Friday, May 29, 2009

All-time high for county ag

All-time high for county ag
By Reporter Staff/
Posted: 05/29/2009

Despite tough economic times, agricultural production is alive and well in Solano County.

Increasingly favorable commodity prices helped set an all-time high for agricultural production in Solano in 2008 -- the second year in a row -- according to the county's annual Crop and Livestock Report, released Thursday.

"Value increases were seen in nearly all field crops because of favorable commodity pricing; this despite many grain yields being reduced due to drought," noted Jim Allen, agricultural commissioner and sealer of weights and measures for the county.

The gross value of the more than 80 crops was $292.8 million in 2008, up almost $25 million, or 9 percent from the previous year's total of $268.2 million, according to Allen's report.

Nursery products remain the top crop at $43 million; however, its value plummeted 24 percent from its all-time high of $56.6 million in 2007.

"The nursery industry was hit hard by the economy, with fewer housing starts lowering demand for ornamental plants," Allen noted.

Field crops were valued at $89.4 million, up 63 percent from $54.8 million in 2007. Alfalfa and processing tomatoes experienced both higher commodity prices and increased yields.

"Processing tomatoes rose in value by nearly $6 million," Allen noted.

As for the top 10 crops in the county, the first seven remained unchanged from last year: nursery products, alfalfa, processing tomatoes, cattle, walnuts, milk and wine grapes. Moving up to the eighth position, from 11th last year, was irrigated wheat. In ninth was certified sunflower seeds, which ranked 12th last year. And field corn dropped into the 10th spot, from ninth last year.

But the gross value of crops does not tell the whole story, Allen said.

"While the gross value is a record high, it does not reflect the total contribution of agriculture," he said in a press release announcing the release of the report. "Transportation, processing, marketing and other farm-related services re-spend agricultural dollars to the benefit of the local economy and pushes that number even higher."

Allen also added a new element to the crop report, focusing on international trade.

Thirty-seven commodities from Solano County, including endives, grapes, tomatoes and hay, are exported to 45 countries across six continents, he noted.

For a full copy of the report, visit www.solanocounty.com/ag.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nut Tree moving forward

Nut Tree moving forward
By Melissa Murphy/ MMurphy@TheReporter.com
Posted: 05/28/2009

A large excavator marks the area of what will be the new Nut Tree Plaza, a project that will be completed as early as August.

City leaders, tenants and the developer Westrust gathered together Wednesday afternoon for the groundbreaking ceremony to welcome a new vision for the complex that seemed to be ailing from the start.

"We're here to make the project right, so we're moving forward with new plans," said Rick Capretta, co-managing partner of Westrust -- the developer that built the 30-acre Nut Tree Village at the entrance to the Family Park. "The Master Plan wasn't well-integrated. Now we have the opportunity for open dialogue between the parties. This is all going to be one instead of separate islands."

Next week, the city and Westrust plan to finish the acquisition that will transfer the responsibility of the Family Park from Nut Tree Associates to Westrust.

Just a few of the Nut Tree Plaza changes include moving the No. 5 Nut Tree train to travel around the oval spot between the businesses and moving the carousel to the front of the plaza.

"It will be more closely to what was originally intended," said Capretta, adding that not having the attractions at the front of the property is one reason the Family Park failed. "The lighting in the trees and on the carousel will definitely attract the passengers on I-80."

According to Capretta, some 66 million passengers travel down Interstate 80 each year.

Capretta said the Harbison House, which was originally moved to the center of the Family Park by Westrust, will not be forgotten.

He hopes to create an atmosphere that will incorporate the Historic Harbison House and the Nut Tree airport.

A new idea that Capretta hopes to bring to reality is to create a kiosk in the picnic area, allowing customers to order food from any of the restaurants in the immediate area and have it delivered to the plaza.

Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine is excited about the changes.

"This is a renewal to the original commitment," he said.

Capretta noted that Westrust has been involved with the Nut Tree development for more than five years and the company is ready to invest in another three to four years until the plaza is completed.

"We have quality tenants in this place and there is a lot of activity," Augustine continued. "You can't deny that it's in a great location."

He admitted that Vacaville can't create the old Nut Tree because, after all, it failed.

However, the new Nut Tree has played a significant part in why Vacaville has remained solvent during a rough economy.

Finance Director Ken Campo agreed and said a sizable portion of the city's sales tax revenues have come from the large anchor stores at the shopping center.

Still, longtime Vacaville residents are glad that some of the key elements from the original Nut Tree will be included in the new plaza.

Councilwoman Dilenna Harris worked at Nut Tree. Harris said she would ride the train to the airport, greet visitors and escort them back to Nut Tree for meetings.

"For those of us who have lived here for a long time, there are elements that are special," she said and recalled the cookies that used to be made there.

She also explained that having some parts of the Nut Tree will really incorporate the family-friendly atmosphere that Vacaville already has.

Harris added that she's hoping to see the train make it out to the airport again.

"Access to the airport would be a major boost to this community," she said. "It would become a destination."

County crop report shows record production

County crop report shows record production
Posted: 05/28/2009

Increasingly favorable commodity prices helped set an all-time high for agricultural production in Solano County for the second year in a row, according to the county's annual crop report released today.

The gross value of the more than 80 crops was $292.8 million in 2008, up almost $25 million, or 9 percent from the previous year, according to the report.

"While the gross value is a record high, it does not reflect the total contribution of agriculture. Transportation, processing, marketing and other farm-related services re-spend agricultural dollars to the benefit of the local economy and pushes that number even higher," said Solano County Agricultural Commissioner Jim Allan, in a press release announcing the report.

Nursery products remained the No. 1 crop at $43 million; however, its value plummeted 24 percent from its all-time high of $56.6 million in 2007, according to the report.

"The nursery industry was hit hard by the economy, with fewer housing starts lowering demand for ornamental plants. However, nursery products remain a significant aspect of Solano County's agricultural efforts," Allan said.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Life Science industry prospers in Solano County

Life Science industry prospers in Solano County
Scott Reynolds, Chairman of the Board

As I reported in previous articles last year, the county of Solano, the Solano Economic Development Corporation, and Collaborative Economics partnered to produce the Solano County Index of Economic and Community Progress. That Index identified seven industry clusters.

As you may recall, a cluster is a geographic concentration of independent, internationally competitive firms in related industries, and includes a significant number of companies that sell their products and services outside the region. One of those clusters is the Life Science Industry Cluster.

In February of this year, an in-depth analysis of the Life Science Industry Cluster was presented to the community. This analysis highlighted the fact that the growth of the county’s Life Science Industry Cluster – pharmaceutical manufacturing, medical devices, biotechnology, research and development, and testing laboratories – is outpacing the Bay Area and the State of California. This is not surprising as Solano County is well-positioned to play an expanding role in the continued development of the life science industry as it is located along vital transportation arteries, is located between two University of California research campuses
(Davis and Berkeley) and is home to Touro University on Mare Island.

In recent years, employment has expanded significantly as well as employment concentration and average earnings in life sciences. Employment in Solano County’s Life Science Cluster Industry grew at an annual rate of 35 percent between 2000 and 2006. In contrast, life sciences in the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area reported annual average losses of 3 percent over the same period. Employment in life sciences and related industries is 60 percent more highly concentrated in the county than in the state as a whole.

Average earnings are also on the rise, a statistic which suggests that the quality of jobs is also improving. Between 2006 and 2007 alone, average earnings in life sciences in Solano County increased 26 percent while average earnings in the county as a whole remained unchanged.

With respect to jobs, the percentage of the Solano County residents employed in the Life Science Industry Cluster increased 8 percent between 2000 and 2007, while the percentage of commuters decreased. Thus, Solano County residents are filling more and more of the county’s jobs in life sciences. By 2007, workers with
a high school diploma represented 28 percent of the county’s life science work force after increasing 11 percent from 2000. Up from 10 percent in 2000, those with a graduate or professional degree represented 14 percent in 2007.

It shall be obvious from this analysis that the life science industry requires skilled employees. Thus, a strong, local public education system which provides the opportunity for a company to hire local employees that will help provide research, development and manufacturer treatments is critical to its continued growth. It has been stated that no academic discipline is more important to the continued success of the life science industry than science education itself.

Fortunately – and unknown to many of us – Solano County recognizes this and has initiated different training efforts that aim to development the region’s workforce skills in the life science industry. These include comprehensive programs at the local community college as well as out-reach programs in local high schools
that offer students training at the community college. Other training resources at advanced levels include the University of California at Davis, California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, and Touro University on Mare Island.

In addition, a regional consortium, Bio Tech Systems, was created in 2005 to help produce a workforce trained and educated in biotechnology for the life science industry in the Sacramento, Solano and Yolo county region. And, locally, Solano County has developed the Bio Tech Academy, a framework for helping high school students on to a career ladder in the life science industry. This academy helps youth find viable career paths and helps meet the growing demand for skilled workers in the life science industry.

At Solano Community College, the Biotechnology Program has prepared students to join the workforce in the biotechnology industry in the Bay Area. Students in the program study the technologies used in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals protein products from various engineered cells. The program has almost doubled in size since its inception and attracts students with bachelor’s degrees for additional training to work in a biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant.

The College of Osteopathic Medicine at Touro University on Mare Island performs comprehensive research in the health sciences: drug design, diabetes and lipid metabolism, cardiovascular biomarkers, electrophysiology, and osteopathic manipulative medicine.

