Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Presentation on the expected impacts of state budget cuts this Wednesday

Presentation on the expected impacts of state budget cuts this Wednesday

Partnership HealthPlan of California, the Medi-Cal managed care administrator for Solano, Napa and Yolo counties, will make a presentation on the expected impacts of state budget cuts this Wednesday.

Partnership Executive Director Jack Horn and Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, will speak at the Solano Economic Development Corp. meeting at 7:30 a.m. at the Fairfield Hilton Garden Inn.

“Partnership Health-Plan is a vital nonprofit organization in our communities,” said Solano EDC President Michael Ammann.

To attend the event, call 707-864-1855.

Solano’s Northbay Healthcare to open heart program

Solano’s Northbay Healthcare to open heart program
Fairfield center will be only facility in county providing advanced care
by D. Ashley Furness
Staff Reporter
June 28, 2008

FAIRFIELD – Northbay Healthcare of Solano recently began more than $10 million in planning for what will be the county’s only facility offering advanced cardiac care.

Administrators began development of the Northbay Heart & Vascular Program about two years ago, but President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Passama said he dreamed of having something of this caliber in Solano for a number of decades.

“For the last 20 years, we have deliberated, debated and dreamed of this day,” Mr. Passama said at the press conference announcing the nonprofit’s plan.

“It truly is ridiculous for a growing region this size – with an aging population that will need these services more than ever – to be without top-quality advanced cardiovascular surgery services,” he said.

The project at the group’s Northbay Medical Center in Fairfield includes $3.6 million in renovations and expansions to the current catheterization lab and almost $5 million to transform two operating rooms into one, 8,000-square-foot cardiac surgical suite.

The group, which operates another hospital in Vacaville and other medical facilities around the county, hired New York program director Diana Sullivan to prepare for the center, which includes $1 million for 50 staff members to receive an additional 12,000 hours of training.

“When we started this project we wanted to identify key benchmarks for success,” said Ms. Sullivan. “We found about 50 key elements, but one that stands out and above all else, is excellent outcomes.”

Most recently, the seasoned program director developed the heart institute at the 1,368-bed Beth Israel Hospital in New York, and she has in her history taken a lead in 10 successful programs.

“I was looking for a challenging opportunity and this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. … It’s not the kind of job that just grows on trees,” she said. “I am very excited to be a part of it.”

Northbay’s hospital and other facilities in Solano have had the ability to treat heart attack patients in the past, but they have always been transferred out of the county if more serious surgery was required. Mr. Passama said currently about 1,400 patients are turned away in a year.

The hospital’s present 3,800-square-foot cath lab is limited mostly to diagnostic services, but the renovations will allow it to perform interventional procedures using heart stents and other devices.

The new surgical suite will include high-definition monitors, state-of-the-art equipment and teleconference capabilities so doctors in other areas can watch and learn from procedures.

Construction of the site kicked off last month, and the first services have a projected start date sometime in spring 2009.

Northbay signed an exclusive contract with Drs. Ramzi Deeik and Robert Klingman, who will perform the surgeries in the heart center, splitting their time with Queen of the Valley Medical Center of Napa.

Ms. Sullivan projected the center will serve about 80 patients in the first year, 200 in the next and 300 by the third and fourth years.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Budget stalemate's toll on health care to be discussed

Budget stalemate's toll on health care to be discussed
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | July 25, 2008

FAIRFIELD - The state budget deadline comes like clockwork every June 15 and, like clockwork, the state government misses that deadline and waits until August or September to reach a deal.

With lawmakers missing their target for the 22nd consecutive year, the Solano Economic Development Corp. will host a breakfast forum to discuss the impacts on health care across the state.

The speakers will be Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Jack Horn, director of the Partnership HealthPlan of California.

Wolk will give an update on the budget standoff and discuss the possible ramifications for health care programs.

'Health and social services are 35 percent of the budget, so when you're looking at a $15 billion deficit, there's a great deal of concern about what will happen to health programs,' Wolk said.

The event is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn, 2200 Gateway Court.

Partnership HealthPlan is a semi-private health care system that arranges hospital and medical coverage with health care providers for MediCal-eligible residents in Solano, Napa and Yolo counties.

With the state budget stalemate, the organization is facing the possibility of a funding shortage. On Tuesday, the Solano County Board of Supervisors agreed to lend the organization $12 million to tide it over until a budget is passed.

Wolk said her comments may also touch on the issue of large-scale health care reform, including the possible form such an overhaul could take.

'I see a national effort modeled on what we do with children here,' she said. 'There will be some kind of coverage floor and on top of that states would provide more or greater or different services. It's very hard for California to do this alone.'

For more information on the event or to register, call 864-1855.

Reach Ben Antonius at 427-6977 or bantonius@dailyrepublic.net.

At a glance
Who: Solano Economic Development Corporation
What: 'Health Care at the Crossroads' forum
When: 7:30 a.m. Wednesday
Where: Hilton Garden Inn, 2200 Gateway Court, Fairfield
Info: 864-1855

Reserve Command gets new leader

Reserve Command gets new leader
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | July 25, 2008

FAIRFIELD - Col. Albert V. Lupenski is to assume command at 9:30 a.m. today of the 349th Operations Group, the largest operations group in the Air Force Reserve Command.

The group has four flying squadrons, an aeromedical evacuation squadron, an operations support flight and an airlift control flight. In partnership with the active duty host wing, it flies the

C-5 Galaxy, the KC-10 Extender and the C-17 Globemaster, a Travis Air Force Base press release said.

Lupenski is responsible for leadership, management, administration and development of training and combat readiness programs.

His previous assignment was to the National Defense University, Joint forces Staff College, Joint Advanced Warfighting School at Norfolk, Va., the press release said.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

County archives find safe shelter in new location

County archives find safe shelter in new location
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | July 25, 2008

Ed Fleck, a volunteer with the Solano County Historical Records Commission, makes archival book shelf ends at the county archive's old location on Enterprise Drive. The archive has been moved to a cleaner, modern location. Photo by Brad Zweerink

FAIRFIELD - A key Solano County history collection as of this week has a brighter -- and cleaner -- future.

The county archives have moved, leaving a dusty Enterprise Drive warehouse where they shared space with desks, chairs and other surplus county property. Now they are in a specially designed section of a warehouse at 815 Chadbourne Drive that looks like an office. The space is clean and temperature controlled.

Archives volunteer and local historian Leslie Batson called the new location a 'nirvana' for protecting delicate, old documents. The aerial photos, deed books, voter registers, naturalization records, marriage license applications, maps and other records are from bygone eras dating back to the 1800s.

The move proved far more difficult than a quick trip along city streets with a U-Haul.

'People think you can just kind of load things up and move them to another site,' Batson said.

Not so with the archives. All of those documents and materials are in a certain order. They had to be arranged and labeled so the professional movers put them back in the same order at the new site.

Volunteers cleaned decades of filth off old books prior to the move. There was no use in doing so at the Enterprise Drive location because the dust was insurmountable.

Ed Fleck is among the volunteers who worked on the move. He recently covered boards for the ends of the shelves in clear, Mylar plastic to protect old volumes from acids in the wood. He helped fix fasteners on 52 metal cabinets that hold such things as probate records.

Such small tasks are a cinch for Fleck, given that he is a retired aircraft mechanic. He also appreciates the information that can be found in the archives' files and volumes. He has found plenty on his own family.

'My mother's family came to Solano County in the late 1800s,' Fleck said. 'They were farmers. They had a farm out here in Denverton.'

Denverton is now gone without a trace, although it still shows up on some American Automobile Association maps as being located a few miles east of Suisun City. But property and other records documenting the family history live on at the archives.

The archives got leaner for the move. Such items as 1880s Sacramento newspapers are no longer in the collection.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Jelly Belly prepares to open first overseas plant as demand sweetens

Jelly Belly prepares to open first overseas plant as demand sweetens
East Bay Business Times - by Jessica Saunders
Friday, July 25, 2008

Herm Rowland, chairman of family-owned Jelly Belly, with a photo of the king of Thailand.

Opening day can't come soon enough for Jelly Belly Candy Co.'s new plant in Rayong, Thailand, which will supply customers in 43 countries outside the United States.

Officials from the Fairfield company say they can use the extra production to meet growing international demand. But delays related to overseas contractor issues have put the opening off - probably till later this year, they said.

The 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility will place international production within closer reach of emerging markets in China, India and the Middle East, and in the same country where Jelly Belly buys tapioca syrup for sweetening some of its product lines.

The number of countries where Jelly Belly is distributed has risen 75 percent since 2006, and overall sales have grown 25 percent in the same period, to $160 million. Eighty-five percent of the family-owned company's sales are its signature small, naturally flavored jelly beans, with the rest coming from chocolate-covered candies, gummies, jells, candy corn and other sweets.

The new plant, located on 6.4 acres in a free-trade zone at Rayong on the Gulf of Thailand coast, is designed to provide extra capacity at a lower cost to serve the growing international market, said Herman "Herm" Rowland, Jelly Belly board chairman. That leaves Jelly Belly's domestic plants in Fairfield and Chicago free to supply the United States, still by far the company's largest market.

