow the college to expand course offerings and student services to northern Solano County residents.

The first phase of the project, a two-story building on 10 acres, is funded by Measure G Bond funds passed by voters in 2002 for the Solano Community College District, which is effectively Solano County.

On hand for Tuesday's event was former Solano Community College Governing Board Trustee Barbara Jones, who flew all the way from Tennessee to be in attendance.

In honor of her many years of service, the building will be named after her.

"It's really exciting to see them moving forward," said Jones. "This is really going to be a cornerstone in the Solano Community College program."

The new campus will handle about 3,500 students and offer nearly every course in the general education catalog according to Gerald Fisher, SCC's superinten-dent/president.

With rising fuel costs, Fisher discussed the advantage of having an expanded campus in the north county to serve residents of Vacaville, Winters and Dixon.

"It fits so nicely with our concept of access to education within 20 minutes of everyone's homes," said Fisher.

The proximity to Biotech giant Genentech is also seen as a boon to the school's biotech program, added officials.

"The nice thing is that the students will be able to watch it," added Fisher, about the construction of the new campus taking place across the street from the existing one. "It's exciting for them."

Phase One of the SCC Vacaville campus includes a two-story classroom building scheduled to completed by fall 2010. (Ryan Chalk/The Reporter)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Report gives insight into status of seniors in Solano County

Report gives insight into status of seniors in Solano County 6/24/2008

Demographic changes reflecting sharp increases in Solano County’s senior population will have broad and profound implications for the economic, health care, and social systems serving the county, according to a recent report on the status of seniors.

The Senior Coalition of Solano County, at the direction of the County Board of Supervisors, conducted a study on the social, economic, health and well-being of the senior population in Solano County. The Solano County Status Report on Seniors 2008 is the culmination of that study. The 130-page report is available online at under Special Reports.

The status report highlights the local angle on the national story of the aging of the American population at unprecedented rates. “Never before in history has the number of older adults outnumbered the number of children under the age of five years old,” the report states.

By 2050, projected number of older adults in Solano County will increase 400 percent from the number in 2000, with those 85 and older increasing by 600 percent. The racial, ethnic and linguistic composition is likewise changing. By 2030, Caucasians will no longer be the majority in Solano County.

“The background and issues identified in the report provide the Board and other policymakers across the county with the basis for action plans,” said Supervisor Reagan. “The report also identifies what each one of us can do – personally and collectively – to improve the quality of life for seniors.”

Supervisor Reagan and Supervisor John Vasquez serve on the Board of Supervisors’ Senior Issues Committee.

Some of the findings about older adults in Solano County include:

• Delaying retirement, or returning to work, will become a necessity for many seniors. An estimated 19 percent of older adults do not have an income sufficient to meet their basic needs without assistance. The report estimates that 35 percent of older adult have incomes less than $25,000, which may be below minimum income levels needed to cover housing, transportation, health care and food costs as measured by an Elder Economic Security Index for Solano County.

• Many, but not all, of the challenges individuals face as they age can be remedied through proactive and preventative measures, such as eating fruits and vegetables, exercising daily and staying active in the community.

• Falls are the No. 1 cause of fatal injuries and non-fatal hospitalizations among older adults.

• Older adults in Solano County scored favorably when compared to national health objectives as set forth in Healthy People 2010, in proper nutrition, no smoking behavior, and health screenings. Considerable improvement needs to be made in physical activity levels and immunizations.

• Up to 30 percent of older adults in Solano County reported that they volunteer, which benefits the community as well as provides health benefits to the volunteer. The report encouraged efforts to expand the use of senior volunteers.

Recommendations in the status report fall into two categories: those for individuals, and those for communities and government. In general, individuals are advised to prepare for their retirement years and engage in healthy behaviors throughout their lives. Communities are advised to prepare for a shift in needed services and to provide opportunities for older adults to be fully engaged and active.

Businesses Choose Fairfield, CA for Available Space, Freeway Accessibility, and Available Workforce

Businesses Choose Fairfield, CA for Available Space, Freeway Accessibility, and Available Workforce
Mon, 23 Jun 2008

FAIRFIELD, Calif., June 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The San Francisco Bay Area city
of Fairfield, CA continues to attract companies in diverse industry sectors.
Businesses choose to locate in Fairfield, located halfway between San
Francisco and Sacramento, because of its available land, location at the
confluence of two freeways, affordable housing and an available workforce.