According to Bay Bio’s 2009 Impact Report, California’s life sciences industry created an annual average of 9,000 high paying jobs that were ultimately responsible for 1,200 approved treatments. Another 210 treatments are on track to be in the hands of patients in the next five to 10 years, which translate to a projected industryinvestment of $50 billion.

In order to capture some of this potential, our community leaders need the information generated by the Solano County Index of Economic and Community Progress and, specifically, the Life Science Industry Cluster Study. Through better understanding and education, hopefully, you too can be a part of the development of this cluster and assist in the capture of the tremendous potential it offers.

These are exciting times in Solano County in life sciences.

Solano EDC’s Mike Ammann appointed to advisory board

Solano EDC’s Mike Ammann appointed to advisory board

Michael Ammann, President of Solano Economic Development Corporation, will serve on the regional Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s advisory board, providing information that will eventually lead to the funding of economic stimulus programs in the Bay Area.

The institute said earlier this week it is seeking input as well from area business leaders and residents. The organization will create a regional proposal that will show how the Bay Area wants to spend the money it receives. The region’s final report is due to the state by June 1.

Funded projects under the stimulus plan must fall into one of seven categories: transportation, water, energy/climate, workforce training and education, business development, science and innovation or housing. Projects also must provide short-term job creation and provide long-term return on investment.

Ammann said he is hopeful that the Solano County private sector and governmental agencies will “ . . . look closely at this opportunity to receive federal funding to jumpstart economic development projects that will provide job opportunities and growth.”

About $30 billion will flow to the state, and then dispersed to regions. Another $20 billion of discretionary money will be sent to California, as part of the stimulus package.

Benicia Bridge renovation to finish early

Benicia Bridge renovation to finish early
By Denis Cuff, Contra Costa Times
Posted: 05/26/2009

A $43.5 million renovation of the Benicia Bridge is on target to be finished in August — four months ahead of schedule — to provide less congestion and smoother travel on Interstate 680 across the Carquinez Strait, Caltrans says.

The upgrade of the 1.2-mile bridge connecting Contra Costa and Solano counties includes a fourth lane for southbound car and truck traffic, a new bike/pedestrian lane, and wide new shoulders as a safety buffer.

A second merging lane will be added for drivers entering the bridge from I-780. Traffic back ups there during the morning commute.

"There won't be any backup (from I-780) with our new four-lane configuration for the bridge," said Mo Pazooki, Caltrans project manager. "We're coming in ahead of schedule and within budget on a project that will help traffic flows."

He said good weather and a speedy contractor is making for early completion.

The renovation began in January 2008 and was scheduled for completion in December 2009. Now it appears the project will be done sometime in August, with the fourth traffic lane opening first and the bike lane soon after, Caltrans officials said. No official opening date has been set.

The Benicia Bridge used to carry traffic in both northbound and southbound directions when it was built in 1962 to replace the last major ferry for autos in the Bay Area. The old bridge was converted to southbound-only traffic in August 2007, when a $1.2 billion span was opened with five lanes for northbound traffic.

To enable contractors to renovate the old bridge while it still carries traffic, half of the bridge width was shut down and renovated while the other half carried three lanes of traffic.

In August, the entire bridge width will open with four southbound traffic lanes, plus two merging lanes from both I-680 and I-780.

The morning backup occurs as I-780 motorists squeeze onto the bridge in one lane close to a concrete barrier. "Some people tell us they're scared to drive there merge there," Pazooki said.

The new 8-foot-wide shoulders on the bridge will ease safety concerns, and provide space to access cars that break down or get in accidents. The bridge has no shoulder now.

In another improvement just south of the bridge, contractors are rebuilding a freeway section above a marsh to eliminate big roadway dips. Those road depressions fill with runoff and flood in winter.

Cellular concrete, which is light but strong, is being used to replace the road there, which developed the dips over years as heavy asphalt used to resurface the lanes made the freeway sink into mud, said Caltrans spokesman Allyn Amsk.

During a tour of the bridge work last week, Caltrans engineers showed the partially complete bike lane, where rails were being installed.

"When you're out here, you have nice views of the of the water, the (Navy ghost fleet) ships, and the hills along the Carquinez Strait," said Cassaundra Lograsso, Caltrans' resident engineer, as she stood on the bridge.

Also in view were the smokestacks, metal piping and towers at the Shell oil refinery and other waterfront industries.

The softer side of the Carquinez Strait — the bluffs, the water, the marshes — have long been a favorite subject for oil and water color painters. It is because of these views walkers and riders may be attracted to the new bike lane across the 1.2-mile bridge.

"Opening the bike and pedestrian lane is a big deal for regional trails," said Bern Smith, the East Bay trails coordinator for the Bay Area Ridge Council.

He said the bridge renovation will close one of the remaining gaps in a 50-mile regional trail route through the Carquinez Strait hills, over the Carquinez Bridge and along the shoreline of Solano County.

Smith said there used to be a land connection between Martinez and Benicia some half a million years ago when the Central Valley was a huge inland lake before the giant rivers of California had an outlet to the sea through the Carquinez Strait.

"The way I look at it," he said, "This will be the first time in half a million years that you can walk from Martinez to Benicia."

Reach Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267 or dcuff@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read the Capricious Commuter at www.ibabuzz.com/transportation.

Benicia Bridge renovation
Cost: $43.5 million
Expected completion: August
Major elements: fourth lane for southbound traffic, new bicycling/walking lane across the bridge, second merging lane from I-780 onto bridge, elimination of large flood-prone dips on I-680 south of the bridge
Project contractor: Joint venture of Top Grade Construction and American Civil Constructors

Oakland's Fentons Creamery in Pixar film 'Up'

Oakland's Fentons Creamery in Pixar film 'Up'
Peter Hartlaub, Chronicle Pop Culture Critic
Wednesday, May 27, 2009



The latest "Night at the Museum" movie has an advertisement for the Smithsonian Institution in the film's title. "Angels and Demons" places Tom Hanks behind the wheel of a new Fiat. Capt. Kirk from "Star Trek" uses his Nokia phone while speeding down a 23rd century road, and drinks Jack Daniels at the local bar.

The product placement included within "Up" has a more local flavor.

Oakland residents will do a double take when they see that Fentons Creamery - the 114-year-old ice cream parlor and restaurant - not only gets name-dropped by the Pixar movie's over-eager Wilderness Explorer character Russell, but later figures into the plot.

Fentons doesn't have a public relations staff, and only recently opened a second location in Vacaville. But it still received a cameo in one of the most anticipated family films of the year.

"Up" director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera live in Oakland and have young children they take to Fentons. The Piedmont Avenue eatery is also a favorite stop for Pixar employees who are celebrating completed deadlines and other events.

"We thought it was fun. We got applause when we showed that at the wrap party, because so many people go over and eat at Fentons," Rivera says, during an interview at Pixar. "We wanted something specific that sounded authentic. If you live here you'll get it, but it sounds like a real enough place that broader audiences will understand what this kid is talking about."

Scott Whidden, a third-generation Oaklander who has owned Fentons for more than 20 years, is still processing the news. In some ways Pixar's use of Fentons is surprising, and in other ways it makes perfect sense.

See the complete story at SFGate.com.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

NorthBay Opens First Advanced Cardiovascular Operating Room in Solano County

NorthBay Opens First Advanced Cardiovascular Operating Room in Solano County

NorthBay Medical Center’s new $4.6 million cardiovascular operating room recently received state licensing approval, announced Kathy Richerson, chief nursing officer.

That paved the way for the first surgery, which occurred in mid-April. The state-of-the-art surgical suite, twice the size of a normal operating room, is just part of NorthBay Heart & Vascular Center, which is the only provider of advanced cardiac care, including open-heart surgery, in Solano County.

“Solano County will no longer be without life-saving, advanced cardiac care,” explained Gary Passama, president and chief executive officer of NorthBay Healthcare, the locally based non-profit organization that also operates NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville.

“It truly is absurd for a growing region this size – with an aging population that will need these services more than ever – to be without top-quality heart and vascular services,” Passama added.

It is estimated that about 1,400 local patients each year travel outside the county to other hospitals for cardiac care. The time and distance is often a matter of life and death.

The surgical suite is a centerpiece of NorthBay Heart & Vascular Center, a new program four years in planning and development.

The program brings to Solano County a host of services to be offered locally for the first time, including coronary artery bypass, heart valve repair and replacement, and advanced aortic procedures, including the thoracic aorta and peripheral vascular procedures.

NorthBay Heart & Vascular Center will incorporate the latest surgical techniques, including so-called “beating heart surgery,” during which the surgeon repairs a heart while it continues to pump blood to the body.

Minimally invasive vein harvesting is another specialty to be performed at NorthBay Medical Center. These new techniques, available only in advanced facilities and at the hands of cardiovascular surgeons with specialized training and experience, will result in fewer complications, smaller scars and shorter hospital stays for patients.

The new center represents a huge step forward in care and a significant financial investment for such a modestly sized, two hospital system such as NorthBay Healthcare.

Two of the region’s top surgeons, Dr. Ramzi Deeik and Dr. Robert Klingman Jr., were tapped by NorthBay to partner in developing the cardiac surgery program. They served as consultants in the design and construction of the heart surgery program, as well as the new operating room.

After dismantling two existing operating rooms to construct a single state-of-the-art surgical suite, NorthBay Healthcare possesses a “fully integrated” operating room, explained Dr. Deeik.