The extra production capacity, with room for expansion to 200,000 square feet, is coming online as Jelly Belly has targeted $200 million in sales by 2010.

It makes sense for Jelly Belly to choose Thailand for its first overseas location if it is already importing a key ingredient from that country, said Cynthia Kroll, senior regional economist with the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at UC-Berkeley's Haas School of Business. The plant is also closer to China's 1.3 billion potential customers and other growth markets like India, so it will lower transportation costs, and the country has cheaper labor, she said.

But operating overseas also comes with the challenges of unfamiliar government regulations, and language and distance barriers, Kroll said. "That is one reason a number of companies in their early stages don't go overseas."

Companies might be motivated to look to international markets if domestic competition increases and sales begin to level off, Kroll said.

That doesn't appear to be the case for Jelly Belly. Last year was the first since "the Reagan phenomenon" that the company fell behind in production and had to short-ship orders for seven to eight months, said Rowland, referring to the demand boom in the 1980s after word got out that President Reagan was a fan.

To cope, Jelly Belly ran both U.S. plants as many hours a week as it could, even going seven days a week in Chicago for some items, Rowland said. "If we had had the plant running in Thailand like the contractor said it would, we would be OK."

When the new plant will actually begin production is an open question. Asked to explain, Rowland said, "Contractor, contractor, contractor."

Construction was originally scheduled to begin in 2006, according to a press release from that year. But Rowland said it began around March after the typhoon season ended. The plant now is expected to make test production runs in August and open later this year.

"We're 98 percent complete on building facilities and equipment installation, and we are now fixing all the things that didn't get done right," said Rowland, a member of the fourth generation of the Goelitz family to run the company.

The company won't disclose what it spent to build the Thai plant, but Sharon Duncan, vice president for international business, called it a "substantial" amount.

Demand grew in all sales divisions last year, said Duncan, who has overseen expanding distribution, from 24 countries in 2006 to 43 this year. International sales revenue has grown by double digits for the past four years, she said, declining to provide exact figures.

The growth has resulted from greater consumer recognition, deeper penetration of existing markets and expanded channels of distribution, as well as favorable exchange rates, Duncan said.

The No. 1 growth market for Jelly Belly is China, followed by India, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, said Duncan, who was hired 3½ years ago to oversee a then-new international sales division.

"China has a huge population base, it's growing economically, and they have disposable income and a great appetite for Western brands," she said. "That's a perfect market for us."

To address concerns about genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, in the food chain, fears that are stronger internationally than in the United States, all overseas products will be sweetened using tapioca syrup instead of corn syrup. Corn is one of the most genetically altered crops. While all Jelly Belly products test GMO-free, Duncan said, some markets have such strict requirements to prove no GMOs touched a food product, it is easier to substitute another product for corn syrup. There is no such thing as a genetically modified tapioca root, she said.

"The Thai plant is an additional safety net for us to work GMO-free," Duncan said.

The global market also creates new product opportunities, such as jelly beans flavored with exotic fruits like passion fruit, star fruit and lychee nut. Jelly Belly has already taste-tested green tea, a popular flavor in Asia, and it went over "very well," Duncan said.

Overseas customers have a surprisingly strong recognition of the Jelly Belly brand, possibly due to the 4 million tourists who have visited the Fairfield plant, as well as its popularity among American and British expatriates, she said. Then there was that jelly bean-loving U.S. president, of course.

"The reaction Jelly Belly gets internationally is really fun. You get a big smile on people's faces," she said.

The company's chairman will probably start grinning too once he sees his plant start up. Cultural differences and language barriers have contributed to the delays, Rowland said, despite all the key plant employees attending a two-day cross-cultural school in Bangkok. In addition, all the Thai plant managers spent two to three months working in Fairfield to learn the business.

"The Thai people are tremendous people. They have tremendous ways of being, but they are hard for us to understand," said Rowland, whose son Herman Rowland Jr. will be managing director of the Rayong facility.

Jelly Belly Candy Co.

Business: Candy manufacturer
Headquarters: Fairfield
Founded: 1869
Board chairman: Herm Rowland
Employees: 675
Sales revenue: $160 million
Income: Not disclosed
Address: 1 Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield 94533
Phone: 800-522-3267
Web: www.jellybelly.com

jsaunders@bizjournals.com | 925-598-1427

Fairfield apartment complex gets crime-free certification

Fairfield apartment complex gets crime-free certification
Daily Republic staff | | July 24, 2008 14:32

FAIRFIELD - The Rolling Oaks Court Apartments will be certified as a Crime Free Multi-Housing Program property during a ceremony at 6:30 p.m. today.

The complex is the 20th property in the city to be certified through the program, which is offered by the Fairfield Police Department.

The program involves crime prevention training for landlords, property managers and tenants. Properties are reviewed with the tools of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design to address issues such as locks, lighting, landscaping and cleanliness.

For more information about the program, call Asia Rothstein at 428-7030.

Breakfast meeting set for Solano EDC

Breakfast meeting set for Solano EDC
By Reporter Staff
Article Launched: 07/25/2008

"Health Care at the Crossroads" will be the topic of the Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast meeting Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield.

Guest speakers include Jack Horn, CEO of Partnership HealthPlan of California and Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Solano.

The breakfast discussion will cover budget cuts that took effect July 1, putting hundreds of thousands of Californians at risk of losing access to quality health care. Partnership HealthPlan of California serves more than 5,000 local residents, providing health care to uninsured children and low- to middle-income residents, but state funding issues may force Partnership to close its doors.

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. with the program starting at 8 a.m. The cost is $25 for Solano EDC members and $35 for non-members, which can be paid at the door.

To register, call 864-1855 or e-mail pat@solanoedc.org.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Waterman Treatment Plant expansion

Waterman Treatment Plant expansion

Sean Quinn
Fairfield City Manager

I am pleased to report that Phase II of the $67 million Waterman Water Treatment Plant Expansion and Modernization project is now 70 percent complete. This is the largest capital improvement project the city has undertaken since construction of another water project, the North Bay Regional Water Treatment Plant, in 1988-1990.

The Waterman Treatment Plant project will expand water plant capacity from 16 to 30 million gallons per day, while at the same time thoroughly modernizing the 1975-vintage plant. Remarkably, the plant has continued to operate with minimal shutdowns throughout the process. The project is on budget and on schedule for completion in September 2009. Planning for adequate water supplies and water treatment capacity has been a strong focus in Fairfield for decades. Our businesses and residents truly benefit from the quality of water provided by the city.

Recently, Governor Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought for the State of California. Fortunately, the City of Fairfield has a large water supply for businesses and residents due to water rights to Lake Berryessa and other multiple sources. However, it is important for all businesses and residents to conserve water for the future. The city will continue to promote water conservation policies for all customers. For specific conservation tips, please reference the city’s Web site at: www.ci.fairfield.ca.us or contact Andy Walker at 428-7487.

Good, bad news for 2007 crop report

Good, bad news for 2007 crop report
By Danny Bernardini
Article Launched: 07/23/2008

In a bit of a bittersweet report, county supervisors Tuesday heard about the rising values of crops, and the falling profits for farmers last year.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors received the annual 2007 Solano County Crop and Livestock Report. Those goods brought in a record gross value of $268,255,200, which is up nearly 15 percent from last year.

But that increase is whittled down to just more than 10 percent when considering the inflation rate, said Jim Allan, Solano County agriculture commissioner.

But with the increase in returns, many growers saw shrinking profits because of an increase in energy and transportation costs. Also vexing farmers in the area were rising wages for labor, the report said.

"It's not how much you make, it's how much you earn," Supervisor Mike Reagan said.

Supervisor John Vasquez recognized the issues for the farmers in the area and said help is on the way if voters approve the general plan update in November. That document will lift several restrictions on processing for small farmers and will ease the permitting process.

"I believe this is a unique time for Solano County," Vasquez said. "It's going to be to the advantage of everyone as we move forward."

Allan said the diversity of the area is the keystone of the ag community, but he did have some concerns.

"I worry about the honeybee situation," he said. "There are several theories about the shortage, but no scientific evidence."

Allan also told the board he has applied to the state office of emergency services for emergency status for dry pasture crops. If granted, farmers would be able to apply for low-interest loans and grants that would assist them through tough times.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mare Island next for 'mothball'?

Mare Island next for 'mothball'?
To some locals, M.I.'s old docks may be just right for rotting vessels
By JESSICA A. YORK/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 07/21/2008

Bertrand Perry Jr. was burned once by the ship recycling industry on Mare Island, but that won't keep the welder from trying again if a new shipyard comes to town.

Perry, who worked for the Mare Island ship breaking company Pegasus in the late 1990s, was one of many to watch dreams of a renewed industry at the closed naval base go up in smoke. The Oakland-based Pegasus received Vallejo City Council go-ahead in 1995, and held a lease for only two years.

