Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Solano County's chambers of commerce honors local firms

Times-Herald staff report
Posted: 12/12/2012 01:00:47 AM PST

Krissy and Richard Hitewshew of Vallejo's A-1 Guaranteed Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. were among nine Solano County businesses honored at the recent 17th annual Spirit of Solano luncheon. The firm was chosen for the award by the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce.
Selected by the various Solano County Chambers of Commerce for their outstanding spirit and community support, this year's recipients included Dennie Geltzs and Frances Hurley of Printer Concepts Technology of Benicia and Vacaville's Gary Passama of NorthBay Healthcare, selected by their cities' chambers.
The Dixon chamber selected Dorothy Luedke and Cher Besneatte of Curves of Dixon, while the Fairfield-Suisun chamber chose Pat Holzwarth of Delta Graphics and Sohail Tabar, of Ford Lincoln Fairfield.
Omar Enrique Martinez Zerbato of Martinez Multi Services, received the Filipino-American chamber's nod, while the Hispanic chamber chose Marisela Barbosa of Monarch Engineers and K. Patrice Williams of 123 Target Marketing, was the Solano Black Chamber's choice.
The Spirit of Solano is hosted by Westamerica Bank and the Solano Economic Development Corporation. Last week's awards program in Fairfield was designed to recognize the role chambers of commerce play in economic development and honor those businesses that take an active part in improving the communities they serve.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Vacaville officials urge shoppers to spend money at local businesses

By Kimberly K. Fu/
Posted: 12/09/2012 01:03:22 AM PST

Shop local and support your community.
That is the message Vacaville leaders are passing on, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a strong, thriving local economy.
"Shopping locally not only supports the city in terms of sales tax revenues, but it also supports our entire city in that ... (dollars spent) on local businesses creates jobs, which, in turn, creates more spending," explained Mark Mazzaferro, spokesman for the city of Vacaville and its economic development representative. "Pretty soon, it's a nice network of support."
Bob Vollmer, head of the Downtown Vacaville Business Improvement District, agreed. Shopping locally means keeping tax revenues at home, he said, which keeps the economy going, local businesses in business and so on.
The DVBID executive director quoted an E Magazine article by Tim Mitchell to illustrate the phenomenon:
"A dollar spent at a locally owned store is usually spent six to 15 times before it leaves the community. From $1, you create $5 to $14 in value within that community," Mitchell wrote. "Spend $1 at a national chain store, and 80 percent of it leaves town immediately."
Vollmer said revenues from shopping locally have helped to keep the downtown area vibrant.
"Over the last three years, we've sustained a 9 percent increase in sales tax revenue," he said. "Our vacancy rate downtown ... is 1 percent, which is great."
That, he pointed out, is what can be accomplished by shopping locally in an economic downturn.
On a regional scale, shopping close to home is integral to a community more than ever with the loss of redevelopment funding, impacts from state and federal budget cuts and more, advised Sandy Person with the Solano Economic Development Corporation. The trickle-down effect of local spending not only keeps businesses going, she said, but it also pays for things like public safety services and other resources a community needs.
It's a good sign that retail businesses have not dropped off in Solano County, she continued, and that auto sales are returning after scant sales numbers a few years back.
But does Vacaville have everything its residents need? And is shopping locally cost-effective?
Mazzaferro said the city strives to encourage a diverse array of businesses to come to Vacaville and will continue to do so. Right now, there's a little bit of everything -- from hotels to retail, restaurants to auto. As for cost, he believes shopping near home is somewhat of a bargain. Consider the money saved from gas not spent to travel elsewhere, and time saved, too, he said.
As for Vollmer, he thinks Vacaville, especially the downtown area, is rich in what it provides to the community.
"We have 25 restaurants in downtown Vacaville and all the entertainment you want," he said, ticking off live music, seasonal events like the Halloween Stroll and the farmers market, and more.
The longtime Vacaville resident added that he'd love to help welcome more new businesses to the downtown area and wishes it could somehow grow to accommodate anyone who wants to open there.
"Come down here," he urged. "There's always something going on."
Follow Staff Writer Kimberly K. Fu at

Friday, December 7, 2012

Solano County firms receive the 'Spirit of Solano' award

Posted: 12/07/2012 01:10:21 AM PST

'Tis the season to give back to the community. For several local businesses, helping others is their motivation all year long.
Amid cheers, laughter and applause, nine businesses were acknowledged Thursday for their years of contributions during the 17th annual Spirit of Solano award luncheon.
The award recognizes local chambers of commerce and honors businesses that embody the entrepreneurial spirit of the region and who take an active role to improve the communities they serve.
From the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce, NorthBay Healthcare received one of the Spirit of Solano awards.
Giving back to the community goes back more than 50 years, when a group of local physicians created NorthBay, its mission of compassionate care, advanced medicine means no one is turned away, even for the most expensive, most sophisticated treatment.
Vacaville Councilwoman Dilenna Harris vouched for NorthBay's care as a mother delivering a premature baby. She said the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital saved her daughter, who just recently gave birth to her own child.
"NorthBay, you are awesome," Harris said.
NorthBay Healthcare President and CEO Gary Passama received the award.
"NorthBay believes that to have a healthy community, it must have a thriving business sector," he said and thanked the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce for the acknowledgment.
Not accustomed to being publicly recognized for their behind the scenes efforts, Richard and Krissy Hiteshew, owners of A-1 Guaranteed Heating and Air Conditioning, humbly accepted their award.
The company in business since 1996 was chosen by the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce.
"We don't do it for the recognition," Krissy Hiteshew said. "It's kind of awkward for us to be up here, but we're very appreciative.
"We grew up in Vallejo so it's our turn to give back to Vallejo. We couldn't be here without the help of others."
Hiteshew said they run their business on doing the right thing even when no one is looking and thanked their co-workers for the success.
Additional Spirit of Solano award winners are:
Dixon Chamber of Commerce: Curves of Dixon, Dorothy Luedke and Cher Besneatte.
Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce: Ford Lincoln Fairfield, Sohail Tabar; Delta Graphics, Pat Holzwarth.
Benicia Chamber of Commerce: Printer Concepts Technology, Frances Hurley and Dennie Geltz.
Solano County Black Chamber of Commerce: 123 Target Marketing, K. Patrice Williams.
Solano Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: Monarch Engineers, Marisela Barbosa.
Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of Solano County: Martinez Multi-Services, Omar Enrique Martinez Zerbato.
Follow Staff Writer Melissa Murphy at