The room will be electronically connected to other areas of the hospital, such as radiology and the laboratory. Digital images (X-rays, MRI and CT scans) taken before surgery can be pulled up from files and viewed on the room’s high-definition TV monitors.

“The information is right there at our fingertips,” said Dr. Deeik.

“The community need was clear,” according to Deborah Sugiyama, president of NorthBay Healthcare Group, the entity that operates the two hospitals.

“Sending patients outside the county for care always delays treatment,” she noted. “You must first stabilize the patient, then arrange transportation and hospital admission. For some patients, that delay can be life threatening. Instead, we committed to developing a first-rate heart center, right here, in our community.”

Providing big help for small business

Providing big help for small business

T he Solano College Small Business Development Center offers training and counseling to small businesses in Solano County. The Center is part of the national Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Program, which consists of over 1,100 Centers nationwide.

Funding for the Center is provided through the Small Business Administration (SBA) on the federal level, the California Community College Economic and Workforce Development Program on the state level, and through local partners such as the City of Vacaville. The SBDC offers the following three core services:

Training: The Center offers workshops on small business topics such as business startup, business planning, financing, marketing, basic bookkeeping, government procurement and other small business topics. These short-term workshops are typically 2-3 hours in length and are designed to provide entrepreneurs the practical knowledge. In addition to the short-term workshops, the Center offers a 12 week NxLeveL Entrepreneurial Training Program designed to help entrepreneurs develop a thorough business plan.

One-on-one Counseling: The Center offers no-cost confidential one-on-one counseling services to entrepreneurs seeking to start, buy or grow a business through a team of “been there, done that” Business Advisors who either own their own businesses or have owned a business.

Information and Referrals: The Center maintains a resource library and reference materials that entrepreneurs can access. Library materials can be checked out by the client. Resources include Nolo Press books, Entrepreneur Magazine Startup Kits, etc.

The SBDC targets existing small businesses, but also works with startup businesses. One common theme for both startup and existing businesses is the need for access to capital. There are a lot of loan programs available to small businesses such as SBA guaranteed loans, state guaranteed loans, lines of credit, microloans, and local loan programs. The SBDC does not do lending, but can help businesses determine what their capital needs really are and then assist them with the application process for appropriate loan program.

For more information on how you can access the services of the SBDC, please visit www.solanosbdc.org or call (707) 864-3382. The center is located at 360 Campus Lane, Suite 102, in Fairfield.

The City of Vacaville has contracted with the SBDC since 1992 to provide assistance to small and entrepreneurial businesses. The City pays the SBDC $12,000 annually for this service.

New delta ferry to replace Real McCoy

New delta ferry to replace Real McCoy
By Bill Linde blindelof@sacbee.com
Tuesday, May. 26, 2009

A new Real McCoy, the venerable delta ferry important to farmers, is on the way.

The Real McCoy is operating but worn out, said California Department of Transportation officials. Continuing to repair it would not be financially prudent, said Caltrans.

The current vessel has been in service 63 years. The age of the ferry, deterioration of its hull and an outdated drive system convinced officials that a more reliable vessel was needed.

The Real McCoy, one of only two state-run ferries, carries farmers and tourists across a short stretch of water between State Route 84 in Rio Vista and Ryer Island in Solano County.

The new vessel will be able to carry 100 passengers and eight vehicles.

Caltrans anticipates that a new vessel will be in operation next summer. The $4.3 million contract for the new Real McCoy was awarded to Nicols Brothers of Freeland, Wash.

NorthBay Cancer Center earns full accreditation

NorthBay Cancer Center earns full accreditation
By Reporter Staff
Posted: 05/24/2009

NorthBay Cancer Center has earned a full, three-year accreditation with six commendations for quality care from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons.

Established as Solano County's first cancer center in 1987, it was praised for an active patient outreach program, its commitment to staff education, timely and accurate case reporting, and the publication of its annual reports.

In that report, a noted accomplishment was NorthBay Bridges, a palliative care program designed to help patients facing life-limiting, chronic or progressive disease to manage their symptoms and realize the best possible quality of life.

Only 40 percent of programs in the nation - 1,409 in all - come through the evaluation process with both three-year approvals and commendations. Most - 58 percent - may earn approval, but with issues that must be addressed.

"I'm thrilled," said Cancer Data Coordinator Charlene K. Thompson. "It's an ongoing effort to give our patients the best quality care, and the report shows we're having success."

Solano Index recognized for excellence

Solano Index recognized for excellence



Just as the county embarks on a study of the local energy industry, the second spinoff report from the 2008 Index of Economic and Community Progress, the County received an award on the original ground-breaking report.

The California Association for Local Economic Development presented the County an Award of Excellence in Economic Development Programs for the Solano Index, 14 diverse indicator areas that measure the strength of the local economy and the health of the community.

“This tool brings together all aspects of the community to focus on attracting and retaining quality jobs,” said Supervisor Michael Reagan. “Receiving this award from the people who do economic development for a living affirms that we are on the right track for improving the economy in Solano County.”

According to the index, the county experienced unprecedented economic opportunities between August 2000 and August 2008, outpacing the state and the Bay Area in many areas, including growth in per capita income and several industry clusters, such as life sciences and specialized manufacturing. In addition, Solano County’s economic diversity expanded and created a better balance of jobs. The index also revealed that the county needs to do more to connect its youth to the opportunities in the work force.

The idea for the index came from a series of Economic Summits in 2007 that built a shared economic framework for the seven cities and the County. A key component of the framework was a need for comprehensive data that could help decision-makers understand and proactively manage trends affecting the local economy and community.

“The index helps us tell the story of how we are doing as a community,” said Michael Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation. “It also gives us the empirical data to take advantage of opportunities that will expand the prosperity of the people who live and work in Solano County.”

The Solano County Index project is managed by the Solano EDC and was prepared by Doug Henton of Collaborative Economics, the originator of the Silicon Valley Index.

Since the Index was presented in November 2008, several workshops have been held that engaged a diverse group of community members to address community challenges that were identified as having impact on the future growth of the economy, including reducing the high school dropout rate and juvenile crime.

In addition, the first of five in-depth analyses of industry clusters was released. This report focused on the life science cluster in Solano County, which has experienced a six-fold increase in local jobs since 2000. The report praised the local schools, especially the Solano Community College, for building the training programs that are providing the industry with qualified people to employ.

A report on the energy industry cluster will be released in the fall of 2009.

The Solano Index and the Life Science Cluster Study can be viewed at www.solanocounty.com/economicindex.

CALED is a statewide professional economic development organization dedicated to advancing its members’ ability to achieve excellence in delivering economic development services to their communities and business clients. CALED’s membership consists of public and private organizations and individuals involved in economic development: the business of creating and retaining jobs.

The Solano Economic Development Corporation is a collaboration of private and public investors that provides leadership for economic development marketing of Solano County and its seven growing cities: Benicia, Dixon, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Suisun City, Vacaville and Vallejo.

Monday, May 25, 2009

UC Davis New book demystifies organic gardening

New book demystifies organic gardening
Submitted by SHNS on Mon, 05/25/2009 - 13:35.

* By DEBBIE ARRINGTON, Sacramento Bee
* gardening

Fern Marshall Bradley has been preaching the organic gospel for decades.

A lifelong gardener and a University of California, Davis, alumna, she tends her own vegetables, fruit and flowers without resorting to chemical pesticides. She went "green" long before the word meant more than the color of her thumb.

Now, with millions of gardeners digging into homegrown tomatoes and other vegetables, Bradley has found that the demand for organic gardening advice is at an all-time high.

With Trevor Cole, Bradley edited the Reader's Digest "All-New Illustrated Guide to Gardening" (Reader's Digest Trade Publishing, $35, 576 pages).

The "all-new" feature?

It's an all-organic edition and the most massive update of the popular tome since it was introduced more than 30 years ago.

"It took a good couple of years to complete," Bradley said in a phone interview. "So much of the book was reworked or completely redone. The older book had become a little too much out of date, so the decision was made to make the book all organic."

It was a logical next step. According to the National Gardening Association, about 43 million U.S. households will boast a vegetable garden this summer. Of that, an estimated 5 million will be all-organic. That number is expected to continue to grow as people try to reduce their carbon footprint and save money by growing their own produce.

Organic produce may be better for you, too. According to UC Davis research, organically grown fruits and vegetables may have higher levels of antioxidants than their conventionally grown counterparts.

"You have fewer worries about the safety of your food, too," said Bradley, noting recent salmonella outbreaks in commercial vegetables. "It's less scary. I know I can eat peas straight off the vine, and they'll be safe."

Bradley's large-format book contains more than 2,500 new photos as well as about 800 step-by-step diagrams and illustrations on such topics as how to support beans (string tepees, nets or poles) and how to remove lawn for a vegetable bed (skim off the sod, then stack chunks, grass side down, to decompose).

She covers not only vegetables but also all manner of flora, from groundcovers and ornamental grasses to rock gardens and shade trees, reflecting newer plant introductions and current gardening tastes.

"People are growing a lot more herbs and sunflowers," she said. "Even in a small garden, you can create a good environment for beneficial insects such as bees, and these days, everybody is concerned about bees."

Forty pages are devoted to common plant disorders and pests, but all recommended treatments are environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional pesticides.

"There's a whole body of science behind this information," Bradley said. "Chemicals sprayed on gardens end up in the groundwater. They affect the water we drink and the food we eat as well as wildlife. ... This is a much healthier approach."