New businesses in Fairfield include: Keetsa, an eco-friendly mattress
store, Elliott Company, a global leader in the design, manufacture and service
of turbo machinery, and UMA Solar, a distributor of solar pool heating

"Businesses choose Fairfield because we have what's needed to help
companies grow," said Eve Somjen, community development director for
Fairfield. "The city has the infrastructure and value-priced real estate to
help businesses locate here."

Keetsa Mattress has opened a 2,500-square foot store at 1595 Holiday Lane
in Fairfield. The site was formerly occupied by A+ School Supply store.
Keetsa has been in business for less than a year and manufactures and sells
eco-friendly mattresses.

Company spokesperson, Joe Alexander says the company chose to open in
Fairfield because of the site's visibility right along Interstate 80 and also
because of the Travis Air Force Base community which is a target market for

The company also has stores in Berkeley and San Francisco.

The Elliott Company, which designs and manufactures steam turbines, air
and gas compressors, power recovery turbines and power-generating equipment,
is expected to move from Benicia, CA to a 36,000-square foot space at 2339
Courage Drive in Fairfield on July 1, 2008. The company has been in Benicia
since 1988, and is moving because it has outgrown its 22,000-square foot

Elliott Company employs 1,200 people in 28 locations world-wide. The
Fairfield location will employ 22 people and is projected to grow to 30 by the
end of the year.

Bob Cross, Director of Service Shop Operations in the Americas says, "we
chose to locate in Fairfield because it has available space as well as freeway
accessibility which is important for our shipping and receiving needs. Plus,
it's ideal because many of our employees live in Fairfield."

Also moving to Fairfield in July is UMA Solar, wholesale distributor of
Heliocol, the world's largest solar pool heating system for North America.
The company is scheduled to locate its Northern California distribution center
in a 9,000-square foot facility on Edison Court and will service the entire
San Francisco Bay Area, Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.

"Fairfield's strategic location near major freeways is important to our
business and a key reason why we chose to locate here," said Greg Gahagan, the
company's California representative and spokesperson.

UMA Solar is headquartered in Altamonte Springs, Florida and has
additional distribution centers in San Diego, Arizona, and Florida. The
company, in business for 30 years, has installed solar heating systems at the
Olympic Summer Games, San Diego State University and the Florida Governor's

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ad campaign in Japan touts Napa, Vallejo sites

Ad campaign in Japan touts Napa, Vallejo sites
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 06/22/2008

Vallejo and Napa are among the sites touted in a marketing effort launched Friday designed to bring Japanese tourists to California, the state's top tourism agency announced.

The new ad campaign, as well as two new Japanese Web sites - and - highlight California's popular gateway cities, as well as attractions and activities within a four-hour drive, the statement notes.

The Web sites are divided into 10 main sections, including famous landmarks and events, national and state parks, wine and food attractions, theme parks, spas, ski and golf resorts, beaches, and arts and culture, said commission spokeswoman Kat Burnside.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is included in the theme park section, while the Napa Valley is included in the spa/wellness section as well as with the wine and food attractions, Burnside said.

The $5.1 million campaign will include the first national Japanese television spots the California Travel & Tourism Commission's ever done, according to the announcement. It's part of an expanded marketing outreach to the Japanese market - one of the top international feeder markets for state tourism, the statement noted.

The campaign, which also includes newspaper ads and billboards, features Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is popular in Japan, the statement notes.

The commission is a nonprofit organization working to develop and maintain marketing programs that "keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination," according to its statement.

The Vallejo Convention & Visitors Bureau's Jim Reikowsky said that since his agency can't afford to advertise internationally, being specifically included in the state's campaign is "wonderful."

But he said he "hesitates to say many of these tourists will stay over night in Vallejo," which is where the big tourist dollars are.

"They're likely to stay in San Francisco and make us a day trip," he said. "Though we may get a few of them. We tell people all the time that it's less expensive to stay in Vallejo and we're centrally located to the entire Bay Area. It's one of our main marketing points."

However, Burnside said that an overnight stay in Vallejo is specifically promoted in the Web site's itinerary portion.

The new ad campaign, targeting women in their 20s and 30s as well as active baby boomers, features the slogan "Nandemo Alifornia," which means "California has it all," according to the statement. It conveys the state's diverse and abundant "tourism product" as well as its easygoing lifestyle, the statement notes.

• Last year, 675,000 Japanese visited California, up 4.5 percent from the previous year - and representing 19 percent of the Japanese traveling to the U.S.