Spirit of Solano honors county businesses

FAIRFIELD — Ford Lincoln Fairfield, Delta Graphics and NorthBay Heathcare were among those honored Thursday at the 17th annual Spirit of Solano ceremony.

Local chambers of commerce chose the honorees. The awards were handed out at the Hilton Garden Inn at a luncheon sponsored by Westamerica Bank and the Solano Economic Development Corp.
“What better way to show a united economic front than being here to cheer on our champions?”

Solano EDC President Sandy Person told the crowd of about 200 people.

Westamerica Bank Chief Executive Officer David Payne described the criteria for naming businesses as Spirit of Solano winners. Among them are outstanding customer service, adaptability, profitability and contributions to the community.

The Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce named both a large and a small business of the year. Chamber Executive Board Chairwoman Sue Vaccaro thanked Spirit of Solano organizers for allowing the group to go against the norm and have two winners for this time only.

Price Simms Dealergroup opened Ford Lincoln Fairfield in 2010, helping to revive an auto mall battered by the recession. The dealership provides about 100 jobs. Its community contributions include working with the Tomato Festival, local schools, Toys for Tots and The Leaven.

“It is truly one of our guiding principles to give to our local community,” General Sales Manager Sohail Tabar said. “I want everyone to understand, this is only the beginning for Ford Lincoln Fairfield.”

Delta Graphics won as the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce’s small business of the year. Vaccaro called it a “mom and pop” business with two employees.

The business opened in 1995 in Fairfield. Pat Holzwarth became a partner in 1995 and she and her husband Ken became the sole owners in 1997. They have been active chamber members, with Holzwarth serving as a chamber ambassador.

“I hope all of you will remember to support your local economy – the small businesses,” Holzwarth said.

The Vacaville Chamber of Commerce named NorthBay Healthcare as its business of the year. NorthBay Healthcare operates VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville and NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield.

Vacaville City Councilwoman Dilenna Harris introduced the award. She talked about NorthBay Healthcare’s local roots, given that a local group of physicians founded it about 50 years ago. She described how it has over time added such features as neonatal care and a cancer center.

“When our community grew, NorthBay was very aware of the needs and the advanced treatments that would be needed,” Harris said.

Though it has grown to have 1,800 employees, NorthBay remains connected to the community, she said.

NorthBay Healthcare Chief Executive Officer Gary Passama said the medical group believes having a healthy community also means having a strong and vibrant business sector.

The Vallejo Chamber of Commerce presented its award to Richard and Krissy Hiteshew of A-1 Guaranteed Heating and Air Conditioning; the Solano County Black Chamber of Commerce to K. Patrice Williams of 123 Target Marketing of Vallejo; the Solano Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to Marisela Barbosa of Monarch Engineers in Vallejo; the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce of Solano County to Omar Enrique Martinez Zerbato of Martinez Multi-Services in Vallejo; the Dixon Chamber of Commerce to Dorothy Luedke and Cher Besneatte of Curves of Dixon; and the Benicia Chamber of Commerce to Frances Hurley and Dennie Geltz of Printer Concepts Technology.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or Follow him on Twitter at

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Solano hospitals give county's economy a healthy boost

By Melissa Murphy/
Posted: 11/29/2012 01:08:40 AM PST

The five hospitals in Solano County are a major drive to the area's economy, according to a report released Wednesday by Economic Forensics and Analytics.

Together, the five privately operated hospitals are responsible for more than 11 percent of the local economy, according to Robert Eyler, an economics professor at Sonoma State University and principal of the independent research and consulting firm in Petaluma. Additionally, the revenue generated by hospitals represents more than 7 percent of Solano's total revenue.

"Hospitals are the economic engines that elevate our community," Eyler said Wednesday morning during a Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast. "Hospitals contribute a large amount to Solano's economy and community through jobs, business revenues and tax receipts, and by providing what the public cannot easily provide: a safety net."

Hospitals included in the study were Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo, Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers in Vallejo and Vacaville, NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield and NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville.

As of January, there were 4,085 employees at local hospitals, slightly more than 2 percent of the total payroll employment in Solano County, or almost $319 million in wages. These jobs support more than 7,800 additional jobs in the area because of the "multiple layers of spending."

Eyler explained that the employees earn their income in Solano County and turn around and spend that money in the same community.

"Hospitals go way beyond employing medical professionals," he said.

He added that, even in the midst of a recession, health care remained a "bright spot."

While hospital revenues remain flat statewide, Solano County continues to see revenue growth.

Solano County does a better regional job in providing services than the state," Eyler said. "Things are going really well and will likely continue."

The study shows that for every $50 million spent annually in Solano County on hospital improvements or new construction, there is an additional $24.5 million in business revenue earned beyond the $50 million to fund the capital project; capital spending supports more than 250 jobs while the project is taking place, including construction jobs to support an industry otherwise hurt by the slow economic recovery; and capital spending generated more than $2.27 million in state and local tax revenue.