Bradley, a former gardening editor for Rodale, knows her subject well. A resident of upstate New York, she co-authored the Reader's Digest book on "Vegetable Gardening" and conceived and edited "The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Insect and Disease Control" and "The Expert's Book of Garden Hints."

This summer, she and her husband are tending a 2,000-square-foot vegetable garden, "the biggest I've grown in years," she said.

The taste of fresh-picked, straight-from-the-garden vegetables is worth the effort, she said. Many gardeners know the joy of backyard tomatoes, but what about Brussels sprouts, turnips or beets?

"They're so delicious, not anything like what you get in the supermarket," she added. "We tried (Japanese) hakurei turnips, harvested at the size of golf balls and roasted with a little olive oil. Vertus turnips (a French heirloom) are also great, very white and very sweet. Now, we're hooked."

For beginners, planting turnips is very easy. Instead of using rows, Bradley recommended preparing a little patch of ground, 8 by 24 inches. Scatter the seed and cover lightly with soil, only a quarter-inch deep, then mist with water.

"The turnips come up in a solid mass," she said. "I never thin; I just harvest as they mature. That thins naturally."

Planted in the spring and again in the fall, the turnips can be used for greens as well as roots.

Bradley uses that method for several vegetables, such as radishes, lettuce, salad greens and carrots.

For vegetables, flowers and lawns, she recommends making "compost tea." Put a shovelful of compost in a burlap bag. Put a gallon of water in a bucket. Dip the bag into the water like a giant tea bag and let it steep for one to two hours.

Remove the bag (you can use that compost in the garden) and bottle your "tea" in a sealed gallon container for future use. Mix 1 cup compost tea with 1 gallon water to feed a mature rosebush or shrub, or a planter box of tomatoes. (Always wash your hands after handling compost.)

"It's wonderful on lawns, too," she said. "It not only feeds the plants but boosts beneficial microbes in the soil. You're helping build healthy soil."

And that's key to organic gardening success.

(E-mail Debbie Arrington at darrington(at)sacbee.com)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)

Must credit Sacramento Bee

Friday, May 22, 2009

A towering landmark is humbled in Rio Vista

A towering landmark is humbled in Rio Vista
blindelof@sacbee.com
Published Friday, May. 22, 2009



RIO VISTA – For all of Dick Brann's life, the water tower has been perched along the banks of the Sacramento River.

The 132-feet-tall tower has been as much a part of the river town's identity as striped bass or the nearby lift bridge.

When you saw the tower from boat or car – and you could for miles away in the flat-as-a-pool-table Delta – you knew Rio Vista was near.

"It's a landmark," he said.

Brann never saw the water tower being built even though he grew up here. After all, he's only 92. The water tower is more than a century old.

The bottom tank of the two-tank tower supplied water for drinking, and the top one fed a flume that transported asparagus into a cannery.

During canning season, the river was white with floating "asparagus buds," the discarded ends of the vegetable.

On Thursday, Brann and other Rio Vista residents watched history as the tower started to come down. At a minute before 4 p.m. the top tank was lifted off and then placed on the ground.

"It's pretty spectacular," said Sue Schaber, program manager for the Discover the Delta Foundation.

The remaining lower tank and tower looked pretty squat, she said. Even though the entire tower will be disassembled, it won't become steel scrap for China.

After refurbishment, plans are to put it on a barge and take it across the river to be erected again as part of a Delta history and tourist center and farmer's market planned by the Delta Foundation.

According to the foundation, the tower dates to 1904 when the property was used by Rio Vista Canning and Packing.

Sometime between 1910 and 1920, the property was sold to Del Monte and the on-site cannery was called California Packing Corp. Plant No. 22, or Calpak.

It was considered the largest asparagus cannery in the world. Ninety percent of the world's canned asparagus, mostly white asparagus, was packed there.

In the early 1950s, Blackwelder Manufacturing Co. bought the property but only used the lower tank to supply drinking water for the site.

In the mid-1960s the tower, feeling its age, sprang some leaks and was no longer used to supply water.

In 1990, the Dutra family took over the property and emblazoned the company name on the upper tank. It recently donated the tower to the foundation.

Aging Delta ferry to be replaced

Aging Delta ferry to be replaced
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | May 21, 2009



The Real McCoy Ferry makes its way across the Sacramento river from Ryer Island. The ferry is part of Highway 84 and carries cars across the river 24 hours a day and needs to be replaced with a new boat. Photo by File 2007

FAIRFIELD - The Real McCoy is a real throwback a 64-year-old ferry along the state highway system in an age of bridges.

By summer 2010, it could be history. The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $4.3 million contract to Nicols Brothers of Freeland, Wash., to build a new ferry.

'For more than 63 years, the Real McCoy has diligently been in year-round service for locals and visitors to the area,' Caltrans District Four Director Bijan Sartipi stated in a press release. 'Caltrans is pleased that we can continue to provide this non-stop service with a more modern and environmentally-friendly vessel.'

The Real McCoy ferry is part of rural Highway 84 in eastern Solano County. The vessel crosses from the mainland shore of Cache Slough a few miles north of Rio Vista to Ryer Island, which has about 400 residents, farms and a few marina resorts.

Caltrans has only two ferries. The other is the J-Mack ferry, which carries cars from the eastern end of Ryer Island on Highway 220 across Steamboat Slough.

The Real McCoy debuted in September 1945, a 65-foot-long, flat vessel with a steel hull because World War II restrictions on top lumber made a wooden hull impractical. It was named after state highway engineer G. T. McCoy.

On an average day, the ferry carries about 700 vehicles. It has taken only a few breaks during its long career, including six weeks earlier this year for an overhaul.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Travis school district tops in county API scores

Travis school district tops in county API scores
By Reporter Staff
Posted: 05/22/2009

State schools chief Jack O'Connell on Thursday released the 2008 Base Academic Performance Index scores for local schools and set their target scores for this fall.

Release of the base score, which summarizes results from spring 2008 testing of students in core academic subjects, marks the beginning of California's annual reporting cycle of academic growth and achievement.

The 2008 test scores for each school become the baseline against which to compare the 2009 Growth API, which will be released in early September.

The 2008 Base API report includes public school rankings that enable parents to match the performance of their child's school with other California public schools. Based on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest), the rankings compare an individual school to all other California public schools of similar type (elementary, middle, and high) as well as to those with similar educational opportunities and challenges.

In Solano County, Travis Unified schools showed the highest marks, with all but two already exceeding the performance target score of 800. Cambridge Elementary and Vanden High School are within just a few points of hitting 800.

In Vacaville Unified, several schools have already hit the 800 target including Alamo, Browns Valley, Cooper, Orchard and Sierra Vista elementaries and Buckingham Charter Magnet High.

In Dixon Unified, no schools have hit the target but C.A. Jacobs Intermediate scored a 777 and has a target this fall of 782.

In the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District, B. Gale Wilson, Cordelia Hills, K.I. Jones, Nelda Mundy, Rolling Hills, Suisun Valley and Tolenas elementaries have achieved the performance target.

Statewide, the percentage of elementary schools at or above the 800 mark is 39.9 percent, up 3.3 percentage points from 2007; middle schools is 30.1 percent, up 5.7 percentage points; and high schools is 17.1 percent, up 2.8 percentage points.

"I am pleased that once again California schools are meeting the high expectations set for them every year. I am especially proud of the spectacular progress made by our elementary schools since the inception of the API. This is momentum we need to sustain and celebrate," O'Connell said.

"This kind of progress happens only through the hard work and focus of dedicated school staff, parents, and students. However, I worry that these real gains in student achievement are in serious jeopardy because funding for our public school system is in serious danger," he said. "What kind of education will we be able to offer next year and the year after that with the kind of drastic and unprecedented cuts now under consideration?"

The statewide report also documents the achievement gap between white and Asian student subgroups on the one hand and Hispanic and African American student subgroups on the other hand.

"For the better part of the last two years, I have focused intently on a plan to close this gap and to lower the number of young people dropping out of school," O'Connell said. "The Base API report provides evidence yet again of why it is so critical that we focus on this challenge. We have implemented important reforms related to high-quality preschool, cultural and climatic dynamics in the classroom, and education data collection. We have a moral and economic imperative to prepare all students with an education that will help them succeed. But this critical work is also likely to be stymied if the massive budget cuts to our schools become a reality."

The 2008 Base API reports, including school rankings and growth targets can be found at the state education department's Web site www.cde.ca.gov.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Changes OK'd for development

Changes OK'd for development
By Melissa Murphy/ MMurphy@TheReporter.com
Posted: 05/20/2009

Without any opposition, new changes have been made to a housing development in Vacaville.

The Planning Commission voted 6-0 Tuesday evening to approve a new housing plan and a revised plan for placement of the approved house models in the Southtown housing development.

Commissioner Dan Broadwater did not attend the meeting.

None of the neighbors from the Southtown development attended the meeting, which is quite contrary to a few months ago when several families voiced their disapproval to previous proposed changes.

As approved, housing developer D.R. Horton will discontinue the construction of previously approved Plan 1 and replace it with a new model, Plan 6.

Plan 6 will be slightly bigger than the previously approved plan and will be 1,797 or 1,993 square feet with three different elevation options.

Representatives of D.R. Horton believe the new model, with an optional three-car garage, is a better model and is in response to the housing market.

Commissioner Frank Crim agreed and said he's pleased that the new model creates an atmosphere that is compatible with the character of the neighborhood.

