Monday, February 7, 2011

Solano index full of promise — and one troubling sign

February 4th, 2011 04:15pm
Solano index full of promise — and one troubling sign
by Brad Bollinger

From Monday’s editorial in the Business Journal:

Solano County, which for years has been considered something of a rest stop between Sacramento and San Francisco, is no more.

“Solano is the emerging growth center at the heart of the Northern California Mega Region,” writes Solano Economic Development Corporation President Mike Ammann.

In fact, Solano County has many of the amenities and economic drivers most regions aspire to including the rest of the North Bay.

It has a fast-growing life sciences cluster. It is home to Fortune 500 companies, a major Air Force base as well as having a thriving micro enterprise sector. UC, Davis, which is fast rising in the ranks of great research universities, sits on Solano’s edge.

“Our collective entrepreneurial spirit should be able to capitalize on an adult workforce that continues to become more educated, a growing micro-enterprise employment sector, and a business churn with more businesses growing in Solano County than leaving,” said Solano County Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael J. Reagan in the introduction to the Solano EDC’s 2010 Index of Economic and Community Progress released Jan. 27.

But as the report’s author, Doug Henton of Collaborative Economics, points out, there is one statistic that threatens to overshadow all others: Education levels among Solano’s youth.

Even as educational levels of adults rose, from 2007-’08 to 2008-’09 Solano’s high school dropout rate climbed a troubling 6 percent to 28 percent. The statewide dropout rate is 22 percent, nearly 30 percent lower.

Meanwhile, the number of students taking UC-CSU required coursework in high school trails the statewide rate 28 percent to 35 percent. Solano’s pre-school enrollment also trails the statewide average.

As Mr. Henton told the attendees at the EDC’s annual meeting Jan. 27, a failure to reverse these worrisome educational trends could have disastrous impacts on Solano County’s economy and its communities in the years and decades ahead.

The good news is that Solano is continuing to develop the tools, assets and desire to meet the challenge.