Thursday, September 29, 2011

Solano bank gets millions for job growth

Solano bank gets millions for job growth

A Solano County bank was awarded more than $20 million in federal funds to help create local jobs, the U.S. Treasury announced Wednesday.

Dixon's First Northern Community Bancorp is among 16 California banks to share $103.1 million as part of the final wave of Small Business Lending Fund money meant to help create new jobs, Treasury officials said. The Dixon bank got its $22.8 million last week, a bank spokeswoman said.

"This is a good thing," bank spokeswoman Louise Walker said. "We'll be able to provide more opportunities to local small business."

Bank officials applied for the program four months ago and learned they were approved in July, Walker said.

"We're hoping to lend some $30 million to $40 million, but it really will depend on the demand for loans," she said. "You hope it creates or retains jobs."

Walker said she's unaware of other area banks being awarded any of these funds.

Messages left with the Treasury Department weren't returned Wednesday.

The Small Business Lending Fund was established as part of the Obama Administration's Small Business Jobs Act. Its aim is to encourage community banks to increase lending to small businesses, helping those companies expand their operations and create new jobs, Treasury officials said in a prepared statement.

Wednesday's 16 brings to 30 the number of California community banks sharing $274.5 million in this federal funding.

The program provides capital to community banks with less than $10 billion in assets at a dividend rate that falls as the bank increases its lending to small businesses, treasury officials said. This provides "a strong incentive for new lending to small businesses so they can expand and create jobs," they said.

Other Northern California banks awarded funds this round include Oakland's OBDC Small Business Finance ($219,000), Lafayette's California Bank of Commerce ($11.0 million) and San Francisco's Low Income Investment Fund ($7.5 million). Also on the list are San Jose's Opportunity Fund Northern California ($2.2 million) and the California Coastal Rural Development Corporation in Salinas ($870,000).

Contact staff writer Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824 or

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Section of Mare Island is cleared for 'Town Center'

Section of Mare Island is cleared for 'Town Center'

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen/ Times-Herald, Vallejo

The section of the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard set aside as the "Town Center" has been "cleared" by the agency overseeing the island's environmental remediation and is now ready for reuse, a spokesman for the island's main developer said Thursday.
But market forces will likely delay any actual progress.

The Town Center is envisioned to one day include mixed-use commercial development -- office, R&D, light industry and retail, developer Lennar Mare Island spokesman Jason Keadjian said.

The new certification allows the 61 acres covered to be developed -- 59 acres for commercial reuse and about two acres for homes, Keadjian said. This latest approval brings the environmental cleanup of Lennar's 650-acre parcel to more than 60 percent completion, he said.

Lennar Mare Island was given a "No Further Action" required letter by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. The letter certified that impacts to soil and groundwater resulting from former military use have been addressed, Keadjian said. The California Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Francisco Bay Region (water board) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency collaborated on the inspection, he said.

Lennar officials managed the investigative and remedial activities at 34 sites associated with the former shipyard's underground storage tanks, fuel-oil pipeline system, electrical transformers and general fill used to build up the area over the years, Keadjian said.

"This milestone is part of the continuing environmental cleanup and redevelopment of the former shipyard," he said. "The cleanup is a cooperative effort between the United States Navy, the city of Vallejo, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board and the community."

Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Joanne Schivley, expressed cautious optimism upon learning of the sign-off.

"Now Lennar and the city and not the Navy has control of when we can develop there, which I'm sure will happen when it's economically feasible to do so," she said.

City Councilwoman Marti Brown had a similar reaction.

"It's great news because it means that now all the environmental remediation work is done," Brown said. "And now the next step of development can move forward. Whether the economy is going to let us, is another matter."

Between 2007 and 2009, in anticipation of development in the newly signed-off area, Lennar demolished nine buildings and removed potentially hazardous materials like asbestos and lead-based paint from a dozen others, Keadjian said.

"This area represents almost one million square feet of commercial space for Mare Island and the city of Vallejo, with the potential to support approximately 1,000 jobs," Keadjian said. "LMI is excited to have the environmental work complete and we look forward to realizing the potential of this area as market conditions improve."

Located between Azuar Drive and Railroad Avenue, the Town Center site is considered one of Mare Island's best for long term development opportunities for both new construction and rehabilitation of existing structures, Keadjian said.

Fairfield distributor brings international guests to his facility


Daniel Levesque, center, and Louisa Berube, left, of Quebec, Canada, take a tour through one of the tractor part warehouses at the FP Smith Parts & Equipment headquarter on Ramsey Road in Fairfield Tuesday afternoon. (Mike Greener/Daily Republic)
Daniel Levesque, center, and Louisa Berube, left, of Quebec, Canada, take a tour through one of the tractor part warehouses at the FP Smith Parts & Equipment headquarter on Ramsey Road in Fairfield Tuesday afternoon. (Mike Greener/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD — Daniela Bucciolini met, and conquered, her match Tuesday.