Last year, representatives from D.R. Horton requested a change to the plotting plan to allow wider, shallow-lot homes next to bigger houses.

After neighbors protested the change, commissioners denied the developer's request.

Also Tuesday, commissioners were given an update on the progress of amendments to the city's Land Use and Development Code.

Project Manager Fred Buderi said the purpose of reviewing the amendments was to remind commissioners that staff is still working on the amendments and to see if they needed to clarify or add anything.

Some of the amendments deal with setbacks for decks in residential zones, parking requirements for churches and off-site subdivision signs.

Buderi said the majority of the amendments are needed to correct or clarify terminology.

The information was presented to the commissioners for review. A public hearing will be held June 2 for residents to comment on the amendments.

UC Davis Vet School Opens Stem Cell Laboratory

UC Davis Vet School Opens Stem Cell Laboratory
by: Center for Equine Health Horse Report
May 19 2009

Focused on providing the latest in stem cell therapies for horses, the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine has opened its new Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

The new laboratory provides a state-of-the art facility for processing, culturing and storing stem cells for use in horses. It is one of only four such university-based veterinary stem cell labs in the nation, providing services to clients and referring veterinarians.

"We are excited to be able to offer this new clinical service to our clients for their horses as a complement to our stem-cell research program," said Bennie Osburn, DVM, PhD, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. "Stem cell science is leading us into a new era in human and veterinary medicine."

In recent years, scientists have made significant advances in using stem cells to treat horses suffering from diseases including colic and neuromuscular degeneration, as well as burns and other injuries.

Horses have been one of the first species to benefit from veterinary stem cell therapy because they are prone to many of the injuries that can be successfully treated with such therapy.

"The marvelous thing about stem cell therapy is that it holds the promise of a cure," said Sean Owens, DVM, Dipl. ACVP, a veterinary professor and director of the new Regenerative Medicine Laboratory. "We can use pharmacological medicine to alleviate the pain associated with orthopedic injuries in horses, but only with biological medicine such as stem cell therapy can we actually repair the damage that has already been done."

The research-driven laboratory is expected to yield new knowledge that also will benefit other animal species.

New laboratory

The new Regenerative Medicine Laboratory, located on the first floor of the UC Davis William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, will support the clinical arm of the veterinary stem cell program. Lab personnel will process, culture and store stem cells that have been collected from the hospital's equine patients to treat injuries.

The laboratory also will provide stem cell collection kits to private veterinarians so that they can harvest stem cells from their equine patients and return the cells to the UC Davis lab for processing or storage. Processed stem cells then will be returned so that the veterinarians can treat their patients. Some horses also will be referred to the teaching hospital for stem cell treatments.

While the costs associated with stem cell processing and treatment will vary from case to case, the fee for processing and expansion of one bone marrow sample will be approximately $1,800. Each sample will be expanded into four therapeutic stem cell doses. One dose will be returned to the submitting veterinarian, while the other three will be stored for future use. The fee for stem cells injections at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital will vary according to the number and frequency of doses administered. For most patients, the fee will be approximately $1,500.

Stem cells and regenerative medicine

Regenerative medicine is the field of human and veterinary medicine that involves creating living, functional tissues to repair or replace tissues or organs that have been damaged by injury, disease, aging or birth defects.

One way to do this is by collecting stem cells, which are unspecialized cells that can be induced in the laboratory to become specialized cell types such as muscle, blood and nerves.

The use of embryonic stem cells has raised much debate in human medicine. It is important to note that the new regenerative medicine program at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital does not use embryonic stem cells, but rather stem cells that have been collected from the horse's own blood or bone marrow.

"The stem cell, with its ability to recreate, repair or revitalize damaged organs or tissues, is rapidly changing all of medicine," said Gregory Ferraro, DVM, a veterinary professor and director of UC Davis' Center for Equine Health. "The application of stem cell science to treating horses is advancing so quickly that within three to five years, the treatments that are currently being provided for orthopedic repair in athletic horses will seem crude in hindsight."

Veterinary stem cell team

The Center for Equine Health is coordinating a five-year collaborative research study, now in its second year.

The study is being carried out by a team of 11 UC Davis veterinary researchers, who are working to develop methods for collecting, processing, storing and administering stem cells to repair bone, tendon and ligament injuries in horses. These types of injuries are common problems especially for race horses and other performance horses. The team's early findings indicate that stem cell treatments may reduce the recurrence of certain tendon and ligament injuries and lessen the progression of arthritis associated with traumatic joint diseases in horses.

This veterinary team, under the direction of professor and equine surgeon Larry Galuppo, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, also has established a working partnership with the UC Davis Health System's Stem Cell Program in human medicine, directed by Jan Nolta, PhD, a medical school professor and stem cell researcher.

Private and public support

The UC Davis veterinary regenerative medicine program was created with the generous support of Dick and Carolyn Randall, reining-horse enthusiasts from Cupertino, Calif. The Randalls donated core funding to launch a five-year, $2.5 million study of the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells (read more).

The new Regenerative Medicine Laboratory is supported by funding from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the Center for Equine Health.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Non-transportation projects around the North Bay

Non-transportation projects around the North Bay
BY D. ASHLEY FURNESS AND JEFF QUACKENBUSH BUSINESS JOURNAL STAFF REPORTERS
Monday, May 18, 2009

NORTH BAY – Here’s an update on major construction projects around the North Bay:

Health Care

NorthBay HealthCare in Solano County unveiled its new 8,000-square-foot cardiovascular care center in April, built from a remodeled operating room wing. The project cost about $9 million and was part of more than $15 million in renovations, which includes other plans to double the size of lab facilities. The 4,000-square-foot, $5.5 million lab project broke ground in January and will be completed late this year or early in 2010. The previous lab building will be converted in to an on-site pharmacy.

See the complete story at the North Bay Business Journal online.

Wind farming becomes a growing industry

Wind farming becomes a growing industry
By Vanessa D. Overbeck, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/15/2009

With the economy in the dumps and energy prices on the rise, consumers are looking for more ways to cut costs and go green. People can save money and the environment by harnessing the power of the water, sun and even the wind.

"With ever increasing energy costs, this is our ticket out of these difficult times," said Joe Guasti, of Joe Guasti Construction, which has installed wind turbines throughout Southern California.

These spinning behemoths convert part of the energy contained in the wind into utility-grade electricity that can be used by homes and businesses. The Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory, a federal research lab, estimates that wind energy could eventually supply 20 percent of the nation's electricity.

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced a goal of obtaining 6 percent of the country's electricity from wind by 2020. This goal is consistent with the growth of wind energy nationwide. According to the American Wind Energy Association, in the past three years the number of these slowly spinning, giant airplane propellers has tripled. In 2008, the United States surpassed Germany as the second largest producer of wind power, generating enough energy to serve 4.9 million homes.

The largest wind farm in the United States is Florida Power & Light's Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in Taylor County, Texas. The second largest U.S. wind farm is the Stateline Wind Project on the Oregon-Washington border.

Three California wind farms arguably have a greater combined capacity than the Stateline farm, but they are actually collections of dozens of individual wind farms. The largest of these is the Altamont Pass Wind Farm of the Central Valley.

Another such farm in this state is in Solano County, which uses perhaps the most advanced wind power technology in the United States. From 2003 to 2006, dozens of state-of-the-art turbines were installed at the Montezuma Hills near the Sacramento River delta. Some of these 415-foot tall turbines would tower over the Statue of Liberty and each produce enough power to meet the annual needs of more than 1,000 households.

The third largest concentration of wind turbines in California is in the San Gorgonio Pass near Palm Springs with more than 3,500 turbines. Many of these were installed during the height of California's great wind rush of the early 1980s. They were placed close together, creating a forest-like assembly.According to the American Wind Energy Association, half the land mass in the United States has sufficient wind to make a small turbine commercially viable. Small turbines with a 1 to 10 kilowatt capacity, can power a single residence, a small business or farm.

In a normal residential application, a home is served both by the wind turbine and by a local utility company. If the wind is not blowing hard enough to spin the blades of the turbine, then all the power to the home is supplied by the utility company. As wind speed increases, the power drawn from the energy company decreases. When the turbine produces more power than the home needs, many utility companies will buy the surplus energy, granting energy credits to the residential consumer. And all of this is done automatically.

So what does a green-conscious consumer need to operate a wind turbine? About an acre of property, wind speeds of an annual average of at least 9.8 miles per hour and about $50,000.

The price seems steep, but federal and state tax credits can cover a significant portion of the initial investment costs. Under the new stimulus package just signed into law by President Obama, homeowners can earn a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the total installation costs of a wind turbine. Pair that with rising electricity rates, consumers are recouping their investment within five years, said Ron Stimmel, small wind advocate for the American Wind Energy Association.

Homeowners must also consider location. Turbines do not operate efficiently in turbulent, swirling gusts of wind. They require steady winds and must be mounted at least 30 feet above any possible wind barriers, such as trees, buildings and bluffs, that sit within 500 feet of the tower. Winds are faster at higher elevations and there is more energy in faster winds. Most small turbine manufacturers recommend mounting turbines at least 65 feet high and towers of 80 to 140 feet may be optimal.

Guasti pointed out that agricultural areas, including citrus groves, are great potential sites for wind turbines. The towers take up little actual space, leaving growers plenty of room to raise their crops while producing their own electricity. Small wind farms - created by communities on agricultural land or in parks - are also a growing industry. Small wind farms can power stoplights, street lamps and other public utilities.