• California's market share of Japanese U.S. travelers increased 1.2 percent in 2007.

• The average Japanese traveler spends more than $1,100 per person during a California trip.

• Travel and tourism expenditures total $96.7 billion annually statewide, support jobs for 924,100 Californians and generates $5.8 billion in state and local tax revenues.

Source: California Travel & Tourism Commission

• E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

Vacaville officials make biotech pitch

Vacaville officials make biotech pitch
By Ian Thompson | Daily Republic | June 20, 2008

FAIRFIELD - Vacaville officials, including Mayor Len Augustine, spent the week touting what their city can offer the biotechnology industry at the time when many such companies are looking elsewhere to expand.

Augustine, City Manager David Van Kirk and Economic Development Manager Mike Palumbo attended the 2008 BIO International Convention in San Diego. The conference ended Friday.

'We know what biotech companies want and need, and we're able to provide that,' Palombo stated in a city press release. 'A business-friendly council and community are key to our success.'

Vacaville was one of eight California cities at the convention 'to let people know Vacaville was a player in biotech manufacturing,' according to city Public Information Officer Mark Mazzaferro, who also attended the convention.

Many biotech companies, even ones in California, are looking to move to or expand in other states because those states offer more incentives than California does, Mazzaferro said.

Vacaville officials lobbied industry representatives by pointing out that the city has and will offer its own incentives to bring in new biotech companies.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Travis Credit Union opens new branch

Travis Credit Union opens new branch
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | June 20, 2008

Travis Credit Union teller Chantelle Garcia, right, helps member Joy Townes at the credit union's new Vacaville branch on Peabody Road Wednesday. Photo by Brad Zweerink

VACAVILLE - Travis Credit Union has opened a new branch at the corner of Peabody Road and Alamo Drive to make it easier for south Vacaville customers to do business.

'It is a very convenient location for our customers,' said Kathy Rios, vice president of marketing for Travis Credit Union.

The new facility is more of a relocation of an existing branch than the creation of a new one.

Travis Credit Union is moving its corporate branch services from its headquarters on One Travis Way to the new branch at 2010 Peabody Road. Those services include tellers, new account services and auto loans.

The new branch opened last Monday, and a formal grand opening celebration is planned for June 28 from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Free children's ID/DNA kits will be available at the grand opening. The credit union's mascot T-Bird will visit with children from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Hot dogs and other refreshments will be provided.

The new branch's business hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Saturday.

Travis Credit Union is opening the new branch because it determined that 50 percent of those credit union members who were using the corporate office location lived within a short distance of the new location.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic Online.

Caltrans breaks ground on I-80 car pool lanes

Caltrans breaks ground on I-80 car pool lanes
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | June 19, 2008 16:00

Caltrans Director Will Kempton speaks as I-80 traffic speeds by in the background during a ground breaking ceremony Thursday in Fairfield. Kempton was in town for the beginning of the project on I-80 that will add approximately eight miles of high occupancy vehicle lanes in both directions and widen the median on from approximately Red Top Road to Airbase Parkway. Photo by Chris Jordan

FAIRFIELD - With a few shovelfuls of dirt, a project to install car pool lanes on Interstate 80 got under way Thursday.

Government officials got together in a Green Valley parking lot adjacent to the freeway to praise the work that brought the $53.2 million construction project to reality.

'Anyone who has driven on that stretch of roadway through the City of Fairfield knows how badly we need to upgrade,' said Will Kempton, director of the California Department of Transportation.

The high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes are the centerpiece of the project and will stretch from Red Top Road to the Putah South Canal between Air Base Parkway and North Texas Street.

The project will also involve significant work on medians and road surfaces across the county, Caltrans said. Pavement will be resurfaced and medians installed between Tennessee Street in Vallejo and Highway 113 in Dixon, a distance of about 35 miles. Construction is scheduled to be completed in fall 2009.

The event drew both local and state officials, including Fairfield Mayor Harry Price, who was clad in a Jelly Belly tie. Price said the HOV lanes will make the area 'a sweeter place.'

A representative for Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, read a statement saying Miller 'looks forward to the day' that the HOV lanes in Fairfield are connected to those at the Carquinez Bridge and extended to Interstate 505 in Vacaville.

See the complete story at the Daily Repbulic Online.

