Friday, January 29, 2010

Local economy OK with Travis' help

Local economy OK with Travis' help
By Danny Bernardini
Posted: 01/29/2010 01:01:39 AM PST

As bad as the local economy has been in the past few years, it could be worse and has been kept afloat with the help of $1.6 billion of impact from Travis Air Force Base.
That was the theme Thursday during the 27th Annual Meeting of the Solano Economic Development Corporation held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield. The event featured a detailed report on factors surrounding the economic downturn, along with short speeches from three colonels from Travis.
Mike Ammann, president of the SEDC, kicked off the event by highlighting the new businesses and major plans passed in each of the county's seven cities. He said Solano County actually entered a recession in 2007, which may mean it could bounce back sooner than other areas.
"We went in earlier than Los Angeles and the Bay Area," he said after the event. "But we didn't go as far down as other people."
Highlighting a mixture of good and bad news, consultant Doug Henton presented the 2009 Index of Economic and Community Progress. As he did last year, Henton showed that although some progress was made throughout the year that strengthened the economy, there were still several areas to improve.
Some of the topics discussed included how some of those laid off end up venturing out on their own to create new businesses. Henton also mentioned that with less people moving to the region due to the lack of new construction, more value has been added rather than simply more jobs.
He said with jobs at a premium, those available are drawing interest of more qualified applicants. Henton also mentioned that Solano County is a leader among green energy, especially wind powered.
"We're trying to go beyond the headlines and see what's underneath," he said of the index. "Even in down times, there are some interesting things happening."
High school graduation rates continue to fall and students are less prepared for state universities and colleges, he said. Henton said there is also a lack of proficiency in math and science, but those trends are seen throughout the state as well.
Also speaking to the crowd was Wing Commander Col. James Vechery of the 60th Air Mobility Wing. He said with more than 1,000 troops currently deployed, it's the largest group since he took over six months ago. That included six crews in Haiti.
Including jobs created by the base and the payroll to airmen, Vechery said $1.6 billion was pumped into the local economy.
Vechery said there is a strong relationship with Solano County businesses and residents. One project Travis is working on with the business community is creating a logo to place in the window that advertises a military discount.
"It will be right there so they don't have to ask that awkward question," he said.
Col. John Lipinski, commander of the 615th Contingency Response Wing, said the coexistence of the base and the surrounding area is commendable.
"What's really special is the support from the civic leaders, the business leaders and the citizens," Lipinski said. "The support you give us makes a significant impact. You can't measure that with dollar signs."
Report shows silver lining to local economy