Finally, homeowners should check their city and county governments for wind turbine requirements. This is where consumers will run into the most difficulties, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

"Planning boards can control the productivity of a turbine," said Stimmel. "The 35-foot height rule was created 100 years ago because firemen's hoses could not extend farther than that. Firefighting technology has improved, but the rule still remains on the books."

Stories from successful wind entrepreneurs suggest that most cities and counties are open to the creation of renewable energy sources, but few have paved the way for easy wind turbine installation.

Adreine Jenik of Palms in San Bernardino County reported that it took her a year to work out the paperwork snarl.

"I paid the price of being an early adopter, but my electricity bills are now zero," Jenik reported to the AWEA.

Steve Anderson of Moreno Valley in Riverside County and Daniel Scott of Acton in Los Angeles County, found city and county personnel were willing to negotiate on permit fees and worked diligently with them through the process.

Stimmel said the most success stories in California come out of San Bernardino County, particularly from the Oak Hill area.

"There are a hundred 10-kilowatt turbines in a 10-mile radius," Stimmel said.
He attributed small wind growth in the area to good education of the local residents provided by Joe Guasti Construction. Guasti's efforts resulted in wide public acceptance of the new technology, Stimmel said. Massive power outages also put the spotlight on homes that still had power from a wind turbine.

"With rising electricity rates, what started out looking like an OK investment turns into a fantastic return over time," Guasti said. "I told my first customers it would take seven to 10 years for them to earn back their investment. The reality has been a four and a half to a five year return. Now they're pushing into a three-year rate of return.

"Every time they raise the electricty rates, your rate of return increases."
Some of Guasti's work can be seen off the Interstate 10 in Cabazon and in Reche Canyon near Redlands.

One of the most difficult counties to work with in Southern California is Los Angeles County, Stimmel said. In 2001, California passed a statewide zoning ordinance for wind turbines. The ordinance required counties to either adopt the guidelines established by the new ordinance, or to create their own. Los Angeles County decided to create its own more strict rules for the installation of wind turbines. Homeowner Scott said he had to to install three 35-foot towers instead of one 80-foot tower in Acton due to L.A. County's zoning laws.

However, some cities have dramatically reduced zoning restrictions for wind turbines. San Francisco allows residents to construct a wind turbine on a lot as small as 500 feet, Guasti said.

"If cities want to go green, they have to make it happen," Guasti said. "And these turbines are very urban friendly."

Despite the initial expense of installation and the complication of zoning laws, the small wind industry is growing at an exponential rate.

"A new market report, just released last month, showed that the industry grew 78 percent last year. The year before it grew 14 percent," Stimmel said. For more information about wind turbines and wind farms visit the American Wind Energy Association at www.awea.org.

New piece of I-80 work under way

New piece of I-80 work under way
-- Vallejo Times-Herald
Posted: 05/19/2009

CalTrans has launched efforts to rehabilitate four lanes of Interstate 80 between the American Canyon overcrossing between Fairfield and Vallejo and the Air Base Parkway overcrossing in Fairfield.

On Monday night, the contractor was expected to begin saw-cutting. Paving for the $16.5 million project, awarded to Top Grade Inc. of Livermore, will begin in June.

The new I-80 work is designed to upgrade the pavement, widen shoulders, improve guard rails and result in an 8.7-mile long carpool lane.

Weather permitting, Caltrans will complete both the carpool lane and rehabilitation work by the end of year. The western end of the high occupancy vehicle lanes project is already finished. Remaining excavation work, lane striping and reconstruction of a median still needs to be done, according to Caltrans.

Three I-80 projects are currently in advanced stages between the American Canyon Road overcrossing just north of Vallejo, and the Leisure Town Road exit in Vacaville.

Most of the construction on I-80 will be done at night, prompting rolling lane closures. More information on I-80 projects is available at www.Pave80.com.

Vacaville offers ethanol fuel

Vacaville offers ethanol fuel
By Melissa Murphy/ MMurphy@TheReporter.com
Posted: 05/19/2009



Solano County residents owning vehicles with flexfuel engines can purchase high octane E85 now in Vacaville. The Pacific Pride fueling station on Cotting Lane offers the ethanol fuel. (Rick Roach / The Reporter)


A cleaner and more efficient fuel has come to Vacaville.

Although it's off the beaten path for most drivers, the Pacific Pride fueling station on Cotting Lane is now offering high octane E85, or ethanol fuel, and is easily assessable to truck fleets with flexfuel engines in the area.

"Right now its location is designed for commercial uses," said Greg Andrews, vice president of Interstate Oil. "We don't have the retail locations."

Vacaville is one of four places in Northern California where Interstate Oil provides ethanol.

As of last year, only a few were publicly accessible in the Bay Area and Southern California.

"We want to be environmentally conscious," he said, adding that E85 has fewer emissions than regular gasoline.

Derrick Tubbs, fuel management specialist, explained that using E85 can double the life of vehicle engines, since it burns hotter and cleaner.

The E85 is made from corn and is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gas. Although vehicles that run on E85 get lower gas mileage -- about 20 percent less -- than those using regular gasoline, Tubbs said that ethanol is cheaper. Right now, E85 is selling for about $1.99 per gallon.

Although geared toward commercial trucks, the fueling station can be used by regular drivers whose vehicles have flexfuel engines.

Having an engine that is flexfuel certified guarantees that the seals and gaskets, as well as the fuel lines, can handle the E85 fuel, according to Tubbs.

Drivers looking to use the E85 station need a credit card and must apply for an account through Interstate Oil.

Although, Vacaville's city vehicles mostly run on electricity or natural gas, transportation Systems Manager Ed Huestis said that it's good for drivers to have another alternative to regular gasoline.

"It's a good thing to get the word out and let drivers know they can do their part," he said. "Many, many people don't know they have a vehicle that can use that fuel."

Some of the vehicles that can use E85 include newer cars and trucks made by Toyota, Ford, Dodge, Chrysler and Chevrolet. A list of vehicle makes and models equipped with flexfuel engines can be found at www.E85vehicles.com.

Mike Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp., said it's great to see a station offer alternative fuel.

"It doesn't happen just anywhere," he said, adding that Vacaville is in ideal proximity to Sacramento and the Bay Area. "It (the E85) is in a very strategic location."

Ammann hopes that more alternative fuels will be brought to Solano County.

"In the near future, I would love to see all alternative fuels at convenient locations," he said. "It would be nice to have them all in one place."

Andrews said that Interstate Oil is trying to stay ahead of the curve and help the environment.

"Everyone is concerned about the air," he said. "We want to do our part."

Andrews acknowledged that the E85 venture is new for the company, which is curious to see how well the industry will do.

"We'll see what happens," he said. "We feel there will be a demand and we wanted to align ourselves with what the state is already doing."

For more information on Interstate Oil and E85, visit www.interstateoil.com or call (888) YOU-FUEL.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

olano County's population is quickly growing larger and more racially diverse,

County's population grows more diverse

http://www.timesheraldonline.com/news/ci_12376619



Solano County's population is quickly growing larger and more racially diverse, but there's another trend at play -- the continuing drop in the percentage of whites, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday. The 2008 population estimates indicated that every major racial group in Solano County increased numerically from the previous year, except whites, who decreased by 2,000 as a group. Since 2000, the county's white population has fallen by more than 5 percent. Meanwhile, the county's two largest, and fastest-growing population groups, Asians and Latinos, increased by nearly 20 percent and by more than 30 percent, respectively.

Also, mirroring national trends, the number of mixed-race residents in Solano County has jumped for a number of years. Of California's 58 counties, nearly half -- 28 -- experienced one or more years between 2000 and 2007 when their white populations numerically fell, according to a state demographic report. Solano County was one of nine that had white population decline in all seven years.

California's population in 2008 was estimated to be 36.7 million, of which more than 405,000 lived in Solano County. The county's population in 2007 was almost 44 percent white, 14 percent Asian, 15 percent African American, 22 percent Latino, 5 percent mixed-race, according to the bureau's latest estimates.

Wind farming becomes a growing industry

Wind farming becomes a growing industry
By Vanessa D. Overbeck, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/15/2009 06:27:55 PM PDT

With the economy in the dumps and energy prices on the rise, consumers are looking for more ways to cut costs and go green. People can save money and the environment by harnessing the power of the water, sun and even the wind.

"With ever increasing energy costs, this is our ticket out of these difficult times," said Joe Guasti, of Joe Guasti Construction, which has installed wind turbines throughout Southern California.

These spinning behemoths convert part of the energy contained in the wind into utility-grade electricity that can be used by homes and businesses. The Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory, a federal research lab, estimates that wind energy could eventually supply 20 percent of the nation's electricity.

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced a goal of obtaining 6 percent of the country's electricity from wind by 2020. This goal is consistent with the growth of wind energy nationwide. According to the American Wind Energy Association, in the past three years the number of these slowly spinning, giant airplane propellers has tripled. In 2008, the United States surpassed Germany as the second largest producer of wind power, generating enough energy to serve 4.9 million homes.

The largest wind farm in the United States is Florida Power & Light's Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in Taylor County, Texas. The second largest U.S. wind farm is the Stateline Wind Project on the Oregon-Washington border.

Three
Advertisement
California wind farms arguably have a greater combined capacity than the Stateline farm, but they are actually collections of dozens of individual wind farms. The largest of these is the Altamont Pass Wind Farm of the Central Valley.