The relationship between health care and education continues to remain strong as well.

Joanie Erickson, director of public relations for Kaiser Permanente, Napa-Solano Area, said local colleges allow the hospitals to keep the workforce close to home.

"There is that symbiotic relationship that we appreciate," she said, adding that Kaiser Permanente is in the process of creating a family practice residency program at its Vallejo hospital.

Gary Passama, president and chief executive officer for NorthBay Healthcare, agreed that the hospitals are a "pretty powerful economic engine."

He added that David Grant Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base also contributes to Solano's economy.

Passama said that, whether we like it or not, come 2014, the Affordable Care Act will have a huge impact and hospitals in California will have to find a way to provide services for some 4.4 million citizens.

"We're all looking to grow to meet these demands," he said. "We need you, business leaders, our economic development pacesetters and our government leaders -- especially our local, county, state and federal policy makers -- to understand what stands in the way of expanding, modernizing and advancing health care in Solano.

"The Affordable Care Act and the rest of this decade will reshape how we do what we do. It will be a wild and bumpy ride at times. But there's great opportunity in Solano to have more and better when it comes to health care."

The complete study, Economic Impact Report for Solano County Hospitals, can be found on the website of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California,, or at

Follow Staff Writer Melissa Murphy at

Study looks at hospitals’ economic impacts

By Barry Eberling November 29, 2012
FAIRFIELD — Solano County’s five privately operated hospitals support or generate more than 11 percent of the county economy, according to a new report.

“We don’t often think of hospitals as economic engines,” Rebecca Rozen of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California said at Wednesday’s Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast.

The report by Robert Eyler of Economic Forensics and Analytics argues that local hospitals are indeed big economic players. Eyler presented the results to about 125 people who attended the meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Eyler talked about effects that local hospitals have that go beyond their own 4,085 employees and daily services. These ripple effects extend into such areas as hospital workers supporting local restaurants and hospitals buying supplies.

“Very little of economic life in Solano County goes untouched by hospitals,” his report said.

Putting everything together, Eyler found that local hospitals support and generate $1.25 billion in annual business revenue, about 7,830 jobs and $64 million in state and local tax revenue.

Eyler looked at NorthBay Healthcare’s NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield and VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville, Kaiser Permanente’s Vallejo and Vacaville hospitals and Sutter Solano’s Vallejo hospital. He did not include David Grant Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base.

He also explored the effects of hospital capital projects. Every $50 million that hospitals spend on construction and expansion generates another $24.5 million in business revenues, 250 jobs during construction and $2.27 million in local and state taxes, he said.

NorthBay Healthcare has three capital projects planned over the next four years, with more than $100 million in construction, NorthBay Healthcare President Gary Passama said.

NorthBay Heathcare has announced plans to build what it calls a “health village” with a cancer center and medical fitness center at its VacaValley hospital. It plans to construct a second building at its Administrative Center on Business Center Drive in Fairfield. It plans to do construction work at NorthBay Medical Center.

Eyler said that construction itself is only part of the economic impact of hospital capital projects. The subsequent growth in hospital services when the project is finished creates new business revenue, jobs and wages, which in turn have a ripple effect on the county’s economy.

The study is more than a snapshot in time, Eyler said. Data can be used to determine what assets are needed in the community to support hospital growth, so hospitals don’t have to spend money in other counties.

“The bane of economic development is leakage,” Eyler said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or Follow him on Twitter at

Report: Solano hospitals infuse $319M into economy

Date: Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The five privately operated hospitals in Solano County are responsible for more than 11 percent of the local economy — and could grow even more important in the future — according to a study released Wednesday.

The hospitals pay almost $319 million annually in wages, with 4,085 employees in January 2012 accounting for slightly more than 2 percent of the total employment payroll in Solano County.

Annual revenue from hospitals represents more than 7 percent of total revenue generated by Solano County businesses overall. Because of their links to education and demand for skilled workers and medical professionals across multiple job classifications, hospitals heighten their economic impact by paying good wages and purchasing supplies, concludes the study by Economic Forensics and Analytics in Petaluma.

The five hospitals in the report are: Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo, Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers in Vallejo and Vacaville, and NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville. The study was commissioned by the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California.

“Hospitals are an economic engine for the community,” Robert Eyler, an economics professor at Sonoma State University and principal of the consulting firm that did the study, said in a news release. “They generate support for education, jobs and businesses, all the while continuing their critical mission of providing health-care services locally.”

For a PDF download of the economic impact study, click here.

Study: Solano County hospitals a major driver of local economy

FAIRFIELD — The five privately operated hospitals in Solano County make up more than 11 percent of the local economy, making health care a key driver that could be even more important in the future, according to a new study that details the economic impact of Solano County’s hospitals.

“Hospitals are an economic engine for the community,” said Robert Eyler, Ph.D., an economics professor at Sonoma State University and lead author of the report, which was commissioned by the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California ( Dr. Eyler is also principal of Economic Forensics and Analytics, which conducted the study. “They generate support for education, jobs and businesses, all the while continuing their critical mission of providing health care services locally.”

Dr. Eyler presented the findings today at a Solano Economic Development Corporation ( breakfast meeting at Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield.

Hospitals included in the study were Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo, Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers in Vallejo and Vacaville, NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield and NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville.

The study found that as of January those hospitals employed approximately 4,085, slightly more than 2 percent of total payroll jobs in the county. They also pay nearly $319 million per year in wages.
Additionally, the number of workers has grown since 2001 and likely will continue to grow as hospitals add new services, expand or build new facilities. And annual revenue from hospitals represents more than 7 percent of total revenue generated by all Solano County businesses, according to the study.