Mare Island's graving docks - dug-in enclosed areas with doors that allow water to be pumped out of the holding area while workers repair, build and tear down vessels - are expensive facilities not readily available for the taking on the West Coast. One of the facility's admirers is Gary Whitney, of Allied Defense Recycling, who has been angling to lease the docks since 1998.

"A graving dry dock is the most environmentally aware of ship demolition. The reopening of the shipyard on Mare Island could be considered a strategic asset and national treasure," Whitney said.

Whitney, a principal owner with the Petaluma-based Marine Survey and Management Company, said Allied Defense Recycling has been accepting shipping jobs and taking them elsewhere as they make a bid for a Mare Island lease.

If Mare Island's former shipyard is the obvious location for a shipyard to reopen, then the U.S. Maritime Administration's Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay has the coveted material to recycle in those docks.

The fleet of mostly World War II-era "mothball fleet" reserve vessels are held in the bay as a reserve in times of national emergency. As the ships continue to sit, many reach a point where the government has no further need for them.

In a draft environmental assessment of its three reserve fleets, the Maritime Administration last month wrote that dry dock ship cleaning has some drawbacks, especially likely if the ship is not scrapped on-site. Dry dock cleaning has not occurred with obsolete federal reserve vessels to date, according to the report.

"Prohibiting factors related to drydocking include availability of drydocks and the resulting competition with other business; structural integrity of the ships; and cost," the report reads.

If a structurally unsound vessel is set down on blocks and the water drained away in a dry dock such as Mare Island's, the ship could fall too far apart for a second move, the report says.

In addition to recycling a ship, other identified disposal methods include ship donation, sinking to create an artificial reef, sale for commercial use and military and civilian training exercises.

Although no recycling facility exists on Mare Island, Whitney's Allied Defense Recycling has been provisionally approved as a bidder for recycling. The company is still in lease negotiations with the island's master developer, Lennar Mare Island.

Members of the local environmental watchdog agency Arc Ecology have been keeping close tabs on the island's potential shipping use, particularly after Pegasus' fall.

Arc Ecology executive director Saul Bloom said ship recycling would be a positive use of the Mare Island docks, if done with appropriate oversight.

"Our position is there's no reason why these vessels can't be broken locally," Bloom said. "On the other hand, there's going to need to be a lot more scrutiny in terms of the work."

Bloom said the main alternative to local ship recycling is towing ships thousands of miles around the coast to Texas, an expensive and environmentally insensitive procedure. Bloom envisions a trail of pollution crumbs trailing behind the federal ships on their trips through the Panama Canal.

"We understand that Lennar and the folks at Mare Island ... have concerns about the cross-compatibility of what they want to do and what the ship recycling would do for it," Bloom said. "We think these concerns are not realistic."

Lennar Mare Island has overseen 10 years of cleanup of toxic contamination left on the island by the military. A spokesman for the developer cited concerns of recontaminating land that will one day be deeded back to the city.

Arc Ecology, in conjunction with San Francisco Baykeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council, is suing the Maritime Administration to get the agency to take better care of the disintegrating fleet's toxic scraps said to be falling into the bay.

"At this point there is significant evidence to indicate that these ships are a hazard," Bloom said. "We have substantial concerns about these vessels. You can break them here, you can break them there, or you can let them rot."

• Contact Jessica A. York at 553-6834 or at jyork@thnewsnet.com

Vacaville to keep school site, build new campus

Vacaville to keep school site, build new campus
By Nika Megino | Daily Republic | July 18, 2008

VACAVILLE - Fairmont Charter Elementary School will have a new campus by fall 2009.

The Vacaville School Board voted unanimously Thursday to approve building a new school on Fairmont's current site at 1355 Marshall Road.

Site development for the 53,200-square-foot building will begin in the next few weeks and construction will follow in the fall, said Leigh Coop, director of facilities for the Vacaville School District.

Funded by Measure V and developer fees, the $19.5 million project will be Vacaville's first two-story school.

It will also be the city's first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design school, which is a nationally accepted certification program for the design, construction and operation of sustainable buildings.

That means the school will include rooftop solar photo voltaic panels, a demonstration educational wind turbine and many energy-saving windows, Coop said.

The cost of building the new school on the same site was found to be the same as renovating the current campus, Coop said.

See the complete story at the Daily Repubic Online.

Copart expands

Copart expands

Copart, Inc., headquartered in Fairfield, recently announced the opening of a new 20-acre facility in Prairie Grove, Ark.

This latest addition to Copart's growing footprint marks the company's second facility in Arkansas, the 131st facility in North America, and the 146th facility world-wide.

Copart CEO and founder Willis J. Johnson said the site, which is located in the northwest corner of the state near the borders of Oklahoma and Missouri, will help increase capacity in Arkansas, as well as help service those bordering states.

Copart, founded in 1982, provides vehicle suppliers, primarily insurance companies, with a full range of remarketing services to process and sell salvage vehicles, principally to licensed dismantlers, rebuilders and used vehicle dealers.

Public projects, emerging tech brighten dim job outlook

Public projects, emerging tech brighten dim job outlook
East Bay Business Times - by Warren Lutz

Bob Lanter of the Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa County.

Stephanie Secrest | East Bay Business Times

A sagging housing market continues to dampen the East Bay job market, but several sectors show some promise.

Local jobs experts are optimistic about modest job growth in the utilities, transportation, government and green business sectors. The trouble may be a lack of qualified workers, according to Bruce Kern, executive director of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance.

"We have individuals that are very talented, but we need to retool and provide the skills so they can enter some of these emerging areas," he said. "The issue is, are we preparing the work force for the future?"

Overall, the region's job picture remains pretty dismal.

Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties lost a combined total of 15,400 jobs over the past year, according to the latest figures from the state's Employment Development Department. Construction and financial entities had the biggest declines, accounting for 6,700 and 5,400 fewer jobs in all three counties, respectively. Most of those losses were in residential construction, and at banks and credit unions.

The good news is that government work grew by 4,600 jobs over the same period, led by public school employment. Other areas that saw year-over-year job gains include highway construction, chemical manufacturing, warehousing and storage, engineering and natural resources.

That makes sense to Bob Lanter, executive director of the Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa County, who is seeing job growth in local refineries, at PG&E, and at local wastewater treatment plants.

"These industries are facing huge shortages of labor due to retirement attrition," Lanter said. "For anyone who can get skilled training as an electrical engineer or machinist, there are good job prospects."

The problem is a shortage of available training for those preparing to enter the work force. "They don't teach auto shop anymore in high school, or metal shop," he said.

Lanter expects as many as 12,900 people displaced by the housing industry and its related sectors to show up looking for help at his agency's four career centers, according to current projections. That's the highest number since the centers were built 10 years ago.

Justin Wehner, an EDD spokesman, pointed out that job numbers for eight out of the 10 major job market sectors tracked by the state were "in the red" for Contra Costa and Alameda counties. "The housing slump is continuing to affect construction and financial services, and it's also bleeding over into retail," he said.

Still, economic developers think there's reason for hope. According to Kern, the East Bay still boasts the most jobs in the Bay Area region, and east Contra Costa County's manufacturing base should benefit from upgrades to Highway 4 and a planned deep water ship channel.

In addition, Kern said, the region received $1.2 billion in venture capital over the past year, with most of the money directed toward emerging technology companies in the bioscience and green-business sectors. "We have a community of innovators, whether they are products or businesses," Kern said. "That is our strength."

Solano County was hit hardest from the housing bust and its related problems - it lost 2.5 percent of its jobs since last year and its unemployment rate jumped 0.5 percent to 6.5 percent between April and May. The unemployment rate rose 0.4 percent to 5.7 percent overall in Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

But Solano County's job outlook also has a bright side, according to Michael Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp. Government employment grew by 700 jobs, or 2.5 percent, since last year, which Ammann attributes in part to recent road and bridge projects.

In addition, the county expects to receive another $600 million in transportation improvements over the next several years, Ammann said. The money will provide significant upgrades to Interstates 80 and 680 and Highway 12, particularly in the area outside Cordelia where all three routes meet, generating snarling traffic during rush hour, as well as frequent accidents.

"We're going to have a lot of construction jobs," Ammann said. "I would say some of the residential construction people will move over to heavy road construction over the next five years."

Job growth in the public works, manufacturing and energy areas may also spell opportunity for those readying to enter the job market. Lanter said high school graduates who aren't planning to go to four-year colleges should consider learning a trade. His agency plans to address the training shortage by partnering with local businesses and Diablo Valley College, which already has a course in solar installation, to develop new courses that address emerging industries.

Lanter suggests young people should "look to the jobs that have historically been blue collar that are no longer blue collar, whether it's learning auto tech, welding, or the construction trades. ... Those skills will get you earning 60K or 70K in less than two years," he said.

Kern also said high school graduates should keep an open mind.

"What's desperately needed is for young adults to understand what the workplace demands are," he said. "An opportunity to intern, and an opportunity to explore careers is really important."