Bucciolini was one of more than 135 guests at Fairfield’s FP Smith Parts & Equipment. Her company near Florence, Italy, produces spare parts for the Komatsu PC220LC excavator she tested out at Smith Parts.

Her employee, Filippo Becattini, videotaped as his boss scooped up piles of dirt into a bucket, then dropped them back down.

“She wants to do these kinds of dangerous things,” Becattini said. “She’s very competitive.”

“I was like a child with joystick,” Bucciolini said after her test drive. “It was fantastic. It was easy and incredible.”

And, yes, she wouldn’t mind owning one.

“She doesn’t have enough room in her garage,” Becattini joked.

More than 18 countries were represented at the event, an early introduction to the Independent Distributor’s Association convention that opens Wednesday in San Francisco.

Marcello Marchetto accompanied her boyfriend, Walter Antonella, to the event. His company, outside Milan, Italy, sells the undercarriage parts for the excavator.

Marchetto also tried out the excavator.

“I’m very satisfied,” she said after stepping down from the cab of the excavator. She followed it with a few words from the Rolling Stones tune “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”

“I know this is work for a man,” she said, with translation help from Bucciolini. “But even a woman can do this. It’s very soft.”

“It’s a woman’s machine,” Bucciolini proclaimed.

Guests of Smith Parts were treated to a variety of activities including a tour of his warehouse.

“I really want to see his variety of parts,” said Enzo Masciotra, from Montreal.

Many of them purchase parts from the Fairfield company.

Robert and Kimberly Castle traveled from Brisbane, Australia. He was attracted to the vintage car show Smith Parts had arranged for his guests.

A 1967 Armijo High School graduate, Pete Smith will be installed as vice president of the Independent Distributors Association, which represents more than 450 companies worldwide. It’s a trade association for companies that manufacture, sell or distribute parts for heavy equipment.

More than 26 countries will be represented at the convention.

The last time the convention took place in San Francisco was 1989.

“It ended on a Sunday and the (Loma Prieta) quake was on a Monday,” said Nancy Estes, executive director of the Independent Distributors Association.

While there have been other pre-convention events in the past, Estes said Smith took it to the max with clay shooting, live entertainment and food.

“This is phenomenal,” she said.

“When you live in Cordelia, you make things happen,” Smith said. “Either you go to the world or you bring the world to you.”

Smith welcomed guests from as far as China. Kevin Hu feasted on oysters and pizza at the event. The company he works for, outside Shanghai, manufactures spare parts for heavy equipment.

FP Smith Parts & Equipment has been in business for more than 60 years and has 21 full-time employees.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or

Monday, September 26, 2011

VacaValley Hospital to get $118 million makeover

VacaValley Hospital to get $118 million makeover

Will double number of beds; is precursor to trauma center plans

A rendering of the $118 million VacaValley Hospital expansion

VACAVILLE — VacaValley Hospital will soon undergo a $118 million renovation, a project that will double the size of the current hospital.

NorthBay Healthcare, which operates the 50-bed hospital and NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield, is currently awaiting approval from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development on the planned improvements, which would add an additional 24 beds — 16 medical-surgery beds and eight intensive care unit beds — to the hospital.

All told, construction on the hospital would include two stories while adding roughly 68,000 square feet to the hospital, which will double its footprint, said Steve Huddleston, a spokesman for NorthBay Healthcare. Improvements include an expanded emergency department and a new MRI machine. About 13,500 current square feet of the hospital will be renovated, and four modern surgical suites will be added to the hospital. An upgrade to the central utility plan is also part of the project, as are additional parking areas.

“We don’t have enough beds and capacity in the system now,” he said.

Rendering of lobby

Hospitals across California are undergoing significant construction projects in order to meet state requirements mandated for seismic safety, but the facility upgrades in Vacaville are not a result of that, Mr. Huddleston said. Instead, the project is part of the health system’s strategic plan, defined two years ago, to open Solano County’s first trauma center. Just last week, the 132-bed facility in Fairfield received its level III trauma center designation.

“None of the issues are related to the seismic retrofitting,” Mr. Huddleston said. “There will be two new major services that are vascular and heart related.”

The plan for the trauma center initially called for the Fairfield hospital to obtain a level III designation, but to eventually move the trauma center to the 25-year-old Vacaville hospital, where it would apply for a level II designation.

But soon after NorthBay Healthcare announced its plans over a year ago, Kaiser Permanente’s Napa-Solano region said that it too intended on seeking a level II trauma center — at its Vacaville facility. Kaiser eventually amended its plan to seek a level III center in Vacaville, which it expects designation for by the end of October. In response to Kaiser’s plan, Mr. Huddleston has said NorthBay Healthcare would explore the possibility of keeping the trauma center in Fairfield.