The wider economic impact of hospitals in the last four years includes:
  • More than $1.25 billion in business revenue.
  • More than 7,800 jobs in hospitals and outside those health care systems.
  • More than $64 million in state and local tax revenue.
“Because of their links to education and their demand for skilled workers and medical professionals across multiple job classifications, hospitals heighten their economic impact by paying good wages and salaries and purchasing supplies,” the study said.

Having a trio of robust health care systems in the county — Sacramento-based Sutter Health, Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente and Fairfield-based NorthBay — prevents precious payroll and the purchase of goods and services from escaping Solano County, according to the report. Otherwise, “economic leakage can occur when hospitals spend on goods and labor outside the local market.”
“They provide services locally, rather than allowing adjacent counties to garner these patients or clients and thereby take income away from Solano County,” the report said.

If local policymakers and developers can continue to attract, retain and expand businesses that help support the growth of hospital services, the local financial and social impact of Solano’s hospitals would increase, according to Dr. Eyler.

The likelihood of those hospitals expanding operations within the county can help propel the county out of lingering economic doldrums, according to the report. Hospital construction could help expand the “financial dimensions throughout the county economy.”

Every $50 million spent annually on hospital improvements or new construction contributes:
  • An additional $24.5 million bump in business revenue in the community.
  • More than 250 new jobs while the project is taking place, including construction jobs to support an industry otherwise hurt by the slow economic recovery.
  • Creation of more than $2.27 million in state and local tax revenue.
The complete study, “Economic Impact Report for Solano County Hospitals,” is posted on the websites of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California and the Solano Economic Development Corp.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Study Measures Economic Impact of Solano Hospitals

            Results of the economic impact of Solano County's five hospitals – jobs, payroll, new construction and spinoff benefits – will be revealed on Nov. 28 at a breakfast meeting of the Solano Economic Development Corporation.

            Executives of three hospital systems will add their perspective to the findings of Dr. Robert Eyler of Sonoma State University, the keynote speaker who conducted the study for the Hospital Council of Northern California.

Panelists for the event include Max Villalobos, Senior Vice President of the local region of Kaiser Permanente; Gary Passama, President and CEO of NorthBay Healthcare; and Terry Glubka, CEO of Sutter Solano Medical Center.

            "Healthcare and hospitals are critical parts of our economic engine," Sandy Person, Solano EDC president said. "They generate significant benefits in terms of education, jobs and other businesses, in addition to providing essential care to our residents.”

              The event begins at 8:00 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield.  Cost is $25 for Solano EDC members and $35 for non-members. To register call 707 864-1855, or e-mail:

            Sponsors for the November meeting are: Hospital Council of Northern and Central California, NorthBay Healthcare, Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente.
The program is one of the monthly breakfast meetings sponsored Solano EDC to provide private sector, government and community leaders with information on economic issues and industries.  They are made possible by the Solano EDC Chairman Circle Members; Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District, Solano Transportation Authority; Syar Industries, Solano Garbage Company and Republic Services, Inc.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Political columnist predicts few surprises this election

By Melissa Murphy/
Posted: 11/01/2012 01:07:51 AM PDT

Halloween isn't the only scary thing this time of year -- politics are too.
That's how Political Columnist Dan Walters on Wednesday painted this year's election with less than a week before voters head to the polls.
"It's an odd election in some respects," he said to a room full of city and business leaders at a Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast.
He predicted that in California, President Barack Obama will receive the most votes toward his re-election and it won't be any surprise that United State Senator Dianne Feinstein will hold onto her post representing California.
He added that there were two interesting aspects added to the election structure for this year, though, the top two candidates receiving the most votes in the primary, regardless of political party, moved on to the regular election and district lines were redrawn by an independent party with no regard to the location of the incumbents.
The Sacramento Bee columnist also added that "almost certainly" the Democrats will not regain control of the House of Representatives.
He explained that millions of dollars are being dumped into campaigns for 11 ballot measures in California and it will likely continue.
He said Gov. Jerry Brown or "Brown 2.0," as he called him, went straight to the ballot with Proposition 30, which would increase sales tax from 7.25 percent to 7.50 percent statewide and create four high-income tax brackets for taxpayers with taxable incomes exceeding $250,000, $300,000, $500,000 and $1 million.
"It isn't doing well," Walters said of the proposition. "He campaigns, (support) goes down. He's not the best salesman for his own measure."
He added that the sales tax part of the proposition is likely to blame for it dragging.
However, if Proposition 30 doesn't pass, there will likely be a "political war" between counties, schools and colleges who will fight over a "shrinking pot of money."
"It's bad tax policy," he said. "We become more dependent on a few wealthy and their success in the stock market. ... It's dangerous."
He said the design of the proposition will last longer than Brown is in office, but the money source has an end date.
One tax measure Walters believes is likely to pass is Proposition 39, an income tax increase on out-of-state businesses that would not effect California-based companies or residents.
Most of the audience, however, has already voted and that made Walters question the need for his talk.
He admitted that elections are largely conducted by mail.
"Campaigning at the last minute is less effective," he said.
Follow Staff Writer Melissa Murphy at

Columnist gives stories behind state ballot issues

By Barry Eberling
From page A1 | November 01, 2012 | Leave Comment

FAIRFIELD — Political columnist Dan Walters on Wednesday shared views on the upcoming election that go beyond what can be found in advertisements or the voter’s pamphlet.