Suisun City manager can see progress, potential

Suisun City manager can see progress, potential
By Ian Thompson | Daily Republic | June 20, 2008

Suzanne Bragdon is the city manager of Suisun City. Photo by Brad Zweerink

SUISUN CITY - Suzanne Bragdon checked her vision three years ago before deciding to become Suisun City's manager. If she didn't see a light at the end of the city's dark economic tunnel, she would have never taken the job.

The light is much closer these days.

'We have made a lot of headway,' Bragdon said as she reflected on all that city staff has accomplished in her time at the helm.

Suisun City is moving toward becoming the waterfront destination that Bragdon has envisioned. She sees the Hampton Inn, the first Main Street West retail project and the Wal-Mart Supercenter attracting people to the city and generating revenue for city coffers.

Bragdon arrived in Suisun City on Sept. 1, 2005, after leaving her job as an economic development consultant for the city of Grover Beach on the Central California coast.

Her short-term goals at the time included a daunting campaign to put the city's general fund finances back in the black. She also set out to restore stability in City Hall because several department heads were interim and budget cuts had deflated employees' confidence.

New department heads are now in place, general fund finances are back on track and employee confidence has improved.

'I still have not figured out why this core team is so dedicated,' Bragdon said in tribute to the city's workforce. 'All we can show them is that things will get better.'

City leaders have aggressively marketed all possible development sites not covered by the Main Street project at business and development conventions to catch the eyes of potential retailers and developers.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic Online.

Managerial maneuvers: Quinn finds footing in Fairfield as Huston departs to Dixon

Managerial maneuvers: Quinn finds footing in Fairfield as Huston departs to Dixon
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | June 22, 2008

Fairfield City Manager Sean Quinn says the Pledge of prior to a recent city council meeting. Today marks the end of Quinn's first six months on the job.

FAIRFIELD - It was 2007 and Fairfield was looking for a leader.

Longtime City Manager Kevin O'Rourke was retiring and there appeared to be two potential replacements, both looking for their first shot at being the top banana. The job went to Sean Quinn, then the director of the Department of Community Development.

Quinn started six months ago today. Now, Assistant City Manager Nancy Huston will soon get her opportunity. She starts June 30 as city manager of Dixon.

The past six months have been a whirlwind but generally in line with his expectations for the job, Quinn said. Much of his time has been consumed by dealing with a city budget deficit.

'I knew going in that there were budget issues to deal with and we would have to deal with that quickly,' he said. 'That part hasn't been a surprise.'

The council was laudatory of Quinn in 2007 when members were advocating for his hire. He called the council 'results driven' and said the members have a strong working relationship.

'(The quality of) my relationship with them, I don't think has changed much,' Quinn said. 'It is, of course, different when you are a department head they are encouraging to apply for a job than when you have the job and they are your boss.'

Huston also applied for the job in 2007, although Quinn was the stated choice of the council. After City Councilmen Chuck Timm and Matt Garcia were sworn in, the council canceled the application process and hired Quinn.

See the complete story at the Daily Repbulic Online.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Details of I-80 face lift unveiled

Details of I-80 face lift unveiled
By Danny Bernardini
Article Launched: 06/19/2008

A face lift for the rough and tumble terrain of Interstate 80 in most of Solano County will kick in to high gear in the following months, but drivers will pay with lane closures, detours and other delays.

Details of the $125 million project that will add carpool lanes and improve 27 miles of road between Vacaville and Vallejo were discussed Wednesday evening in Fairfield.

Hosted by the Solano Transportation Authority and Caltrans, various staff members were on hand to answer questions - the meeting focused on the 12 construction projects. A similar meeting will take place at 6:30 tonight in the Ulatis Cultural Center.

Also today, a groundbreaking ceremony will take place in the Green

Valley Crossing Shopping Center that will feature transportation brass and local politicians.

Funding for the construction projects came via the State Highway Operations and Protection Program (SHOPP).

Some construction has already started, but the bulk of the work will start in the coming weeks and last until well into 2009. Along with adding the commuter lanes, installing a new median and resurfacing, several improvements to ramps are planned.

Most construction will be done at night, with lane closures occurring in westbound lanes from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. and in eastbound lanes from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Some of the major projects include the following:

• Resurface, restore and rehab I-80 from Leisure Town Road to Air Base Parkway. The project will cost $37.4 million and work was scheduled to start in spring 2008.

• Adding High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes in each direction from Red Top Road to Air Base Parkway. The project will cost $53.2 million and was scheduled to start in spring 2008.

• Resurface, restore and rehab I-80 from Highway 12 to Air Base Parkway. The project will cost $25.6 million and is scheduled for spring 2009.