There is no limit on how many level III trauma centers can be in a county, but state law says a county can have only one level II center, unless a specific exception is granted. Both NorthBay Healthcare and Kaiser have said they will likely seek level II designations at the respective facilities after a needs assessment is completed by the county to see if a such a center could be sustained.

The expansion at NorthBay Healthcare’s VacaValley Hospital will go ahead regardless of where the trauma center ends up, Mr. Huddleston said.

NorthBay Healthcare expects to break ground on the expansion in Vacaville by early 2012 and to have construction completed by early 2014, Mr. Huddleston said. Before any construction and before any financing can take place, OSHPD must approve of the plans. The health system is hoping for state approval by the end of this month so that it can begin with the financing.

All told, the health system will be seeking about $200 million in loans and bonds, but only $118 will account for the construction. The remainder of the loan will go toward refinancing existing debt. Once OSHPD signs off on the plans, the Federal Housing Authority, through its Hospital Mortgage Insurance Program, would be able to back the bonds, which would then guarantee a loan from Bank of America, Mr. Huddleston said.

DPR Construction, which has offices in Sacramento, San Francisco, Redwood City and San Jose, has been selected as the general contractor. San Francisco-based WRNS Studio is the architect.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

NorthBay Business Journal Impact Solano Conference 2011

Impact Solano Conference 2011

Located at the center of a geographic triangle linking San Francisco, the North Bay and Sacramento, Solano County is welcoming entrepreneurs and businesses looking for a place to locate or expand with favorable operating conditions, lower costs and other important perks.

Impact SolanoImpact Solano, the North Bay Business Journal’s upcoming conference focusing on this county, was held Wednesday morning, Sept. 21, 2011, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield. The conference featured an economic outlook and panel of of local speakers. [Read an overview of the conference.]

Robert Eyler, Ph.D., Professor of Economics, Frank Howard Allen Economics Research Fellow, director of the Executive MBA Program, Sonoma State University
Presentation (PDF): IMPACT Solano: Recovery, the Region and Reality

Sandy Person
Interim president, Solano Economic Development Corp.
Presentation (PDF): Solano County Update

Gary Passama
President and CEO, NorthBay Healthcare
Presentation (PDF): Overview of NorthBay Healthcare and report on VacaValley Hospital expansion

David Payne
President, Altec Industries
Presentation (PDF): Green Fleet Focus Factory project

Solano business conference finds some bright spots

Solano business conference finds some bright spots

Robert Eyler, economics department chair at Sonoma State University, gives the keynote address at the Impact Solano conference at the Hilton Garden Inn Wednesday morning. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)
Robert Eyler, economics department chair at Sonoma State University, gives the keynote address at the Impact Solano conference at the Hilton Garden Inn Wednesday morning. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD — Solano Economic Development Corp. Interim President Sandy Person found some numbers to smile about Wednesday amid the slow economy.

Four recent business endeavors will bring 200 new jobs and a half-billion dollars in investment to the county, she said. Those are the Shiloh III wind project by enXco in the Montezuma Hills, the planned Altec Industries public utility equipment company expansion in Dixon, the Coda electric car company in Benicia and the Blu Homes prefabricated, eco-friendly homes plant on Mare Island.

The challenge for Solano County, as explored during the Impact Solano conference Wednesday, is to keep this type of momentum going. The morning conference sponsored by the North Bay Business Journal took place before more than 100 people at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Even more development projects are coming to Solano County. Gary Passama, president of NorthBay Healthcare, said NorthBay could begin work on a $120 million VacaValley Hospital expansion within the next half-year. The state must still approve the project.

Person also noted some projects that the Solano EDC has under way. Among them is an economic study of Highway 12 to show, among other things, where all of the truck traffic goes. The Solano Transportation Authority will use the study to try to get more federal and state highway improvement dollars.

“We don’t know much about Highway 12,” Person said. “It serves some tremendously important industries in this county.”

Robert Eyler, economics department chairman at Sonoma State University, was the keynote speaker at the conference. He sees some encouraging economic news for California amid the bad news, such as growth in personal income among Californians.

“Is California as a state recovering? Yes,” he said. “Is it a slower recovery than we want? Of course.”

Solano County is creating jobs. It has some demand in the housing market, however weak that might be, he said.

He talked of county strengths, such as its location between the University of California, Davis, and UC Berkeley. The county needs to communicate with them, to get the science done there to result in Solano County jobs, he said.

Person later said she is going “full throttle” in her contact with UC Davis.

“We have some amazing opportunities to collaborate there,” Person said. “Stay tuned.”

Eyler praised the county’s decision to focus on economic clusters: life sciences, the food chain and energy. He talked about the county’s weather and microclimates as a plus.

But he warned against cities fighting among themselves over who gets what firm, something that could drive away companies the county is trying to woo.

“Don’t worry where it lands,” Eyler said. “Worry about how you feed off it after it lands.”

