Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vacaville, Solano County must aid economy

By Melissa Murphy / The Reporter

Posted: 08/11/2011 01:32:25 AM PDT

A meeting of the minds with major employers in Vacaville have leaders trying to fill in the "gaps."

During a breakfast meeting Wednesday of the Council of Major Employers, sponsored by the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce, the group of about 20 major employer representatives were given a brief review of what happened during the Solano Economic Stimulus Forum in June.

Vacaville City Councilwoman Dilenna Harris said that the county and cities came to the conclusion that they need to stimulate the economy because stimulus wasn't coming from outside the county.

"We have to work together countywide," she said, adding that they need to figure out what needs to be done to boost the economy. "What is good for the county is good for Vacaville.

City Manager Laura Kuhn explained that survey results show that finding financing for major projects in Solano County is difficult and development impact fees are another obstacle.

Kuhn added that Vacaville, along with the county, in regard to development have deferred fees until a house or building is occupied and have streamlined the application process.

Even so, the state seems to be taking its time when processing applications.

Steve Huddleston, vice president of Public Affairs for NorthBay Healthcare, said the provider is ready to move forward with a $200 million project to expand its services at VacaValley Hospital. He said the city of Vacaville's ability to streamline the application process was great, but now that application sits at the state waiting to be opened.

Additionally, the public sector and private sector, according to the survey, would like to see stronger business/education partnerships that promote hiring opportunities for local high school graduates.

Harris said after the group receives input from all the cities, there will likely be a second economic stimulus forum to explain what to do next.

Meanwhile, the Council of Major Employers has agreed to support an East Bay Broadband Consortium, created to help bridge the gaps of important technology infrastructures that are lacking.

"Most Americans consider access to the Internet as a public utility, not a luxury," according to a Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Statewide Survey.

Sandy Person, interim president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, said Solano County is working with Contra Costa and Alameda counties to move forward with Senate Bill 1040 and apply for a portion of $125 million available to create a revolving loan fund for capital infrastructure and the Rural and Urban Regional Broadband Consortia Account.

"Broadband is considered to be an essential 21st century infrastructure for economic development and competitiveness, public safety, e-health and telemedicine, education and workforce development, e-government serves and social media," according to proponents of SB 1040. "Despite California's leadership in the creation and adoption of advanced communications and information technologies, many gaps exist in both infrastructure and access to the uses of these important technologies."

The Council of Major Employers agreed to send a letter of support to apply for funding.