Another such farm in this state is in Solano County, which uses perhaps the most advanced wind power technology in the United States. From 2003 to 2006, dozens of state-of-the-art turbines were installed at the Montezuma Hills near the Sacramento River delta. Some of these 415-foot tall turbines would tower over the Statue of Liberty and each produce enough power to meet the annual needs of more than 1,000 households.

The third largest concentration of wind turbines in California is in the San Gorgonio Pass near Palm Springs with more than 3,500 turbines. Many of these were installed during the height of California's great wind rush of the early 1980s. They were placed close together, creating a forest-like assembly.According to the American Wind Energy Association, half the land mass in the United States has sufficient wind to make a small turbine commercially viable. Small turbines with a 1 to 10 kilowatt capacity, can power a single residence, a small business or farm.

In a normal residential application, a home is served both by the wind turbine and by a local utility company. If the wind is not blowing hard enough to spin the blades of the turbine, then all the power to the home is supplied by the utility company. As wind speed increases, the power drawn from the energy company decreases. When the turbine produces more power than the home needs, many utility companies will buy the surplus energy, granting energy credits to the residential consumer. And all of this is done automatically.

So what does a green-conscious consumer need to operate a wind turbine? About an acre of property, wind speeds of an annual average of at least 9.8 miles per hour and about $50,000.

The price seems steep, but federal and state tax credits can cover a significant portion of the initial investment costs. Under the new stimulus package just signed into law by President Obama, homeowners can earn a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the total installation costs of a wind turbine. Pair that with rising electricity rates, consumers are recouping their investment within five years, said Ron Stimmel, small wind advocate for the American Wind Energy Association.

Homeowners must also consider location. Turbines do not operate efficiently in turbulent, swirling gusts of wind. They require steady winds and must be mounted at least 30 feet above any possible wind barriers, such as trees, buildings and bluffs, that sit within 500 feet of the tower. Winds are faster at higher elevations and there is more energy in faster winds. Most small turbine manufacturers recommend mounting turbines at least 65 feet high and towers of 80 to 140 feet may be optimal.

Guasti pointed out that agricultural areas, including citrus groves, are great potential sites for wind turbines. The towers take up little actual space, leaving growers plenty of room to raise their crops while producing their own electricity. Small wind farms - created by communities on agricultural land or in parks - are also a growing industry. Small wind farms can power stoplights, street lamps and other public utilities.

Finally, homeowners should check their city and county governments for wind turbine requirements. This is where consumers will run into the most difficulties, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

"Planning boards can control the productivity of a turbine," said Stimmel. "The 35-foot height rule was created 100 years ago because firemen's hoses could not extend farther than that. Firefighting technology has improved, but the rule still remains on the books."

Stories from successful wind entrepreneurs suggest that most cities and counties are open to the creation of renewable energy sources, but few have paved the way for easy wind turbine installation.

Adreine Jenik of Palms in San Bernardino County reported that it took her a year to work out the paperwork snarl.

"I paid the price of being an early adopter, but my electricity bills are now zero," Jenik reported to the AWEA.

Steve Anderson of Moreno Valley in Riverside County and Daniel Scott of Acton in Los Angeles County, found city and county personnel were willing to negotiate on permit fees and worked diligently with them through the process.

Stimmel said the most success stories in California come out of San Bernardino County, particularly from the Oak Hill area.

"There are a hundred 10-kilowatt turbines in a 10-mile radius," Stimmel said.

He attributed small wind growth in the area to good education of the local residents provided by Joe Guasti Construction. Guasti's efforts resulted in wide public acceptance of the new technology, Stimmel said. Massive power outages also put the spotlight on homes that still had power from a wind turbine.

"With rising electricity rates, what started out looking like an OK investment turns into a fantastic return over time," Guasti said. "I told my first customers it would take seven to 10 years for them to earn back their investment. The reality has been a four and a half to a five year return. Now they're pushing into a three-year rate of return.

"Every time they raise the electricty rates, your rate of return increases."

Some of Guasti's work can be seen off the Interstate 10 in Cabazon and in Reche Canyon near Redlands.

One of the most difficult counties to work with in Southern California is Los Angeles County, Stimmel said. In 2001, California passed a statewide zoning ordinance for wind turbines. The ordinance required counties to either adopt the guidelines established by the new ordinance, or to create their own. Los Angeles County decided to create its own more strict rules for the installation of wind turbines. Homeowner Scott said he had to to install three 35-foot towers instead of one 80-foot tower in Acton due to L.A. County's zoning laws.

However, some cities have dramatically reduced zoning restrictions for wind turbines. San Francisco allows residents to construct a wind turbine on a lot as small as 500 feet, Guasti said.

"If cities want to go green, they have to make it happen," Guasti said. "And these turbines are very urban friendly."

Despite the initial expense of installation and the complication of zoning laws, the small wind industry is growing at an exponential rate.

"A new market report, just released last month, showed that the industry grew 78 percent last year. The year before it grew 14 percent," Stimmel said. For more information about wind turbines and wind farms visit the American Wind Energy Association at www.awea.org.

voverbeck@redlandsdailyfacts.com

Friday, May 15, 2009

UC Davis names dean of social sciences

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Sacramento Business Journal - May 14, 2009
/sacramento/stories/2009/05/11/daily59.html

Business News - Local News
Thursday, May 14, 2009, 11:54am PDT
UC Davis names dean of social sciences
Sacramento Business Journal

George R. Mangun has been appointed dean of the University of California Davis Division of Social Sciences.

Mangun inherits a division that includes more than 240 faculty members, 10 departments, three research centers and eight interdisciplinary programs.

Mangun was the founding director of the Center for Mind and Brain, “an interdisciplinary research and training unit dedicated to understanding the nature of the human mind and how it arises from the biology of the brain,” according to Thursday’s news release. He consults on numerous university, U.S. government, and international scientific panels and advisory boards, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Academy of Sciences and the Finnish Academy of Science.


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County's population grows more diverse

County's population grows more diverse
New figures show all major racial groups up, except whites
By Tony Burchyns/Times-Herald staff writer

Posted: 05/15/2009 01:00:40 AM PDT

Solano County's population is quickly growing larger and more racially diverse, but there's another trend at play -- the continuing drop in the percentage of whites, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday.

The 2008 population estimates indicated that every major racial group in Solano County increased numerically from the previous year, except whites, who decreased by 2,000 as a group.

Since 2000, the county's white population has fallen by more than 5 percent.

Meanwhile, the county's two largest, and fastest-growing population groups, Asians and Latinos, increased by nearly 20 percent and by more than 30 percent, respectively.

Also, mirroring national trends, the number of mixed-race residents in Solano County has jumped for a number of years.

Of California's 58 counties, nearly half -- 28 -- experienced one or more years between 2000 and 2007 when their white populations numerically fell, according to a state demographic report. Solano County was one of nine that had white population decline in all seven years.

The Census data also shows that, in California, whites are older and Latinos are younger than national averages.

California's population in 2008 was estimated to be 36.7 million, of which more than 405,000 lived in Solano County. The county's population in 2007 was almost 44 percent white, 14 percent Asian, 15 percent African American, 22 percent Latino, 5 percent mixed-race, according to the bureau's latest estimates.

Travis commander gets promotion

Travis commander gets promotion
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | May 15, 2009

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE - The 60th Air Mobility Wing commander Col. Mark Dillon has been nominated for his brigadier general's star later this year, according to Travis public affairs.

The Travis Air Force Base commander was notified Thursday and will become a brigadier general (select) upon confirmation by the Senate.

Dillon has commanded the 60th AMW since June 2008 when he came to Travis after serving as U.S. Transportation Command's liaison officer to U.S. Southern Command in Miami.

After assuming command at Travis, Dillon stated his goals 'are the same as the Air Force's -- win today's fights, take care of our own and prepare for tomorrow's challenges.'

Born in San Jose, Dillon joined the Air Force as a second lieutenant in 1984 after graduating from Arizona State University.

He first came to Travis in June 2001 to command the 22nd Airlift Squadron and then became deputy commander for the 60th Operations Group before leaving in July 2003 for the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Top Producers in Commercial Real Estate

Top Producers in Commercial Real Estate
COMPILED BY JEFF QUACKENBUSH, BUSINESS JOURNAL STAFF REPORTER
Monday, April 27, 2009

Colliers International

Brooks Pedder, SIOR, corporate director, senior vice president

Mr. Pedder has leased or sold about 50 million square feet of industrial and office buildings as well as more than 430 acres of land for such structures in the East Bay and Solano and Napa counties since he got into real estate with Norris Beggs & Simpson in 1985.

In 1994 he and Philip Garrett, managing partner and vice president in Colliers’ Fairfield office, joined The Galbreath Co.’s North Bay-East Bay office. Mr. Pedder was among the company’s the top three California producers for the three years until both left for Colliers.

He is immediate past chairman of the Solano Economic Development Corp.

2008 value of deals: $54.2 million

1. East Bay-based Pamco completed a property exchange with the purchase a 191,430-square-foot distribution building at 801 Chadbourne Road in Fairfield from Lincoln PO Fairfield.

2. Skyy Vodka purchased nearly 24 acres in Tolenas Industrial Park in Fairfield from Yarbrough Family Trust to relocate a distillery from the South Bay.