• Rehab pavement and install a concrete barrier from American Canyon Road to Green Valley Creek. The project will cost $37.8 million and is scheduled for summer 2008.

• Rehab roadway and install a concrete barrier from American Canyon Road to Tennessee Street in

Vallejo. The project will cost $35.1 million and is scheduled for winter 2008.

For more information, visit or

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

State bond sends $5 million to Vallejo for ferry facility

State bond sends $5 million to Vallejo for ferry facility
Times-Herald staff report
Article Launched: 06/18/2008

Vallejo will receive $5 million for a ferry maintenance facility as part of a state bond measure, lawmakers announced Tuesday.

The funds are part of $25 million allocated to the Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority through Proposition 1B, which was approved by voters in 2006.

Funding for the maintenance facility in Vallejo will allow the city to "play a prominent role in ferry operations under the new transportation authority," Sen. Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, said in a statement Tuesday.

Established to enhance the Bay Area ferry system, the transportation authority was created in 2007.

The rest of the Proposition 1B funds will be used for terminal and ferry construction in San Francisco, a maintenance barge, terminal design in Hercules and Berkeley and environmental studies, lawmakers said.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

County OKs green program

County OKs green program
Article Launched: 06/17/2008

FAIRFIELD - Solano County is adopting a Voluntary Green Builder Program designed to reduce greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide emissions from home building projects.
County supervisors gave tentative approval to the program June 10, and will hold a second reading June 24.

Under the voluntary program, builders are encouraged to divert materials from landfills, use water conservation methods in landscaping and household uses, install energy-efficient lighting, use materials with recycled contents, and use alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind, among other activities.

As an incentive to participate, residential builders would receive expedited plan review at no additional cost. Any costs would be paid by the builders and property owners.

Magazine to honor Solano County

Magazine to honor Solano County
Times-Herald staff report
Article Launched: 06/17/2008

FAIRFIELD - CIO magazine will recognize Solano County and other members of the 18-county Welfare Client Data Systems Consortium as one of the magazine's 2008 100 award honorees.

The award program, now in its 21st year, recognizes organizations worldwide that exemplify the highest level of operational and strategic excellence in information technology.

Past winners include AT&T, Merrill Lynch, General Motors, FedEx and Dell. The consortium developed a technological solution called the CalWORKs Information Network to monitor eligibility and benefits, client correspondence, reports, and case management for public assistance programs.

The awards will be presented Aug. 26 at the CIO 100 Symposium and awards ceremony in Colorado Springs. They will also be featured in the Aug. 15 issue of CIO magazine.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Thompson joins NorthBay board

Thompson joins NorthBay board

John P. Thompson, former city manager of Vacaville, has joined the board of directors of NorthBay Health Advantage, a subsidiary of non-profit NorthBay Healthcare, headquartered in Fairfield.

"John's years of experience in management, budgets, strategic planning and urban land use will be a great asset to NorthBay," said Sandy Person, chairwoman of the board of directors.

NorthBay Health Advantage oversees business divisions associated with VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville and NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield.

Thompson, who now owns a consulting firm, arrived in Vacaville in 1979 to accept the job of assistant city manager. In July 1984 he succeeded Walter Graham as city manager. He held that post until retiring from the city in January 2003.

He and his wife, Diane, make their home in Vacaville.

Benicia-Martinez bridge wins award

Benicia-Martinez bridge wins award
Times-Herald staff report
Article Launched: 06/14/2008

The Interstate 680 Benicia-Martinez Bridge was recently recognized as a best-in-class transportation project from state and national transportation foundations, it was announced this week.

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association Development Foundation presented the project team with an honorable mention Globe Award in the bridge category.

These annual awards recognize private-sector firms and public-sector transportation agencies for outstanding work in protecting and/or enhancing the natural environment in the planning, design and construction of U.S. transportation infrastructure projects, according to a foundation statement.

Awards are judged by an independent panel of federal environmental specialists. The Benicia-Martinez Bridge project team was recognized for its efforts to minimize impacts on marine habitat during construction.

The Benicia-Martinez Bridge project team was also honored with the Project of the Year Award at the 19th annual TRANNY Awards, which recognize excellence in California transportation projects.

The joint venture designed the 1.6-mile bridge spanning the Carquinez Strait, and linking Solano and Contra Costa counties.

Opened in August, the 8,400-foot bridge provides traffic congestion relief to 100,000 vehicles daily, the foundation notes.