Bay Area Detention Facility Going Solar

Bay Area Detention Facility Going Solar

Solano County Detention Facility in the San Francisco Bay Area will be saving over $1 million in energy costs over the next 20 years thanks to a new 746-kilowatt solar array being installed near its Claybank Adult Detention Facility. Under an arrangement with Honeywell, electricity produced by the panels will be sold to the county for use in the detention facility. In addition to reducing costs, the new array will deliver substantial environmental benefits, cutting carbon dioxide emissions by more than 14,500 metric tons over the course of the contract. With this solar installation, the county will bring its power generation capacity to more than one megawatt through renewable energy technology. After the 20-year agreement expires, the county can continue purchasing electricity from Honeywell or acquire ownership of the panels.

Steel fabrication company expands on Mare Island

Steel fabrication company expands on Mare Island
East Bay Business Times
July 18, 2008

Steel fabricator Alamillo Rebar Inc. has expanded by 17,000 square feet at Mare Island near Vallejo, its second expansion in two years.

The company now occupies 67,000 square feet, one of the largest commercial spaces on the former naval shipyard being redeveloped by Lennar Mare Island LLC.

Alamillo Rebar operates in Building 126 at 1101 Nimitz; the expansion was for additional lay down space outside.

The company leased about 33,000 square feet on the island in March 2007.

The rate and term were not disclosed. But industrial space in Solano County was going for about $0.35-$0.55 per square foot a month, with older properties between 50,000 and 100,00 square feet priced at the lower end of the range, according to Colliers International's Fairfield office.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Genentech Q2 profit up to $782M

East Bay Business Times - July 14, 2008

Business News - Local News Click here to find out more!
Monday, July 14, 2008 - 1:32 PM PDT | Modified: Monday, July 14, 2008 - 1:34 PM
Genentech Q2 profit up to $782M
East Bay Business Times

Boosted by higher sales of Avastin and cancer drugs, Genentech Inc. on Monday reported second quarter net income of $782 million, or 73 cents a share, up from the year-ago quarter's $747 million, or 70 cents a share.

Genentech (NYSE: DNA) had U.S. product sales of $2.35 billion, about 9 percent above the $2.14 billion in the second quarter of 2007.

Excluding items, the company's income would have been $871 million, or 82 cents a share, compared to $834 million, or 78 cents a share, in the same period last year.

The company reported a charge of about $50 million related to failed lots from a manufacturing startup campaign at one of Genentech's facilities.

Analysts expected, on average, earnings of 85 cents a share.

Genentech has headquarters in South San Francisco. It has a major manufacturing plant in Vacaville, as well as facilities in Oceanside and Hillsboro, Ore.

Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal

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Solano County Fair attracts more visitors - up 5 percent over last year.

East Bay Business Times - July 16, 2008

Business News - Local News Click here to find out more!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008 - 7:32 AM PDT
Solano County Fair attracts more visitors
East Bay Business Times

The Solano County Fair said Tuesday that attendance for the five days ended Sunday was up 5 percent over last year.

Preliminary figures from the Vallejo fair showed 52,454 customers. Tallying is not yet final, and there are still six days of horse racing ahead.

Joe Barkett, general manager of the fair, said he was very pleased with the rise in attendance.

B.B. King played at the fair's opening, as did country artist Craig Morgan and R&B performer Keith Sweat.

The fair featured livestock shows as well as competitions for cakes, quilts and artwork, as well as a petting zoo, Chinese acrobats and demonstrations by local nonprofits.

Horse racing starts tomorrow at 12:35 p.m.

The fair was started in 1946.

San Francisco Business Times

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Steel fabrication company expands on Mare Island for second time

East Bay Business Times - July 18, 2008

Business News - Local News Click here to find out more!
Friday, July 18, 2008 - 2:52 PM PDT | Modified: Friday, July 18, 2008 - 3:29 PM
Steel fabrication company expands on Mare Island
East Bay Business Times

Steel fabricator Alamillo Rebar Inc. has expanded by 17,000 square feet at Mare Island near Vallejo, its second expansion in two years.

The company now occupies 67,000 square feet, one of the largest commercial spaces on the former naval shipyard being redeveloped by Lennar Mare Island LLC.

Alamillo Rebar operates in Building 126 at 1101 Nimitz; the expansion was for additional laydown space outside.

The company leased about 33,000 square feet on the island in March 2007.

The rate and term were not disclosed. But industrial space in Solano County was going for about 35 to 55 cents per-square-foot a month, with older properties between 50,000 and 100,000 square feet priced at the lower end of the range, according to the Fairfield office of Colliers International.

All contents of this site © American City Business Journals Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Jelly Belly opens factory to new 'University Tour'

Jelly Belly opens factory to new 'University Tour'
By Reporter Staff
Article Launched: 07/18/2008 06:15:14 AM PDT

Fairfield's Jelly Belly Candy Co. is now offering exclusive, behind-the scenes factory tours.

Limited to six participants, the Jelly Belly University Tour will give fans a real education on how the candy is made and lets them taste treats fresh off the line.

The tour begins when visitors don white coats, gloves and hairnets. Soon, visitors find themselves in the heart of the candy making and watch while master confectioners create the shell on a Jelly Belly bean.

At the end of the one-hour tour, visitors will be awarded a Degree of Beanology T-shirt and a discount card for shopping in the store.

The new tours are by advance reservation only through www.JellyBelly.com, click on Visit Jelly Belly from the home page. The price is $47 per person. Children must be 6 years or older to enroll.

Jelly Belly University tours are available Monday through Friday. Pants and closed toe shoes are required, and the tours are wheel chair-accessible.

Call 1-800-953-5592 for information.

Fairmont project given a green light

Fairmont project given a green light
By Ryan Chalk
Article Launched: 07/18/2008

Proposed rendering of the new Fairmont Charter Elementary School in Vacaville. Construction is set to begin soon. (Artist's rendering)

Construction projects at Fairmont Charter Elementary School and Will C. Wood High School got the thumbs up from members of the Board of Education on Thursday night.

Trustees unanimously approved environmental impact reports for the construction of a new Fairmont Charter Elementary School along with a lease agreement to Roebbelen Contractors, Inc., in the amount of $3,791,499 for the site clearing, grading and development necessary for the future construction of the school.

Fairmont Elementary School was originally constructed in 1968. In 2006, cost estimates showed that it would cost the same to bring the school up to modern standards as it would to build a new one.

Set to open in the fall of 2009, the new charter school will feature a 53,392-square-foot school building complete with classrooms, offices, a multipurpose room, library and computer lab.

"It's going to make a huge difference for the students, the teachers and parents at Fairmont," said Superintendent John Aycock. "So many times you only get to build a new school in a new neighborhood."

With Will C. Wood's new science building under construction, Fairmont will become the second two-story facility in the Vacaville Unified School district.

"It's a charter school so the emphasis will be on technology," added Aycock.

Relocation of portables at Fairmont is currently under way and within the coming weeks, construction fencing will go up around the west field and parking lot in anticipation of grading and site development, according to Leigh Coop, facilities director for the school district. By August, construction will pick up steam and residents will see construction work such as site clearing and grading, Coop added.

The board also approved an amendment to move forward ahead of schedule with a re-roofing project at Will C. Wood High School. The district was alerted to an 18 percent increase in roofing materials by its roofing subcontractor should they continue with the plan of performing the work next summer. The district will see a savings of about $70,000 by performing the repairs this summer.

Solano cashes in on crops, livestock

Solano cashes in on crops, livestock
By Danny Bernardini
Article Launched: 07/18/2008

Around 80 different crops of Solano County agriculture brought in more than $268 million in 2007, setting a new record.

The Solano County 2007 Annual Crop and Livestock Report will be released Tuesday and it will boast a gross value of $268,255,200, which is up nearly 15 percent from last year. The report will be presented to the Solano County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday.

Nursery products retained the number one ranking from 2006, bringing in $56,610,700. The biggest mover on the list was corn from fields, which shot up from number 20 in 2006 to number nine while earning $6,761,100. In addition, 22 of the county's more than 80 different crops and commodities exceeded $1 million in value.

Second on the list is alfalfa ($24,679,900), up one from last year; processing tomatoes ($23,955,200) rose one to number three and cattle and calves ($23,273,200) dropped from number two to four.

The remainder of the top ten was identical to 2006 with walnuts ($21,955,300) at number five; market milk ($17,022,200) at six; wine grapes ($8,095,000) at seven; almonds ($6,935,100) at eight; and, sheep and lambs ($6,489,300) at number 10.

The quarantine in the Dixon area due to the Mediterranean fruit fly infestation impacted the profit margins of tomato growers who were required to perform proactive measures to ensure the devastating pest did not spread, said Steve Pierce, Solano County public information officer.

Growers benefited from higher prices paid to producers of many of the crops as well as better weather than in 2006, according to staff reports. Ag production values dipped in 2006 due to a triad of weather factors: New Year's floods, late spring rains and record summer heat.

But with the increase in returns, many growers saw shrinking profits because of an increase of energy and transportation costs. Also vexing farmers in the area were rising wages for labor, the report said.