And he cautioned local leaders to watch what’s going on in other communities that want to compete with Solano County.

Eyler ended his part of the conference with words of encouragement. He urged local economic and civic leaders to “keep at it” and to stay engaged. Then the county will do fine, he said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646, ext. 232, or

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

NorthBay Healthcare gets trauma designation in Solano County

NorthBay Healthcare gets trauma designation in Solano County

FAIRFIELD — NorthBay Medical Center has been named Solano County’s first trauma center after a five-member assessment team on Sept. 9 evaluated the emergency services and trauma support systems and found that the program passed muster.

“The survey team felt that NorthBay Medical Center’s application and on-site review demonstrate your hospital’s commitment to providing excellent trauma care,” wrote County Health Officer Dr. Bela Matyas and Ted Selby, administrator of the Solano County, in a joint letter to trauma program leaders.

They added, “The successful achievement of a trauma designation is commendable.”

It has been a year since NorthBay Healthcare, which operates the Fairfield hospital and VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville, first unveiled a plan to open a level III trauma Center by the end of 2011.

The designation process will be completed within 90 days when county health officials and NorthBay sign a trauma center agreement that paves the way for emergency responders – police, firefighters, paramedics and ambulance companies – to deliver patients with traumatic injuries to the Fairfield hospital. The trauma center will significantly lessen the need to send seriously injured residents out of county for care.

In addition, some suggestions made by the surveyors during their visit already are being implemented, including reconfiguring and enhancing the trauma treatment room. NorthBay officials said work was under way on other improvements that will be accomplished quickly.

NorthBay Healthcare officials said Solano County was one of the few counties its size within California that did not have a designated trauma center within its boundaries.

Designation as a level III center means emergency medical services personnel can now bring trauma patients to the Fairfield hospital’s Emergency Department for treatment. Patients will be triaged in the field according to criteria for treatment at the appropriate level of trauma care. Patients with neurological injuries will continue to be transported to Level 1 and Level 2 trauma centers.

About 1,000 trauma cases occur every year in Solano County, according to state statistics that show 42 percent are transferred out of the county, typically to trauma centers in Walnut Creek or Sacramento. Most are a result of traffic crashes — 50 percent — and falls, at 39 percent. Less than 7 percent of traumatic injuries are a result of assaults.

“This is a life-saving advancement of medicine for residents of Solano County,” noted Gary Passama, president and CEO of NorthBay Healthcare. “We didn’t just decide to do this. This has been part of our long-range strategic plan for many, many years. Our role as the independent, community-based healthcare provider is to bring to local residents the medical services that do not exist here.”

During the last three years, NorthBay Healthcare built the infrastructure for trauma care and other advanced medical services. It began by putting into place around-the-clock in-house physician staffing for general surgery, internal medicine, orthopedic surgery, anesthesia, OB-GYN and critical care medicine, all of which provide a strong foundation for a high-quality trauma medical team.

“We created that system to improve the care for all patients,” said Deborah Sugiyama, president of NorthBay Healthcare Group, which directly manages operations in NorthBay Medical Center and NorthBay VacaValley Hospital. “But it was the underpinnings of creating a trauma center.”

Ms. Sugiyama added, “Clinical systems needed to be created. Surgery and intensive care units had to be integrated into our trauma system. Thousands of hours of staff training were accomplished, quality monitoring was put into place and community education started.”

The program was developed under the guidance of Kathy Richerson, vice president and chief nursing officer at NorthBay, who had helped with the implementation of trauma services in her previous role in a Sacramento hospital.

“We can be proud of this accomplishment,” Ms. Richerson said. “It required tremendous dedication to create something our community really needs. The team at NorthBay never wavered in its mission to deliver this program to those we serve. We knew we would be saving lives because we could eliminate the long transport times to other hospitals farther away. And we knew we could keep families of trauma victims closer to their loved ones, which quite often helps the recovery process.”

Dr. J. Peter Zopfi is the trauma medical director and chief of surgery. Daman Mott, R.N., is director of Emergency Department and Trauma Services, assisted by Heather Venezio, R.N., trauma program director. Ms. Richerson noted that NorthBay has been the leader in filling the gaps in the county’s healthcare delivery system by investing in new technology and facilities. The trauma program follows NorthBay’s pioneering efforts in providing neonatal intensive care for newborns, the first accredited cancer center in the county, the only advanced heart and vascular center offering open-heart surgery, along with programs for wound care, joint replacement and women’s health.

Kaiser Permanente also intends on opening a level III trauma center at its Vacaville hospital, likely by the end of this year, giving Solano County two trauma centers.

Benicia scores green auto operation

Benicia scores green auto operation

Amports Inc. will do final assembly for Coda’s zero-emission car

By Loralee Stevens, Special to the Business Journal           

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, drive's the all-electric car.

BENICIA – City and county officials got a tour last week of Benicia’s first foray into green technology.