Designed a "lifeline" structure, the bridge will remain open to emergency traffic following a major earthquake. Unique design features include use of high-performance, light-weight concrete to reduce the structure's mass and seismic demand.

BevMo opens location in Fairfield

BevMo opens location in Fairfield
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | June 14, 2008

The new BevMo store set to open located on Holiday lane in Fairfield. (DR Photos- Adam Smith) Photo by Adam Smith

FAIRFIELD - Two years after opening its first Solano County store in Vacaville, beverage retailer BevMo will soon open a Fairfield location.

BevMo takes over the location previous occupied by the Pier 1 Importers furniture store. The store closed in 2007. It was briefly replaced by the seasonal store Halloween World, but the location has otherwise been vacant.

BevMo has been looking at Fairfield for 'at least six months,' store manager Mike Jones said.

The company actually moved into the site and started setting up shop about five weeks ago, he said.

The store on Thursday was a beehive of activity, with tractor-trailers dropping off supplies and employees scrambling to get the shelves stocked. Near the front door sat 300 bottles of Michael Puzzlo wine.

BevMo will open Friday with plenty of fanfare. The company plans to hold wine tastings throughout the weekend with winemakers from a dozen vineyards paying a visit.

Among them will be Puzzlo and John and Lane Guigere from Matchbook Wines.

It will be BevMo's 85th store when it opens, said David Richards, executive vice president for the company. As part of an expansion effort, BevMo plans to open 20 stores in 2008, he said.

See the comlete story at the Daily Republic online.

High-tech irrigation system saves water

High-tech irrigation system saves water
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | June 13, 2008

Landscaping around Westfield Shoppingtown Solano mall is irrigated with a satellite controlled system. Photo by Brad Zweerink

FAIRFIELD - Satellites relay data to the irrigation system at Westfield Solano Mall so 6.5 acres of landscaping gets just enough water, depending on the weather.

No wasted water. No runoff that can carry pollutants down storm drains and into creeks.

Westfield Solano Mall is a high-tech water conservation showpiece. It is taking part in a Solano County Water Agency pilot program to someday make 'smart' water management systems a way of life.

'The system has been fully operational since October,' mall manager Todd Falduti said. 'We've seen a 40 percent decrease in water usage, which has saved us 2 million gallons of water.'

The WeatherTRAK system by Petaluma-based Hydropoint is already used in other parts of the state. But such smart water management systems have yet to become popular in Solano County.

To change that, the SCWA has subsidized installing the system at such high-profile businesses as the mall in Fairfield and Lowe's Home Improvement in Vacaville.

'Every little bit helps,' SCWA General Manager David Okita said. 'We know outdoor landscaping is just a huge water use in Solano County in the summertime.'

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Suisun City gets first hotel since the 1950s

Suisun City gets first hotel since the 1950s
East Bay Business Times - by Jessica Saunders
Friday, June 6, 2008

This artist’s drawing depicts the four-story, 102-room Hampton Inn being built in the historic Waterfront District.

A Petaluma developer has begun construction along the Suisun City waterfront on what will be the city's first hotel in half a century.

Basin Street Hospitality is building a 102-room Hampton Inn & Suites in the historic downtown Waterfront District, where a phased redevelopment effort is ongoing. The four-story, 63,000-square-foot hotel will be located in the district's north end, between Driftwood Drive and Lotz Way alongside the One Harbor Center office building.

The city has not had a hotel - not even a bed-and-breakfast - for decades, said Scott Corey, public information officer for Suisun City. The city's downtown was originally built along the Suisun Slough to serve railway and shipping traffic in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The last hotels from that era burned or were torn down in the 1950s, he said.

With the construction of Interstate 80 east of town in the 1960s, hotels serving motorists bypassed Suisun City for Fairfield and Cordelia, Corey said. "We got nothing. If your car breaks down and you need a place to stay, you need to have a friend."

The downtown redevelopment begun in 1989 always called for a hotel, but economic downturns in the mid-1990s and in 2000-2001 derailed prior efforts, he said. "So we are really, really excited," Corey said. "Some council members who have been on (the council) the whole time think it's a huge achievement to have a hotel under construction on our waterfront."

Basin Street Hospitality, a subsidiary of Basin Street Properties, will own and operate the hotel as a Hampton Inn franchise, said Tom Birdsall, managing partner for Basin Street Hospitality. Hampton Inn & Suites is one of the Hilton Hotels Corp. brands.