"The report gives us an opportunity to focus on the benefits that good weather and commodity prices bring to our agricultural industry," Supervisor Mike Reagan said in a press release. "At the same time, it emphasizes the importance of the board's efforts to improve ... the net profit of farmers."

Value '07 rank '06 rank
Nursery Stock $56,610,700 1 1
Alfalfa $24,679,900 2 3
Tomatoes, processing $23,955,200 3 4
Cattle and calves $23,273,200 4 2
Walnuts $21,955,300 5 5
Milk, market $17,022,200 6 6
Grapes, wine $8,095,000 7 7
Almonds $6,935,100 8 8
Corn, field $6,761,100 9 20
Sheep and lambs $6,489,300 10 10

Thursday, July 17, 2008

C-133 aircraft to return to Travis

C-133 aircraft to return to Travis
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | July 16, 2008

TRAVIS AFB - Nearly 50 years after it served here with the 84th Air Transport Squadron, the C-133A Cargomaster transport aircraft No. 6199 will be returning.

The Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum is raising money to pay for fuel to fly the last flight-worthy C-133A in existence from Alaska to Travis on Aug. 30 as part of the 2008 Air Expo.

'It will be a great exhibit,' said museum director Terry Juran of the C-133, which NASA once called the first step to space because it carried the Apollo space capsule among its many missions for the agency.

The C-133A is being donated to the museum by Maurice Carlson, the owner of Cargomaster Inc., which used the large plane to haul outsized cargo ranging from road graders to school buses in Alaska.

'It flew cargo that no other plane could carry,' said Cal Taylor, an aviation author and former C-133 navigator who documented the C-133's legacy in a book, 'Remembering the Unsung Giant: The Douglas C-133 and its People.'

Taylor hopes to ride in the navigator's seat of the venerable four-engine, turboprop air transport during the flight from McChord Air Force Base, Wash., to Travis.

After an overnight stop at McChord, the C-133A will fly to Travis and make several low passes over the Air Expo crowd before landing.

The museum and a group of former C-133 fliers are working to raise the money needed for the C-133's flight from Anchorage, Alaska to Travis.

It will cost about $67,000 to make the flight, with the primary expense being fuel. The C-133A's supporters have raised more than $53,800 so far, according to the supporters' Web site.

'This has caused quite a stir in the aviation community,' Juran said. 'Even a company from the Netherlands that does airlift donated money for fuel.'

Any funds left over will be used to help pay for the C-133's restoration and maintenance.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic Online.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jelly Belly to offer private tours

Jelly Belly to offer private tours
Daily Republic staff | July 15, 2008

FAIRFIELD - In addition to its free tours, the Jelly Belly Candy Company is now offering private tours of its factory.

The one-hour Jelly Belly University Tour costs $47 per person, and parties are limited to six people. Children must be at least 6 to participate.

Pants and closed-toed shoes are required on the private tours, and there will be access for wheelchairs.

The private tours are available weekdays, and reservations must be booked in advance at www.jellybelly.com. Once on the Web site, click on the 'Visit Jelly Belly' link.

For more information, call 800-953-5592.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

'Green' biz grows

'Green' biz grows
Article Launched: 07/13/2008

Solano County marked the beginning of the second year of its 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 the county and the first business in the unincorporated area to get the green business certification.

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.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Aboard U.S. flying hospital

Aboard U.S. flying hospital
Carl Nolte, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, July 13, 2008

Supplies and equipment are loaded into the C-17 Globemaster before the wounded are brought on board at Bagram Air Base. Photo by Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

It is just after midnight. Afghanistan is thousands of feet below. The big C-17 Air Force Globemaster has flown nearly halfway around the world, all the way from Travis Air Force Base in California, for this moment.

Now the plane banks to the right, sharply, and starts down, spiraling into the deeper darkness. The passengers - soldiers and Air Force personnel riding in back with a cargo of medical supplies - put on body armor. The crew loadmaster, a slender female master sergeant named Jennifer Lepore, straps on a 9mm pistol.

This is a wartime landing, no lights. The pilot and co-pilot wear night vision goggles. The angle and the method of approach to landing and taking off at Bagram Air Base below are a military secret, but in back, the passengers can tell the descent is much steeper than that of any commercial jet airliner. It is like winding down a long, steep hill at high speed in a vehicle with no windows.

The plane, which is as big as a Boeing 757, lands and taxis on the runway for a long way. The Russians built this airstrip when they invaded Afghanistan 30 years ago; the Taliban and other Afghans fought over it later. At one time it was littered with broken planes.

The rear ramp opens and it is suddenly chilly. There is a slight breeze, a full moon.

The crews have to hurry. The wounded are waiting. The plane has to leave while it is still dark. It is dangerous for planes like this to land or take off in daylight.

Air crews from Travis - reservists mostly, citizen fliers from California - make this run an average of once a week, to bring the casualties, the maimed, the walking wounded, from Afghanistan or Iraq back to Germany, and then to hospitals back home in the United States. They are proud of the mission. They say that more than 90 percent of the wounded who make it to an aircraft in the field survive.

It is the highest survival rate for wounded personnel in any war.

"It is an honor and a privilege to do this," says Col. Chris Dunn, a critical care physician from Redwood City, a reservist with the 349th Air Mobility Wing at Travis.

On the ground

There is short pause, time for a quick walk over to the operations center for medical evacuation. It's a plywood building, called a B hut, and inside it looks like somebody's mountain cabin, big chairs, places to sit around, telephones, desks. Master Sgt. David Baker is in charge here. He doesn't wear body armor but he has two pistols.

"Attacks are constant here," he says, "but we are ready for them." The attacks seem to be picking up - that day a suicide bomber hit down south.

"In Vietnam," he says, "it took 20-odd days to get the injured back to hospitals in the U.S. Today normal is less than 72 hours. One patient injured in Iraq got back to the U.S. in 21 hours."

Outside the air base, it is pitch black despite the moon. The base is in a high valley, surrounded by mountains. "It's beautiful here," says Air Force Capt. Toni Tones, who arrived in winter when the jagged, snow-covered peaks of the Hindu Kush range glinted in the daylight. "It's gorgeous."

After a bit, ambulances drive up. They look just like school buses, except that instead of seats they have places for litters.

Four airmen carry each litter from the ambulance to the plane, slowly, carefully. The wounded don't move. Their faces have no expression; there is a man in a neck brace, another with a leg and his left arm bandaged. Six litters are carried aboard.

There are also six ambulatory patients. One has what they used to call in Vietnam a thousand-yard stare. A female soldier is among them; she has a ponytail and wraps herself in a blanket decorated with angels. She says nothing.

There are three Air Force nurses and four medical technicians aboard to take care of the patients. "We move 1,000 people a month," says Lt. Col. Jim Coen, who commands the medical unit that flies with the injured in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan. "We are a mix of National Guard and Reserve; in my unit we have cops, we have firemen, and we all love doing it."

In his other life, Coen, who is 56, is a personnel analyst for the city of Los Angeles.

"We are not here to argue the policy or the worthiness of the war," he says. "I don't think arguing about the war is helping. Helping the kids who got hurt is the mission."

He never talks to civilians about what he does when he goes back home to Southern California. "If I were to tell them about a double amputee who got burned and needs help, what would I say? I don't talk about it. When they ask where I've been, I say Germany, which is true."

The doors close, the body armor goes back on, the plane takes off.

The injured

The crew had rigged up American flags in the cargo area and they flutter when the plane climbs, twisting its way into the sky. The log shows C-17, tail No. 6162, assigned to the 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis AFB, has been on the ground in Afghanistan for two hours and 35 minutes.

Is that cost effective? "Some missions we do for a single guy," Coen says. "For a single one of these kids."

They are not all kids. Once the plane takes off, Jerry Patterson, an Army warrant officer, sits up on his litter. He's got one arm and one leg bandaged, and scabs on his forehead from flesh wounds. His back is peppered with little puncture wounds made by shrapnel.

He is 46, from Utah, a reservist who is a computer programmer in civilian life. In the Army, he is in an intelligence unit.

"We were out in a small town, gathering intelligence, you know, trying to find out who was who, sorting them out." He likes Afghans, "very friendly people," he says, with a tradition of hospitality.

But there are also some of those the military calls "the bad guys."

Some of the bad guys fired a rocket at the soldiers. Missed them, a long way off target. So they went into a brick building. Another rocket, missed again.

"We thought we were invincible," Patterson said. "Nothing is gonna happen to us. They are not gonna get us, we thought.

"Then I heard the whistle of the rocket. I thought, 'This is gonna be close.' "

There was an explosion. Smoke everywhere. "Everything turned upside down in a matter of seconds," Patterson said. He thought later it must have been one of those 107mm Chinese rockets. He thought it was good shooting: one shot long, one short, one on target. "You hear that rocket coming and your heart stops," he said.

Two of Patterson's men were killed instantly, nine were wounded. Two men were completely unscathed.

""I came out of there, blood running down my face, on this bad foot, just blood all over. The combat medics were at work in the hallway. If it weren't for them, some of the men would have bled out. Bled to death."