Startup zero-emission car developer Coda Automotives of Santa Monica has inked a deal with long-time Benicia automotive processing company Amports Inc. to do the final assembly on its flagship zero-emission cars.

Coda CEO Phil Murtaugh led a tour last Monday of the assembly operation for Solano officials, including Benicia mayor Elizabeth Patterson, who hailed the agreement as “proof positive” of the benefits of collaboration.

Coda’s cars, slated for the fleet market, will be shaped in China, then shipped to the Port of Oakland and trucked to Benicia where major drive-train components – including Coda’s 12-volt lithium-ion battery – will be installed by Amports.

Beginning around the end of this year, 10,000 to 14,000 cars are expected to roll through the assembly line during the first 12 months.

Coda CEO Phil Murtaugh explains the Code assembly process

According to Amports general manger Randy Scott, an initial 50 employees will be hired to run the operation, some by Coda, some by Amports.

“We have the capacity to absorb the assembly work already,” he said.

He did not disclose details of the agreement, but referred to it as “long term.”

According to Solano acting economic development manager Mario Giuliani, who arranged last Monday’s tour and press conference, the agreement spells a great win for the county and an opportunity for Benicia to attract more clean, green tech companies.

“With Amports developing the capacity to assemble zero-emission vehicles, other electric and hybrid car makers could lower their production costs by following Coda,” he said.

Mayor Patterson said Benicia could become a leader in the transition from petrochemical to alternative-energy industries. The city has long been known for oil refining, with Valero Energy Corp. a major business presence.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, drove a Coda prototype and pronounced it fascinating.

“We are excited that Coda decided to pick California as a launching place … ,” he said. “At a time when America is fixated on the idea of jobs immediately and jobs in the future, it really is through the kind of innovation that Coda brings – in this case to the transportation field – that’s going to drive jobs.”

Coda has raised over $200 million in venture funding. The 200-employee company expects to begin selling its first cars around the beginning of 2012. It’s currently building a network of dealers and intends to open a showroom somewhere in the Bay Area, according to Mr. Murtaugh.

“We’re hoping it’ll be in Benicia,” said Mr. Giuliani. “A green point-of-sale business would be a terrific addition to the green assembly line.”

Impact Solano to focus on future of key region

Impact Solano to focus on future of key region

Wednesday conference to feature economic forecast, local outlooks

Located at the center of a geographic triangle linking San Francisco, the North Bay and Sacramento, Solano County is welcoming entrepreneurs and businesses looking for a place to locate or expand with favorable operating conditions, lower costs and other important perks.

Impact Solano, the North Bay Business Journal’s upcoming conference focusing on this county, will be held Wednesday from 8 to 10:30 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield. Cost is $45 per person and tables are also available. Call Linda Perkins, 707-521-5264.

The conference will feature an economic outlook and panel of of local speakers.

Robert Eyler

Robert Eyler, Ph.D.

Director, Executive MBA Program and Frank Howard Allen Research Fellow, Sonoma State University

Dr. Eyler will provide attendees with a macroeconomic overview of the nation and region, given the events of 2011 as the context for a general preview at 2012, followed by a close up outlook at Solano County.

His current forecast for 2012 for both national and state economies will be presented. The rationale behind this forecast will include an analysis of labor the market’s ability to generate jobs and reduce unemployment, and the slow growth of both production and incomes.

“There are some caveats to 2012 being a year of continued, positive economic news that must be explored,” Dr. Eyler said. “The state budget may change in January, based on an inability of California to generate tax revenue to cover expenses in the first half of 2012, which may lead to state-level cuts.”

Looking ahead, the federal government will be gearing up for an election year, meaning 2012 could be another year of stagnation and rhetoric versus proactive economic planning, according to Dr. Eyler.
At the local level, he believes Solano County should continue utilizing its defined clusters in life sciences, food and energy, as well as recognizing that regional competition will continue from all directions as both housing markets and job markets continue to recover slowly.

“The challenge for Solano County will be continuing to grow in the midst of macroeconomic uncertainty and slow movement in other markets that would support business clusters,” he said, noting clusters such as construction, professional and personal services.

Sandy Person

Sandy Person

Interim president, Solano County Economic Development Corp.

Ms. Person will describe the demographics of Solano County and its proactive economic development process.

She will also discuss the county’s business-friendly market environment and offer a preview of new commercial real estate transactions that are attracting an increasing number of firms into the area — including two hybrid and all-electric vehicle manufacturers.

“Solano is one of the fastest growing sectors in the North Bay. It is a region that has plenty of open space for large and small plants and offices of every size,” she said.

Ms. Person will also provide a rationale on why so many firms are choosing to locate in Solano and what is attracting them.

“Major transportation arteries, more space to grow and expand, access to rail heads and air transport, plus close proximity to suppliers and partners, are some of the reasons for the recent flurry of new arrivals — with more to come.