Walters, who writes for the Sacramento Bee and whose columns appear in the Daily Republic, talked about many of the 11 propositions, including Proposition 40, which addresses redistricting, and Proposition 30, which is a tax measure backed by Gov. Jerry Brown. He compared the behind-the-scenes maneuverings to a popular Mad magazine Cold War comic feature.

“That’s what a lot of this is about, it’s ‘Spy vs. Spy’,” Walters said.

Walters spoke at the monthly Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast. More than 100 civic and business leaders attended the event at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Proposition 30 would increase the state sales tax by 0.25 percent and increase taxes on the wealthy. Its failure would supposedly trigger $6 billion in budget cuts that mostly affect education, though Walters said education advocates could challenge the trigger cuts in court.

An audience member asked what would happen if the measure fails, which Walters said could well happen.

The hole in the state budget would be $10 billion to $11 billion, not $6 billion, Walters said. That’s because other revenue is less than what the state is expecting.

“Political war would break out,” Walters said. “How many of you are here from county government? You’re going to be right in the middle of those wars.”

Solano County already faces budget challenges with no changes to the political equation. It faces a general fund structural deficit of about $13.7 million next fiscal year, though it can draw on savings to cover the shortfall.

Fairfield City Councilwoman Catherine Moy asked if cities would be affected by Proposition 30’s fate. Fairfield is struggling with budget shortfalls and has warned of drastic cuts if a proposed 1 percent sales tax on the November ballot fails to pass.

“Cities are probably not in this war,” Walters said. “It would be counties, schools and colleges mostly. They would be fighting over a shrinking pot of money. It will be pretty bloody, I expect.”
But Proposition 30 is bad tax policy, Walters said. Revenues would depend largely on how well about 150,000 people are doing in the capital markets, which is volatile. Plus, it guarantees counties would get $5 billion to help pay for state realignment policies, even though the tax is temporary.

Perhaps the best thing in the long run is for the proposed taxes to be defeated, Walters said. Then Brown and the Legislature might look at tax policies, he said.

An audience member asked about redevelopment. The state in February dissolved redevelopment agencies, such as the one formed by Fairfield. In Fairfield’s case, the lost revenue blew a hole in the city budget. Also, the city over the decades used redevelopment to spur economic development, declaring areas such as Green Valley as blighted so it could spend future property tax increases there on infrastructure.

Redevelopment is dead, despite efforts to revive it under a different name, Walters said. Redevelopment became somewhat of a monster over time, though he understands why cities used it as they did, he said.

“I understand why Fairfield declared swampland to be blighted,” Walters said.

Proposition 40 is a referendum on a redistricting commission’s newly drawn lines for state Senate districts. Walters said Republicans wanted it on the ballot because Democrats under the new lines are likely to get a two-thirds majority in the Senate in Tuesday’s election. Republicans had hoped the proposition would prompt the state Supreme Court to suspend the new district lines for the Senate until the referendum got settled.

But the Supreme Court refused and Republicans lost interest in the issue. Republicans don’t really want voters to overturn the new lines now that the Supreme Court gambit for 2012 has failed. That’s because the party has a chance to pick up seats under the new lines in 2014, Walters said.

Proposition 37 calls for the labeling of genetically altered foods. But, Walters said, the initiative is so complicated that no one knows what it would really do.

“Maybe it’s on purpose,” Walters said. “Confusion is the area in which clever lawyers see the potential for a lot of business.”

Walters described the government reforms called for by Proposition 31 as the latest effort in a cottage industry called “Fixing California.” While Walters expressed doubt that Proposition 31 is the solution, he didn’t question that California needs fixing.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or Follow him on Twitter at

Friday, October 12, 2012

Vallejo's Cal Maritime gets special visitor -- federal transportation chief

By Sarah Rohrs Times-Herald staff writer /
Posted: 10/12/2012 01:03:41 AM PDT

For U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, his department involves a lot more than trains, planes and highways.
LaHood reaffirmed that belief by spending Thursday morning at Vallejo's California Maritime Academy, a school on the forefront of training students for the maritime industry.
"Over the last four years we've taken a lot of interest in the maritime industry," LaHood said, adding he included the short visit to the California State University campus as part of a larger California trip.
LaHood was expected to tour BART stations and other facilities in San Francisco later Thursday.
He was also expected to announce this morning at the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet north of Benicia that the Maritime Administration would award $392,913 to Cal Maritime stemming from proceeds of the sale of old obsolete ships in the Mothball Fleet.
Besides Thursday's tour, LaHood was on hand to commission new Cal Maritime President Thomas Cropper as a Rear Admiral in the United States Merchant Service, a requirement of his new position.
Following the short ceremony, LaHood toured the Golden Bear training ship and the school's simulation center, and spoke to students in a leadership conference. He also took a look at the Golden Bear's ballast water treatment facility and watched an demonstration of Cal Maritime's navigation and engine laboratories.
LaHood was accompanied by David Matsuda, chief of the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration, and a small entourage of security officers and other officials.
LaHood is the first U.S. Secretary of Transportation to visit the campus, an action which gives the institution some clout, Cropper said.
"It's wonderful. We have a lot of confidence in our cadets and our programs. This reaffirms our confidence," Cropper said.
"The maritime industry has such broad implications for future employment in the state of California. They understand that," he added.
LaHood told cadets assembled in Rizza Auditorium that their future is bright and that his administration has invested in the maritime industry, including infrastructure improvements at several ports.
A new policy document, the Maritime Highway Plan, also outlines investments needed to invigorate the global maritime industry, he said.
Further, a new channel in the Panama Canal is generating considerable interest among ports the world over in expanding their capacities and depths, he said.
Investment in transportation is one area state senior transportation consultant Norman Fassler-Katz said is crucial. The consultant for State Sen. Alan Lowenthal was among the 100-plus crowd assembled on the Vallejo campus for LaHood's visit.
"The biggest issue for us is that there has to be clear federal freight policy in the next transportation bill and more funding sources, too," Fassler-Katz said.
LaHood said his department has made maritime industry investments a high priority, and he would try for more money in the next funding cycle.
Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH.