"We like all the redevelopment of the waterfront district and it's a unique thing in the area to be right on the water," he said.

The company estimated its total investment in the Suisun City hotel at more than $13 million, Birdsall said.

Basin Street's parent company has ties to Main Street West Partners Inc., the main Waterfront District developer. Main Street West co-founder Frank Marinello previously was a vice president at Basin Street Properties and maintains a strong working relationship with the company, Birdsall said. Marinello "identified there was a location for a hotel and brought Basin Street in to operate the hotel," he said.

The Hampton Inn & Suites will have a drive-up entrance, a business center, executive conference rooms, an outdoor pool and spa, high-speed Internet access and rooms with fireplaces, balconies and views of the marina and lighthouse.

Hampton Inns do not typically include restaurants. That was part of the city's plan for the Waterfront District, in hopes that hotel guests would walk to district eateries for meals, Corey said.

The hotel will be diagonally across from the Amtrak station, where the Capitol Corridor line makes its only stop in Solano County, he said.

Other ongoing developments in the district include Main Street West's 34,000-square-foot, two-story Harbor Square building, which is expected to open in September, Birdsall said. | 925-598-1427

Business leaders weigh in on the economy

Business leaders weigh in on the economy
East Bay Business Times
Friday, June 13, 2008

Although the "R" word is being tossed around these days, most business leaders surveyed for this section agreed that we're in a slowdown, not a recession. Here are what some of them had to say. Their comments have been edited for brevity.

Michael Ammann, President
Solano Economic Development Corp.

How has the current economic climate affected business in Solano County?

With the exception of the residential housing market, I think we're doing fine. Industrial is still very strong.

Copart just announced their revenues are up 20 percent and their stock has jumped. Genentech has finished but has not qualified its CCP2 project and Novartis is right in the process of expanding and changing the product flow in their facility in Vacaville. We have some $600 million over the next five years coming in for highway improvement.

I'm optimistic about the industrial and commercial markets. Overall we're doing pretty good.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Suisun City to unveil new library June 25

Suisun City to unveil new library June 25
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | June 12, 2008

Ryan Merkel, with Mike Brown Electric of Cotati, Calif., installs a light at the new library in Suisun City Thursday. The library is scheduled to open on June 25. Photo by Brad Zweerink

SUISUN CITY - Most of the shelves are full in the city's new library, but books are still coming out of the boxes and the information desk is still to be installed.

Librarians are hard at work getting their new home ready for opening day June 25.

'We are very excited to be coming to this building,' supervising librarian Peggy Svoboda said.

Patrons have already been peering through the windows to get a look at the new library, which is located at 601 Pintail Drive. Some have even walked in to ask if the library is open and if they could check out a book.

When Suisun City firefighters inspected the building earlier this week, several said they plan to frequent the library because it is a short walk from the fire station.

The Suisun Branch Library closed its doors at its leased space on Sunset Avenue May 17. Two days later, the librarians started packing books in boxes with color-coded labels so they would know how to sort them once the books reached their new home.

Library, city and Fairfield-Suisun School District officials will attend the opening ceremony June 25. A color guard will be on hand, and a Vallejo magician will perform bilingual magic show.

The new facility is about 10,000 square feet, double the size of the one on Sunset Avenue. It is the product of a first-time collaboration between the Solano County Library, city, county and school district.

See the complete story at the Dailey Republic online.

Supervisors hope building projects embrace 'green'

Supervisors hope building projects embrace 'green'
By Reporter Staff
Article Launched: 06/13/2008

Solano County became the first local agency this week to adopt a Voluntary Green Builder Program designed to reduce greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide emissions from residential building projects.

"Everyone has a role to play in reducing our carbon footprint," said Supervisor Barbara Kondylis in a press release. "The Voluntary Green Builder Program lays out a framework to make a difference here in Solano County."

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday gave tentative approval to the Voluntary Green Building Program for residential building and changes to the associated county ordinance. A second reading of the ordinance will be done June 24, with the ordinance taking effect 30 days later.

Solano County, along with other governmental agencies, is required to develop and implement programs that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with guidelines established in recent legislation (AB 32 and SB97).

The adopted ordinance will help the county meet the proposed goals outlined in the 2008 County General Plan that the board will review in July.

The Voluntary Green Builder Program exceeds the existing state energy efficiency standards by at least 15 percent.

Among other steps, the program requires builders to divert at least 50 percent of construction and deconstruction debris from landfills, reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer in buildings and use water conservation methods for landscaping and household use.