Patterson was bandaged at an aid station, then flown out. When he was ready to go, the men in his unit came up to shake his hand. "They walked right by those medics," he said. "The medics were amazing. They saved lives. I'm sorry I don't know their names."

The C-17, now a flying hospital, flew on, over the Hindu Kush, the Caspian Sea, the Balkans, to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, a seven-hour flight from a war to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the biggest military hospital outside the United States.

The hospital in Germany

The plane landed at 8 on a bright, sunny morning. Landstuhl is a pretty little town in the Rhineland, houses with red roofs. It looks just like Mill Valley, except for the ruined castle. The church bells ring out the hours. It is a million miles from Afghanistan.

At the hospital, Capt. Erika Cisneros, 27, an Army nurse from Baldwin Park, a Los Angeles suburb, says patients are still scared when they get to Germany.

"The first thing we tell them is that they are safe. They are in Germany and they are going home. We listen. We give them as much time as they need to be angry or be sad. And we help them through it.

"We had a patient who was heavily sedated. He had come from Iraq. He woke up in the hospital. He kept asking me if he still had his legs. He wouldn't look. He wouldn't look down.

"He must have asked me 17 times, and I had to tell him every time he had lost his legs.

"That was a year ago. And I said to myself, 'Why do I keep doing this?' "

Cisneros answered her own question. "Because I can help."

The man in the neck brace who was put aboard the plane in Bagram is awake now. He is 2nd Lt. William Ortega, born in Colombia, lived in New York City, joined the Army in 1996, served as an enlisted man and then got a commission. He's been in the Army 12 years.

He was in a truck convoy in Afghanistan when an explosive device went off. He injured his neck and has burns on the side of his legs.

"I am a platoon leader," he says. "I want to be with my soldiers. We are close, close, like a brotherhood." He says his men - all from the 101st Airborne Division - are all very young. Ortega is 38. "They call me Grandpa. It is an honor to lead men like this."

Jacob Brittain, 21, a private first class in the Marines, was ready to go home, first to a hospital, then to Frankfort, Ind. A roadside bomb got him. His left heel was shattered. "Afghanistan is a dangerous place," he says. "You don't know who's who."

It took only 10 minutes for a helicopter to pick him up, which sounds fast. "It seemed like forever, it does. You are in a lot of pain."

He always wanted to be a Marine, he says. "Some people want to be an astronaut, or a fireman. I wanted to be a Marine."

Would he go back? "Absolutely, I am 100 percent sure."

It will take awhile, though. With luck and therapy, he thinks he can walk again in a year.

The Travis plane took off from Germany on Sunday afternoon bound west across the Atlantic for Andrews Air Force Base. This time there were 17 litter cases, eight ambulatory patients and five in critical condition.

One man had lost his left arm, another his right. One man's leg was shattered. Another had severe brain injuries. A team of critical care medical personnel hovered over them for the nine-hour flight to Andrews, which is near Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., and Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.

The doctor

Critical-care doctor Chris Dunn, 56, is a colonel, who joined the Air Force Reserve when he was 50. He was too old to join, so he had to get a waiver. In his other life, he has a private practice in Redwood City and is on the staff at Sequoia Hospital there.

He has two sons who are Air Force pilots. "I wanted to help," he says, so he joined up with the 349th Air Mobility Wing at Travis.

Born and raised in Seattle, he went to Stanford as an undergraduate and to Stanford Medical School. The Vietnam War was on during his undergrad days; he registered for the draft but got such a high number he was never called.

He is tall, slim and fit, with gray hair. He has a lot of credentials. "But that is nothing compared to the honor and privilege of helping 18- to 25-year-olds who are the boots on the ground," he says.

For two months on this deployment, he has flown with the critically injured, a Sunday flight to Andrews in Maryland, Monday back to Germany. He has been across the Atlantic more times than he can remember, helping the patients westbound, sleeping on the floor of the plane eastbound. Sleeping on the floor doesn't bother him; he has backpacked in Yosemite and has a good air mattress.

His patients don't know him; they are critically ill - "in very bad shape," Dunn says. "You take them to a larger hospital where the technology and care will be good. Where they can be close to their families. We are one link in a chain of survival."

At Andrews, a crew of air men and women were on hand to take the litters off the plane. The man with the brain injury was flown by helicopter to Walter Reed.

The C-17 took off from Andrews AFB bound for California on Monday. From the cockpit, one could see the Washington Monument, the Capitol, all the sights.

The plane arrived back at Travis Monday afternoon.

"I see this as a mission to help people," said Lt. Col. Michael Casebeer, the pilot.

The mission had taken a week and C-17 No. 6162 had flown 40 hours in the air, 20,233 miles.

For more pictures and video from aboard the C-17 Air Force Globemaster, go to sfgate.com

Medical personnel tend to combat wounded in the cargo area of a C-17 Globemaster as they are transported from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to Ramstein Air Base in Germany for further treatment. Photo by Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

Online resources
To see a video of the medical evacuation flight, go to sfgate.com.

E-mail Carl Nolte at cnolte@sfchronicle.com.

Solano EDC plans July 30 breakfast

Solano EDC plans July 30 breakfast
Article Launched: 07/13/2008

The next Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast event, scheduled for July 30, will address a possible health care crisis in the county following deep budget cuts that took effect this month.

The event runs from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at Fairfield's Hilton Garden Inn, 2200 Gateway Court. The fee is $25 for pre-registered Solano EDC members, $35 for others. To register, call 864-1855.

Ambac insuring $264 million for Air Force project including Travis AFB

Associated Press
Ambac insuring $264 million for Air Force project
Associated Press 07.11.08, 3:49 PM ET

Bond insurer Ambac Financial Group Inc. said Friday it is insuring a $264 million privatization of 3,500 Air Force housing units.

The project to privatize 3,500 existing single-family and townhouse-style housing units will take place at three separate bases. Ambac (nyse: ABK - news - people ) is collaborating with the Air Force, Balfour Beatty Construction Co., and Capmark Finance.

The bases involved include Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash., Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Okla., and Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif.

At the end of the seven-year development period, the financing will provide 2,400 new and rehabilitated homes for service members and their families at the bases, Ambac said.

The project will include $264 million in taxable mortgage loans insured by Ambac. In addition to the insured loans, other sources of funds will include a $137 million subordinate loan provided by the Air Force; an equity contribution of $14 million from the developer; a $6 million equity contribution from the Air Force, and net operating income and interest earnings during the development period.

Shares of Ambac rose 8 cents, or 5 percent, to $1.68 in afternoon trading.

Winning winery

Winning winery
Small area vintner finds formula for success
By ANDREA WOLF/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 07/14/2008

LEANING on one of the oak barrels used at his winery, Abe Schoener describes his history in teaching and winemaking and the path he took to combine the two, producing the critically acclaimed wines that bear the Scholium Project label. (Mike Jory/Times-Herald)

FAIRFIELD - An unconventional winemaker with a small Fairfield winery, fueled by philosophy rather than science, is producing some of today's most unusual California wines.

The affable Schoener, owner of Scholium Project, is nothing like the pretentious vintners of lore. Like a kid playing with a new chemistry set he just got for Christmas, Schoener gleefully makes wine for the experience rather than the end result.

A current project, growing Austrian Gr ner Veltliner grapes in the arid Suisun Valley, reflects his laissez-faire attitude toward winemaking. "It will be terrible," Schoener said. "But why not try it? It's worth a shot."

He encourages all those who volunteer their time at his winery to have fun, including stripping down to swimsuits at rush time and jumping in the barrels of red wine grapes.

But he must be doing something right: Schoener's wines are garnering national accolades from some of the most respected voices in the business and have become cult favorites among many wine enthusiasts.

On a recent visit to Scholium Project, the Rolling Stones were moved to serenade the Pinot Noir vines. The San Francisco Chronicle named Scholium Project one of the "six wines to covet," and Stephen Bitteroff, of New York's Crush Wine and Spirits, called it "one of the most thoughtful, and outrageous, artisanal producers in California."

Chatting among the vines growing on the Tenbrink vineyard in Suisun Valley - one of many sites from which he buys grapes around the state - Schoener eagerly related tales of winemaking successes as well as failures.

"It's all part of the fun," he said, believing experimentation is an important part of his wine making adventure.

His winery is housed on property owned by Steve and Linda Tenbrink, longtime Suisun Valley farmers known for their excellent produce.

Schoener met the Tenbrinks while falling in love with the tomatoes they sell at a Napa farmers market, and the unlikely partnership bloomed from there.

"At first I thought there was no way I was going to buy grapes from the woman I buy my tomatoes from," Schoener joked. But their insistence in him checking out their vines finally brought Schoener out to Solano County.

"I knew I wanted to work with these grapes before I even stopped the car," Schoener said. "There is such a balance in these vines and the site is naturally restrictive. I want the grapes to struggle a little."

A Greek philosophy professor in Maryland in his former life, Schoener was bitten by the vintner bug while working under famed winemaker John Kongs-gaard at Luna Vineyards in Napa.