Vallejo cheers new waterfront parking garage's completion

By Jessica A. York
Posted: 10/12/2012 01:03:39 AM PDT

Defiantly proud of this city, Mayor Osby Davis on Thursday commended the completion of Vallejo's waterfront parking structure as telling "the story of who we are and what we're going to be."

 "Vallejo has come back from a lot," Davis said to an audience of several dozen atop the new multi-million dollar garage's pedestrian paseo, which opens to the public Monday. "To those who said we were dying, this is another heartbeat that shows you it's even stronger. We're not dead, and we're moving ahead." 

Caltrans District 4 Chief Deputy Director Dan McElhinney argued that the structure is not just a garage.

"Of course, it's much more important than that," McElhinney said. "It's part of our economy, it's part of our success and we're reinvesting in California and reinvesting in America as we move out of economic hardship."

More than two years ago, Davis similarly stood with U.S. Rep. George Miller for a groundbreaking ceremony on the same site, then just an empty dirt lot and former home to Santa Clara Street's My Café restaurant.

Miller, as well as Rep. Mike Thompson, who is running in November's election to represent Vallejo following last year's congressional redistricting, joined Davis and officials from Solano County, the Vallejo City Council, state and county transportation agencies and many others in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday for the parking structure.

Describing the garage as both inviting and exciting, Miller admitted to feeling some trepidation over the years, while waiting on the project's completion. He said on drives to Napa, he would often make a special detour through Vallejo to check on its progress.

"I want to see what's going on over there," Miller said he would explain to his wife. "I was really concerned, because I'm a real optimist about Vallejo's waterfront ... and knowing what's gone on here, that this waterfront to me is one of the gems of the San Francisco Bay Area, I was really concerned what this was going to look like. (But) you did it right ...."

The event comes just prior to the three-level, 750-space garage's public opening, scheduled for 6 a.m. Monday.

City Public Works Director David Kleinschmidt said city maintenance staff will be on hand the first day to offer traffic control assistance, and that regular Baylink ferry commuters on the city's email list will receive notification of the coming garage opening.

The city expects to begin charging daily or monthly garage use fees -- estimated at $5 and $20, respectively -- as early as February. Parking in both the garage and in city waterfront parking lots, will remain free until then, officials said.

Parking security -- in the form of both 26 active surveillance cameras and hired patrol services in and around the garage -- will begin immediately, Kleinschmidt said.

The garage, part of a two-phase project that will eventually include a second garage atop what is now the Santa Clara Street U.S. Postal Service office, was funded primarily through federal, state and county transportation funds, including $7.7 million set aside with the help of Miller. The project has run about $36.7 million so far, officials said.

Contact staff writer Jessica A. York at (707) 553-6834 or Follow her on Twitter @JYVallejo.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Expert says 2013 economy could look like 2012’s

By Barry Eberling
FAIRFIELD — More of the same.
That’s what Robert Eyler sees for the economy next year. Eyler is chairman of the Economics Department at Sonoma State University and director of the Center for Regional Economic Analysis.

“I do see recovery next year,” Eyler said Wednesday. “I see it continuing to be slow.”

He spoke at Impact Solano, an event presented by the North Bay Business Journal and Solano Economic Development Corp. More than 100 people attended at the Hilton Garden Inn.

“It’s very tough to make the statement next year will be much different than this one,” Eyler said.

At least, until the end of 2013. Then signs of what he called a “mild” recession might appear.

Solano County continues to see economic improvement, though that improvement can be slow. Eyler noted that 60 percent of August home sales in the county were distressed sales. Still, that compares to 71 percent a year ago.

“It’s not that low, but you’ve got to try to make lemonade out of lemons,” he said.

Eyler talked of various strategies Solano County leaders can take to improve the economy. For example, economic growth doesn’t have to come by recruiting a big business with 1,000 employees, he said. It can also come by attracting 1,000 small businesses with a few employees, businesses that have the potential to grow, he said.

Internet technology startup companies are a possibility for Solano County, he said. He noted the county’s location near such assets as UC Davis.

“The key about Solano County is it’s a nice geography for that to happen,” he said.

He stressed that Solano County should look beyond trying to attract certain clusters of businesses, such as life sciences and health care. It should also look at having a cluster’s supply chain located locally.

The event included several other speakers who had what Solano EDC President Sandy Person called “good-news stories.”

Kevin Finger, general manager of the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Fairfield, showed a slide saying the local brewery produces 12 main brands. That’s actually up to 20, he said.

“We’re as aggressive as we possibly can be,” he said. “When the company needs something done, we want to be the ones who do it.”

David Fuller of Blu Homes talked of his company’s growth in Vallejo. The company builds prefabricated homes inside of an industrial building on Mare Island.

Blu Homes builds a module each week, he said. It expects that number to triple next year and triple again the following year, he said.

Jack Horn, chief executive officer of Partnership Health Plan of California, said the Fairfield-based nonprofit should grow from 300 employees to 500 employees over the next few years.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or Follow him on Twitter at

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New wind farm does more with less in Solano County

September 25, 2012        
MONTEZUMA HILLS — Lisa Schubert took a marker and wrote a message on a 147-foot-long wind turbine blade that lay on the ground near the newest wind energy farm in the Montezuma Hills.“May many more blades follow this one in the sky over the green, clean earth,” she wrote.