As an incentive to participate in the program, residential builders will receive expedited plan review at no additional cost. The expeditious process reduces the review and approval time by half.

Caltrans to smooth the way for I-80 drivers

Caltrans to smooth the way for I-80 drivers
Michael Cabanatuan, Chronicle Staff Writer
June 12, 2008

Drivers along westbound Interstate 80 at Lagoon Valley Road in Fairfield will begin to see changes as Caltrans begins a repaving project between Vacaville and Vallejo. Chronicle photo by Michael Macor

Over the next 18 months, that stretch of I-80 will have its roadway repaired and repaved, and its median barriers upgraded. Carpool lanes will be built in both directions between Red Top Road and Air Base Parkway, a truck climbing lane will be installed on Highway 12 nearing I-80, assorted overpasses and on- and off-ramps will be improved and traffic signals and metering lights will be installed in some locations.

But the I-80 pavement rehabilitation - which will cost about $100 million - is just a fraction of the rehabilitation work that Bay Area highways need. As most drivers know, getting around the region can be a jarring experience.

See the complete story at

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sutter Regional Completes Massive Move

Sutter Regional Completes Massive Move
Foundation's Plan To Centralize Services Now a Reality
By Ines Bebea | December 18, 2007 16:22

Sutter Regional Medical Foundation is putting the finishing touches on the new building at their $75 million Fairfield Medical Campus. Photo by Brad ZweerinkDaily Republic

FAIRFIELD - Sutter Regional Medical Foundation has added the final pieces to its $75 million Fairfield Medical Campus. With Phase III of its 11-acre site on Busch Corporate Center completed, the foundation's aggressive plan to centralize its services is a reality.

But the challenge for the foundation, as for any business changing locations, was how to make the transition without jeopardizing patient care. To make the move from its 40,000-square-foot building at 1234 Empire Street, the foundation embarked on an ambitious plan to move 130 employees, equipment and medical records without missing a beat.

First, in early November, patients received letters in English and Spanish informing them of the move. Second, medical and administrative services and equipment were moved in stages to Sutter's new building at 2720 Low Court. Third, it prepared staff at its care centers and offices in Fairfield and Vacaville to treat the dispersed patients seeking medical treatment.

And finally, with the lease on Empire Street expiring Dec. 31, the administration was eager to move before the Christmas holiday. The final move was made from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2.

'We knew that our lease was expiring in December, and we began preparing for that future in 2004,' said John Ray, chief executive officer of Sutter Regional Medical Foundation. 'We were at the downtown location since it was built in 1984. It gave us a chance to plan and invest in our expansion ahead of time.'

The new three-story, 69,000-square-foot building, which opened on Dec. 3, joins the Diagnostic Imaging and Ambulatory Center, and the After Hours Care Clinic that opened earlier in the year. Construction for the medical campus began in summer 2006 and was completed last month.

The obstetrics and gynecology, ophthalmology, optometry and urology departments were moved in October to one of the first buildings. Cardiology, internal medicine, oncology, family practices, laboratory services medical records and administration followed in November.

'What this facility gives us are the capabilities and starting point to bring our services into the 21st century,' said Samuel Santoro, president of the Solano Regional Medical Group and an obstetrics and gynecology physician. 'It has the IT capabilities to support electronic medical records, and it is designed to make the experience very patient-oriented.'

Although the move was prompted by the need for more space and the expiring lease at Empire Street, it was also tied to the foundation's desire to own the buildings its medical offices occupy.

'Renewing the lease was never part of the equation,' Ray said. 'The idea behind the campus was to make the medical experience unique for our patients. It is part of what we envisioned and what we needed to do to meet our growing needs.'

The vacant Empire Street building is now available for lease or sale by NAIBT Commercial. It has already generated some interest. Rich Fenske, an NAIBT Commercial representative, said there is a possibility of two large tenants occupying the building.

'Some of the interest is from parties that want to lease and others that are interested in buying and renovating the building,' Fenske said. 'Our preference is a medical tenant that can use the existing layout of the building. But we are open to considering tenants who need at least 20,000 square feet in the building.'

With the Fairfield campus now in the past, the foundation is setting its sights on the other facilities in the county. Last summer, it opened a 12,000-square-foot care center in Vallejo and is interested in owning property in Vacaville to expand its offices there. Plans for its additional 12 acres in Busch Corporate Center have not been finalized.

Reach Ines Bebea at 427-6934 or