“We are experiencing a relocation and corporate migration trend as firms move from other cities and counties into our area to avail themselves of the many advantages our county has to offer,” she said.
“The EDC’s mission is to facilitate economic development and assist these firms in navigating the process.”

“Solano is truly becoming an industrial dynamo of Northern California. It’s an area with so much to offer.”

David Payne

David Payne

Manager of operations, Altec Industries, Inc.

Mr. Payne will provide the audience with the reasons why his firm, one of the largest manufacturers of hybrid commercial vehicles, originally located in Solano and has decided to remain there.

The company’s Dixon Final Assembly Plant serves the western U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii) and the Pacific Rim.

“This location is logistically ideal given its proximity to Interstates 80 and 5, shipping ports, and supply chain support from either Sacramento or Bay Area businesses,” Mr. Payne said.

“Our recent decision to stay in Solano County and expand our current operation, rather than relocate, was primarily motivated by Altec’s appreciation of this area and its corporate citizenship.”

Altec has enjoyed a good reputation in the local community since 1988 — one that allows it to easily recruit from a qualified labor pool to build a stable work force. He said competitive pay and benefit packages enhance an attractive, enjoyable work environment.

Pacific Gas & Electric is Altec’s largest West Coast customer. PG&E’s fleet office is located in nearby Davis. PG&E and Altec have collaborated to create several hybrid solutions for utility vehicles, leading to a new expansion of Altec’s Green Fleet Focus Factory.

“In addition to our partnership with PG&E, U.C. Davis offers untapped resources in research, development, and validation of hybrid vehicle designs.”

Gary Passama

Gary Passama

President and CEO, NorthBay Healthcare

As Solano County grows, employers and residents expect to see healthcare services expand to accommodate more workers and families. Mr. Passama’s presentation will address his company’s plans for achieving this.

Amid the uncertainties of health care reform and the economy, NorthBay Healthcare is planning to move ahead with a bold strategic plan that will bring new advanced medical services to an underserved Solano County.

After opening the county’s first open-heart surgery and cardiac care program, NorthBay is poised to be the first to provide trauma care in the county.

Mr. Passema has an ambitious agenda and timetable, one that includes a plan designed to grow emergency services to become the county’s premier center for heart attack treatment.

All of this is set against a backdrop that is even more ambitious — a major hospital expansion project at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital.

This $120 million project will result in doubling the acute care hospital in Vacaville and will position this independent, community-based, non-profit healthcare system to meet the revolution in healthcare delivery that is coming down the pike — along with the medical needs of the rapidly-expanding commercial and residential population in Solano County.

The health care industry is one of the largest employers in the North Bay and generates more $15.3 billion in revenue in the San Francisco Bay Area alone, according to recent news reports.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Solano Center for Business Innovation launched

September 19th, 2011 05:50am

Solano Center for Business Innovation launched

By Loralee Stevens, Special to the Business Journal            

SOLANO COUNTY — A new non-profit group is focussed on helping Solano’s small businesses grow revenues with an eye toward creating jobs.

Charles Rieger has launched a non-profit to help grow Solano businesses

Charles Rieger, formerly with IBM and now owner of a construction business, is the guiding force behind the Solano Center for Business Innovation.

“I looked around to see what we could do to help the 15,000 small companies that are operating, and often struggling, here in the county,” he said.

Mr. Rieger has talked with 60 local businesses and laid out a series of programs designed to address their concerns.

“They didn’t want handouts, but they did want help adjusting to new, competitive ways of doing business,” he said.

Part mentoring, part educational and part hands-on job creation, the center is not an incubator, but an effort to provide resources and contacts to both working companies and the out-of-work, including about 78,000 idled construction workers.

Anyone is welcome to gather with the group on the second Wednesday of each month at the Solano EDC, where subjects such as business technology and how to put it to use, and entreprenuership for the experienced worker are addressed.

A Pathways to Innovations program offers special mentoring to individuals or companies who want to grow or change, and the center is soon to launch a series of breakfast meetings where speakers of note will hold forth on pertinent topics.

“We want to get Rep. John Garamendi speaking on ‘Buy American’ for example,” said Mr. Reiger.

Melissa Percivalle, whose event planning and fund raising startup Event Savvy is benefiting from the Pathways program, is now putting her new business skills to work for the center.

“I get so involved in helping my clients develop their ideas I tend to let other things go,” she said. “Charles helps me back up my ideas with solid business practices. So in return I’m helping him develop the breakfast series and other events.”

The most ambitious of the center’s programs piggybacks on the California Energy Upgrade initiative to create jobs. Mr. Reiger calls it Energy Upgrade California Solano Plus.

Working with partners such as Solar City and Green Environmental Technologies, the center’s goal is to make 500 Solano County homes 40 percent more efficient while putting construction workers back in action.