Schubert and a couple hundred other people left their marks Monday on the blade, whether it was a signature or short message. That blade will soon be mounted on a 262-foot-high white tower that is part of EDF Renewable Energy’s Shiloh IV wind farm.

Shiloh IV will bring 50 new energy-generating white turbines to the Montezuma Hills. About 800 turbines already stand there in various wind farms that have various owners. But this latest project is a case of addition by subtraction.

“We’ll be replacing 235 of the old, lattice machines with 50 of the latest, greatest machines,” said Mark Tholke, vice president of southwest development for EDF Renewable Energy.
Fewer turbines but more power. The new version of this wind turbine farm is to generate 10 times the electricity as the old version, about 100 megawatts, enough to power 40,000 average homes. Electricity will go to the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. power grid.

The $300 million project is to be finished by year’s end. More than 200 people attended Monday’s celebratory ceremony, which included speeches and the blade-signing opportunity.
The old, lattice turbines were installed in 1989. The new turbines are four times the height.

Shiloh IV will be the last big wind project in the Solano County wind resource area, Tholke said. There’s no room for another single project that would generate 100 megawatts, he said.
Solano County has looked at the possibility of extending the wind resource area to the north side of Highway 12. Tholke didn’t rule out EDF Renewable Energy someday building a project there.

“Our business model is to put up as many of these projects as we can,” he said. “We have a long-term commitment to this area.”

But he called any possible projects north of Highway 12 “speculative.”

County Supervisor Mike Reagan attended the ceremony. There is still room for smaller wind turbines projects at various locations in the wind resource area south of Highway 12. Whether wind turbine projects ever get built north of Highway 12 depends on Travis Air Force Base, he said.

Air Force officials in recent years have expressed concern that spinning turbine blades can cause the base radar to miss small, private planes. Travis, the Air Force, Solano County and wind turbine companies have worked to find solutions for turbine projects south of Highway 12.

A technical solution will be found so the blades don’t blind the radar, Reagan said. Still, turbines north of Highway 12 would have to be placed so the towers aren’t in areas where Travis planes maneuver, he said.

Federal wind energy tax incentives are also an issue. Existing tax credits expire in December. Tholke said the wind industry hopes a lame-duck Congress will extend the credits to keep the playing field level with fossil fuels and solar power.

For now, EDF Renewable Energy is celebrating the wind farm it is about to complete.
Schubert attended the event in part because she is Tholke’s sister. But the Los Altos resident is also a teacher and is making a film of the project with an iPad to show to her kindergarten class. As indicated by her written comments on the blade, she sees wind energy as green energy.

“We’ve got to start early,” Schubert said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or Follow him on Twitter at

Fairfield brewery hosts manufacturing forum

Manufacturing Forum at the Anheuser-Busch Fairfield Brewery
Various local business owners take a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Fairfield Brewery during Monday's Manufacturing Forum. Regional business leaders shared their experiences with manufacturing resources available to regional businesses. (Conner Jay/Daily Republic)
September 25, 2012 
 FAIRFIELD — A manufacturing forum at the Anheuser-Busch brewery Monday had a “Made in America” bent.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek, gave the keynote speech. The event also included panel discussions on manufacturing strategies and a tour of the brewery.

“We can make it in America,” Garamendi told the audience of about 80 people. “We really can.
American can once again become the great manufacturing power it was — it still is, but we don’t have the same intensity we once had.”

Twenty million Americans worked in manufacturing 25 years ago, he said. That’s down to about 11.5 million.

Garamendi has proposed legislation that would require transportation projects paid for with federal tax dollars to have 85 percent of the goods and equipment used manufactured in the United States. Federal legislation for Amtrak trains had a similar clause and a company that got the work opened a manufacturing plant in Sacramento, he said.

He has proposed similar legislation for energy.

“Public policy makes a difference here,” Garamendi said.

Harry Moser spoke on behalf of Reshoring America. Its goal is to get American companies that have moved operations to other countries to return the jobs to America.

Companies went to other countries because they followed each other “like a bunch of lemmings,” Moser said. But they didn’t take a close look at the total costs, he said. He believes that 25 percent of companies that have left the United States should come back based on their total cost of ownership.

Among the group’s tools is an online total-cost-of-ownership estimator. The group also publicizes companies that return jobs to the United States in an attempt to start a trend in that direction.

About 50,000 manufacturing jobs have returned to the United States since January 2010, Moser said.
He sees potential for 2 million or 3 million more.

Bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States has such benefits as reducing the federal budget deficit and unemployment, Moser said. He encouraged those attending the forum to spread the word about Reshoring America. Please go to for more information.

Marion Aiken of the Solano Workforce Investment Board was among those taking part in the panel discussions. He talked about the board’s role as a link between employees and the job sector.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or Follow him on Twitter at

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Business leaders say collaboration key to Solano’s future

Monday, September 17, 2012, 5:45 am

Local economy encourages growth, adapts to challenges
By Eric Gneckow, Business Journal Staff Reporter
Regional leaders in business and economics said that a continued synergy among industries and policymakers in Solano County will be crucial to maintaining its diversity of industries and continued growth.

“In these times, economic challenges have forced more people to work collaboratively,” said Sandy Person, president of Solano Economic Development Corporation. “Solano County has been doing that for a long time. I think Solano County is doing it better.”

Speaking in advance of North Bay Business Journal‘s second-annual Impact Solano conference on Sept. 26 in Fairfield, Ms. Person and other conference speakers said the county’s economy continues to evolve and encourage opportunities for growth while responding to a changed landscape following the worst periods of the economic recession.