Schoener took over as winemaker for Kongsgaard in 2002, the same year he started Scholium Project. In 2005, he started working on his own wines full time.

"I didn't do any of this scientifically. I'm not good at business plans," Schoener said. "We more than doubled our production between 2005 and 2006, but it wasn't a business decision."

Despite rapid growth early on, his wines remain remarkably small productions, sometimes bottling only 14 cases of a particular vintage. He said he typically bottles about 1,500 cases a year.

Schoener doesn't think his Cabernet needs to taste like every other California Cabernet. In fact, he relishes the fact that many of his wines are tricky to identify, even by the most educated palates.

In an unusual marketing technique, Schoener doesn't list the varietal or appellation (wine growing region) on his labels, but instead gives them Greek names reflective of his philosophy teaching background like Naucratis, Gemella and Eurydice.

"I pick the vineyard first, then decide what to do with the grapes," he said.

Believing it is impossible to classify a wine as "Napa" or "Monterey" in character, he lets the specific vineyards speak for themselves.

Schoener strives for as little intervention as possible with the grapes, and wants the end result to be based on what the grapes want to be, not a winemaker's vision.

"He believes deeply that the wines he makes should be of the year, of the vineyard, of the moment," said Jason Berthold, a chef who has started making wine under Schoener's tutelage.

Enlisting the help of other vinophiles interested in learning, mostly his friends, Schoener doesn't have any employees on a regular payroll. He said he looks for people with "open minds looking for a new experience."

"It's important to Abe to have the input from people who are not professional wine tasters," Berthold said. "As a winemaker it is incredibly valuable for there to be no bias or marketing plan, branding or anything else influencing decisions."

Berthold, who is working on opening a Michael Mina restaurant in San Francisco, said he first tried Schoener's wines while he was a sous chef working at the French Laundry in Yountville. While not widely available at local restaurants, Scholium Project wines have made the list at some of the Bay Area's top spots, including A16 in San Francisco and Yountville's Bouchon.

"At the French Laundry the chefs would often open a bottle of wine while we worked on the menu," Berthold said. "I was immediately intrigued by Abe's wines, they were so unusual and just incredible."

Now, three years later, Schoener has become Berthold's winemaking mentor and helps him craft his own label, Courier.

Like a mad scientist creating new compounds, Schoener bucks many traditional wine making techniques just to see what will happen. He sometimes treats white wine grapes like red wine grapes, letting the skins soak with the pressed juice for days.

His successes have grabbed the attention of many wine lovers across the country, but he said he has been especially embraced by the New York market.

This could be because his wines are so atypical of California wines, Schoener said.

"New Yorkers tend to drink more European wines, for obvious reasons, and that may be why they are more likely to embrace something as unusual as Abe's wines," Berthold said. "Abe's wines are such that people don't know what to expect form them, which can be both a virtue and a vice."

THE LABEL on Scholium Project wines represents a planetary path diagram from one of Sir Isaac Newton's first books on gravity. (Mike Jory/Times-Herald)

• E-mail Andrea Wolf at awolf@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6835.

Health talk set

Health talk set
Article Launched: 07/13/2008

Solano EDC will host a breakfast gathering July 30 in Fairfield titled "Healthcare at the Crossroads."

Speakers will be Jack Horn, CEO of Partnership HealthPlan and Assemblywoman Lois Wolk.

They will discuss the impact of state budget cuts on employers and health care benefits.

The event will begin with registration from 7:30 to 8 a.m. followed by the main program from 8 to 9 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn Fairfield, 2200 Gateway Court.

Cost is $25 for Solano EDC members and $35 for non-members or at the door.

To register, call 864-1855 or e-mail to pat@solanoedc.org

Make checks payable to/mail to Solano EDC, 360 Campus Lane, Suite 102, Fairfield, 94534

'Green' buses to replace old, costly diesel fleet

'Green' buses to replace old, costly diesel fleet
By Melissa Murphy
Article Launched: 07/13/2008

A new fleet of environmentally friendly transit buses will replace the old and more expensive diesel fueled buses in Vacaville.

Last month, the City Council approved the purchase of 10 new 35-foot Compressed Natural Gas transit buses, which will replace the seven diesel fueled buses the city currently uses.

"It's good news for the city and for the passengers," said Brian McLean, transit manager for the city of Vacaville. "We needed them."

The entire cost of the new buses is $4,206,580, which is funded through Federal Transit Administration Capital funds, Local Transportation Development Act funds and Proposition 1B funds.

The city's seven, diesel-powered, 1995 Gillig fixed-route transit buses have exceeded the Federal Transit Administration's 12-year life cycle and are slated for retirement.

"It's very timely considering the costs of fuel alone," said Mayor Len Augustine. "Our Public Works Department never ceases to amaze me their ability to stay ahead of the game."

McLean said the "green" buses will save the city at least $100,000 in fuel costs alone.

"They're using clean burning natural gas," he said. "Significantly cheaper than what the city was paying for diesel."

He explained that the city currently pays $4.06 per gallon for diesel compared to $1.76 per gasoline gallon equivalent to Compressed Natural Gas.

"The savings derived here will allow for the continued delivery and expansion of City Coach services at a time where other local transit agencies are cutting service and raising fares," McLean said in a press release.

McLean said the new buses are a great plus for passengers who are already using the transit services more frequently. He explained the buses have a low floor design, allowing passengers to step from the curb and onto the bus without having to walk up stairs.

The older buses have stairs and can kneel to the curb to help with boarding, which involves a lot of moving parts and is more susceptible to mechanical failures.

"They're wearing out and could become a maintenance liability," said Vice Mayor Chuck Dimmick. "The new buses are more practical and are far superior and more fuel efficient than the older buses."

The new buses have a fold out ramp for wheelchair accessibility, which is a lot easier to operate and maintain, according to McLean.

Dimmick agreed.

"Not only is it easier for wheelchair accessibility, but for the elderly as well," he said.

As the buses trickle in next year, the old buses will be phased out according to age and cost. The three additional buses will be on hand when the services expand.

"It will give us room to expand our stops," McLean said. "We'll definitely need them."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

'Voltageville' hopes to gain Tesla plant

Second Chance
'Voltageville' hopes to gain Tesla plant
Article Launched: 07/06/2008

Just when you thought there was nothing but bad news coming out of California - from the depressed economy to raging wildfires - the governor has revealed a ray of sunshine that could possibly brighten Vacaville's future.

Tesla Motors, the first company to mass produce an all-electric car, has decided to locate a new manufacturing plant for its Model S electric sedan in California.

What's more, there's a chance that plant could come to Vacaville.

A couple of years ago, the city was on a short list of possible locations for an electric-car plant, but was eliminated in January 2007. It appeared that Pittsburg was in the running, until New Mexico won over the company in March 2007.

California rallied to offer incentives to keep Tesla, whose headquarters is in San Carlos, but it appeared to be too little, too late.

Last week, however, it became clear that the negotiations had continued. Apparently, a tax break brokered by the governor and state treasurer made the difference.

Officials aren't saying whether Vacaville is officially back on the list, but it would be fitting.

For one thing, our community is known as "Voltageville" because the city has more electric vehicles per capita than any other city in the country.

In addition, we meet one of the company's requirements: the desire to locate within two hours of its headquarters.

Furthermore, the city offers an ideal location between the University of California, Davis, and the University of California, Berkeley.

Vacaville also has a reputation as a "hot bed of support" for electric vehicles, according to Vacaville's Economic Development Director Mike Palombo.

Under the deal struck last week, Tesla will not have to pay the tax on the $100 million worth of equipment it will need to purchase to build its Model S - an agreement that could save Tesla about $8 million. The company will also be eligible for at least $1 million in training funds.

The exact size of the plant to be built was not disclosed, but the one proposed in New Mexico was expected to employ 400 people. The California plant is supposed to open in 2010. It will build Tesla's Model S, a five-passenger sedan that can travel 225 miles between charges to its electric engine. It is expected to cost about $60,000.

"These vehicles can play a big part in helping California successfully implement its groundbreaking laws to fight climate change," said State Treasurer Bill Lockyer. "By offering this financial incentive, our goal is to ensure zero-emission vehicles realize their full potential in our state. In the bargain, we believe the policy will bolster our emerging green economy, create good-paying jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

This is just the right sort of company that California should lobby to keep.

As the governor pointed out, "We want these cutting-edge companies not to just start in California and do their research and development here - we want them to build in California.

And if that building could take place in Vacaville, that would be some welcome good news.

Steel fab company to expand

Steel fab company to expand
Article Launched: 07/09/2008

A Mare Island-based steel fabrication company plans to expand, making it one of the largest businesses on the island, according to an area developer.

Alamillo Rebar, Inc., signed a lease with island master developer Lennar Mare Island, to increase its property space by 35 percent.

The company, which has about 110 employees and has been on the island for less than two years, is working locally on the Benicia Bridge retrofit construction project.

The company serves northern and central California, installing and fabricating reinforcing steel, as well as installing steel cabling.