3. Bio-Rad Laboratories signed a 10-and-a-half-year lease with Richmond Pinole Point Industrial for a 116,250-square-foot industrial building at 2500 Atlas Road in Richmond’s Pinole Point Business Park.

Philip Garrett, SIOR, managing partner, vice president

Mr. Garrett started in real estate in 1986 with Cushman & Wakefield and moved to Galbreath in 1994 and Colliers in 1997 as managing partner. He has been a top producer for Colliers since then.

2008 value of deals: $61.9 million

1. Pamco bought 801 Chadbourne Road in Fairfield.

2. Skyy Vodka purchased almost 24 acres in Tolenas Industrial Park in Fairfield.

3. Hercules Redevelopment Agency purchased nearly 97,000 square feet of office condominiums at 230-295 Linus Pauling Drive in Hercules’s North Shore Business Park from LB/VCC Hercules, affiliated with the San Rafael-based developer of Venture Commerce Centers. The agency leased the property to nearby Bio-Rad Laboratories.

Steve Crocker, vice president

Mr. Crocker joined Colliers recently after nearly two decades in sales and marketing in the East Bay and Solano County. He worked in sales for Proctor & Gamble and then operated his own company that manufactured goods in China for sale in the U.S. He sold the company in 2000 and stayed on to consult with sales, marketing and product development.

2008 value of deals: $29.65 million

1. Hercules Redevelopment Agency purchased office condos at 230-295 Linus Pauling Drive to lease to Bio-Rad.

2. Bio-Rad leased 2500 Atlas Road in Richmond.

3. Richard and Alecia Hancock sold a 13,000-square-foot industrial building at 20 Case Court in Napa to Sharif Steyteyieh and Fandi Shatnawi.

Solano apartments among only three rent-growth areas in U.S.

Solano apartments among only three rent-growth areas in U.S.
BY Jeff Quackenbush BUSINESS JOURNAL STAFF REPORTER NORTH BAY
April 23, 2009

Average apartment rents in Solano County barely increased in the first quarter from the end of last year, one of only three markets nationwide to do so, while rents in Marin County dipped 1.5 percent and those in Sonoma and Napa counties barely changed, according to figures released today by a Novato-based research firm.

Solano monthly rent increased by $2 in that period to $1,168, a 0.2 percent rise, according to RealFacts. The firm noted that the only other metropolitan areas to have such an increase in the first quarter were Houston, with a 0.8 percent rise, and Oklahoma City, with a 0.3 percent increase. On an annual basis, 40 percent of the markets RealFacts tracks had rent losses of more than 2 percent.

Average occupancy for the first quarter was 93.9 percent in the county, a decrease of 0.3 percentage points from year-end 2008 and 1.3 points below the rate for the start of last year.

Marin average rent slipped 1.5 percent, or by $26 a month, to $1,678 from the fourth quarter to the first, off from the peak in recent years of $1,709 in the third quarter. Average rents in the county were off just 0.6 percent in Marin from 12 months prior.

The county occupancy rate slipped 1.1 percentage points in the fourth quarter to 94.2 percent in the first quarter, but the change from the beginning of 2008 was only 0.2 percentage points, according to RealFacts. By comparison, Larkspur-based apartment property brokerage NorCal Commercial estimated the Marin occupancy rate to be 95.8 percent at the end of the first quarter.

Sonoma County's average rent slipped $11 a month, or 0.9 percent, to $1,190 and was off by 1.4 percent from a year before, according to RealFacts.

The average occupancy rate was 94.2 percent, 1.1 percentage points lower than the end of last year and a mere 0.2 points under the rate in early 2008. NorCal Commercial estimated county occupancy to be 95 percent in the first quarter.

Napa County's average monthly rent in the first quarter slipped by 1.1 percent to $1,313 from year-end 2008, according to RealFacts. Average rent was 1.5 percent higher than a year ago but lower than the $1,328-a-month average in the third quarter of last year.

The county occupancy rate in the first quarter was 92.8 percent, a 3.6 percentage-point decrease from the fourth quarter and the lowest rate since 90.5 percent in the first quarter of 2007, according to RealFacts.

City County Coordinating Council Meeting

Solano
City County Coordinating Council
AGENDA
May 14, 2009
Solano Irrigation District Board Room
508 Elmira Road, Vacaville, CA 95687




7:00 P.M. Meeting
(CCCC Meeting will begin immediately following the Solano County Water Agency Board Meeting)

PURPOSE STATEMENT - City County Coordinating Council
“to discuss, coordinate, and resolve City/County issues including but not necessarily limited to land use, planning, duplication of services/improving efficiencies, as well as other agreed to topics of regional importance, to respond effectively to the actions of other levels of government, including the State and Federal government, to sponsor or support legislation at the State and Federal level that is of regional importance, and to sponsor or support regional activities that further the purpose of the Solano City County Coordinating Council.”

Time set forth on agenda is an estimate. Items may be heard before or after the times designated.

ITEM AGENCY/STAFF
I. CALL TO ORDER (7:00 p.m.) Chair Patterson
II. APPROVAL OF AGENDA (7:00 p.m.)
III. OPPORTUNITY FOR PUBLIC COMMENT (7:05 p.m.)

Pursuant to the Brown Act, each public agency must provide the public with an opportunity to speak on any matter within the subject matter of the jurisdiction of the agency and which is not on the agency's agenda for that meeting. Comments are limited to no more than 5 minutes per speaker. By law, no action may be taken on any item raised during public comment period although informational answers to questions may be given and matter may be referred to staff for placement on future agenda.

This agenda shall be made available upon request in alternative formats to persons with a disability, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42U.S.C.Sec12132) and the Ralph M. Brown Act (Cal.Govt.Code Sec.54954.2) Persons requesting a disability-related modification or accommodation should contact Kristine Letterman, Department of Resource Management, 675 Texas Street, Suite 5500, Fairfield CA 94533 (707.784.6765) during regular business hours, at least 24 hours prior to the time of the meeting.

ITEM AGENCY/STAFF

IV. CONSENT CALENDAR (7:05 p.m.)
A. Approval of Minutes for February 12, 2009

V. SCHEDULED ITEMS

A. Bay Area Air Quality Management District - What is AQMD current status on AB 32 & SB 375 and related rule making - Jack Broadbent, Executive Officer BAAQMD (7:05-7:25 p.m.)

B. Yolo Solano Air Pollution Control District – What is APCD current status on AB 32 & SB 375 and related rule making – Matt Ehrhardt, Air Pollution Control Officer (7:25 – 7:45 p.m.)

C. Update: 2010 Census – "Complete County" (maximizing the accuracy of the count to help your community in future funding) – Elaine Dempsey, U.S. Census (7:45 – 8:00 p.m.)

D. Update on Regional Research Studies and Projects- Economic Cluster Study, Education Summit, Branding and Tourism- Veronica Ferguson, Assistant County Administrator, Solano County (8:00- 8:15 p.m.)

E. Update on County & City efforts regarding proposed TANC - Supervisor John Vasquez , Birgitta Corsello, Solano County (8:15- 8:30 p.m.)

F. Update: State Budget & May 19, 2009 Ballot Measures – Chuck Daldorf., League of Cities Regional Representative (new) (8:30-8:45 p.m.)

INFORMATIONAL HANDOUTS: a) 2009 City County Coordinating Council Legislative Priorites, b) Countywide- Status Report on Green House Gas emissions & Climate Change c) Receive a Report on Countywide Radio Interoperability, d.)Adopted CCCC Meeting Schedule, g) Approved 2009 CCCC Work Plan, e) Solano Regional Representative listing

CCCC CLOSING COMMENTS ( 9:00 p.m.)

ADJOURNMENT

The next regular meeting of the Solano City County Coordinating Council will be August 13, 2009.

Roche "armed antibody" shrinks some breast tumors

Roche "armed antibody" shrinks some breast tumors
Thu, May 14, 2009
By Deena Beasley

LOS ANGELES, May 14 (Reuters) - Tumors shrank in a quarter of breast cancer patients treated with an "armed antibody," even though they had stopped responding to the standard formulation of breast cancer drug Herceptin, according to mid-stage trial results released on Thursday.

Genentech, a unit of Roche Holding AG (ROG.VX), is developing the platform, in which an antibody-based drug, such as the company's Herceptin, is used to deliver a toxic chemotherapy compound directly to tumors.

"These results are telling us that studying this type of new, novel medicine, which gives us a new way of delivering chemotherapy to cancer cells, has the potential of being applied to many more tumor types," said Philippe Bishop, head of clinical development for Genentech's Avastin cancer drug.

The Phase 2 trial of 112 patients with advanced breast cancer showed that after a median follow-up of 9.5 months, 25 percent saw their tumors shrink at least 30 percent.

All of the trial participants had been previously treated with Herceptin and 60 percent had also received GlaxoSmithKline PLC's (GSK.L) Tykerb, known generically as lapatinib.

The trial involved a conjugate comprised of Herceptin linked to ImmunoGen Inc's (IMGN.O) cell-killing agent, DM1.

Herceptin, also known as trastuzumab, is designed to target the HER-2 protein, which is generated by between 25 percent and 30 percent of breast cancer patients.

Bishop said Genentech has been able to overcome the limitations of some predecessor antibody products through simplification and better engineering.

Genentech has already launched a Phase 3 trial of T-DM1 in advanced HER-2 positive breast cancer patients and has more than 30 antibody-drug conjugates in development, he said. (Reporting by Deena Beasley, Editing by Maureen Bavdek)