The agricultural industry in Solano County knows no bounds, a fact borne out in a new report released Thursday that found the natural market for agriculture in Solano County crosses county lines and mixes with Yolo County.
A key finding of "The Food Chain Cluster: Integrating the Food Chain in Solano and Yolo Counties to Create Economic Opportunity and Jobs" is how intertwined the counties have become. Solano and Yolo counties, the report notes, contribute approximately 10 percent, or $2.5 billion, of the annual economic value to the regions' food chain.
"Agriculture is well established here and continues to grow," said Supervisor Mike Reagan. "We want to look at the opportunities out there to help it thrive."
The report, part of a continuing series of studies by the Solano Economic Development Corporation, examines the full spectrum of activity that fertile agriculture brings to the economy of the two counties and provides insight into opportunities to expand the job-creation potential in the local economy.
"Farmers are growing stuff, but they're sending their goods out of the county for processing," Reagan said. "We need to figure out a way to show that we welcome that type of industry to meet the needs of the community."
Reagan noted that some processing facilities already exist in Solano County, such as the Dixon Canning Corporation -- the tomato-processing arm of Campbell Soup Company -- and Superior Farms, also in Dixon, known for its lamb meat
products. In Vacaville, there is the Mariani Packing Company, which packages nuts.
"There is a need for more," Reagan said, adding that county officials will sit down with local farmers and discuss what they need.
Joe Martinez, president of the Solano County Farm Bureau, said processing companies are exactly what the county needs.
"It's been an issue we've been dealing with for years and years," Martinez said. "It's good to see that they're trying to address it in the report. No one seems to know how to come up with a strategy to attract those types of businesses here."
He added that it could be difficult in the current economy to attract that particular type of business and then get it through the permit process.
Yolo County leaders are pleased with the results in the report.
"I am delighted that Yolo and Solano counties are working together to explore ways in which to increase the development of our agricultural economy," said Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor.
Yolo County Economic Development Manager Wes Ervin agreed.
"Over the last few years, our two counties have been working together on parallel tracks to update our general plans and sustainable agriculture efforts. This report gives us the key facts to move forward together," Ervin said in a press release.
This is the third industry cluster report prepared by the Solano Economic Development Corporation as part of Solano County's efforts to provide data to assist the private sector to make informed decisions that will enhance and expand the local economy.
"This report spells out for industry executives all of the tremendous assets we have as a region so they can make informed decisions about how to expand or locate in the region. Growing the entire cluster will ensure agriculture remains viable as well as create a diverse array of good jobs for the region," said Mike Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, in a press release.
Location and natural amenities were pointed out in the report as key assets for the region, including:
* Sharing some of the most productive agriculture lands in the country;
* Being ideally situated on key transportation arteries (highways, airports, rail and ports) that can get raw products from the field to market, either directly to consumers or to value-added processing facilities for consumer products;
* Access to an abundant water supply and excess sewage treatment capacity;
* Proximity to the research in biotechnology at University of California, Davis, and other innovation research in the region;
* A concentration of seven of the top 10 seed manufacturers in the world in the region.
"This food chain cluster study represents the beginning of what we hope will be many shared endeavors by our counties," the Food Chain report said. "In the coming year, we will conduct a joint economic summit to define the strategies available to exploit the opportunities and overcome the challenges identified in this report. In order for these efforts to be successful, we must enlist the partnership of many different segments of our communities -- farmers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in the private sector and the public sector's elected officials and staffs of the cities, counties, and regional boards."
Earlier studies were on the energy industry and the life science industry. The studies, along with the annual Index of Economic and Community Progress, are available at www.solanocounty.com/economicindex .