“We persuade homeowners to avail themselves of the state energy rebates, which work out to $2,500 for every 25 percent reduction in energy use through solar and other alternative energy, roof and window improvements, more efficient appliances.

“Then, if they’re willing to pass the rebate on to us, we’ll install a complete energy monitoring system, an energy management system, and LED lighting throughout the home.”

Just launched, the Solano Plus program has already signed up three homeowners. Mr. Reiger hopes to double enrollment each month.

“We think we have a winner. The homeowner gains far more energy efficiency and several small businesses benefit from the work,” he said.

The next Center for Business Innovation meeting is on September 21 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For more information call 707-861-0724.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pipe Shields, Inc. relocates to Fairfield


Contact:         Patti Magee, Executive Assistant

Kirk Hull of The Wiseman Company announced today that Pipe Shields, Inc. has chosen to re-locate  to waterview offices on the second floor of the Green Valley Executive Center in Fairfield. Green Valley Executive Center is home to a variety of professional firms and Solano’s finest gourmet restaurant, Sticky Rice Bistro.

Acquired by Durga Agrawal, PhD, Pipe Shields, Inc. is one of the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of a unique line of pre-insulated pipe supports, slides, guides and anchors that it has developed and patented during its 39 year history. They have done projects in the past for clients as varied as Boeing, Dow Chemical, Hershey’s Chocolate, Genentech, Nissan Motor Manufacturing and UC Davis, just to name a few. Their manufacturing facility, which includes 450,000 square feet of covered shop space, is in Houston, Texas and their offices in Fairfield are used for engineering, sales and marketing.

The Wiseman Company is a full-service, commercial real estate firm offering brokerage, development, investment and management services to Solano, Napa and Yolo counties. For more information about Green Valley Executive Center or any of our other Class A properties, contact Kirk Hull at 707.427.1212 or by email at

Benicia facility to finish assembly of Coda's new electric vehicles

Coda Automotive CEO Phil Murtaugh, center, shows off the 12-volt battery Monday in Benicia that will power the Coda EV, an all-electric sedan slated for delivery beginning late this year in California. At his left are Benicia mayor Elizabeth Patterson, and next to her is Rep. George Miller D-Martinez. (Tony Burchyns / Times-Herald)
BENICIA -- It will still be known as the city with the oil refinery, but Benicia is about to zoom into the electric car industry.
Officials from Amports Inc. and startup Coda Automotive Inc. announced Monday that the two have closed a deal to open a final assembly plant in Benicia.

The Los Angeles company also is in talks to open a Bay Area showroom, but details have not been released, company officials said.

Meanwhile, the Benicia operation will generate 50 jobs, with 10,000 to 14,000 cars expected to roll through next year.

Benicia will be the latest Bay Area city manufacturing electric cars. Palo Alto-based Tesla Motors Inc. is partnering with Toyota to build its next-generation electric sedan at a factory in Fremont.

Coda Automotive CEO Phil Murtaugh poses Monday with the startup companyÕs new all-electric sedan at Amports Inc. in Benicia. (Tony Burchyns / Times-Herald)

City officials said luring a company on the forefront of the green manufacturing industry was a significant coup.

"We have felt for a long time as a city that it is best to work in a collaborative and cooperative way with businesses in order to achieve our strategic goals ... ," Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson said. "And today is proof positive of that collaborative effort."

Ironically, the city's prosperity remains closely tied to fossil fuel, with Valero Energy Corp. operating an oil refinery there. But Patterson said the city of 28,000 also can be a leader in the transition from petrochemical to alternative-energy industries.

Coda plans to ship its nearly finished "clean" cars from China to the Bay Area. The sedans will then be trucked from the Port of Oakland to Benicia, where major drive-train components -- including Coda's 12-volt battery -- will be installed by Amports technicians.

The zero-emission cars will have a range of up to 150 miles, company officials said. Pricing will start at about $45,000 before federal and state incentives. The four-door, five-passenger sedans are expected to hit the market by year's end.

Coda officials called the partnership with Amports -- an automotive processing services company -- "long-term," but did not give details of the contract's terms.

The companies confirmed the deal at a press conference Monday at Amports. Among those in attendance were Coda CEO Phil Murtaugh, Amports Senior Vice President Jim Triplett, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and local elected officials.

Dozens of Coda workers encouraged by the partnership's prospects also attended.

Coda CEO Phil Murtaugh led reporters and local elected officials on a brief tour of the plant, demonstrating how the Coda battery's heating and cooling systems work.

Murtaugh said the company -- which has about 200 employees, mostly in southern California -- is still building its dealer network.

"Our first flagship store is open in L.A. and we are currently looking in the Bay Area for a second flagship store," said Murtaugh, who spent more than 30 years with General Motors before joining Coda eight months ago.

Murtaugh said he expects about half of Coda's sales to be through "fleet" sales.