Alamillo Rebar President Larry Alamillo said the company does not have plans to increase its work force, just expand its operations by about 17,000 square feet. This is the company's second lease expansion, according to information provided by Lennar Mare Island spokesman Jason Keadjian.

The company's main office is in Building 126, at 1101 Nimitz Ave.

A look at East Bay wine country

A look at East Bay wine country
East Bay Business Times - by Judy Jacobs

Wineries seem to be popping up everywhere in the East Bay these days, but most of them are located in three areas: Livermore Valley, Suisun Valley and warehouse districts in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville, with a few others scattered throughout east Contra Costa County. Here are some facts and figures relating to wine and grape production in these areas.

Livermore Valley Wine Country
Livermore Valley wine production dates back to the 1760s when Spanish priests planted the first vines to make wine for the missions. The first commercial vines were planted by Robert Livermore in the 1840s, followed 40 years later by C.H. Wente, James Concannon and Charles Wetmore, two of whose descendants are still active in the Livermore Valley wine industry. Before Prohibition, Livermore Valley had more than 50 wineries, more than it does today.

Year Livermore Valley AVA established: 1982
Size: 15 miles long by 10 miles wide
Acres under vines: More than 3,000
Number of wineries: 44
Number of wineries to open in past year: Five
Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association Web site: www.lvwine.org

Suisun Valley
Wine grapes have been grown and wine made in the Suisun Valley since the 1800s. In the latter part of that century, Mangles Winery, which is no longer in existence, was one of the largest commercial wineries in the country. Phylloxera and prohibition did much to damage the wine industry, but after World War II it began to come back to life and continues to grow. The newest winery, Blue Victorian Vineyards, is scheduled to open this fall.

Year Suisun Valley AVA established: 1982
Size: Eight miles long by three miles wide; 15,000 acres
Acres under vines: About 3,000
Grape tonnage: An estimated 50% to 55% of the Solano County total of 11,481 tons.
Number of wineries: 10, plus one to open in the fall Suisun Valley Grapegrowers
Association Web site: www.svgga.com

Urban East Bay
When veterinarian Kent Rosenblum and his wife, Kathy, founded Rosenblum Cellars in 1978 they were urban winemaking pioneers. Since then the East Bay has undergone a wine revolution, with winemakers moving their operations out of their garages and into full-scale wineries - some with tasting rooms - in warehouses scattered throughout industrial districts in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville. It would be difficult to establish an exact number, but the industry has matured and now has its own association with 15 wineries as members.

East Bay Vintners Alliance Web site: http://eastbayvintners.com

jjacobs@bizjournals.com | 925-598-1451

View from the vineyard: East Bay winemakers share some best practices

View from the vineyard: East Bay winemakers share some best practices
East Bay Business Times
July 4, 2008

Whether being made in the Livermore or Suisun valleys or the warehouses of Oakland and Berkeley, East Bay wines are gaining a reputation for quality. The Business Times checked in with several winemakers to get insight into the business, its challenges and its future. Their comments have been edited for brevity.

Rhonda Wood

Wood Family Vineyards, Livermore

Rhonda Wood, a former US Airways pilot, is also one of a small group of East Bay women winemakers. After making beer in her Fremont home, she decided to switch to wine and planted 18 vines. In 1995, she and her husband, Michael, the CFO of Pacific Coast Trane, purchased a Merlot vineyard in Livermore and began making wine, with the first commercial release in 2000. Since then they've produced a variety of wines, including Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Wood Family Vineyards is a true family business. Their 16-year-old son delivers wine, and he and his 14-year-old brother both help out at events.

What was the best thing you did?
The development of our name and logo (the back of a Woody with two surfboards sticking out and a vineyard in the background). Our neighbor Darcy Kent painted our logo. Being able to see our personality and put it in a painting was great. There's so much the Woody personifies - the classic car, pack it all up and take off for the weekend. People can have a great label, but you have to have great wine. So to have both is nice. We also started small, with 168 cases, then 330, 660 and 880 and now do between 1,200 and 1,400 cases, depending on the year. That's the capacity of the building right now. In order to increase we'd have to build another building.

What was your biggest mistake?
Not building a big enough building for winery production purposes. The doors are not big enough. We can get a forklift in there, but it's a warehouse forklift.

Giselle Vezer

Operations manager, Vezer Family Vineyards, Suisun Valley

After immigrating from Canada, Frank Vezer started a general industrial contracting business and settled in Fairfield. He and his wife, Liz, bought a farm with vineyards and built a winery, while selling grapes to other wineries. They produced their first vintage, a Zinfandel, in 2003 and since then have produced several reds and one white, Verdelho. The couple purchased a group of historic buildings at Mankas Corner, using them for their tasting room and a café and deli. They will open their second winery, the Blue Victorian Vineyards, in September. It will be the first winery in Suisun Valley with indoor event space and will accommodate up to 200 for banquets.

What was the best thing you did?
Listen to Liz. Liz Vezer does all the blendings and tastings, and she's an amazing talent. And also a great cook. The best thing we ever did was listen to her and a little less to some of the experts that were telling us what to do.

What advice can you offer to others who might want to make wine?
Never forget why you're doing it. For a lot of people after a while, it turns into a pour and ignore situation. It's really all about the enjoyment of wine and company and good food. It's about taking your time in your wine tasting. Don't rush people in and out. Make people feel welcome. Treat wine tasting as if it's a special experience. Without them and without them purchasing your wines, you won't be able to succeed. (In some wineries) the relaxed atmosphere is being lost. It's a lost art.

Carolyn Wente

President, Wente Vineyards, Livermore

Carolyn Wente is part of a family that has become a household name in wine. Their winery is also the oldest family-owned, continuously operated winery in the state and is now managed by the fourth and fifth generations. With an annual production of 300,000 cases, Wente Vineyards is the largest winemaker in the East Bay and produces 10 different wines using grapes from Livermore Valley and Aroyo Seco (Monterey). The company's most popular wines are its Riva Ranch Chardonnay, Morning Fog Chardonnay and Southern Hills Cabernet.

You've been in the wine business for a long time. What are the biggest changes you've seen?
The number of wineries. In California there were a handful of wineries in the 1970s - fewer than 100. Today there are over 1,700. Also, the rise in northwest wineries during that same time. The second thing is the consumption rate in the U.S. and how wine has surpassed beer. That happened two years ago.

What are the greatest challenges Wente faces these days as a winemaker?
The continuing competition for the consumer's share of wine. Thirty years ago consumers were very brand loyal and now they're very trial-oriented and not so brand loyal. It's changed the way we market our wines and how we connect with the consumer. It's one of the things that has led to the lifestyle businesses we have created - from the restaurants to the concert series to the golf courses. People can come to the wine country, taste your wine and connect with you.

Herb Houston and Debbie Gebeyehu

Enat Winery, Oakland

Creating a market for an unusual kind of wine is almost as difficult as making the wine itself. Just ask Herb Houston and Debbie Gebeyehu, who have been making the Ethiopian honey wine known as Tej since 1999. "The bad part of this business is that it's a whole new type of wine. It's an acquired taste. People have to go to Ethiopian restaurants and then they look for it," said Gebeyehu. They launched the business with Gebeyehu's mother, Enat's, recipe and now sell about 200 cases a month to restaurants and specialty-wine stores across the United States and in London.

What was the best thing you did?
There are two things. We followed my mother's recipe. And we purchased the warehouse we're in.

What was your biggest challenge?
The supplies are expensive. We didn't have too much money for marketing, and resources are mainly geared toward the big wineries. There's not too much for small mom-and-pop types. We had to do a lot of shopping around to get supplies. Also, we're doing it all ourselves, and as we need help, we get some temporary help.

What advice can you offer to others who might want to make wine?
Start small and ensure the quality stays the same. You can't industrialize. You can't expand rapidly. It has to be really controlled. Stay natural. We're not into chemical additives.

Adam Nelson
Two Mile Wines, Berkeley

Eight guys, most in their mid-30s - a couple work in biotech, a business strategist, two chemists and a behavioral consultant among them - decided to get together and have a good time, and make some wine. That was in 2002, and the wine became so popular among their friends that the group decided to take it commercial in 2006. They began by sharing a warehouse in Berkeley with A Donkey and Goat Winery, but recently moved into their own space, an old screw factory on San Pablo Avenue. Now one of them, Adam Nelson, runs the business part time and another runs sales. One serves as lead winemaker and another assistant winemaker and a third handles financial matters.

What was the best thing you did?
Keep the right pace. The trick is to make sure you're not growing too quickly or too slowly. Staying below 2,000 cases is very important for being successful. We're at 1,000 now. Our plan is to not exceed the 2,000-case limit, because then you need more capital. It's important to focus on a few wines. Building a brand around a few wines. Our 2006 vintage produced five, and we did three in 2007 and 2008. Those are the wines we're building our brands on. It also was good rooming with another winery when we started. We learned a lot.

What was your biggest mistake?
Where should I begin? It was a mistake to make so many wines the first year we went commercial, but I'm afraid my biggest mistakes are yet to be revealed to me.

East Bay Business Times