Coda has designed its sedan to be plugged into standard household outlets. The batteries will take about six hours to fully charge, the company says.

Rep. Miller drove a Coda prototype Monday, later calling the experience "fascinating."

"We are excited that Coda decided to pick California as a launching place ... ," Miller said. "At a time when America is fixated on the idea of jobs immediately and jobs in the future, it really is through the kind of innovation that Coda brings -- in this case to the transportation field -- that's going to drive jobs."

Contact staff writer Tony Burchyns at or (707) 553-6831.

Invitation to Back to School Fall Event at the Inventor's Lab in Vallejo

Subject: You are invited to the Back to School Fall Event at the Inventor's Lab in Vallejo

Back to School Fall Event at the Inventor's Lab in Vallejo

The Inventor's Lab invites you our Back to School Fall Event.

The back-to-school fall event will be the official ceremony to kick off for the full range of services at the Vallejo site. We will also utilize this event to promote interest among our partners to foster long-term sustainability for the project and future opportunities for more science in Solano County. The Inventor's Lab team is inviting its partners to join us.

The event will feature a slide show and will start with a presentation. We will then break into round table discussions to network and brainstorm opportunities for the future of science learning in Vallejo.

When: Wednesday, September 21st from 6:00-9:00pm

Where: Norman C. King South Vallejo Community Center 545 Magazine Street

Please confirm your participation and feel free to forward this invitation to those that you believe should make part of this major event and networking opportunity. We will need name, title and contact information of your participants.

Hoping to see you all at the Inventor's Lab,

Verónica Urdaneta
External Relations/Marketing
Community & Media Outreach
University of California, Berkeley
Lawrence Hall of Science #5200
Berkeley, CA 94720-5200

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Solano County business, political leaders told California is mired in recession

Posted: 09/01/2011 01:04:44 AM PDT

A newspaper columnist who has been covering California politics for more than 25 years painted a bleak picture of the state's economic future for Solano County business and political leaders on Wednesday.
Dan Walters offered one "silver lining" to his gloomy forecast: "The first step toward curing yourself of a disease is admitting you have it," he said. "The longer this recession goes on, the more evident it becomes that things aren't right. ... The denial quotient seems to be diminishing."

Speaking at the Solano Economic Development Corp.'s breakfast meeting at Fairfield's Hilton Garden Inn, the Sacramento Bee's syndicated political columnist assessed the state's economic and political conditions, putting them into historical context.

While the recession may have officially ended months ago, California remains mired in it, said Walters, noting that the state's 12 percent unemployment rate doesn't count those who have given up hunting for jobs or who have left the labor force altogether or the underemployed. Add in those numbers and "the impact is truly 18 or 20 percent" unemployment, he said.

The state that has already lost more than 1 million jobs needs to add 15,000 a month just to keep up with its growth rate, Walters said. While there are areas where jobs are on the uptick, such as Silicon Valley, most of the state remains in what Walters called "the worst recession since the Great Depression."

Walters, a journalist for more than four decades and who started writing a column focused on California and its politics in 1975 -- the first time Jerry Brown was governor -- reminded the audience that the state's economy has long been a series of booms and busts.

President Ronald Reagan's military buildup of the 1980s poured money into California's military installations and weapons and space industries. It dried up when the Cold War ended, resulting in the bust of the early 1990s.

In the late 1990s, venture capitalists invested heavily in high-tech industries, resulting in the bubble that burst when those investors began looking for actual profits. Then global bankers streamed money into the state's housing market. The state is still reeling from its collapse.

While there has been plenty of speculation as to what the next bubble might be, no one knows if there will even be a next one, Walters said. Which raises a number of questions: "What if we actually have to ... compete in the global economy without the advantage of a rapid capital infusion? What if we have to go out and hustle and invest?"

California doesn't stack up well in the competitive world, Walters said. Yes, it has good weather, impressive scenery and an entrepreneurial spirit that can be capitalized on, but it also has plenty of drawbacks, including:

* The fifth-highest tax burden, when measured as a percentage of personal income. "We're at 11 to 11 1/2 percent," he said. "The national average is 9 percent."

* An "uncertain" water supply -- not because California doesn't have water but because "we have political inability to come to grips with capturing, storing, conveying and pricing that water."

* The worst traffic congestion of any state.

* Among the worst road conditions, "second only to New Jersey, where Tony Soprano buried bodies in the road," he said, drawing a laugh.

* Public education, which "is down there with Mississippi."

* The "most dense regulatory structure in the country."

Sacramento politicians should be asking, "What do we need to do to make ourselves competitive?" But they aren't, Walters said. "They don't want to dig into the real problems and look at where we stand in a global economy."

If they did, he said, legislators would redirect their attention "toward the real stuff -- education, transportation, water -- instead of whether hotels such as this one should have to use fitted sheets, or whether San Francisco should be allowed to dump its trash in Solano County."