Part of those efforts have included leveraging the assets of Solano County municipalities to attract companies across a variety of sectors, including biotechnology, energy and food processing.
Centrally located in what economic professionals call the Northern California Megaregion, Solano County sits at the intersection of several major freeways and railways and has a commercial port, Benicia.

“We’re between the political powerhouse of Sacramento and the business powerhouses of San Francisco and Silicon Valley,” Ms. Person said.

The county also has ample natural gas reserves and weather conditions that have allowed for wind-power developments that will soon exceed 1 gigawatt of annual electricity production — enough to power approximately 1 million California homes.

Despite those assets, Solano’s economy has not been immune to the effects of the recession. Construction, one of the largest among seven industry clusters tracked by the Solano EDC, has been particularly strained.

Yet in that changing landscape, other clusters have thrived. Ms. Person said that the concentration of development in Solano County’s urban areas has allowed for a corresponding concentration of infrastructure, such as wastewater treatment. Those facilities have allowed for a cluster of international biotechnology manufacturers to develop in Vacaville and for Anheuser-Busch to operate a brewery round the clock in Fairfield.

To help provide that workforce, Solano Community College has begun to offer certificate programs in mechatronics (combines mechanical, electrical, computer, software, control and systems engineering), wastewater technology and biotechnology. Such training is a collaborative approach to supporting the regional economy, which also draws an educated workforce from surrounding universities that include the University of California at Davis and California Maritime Academy, according to Ms. Person.

And local business is taking notice. “From a workforce standpoint, there are a number of outstanding colleges in the area,” said Kevin Finger, general manager of Anheuser-Busch’s Fairfield brewery and a conference speaker.

The demand for workers among those employers and others has grown, Ms. Person said. While 75,000 residents commute outside of Solano for work, 30,000 now commute into the county.
As those industries continue to evolve, Solano still maintains its longtime largest employer, Travis Air Force Base. The base employs 15,000 service members and civilians.

“One of the things that Travis lends itself to is not only being a large employer, but funneling federal dollars into Solano County,” said Robert Eyler, Ph.D., chair of the economics department at Sonoma State University and director of the institution’s Center for Regional Economic Analysis. Dr. Eyler is the conference keynote speaker.

While its role in the overall regional economy has waned amid growth in other sectors, the Air Force base still drives growth in other industries in the county. The base has turned toward the local economy for assistance in its own growth, recently holding an “industry day” to gather ideas on sustainable energy production and development of land at the site.

The base infused $1.4 billion into the Solano economy last year, according to Ms. Person.
Solano County had a net gain of 3,700 jobs in July from a year before, according to the most recent job data from the state Economic Development Department.

Trade, transportation and utilities sectors had the highest growth, with 1,300 new jobs. That was followed by 1,000 in leisure and hospitality, 900 in education and 700 in business services.
The overall Solano unemployment rate was 10.3 percent in July, down substantially from 11.9 percent in 2011.

Some challenges are on Solano’s horizon, Ms. Person cautioned. Those include limited space for wind-energy development, which is currently restricted to areas in the Montezuma Hills.
“It’s a very diverse economy,” Dr. Eyler said. “It’s just that they will need to figure out how they will look in the future.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Solano County planners to discuss Highway 12 economic analysis

By Sarah Rohrs/Times-Herald staff writer /
Posted: 07/10/2012 01:00:51 AM PDT

A new study leaves little doubt that Highway 12 improvements could drive a significant economic engine for communities along the corridor.

The Solano Transportation Authority commissioned the Solano Economic Development Corporation (SEDCORP) to examine various improvement scenarios along Highway 12 and their impacts on local economies.

The Solano Transportation Authority board will discuss a draft of the report beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Suisun City Hall, 701 Civic Center Drive.

A main objective is to take an innovative approach to planning highway improvements, SEDCORP President Sandy Person said.

In usual circumstances, an economic analysis is done after a project has been developed, Person said. The report attempts to look at economic improvements before a project has been developed, she added.

"This gives us a head start on goals-setting and land-use planning and other steps," she said.

Currently, the Highway 12 corridor -- from the Lodi airport to Highway 29 in Vallejo -- represents $10.7 billion in revenues to all businesses, households and governments, according to the report's draft summary.

Even minimum improvements to Highway 12 -- many which are being done now for safety reasons -- will boost the region's employment, revenues and worker income, according to the summary.

More extensive improvements, such as wider shoulders, more passing lanes and better intersections, would bolster economic benefits even more.

The maximum improvement scenario looks at economic impacts by widening the corridor to a four-lane divided highway with significant intersection improvements.

This latter scenario would create 7,609 new jobs, result in more housing, and increase sales and property taxes by $42.2 million, according to the summary.

Numerous Solano communities are grappling with the need for greater Highway 12 improvements, Solano Transportation Authority Director of Planning Robert Macaulay said.

Some of those include safer and wider shoulders east of Rio Vista, a new intersection at Bird's Landing, and replacement of the Rio Vista Bridge. No funding has been found for any of these projects.

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Highway 12 economic study to be released Thursday in Rio Vista

Highway 12 economic study to be released Thursday in Rio Vista

Times-Herald staff report/
Posted: 06/27/2012 01:01:16 AM PDT

A study that takes a look at Highway 12 improvements from an economic standpoint will be released 6 p.m. Thursday at a workshop in Rio Vista.
The Solano Economic Development Corporation and the Solano Transportation Authority conducted the study.

It is designed to evaluate the potential economic benefits and needs of the corridor from Lodi through Napa, and preliminary results were discussed at a breakfast meeting earlier this year.

The Rio Vista presentation will take place at the D.H. White Elementary School multipurpose room, 500 Elm Way.

Consultant Economist Robert Fountain of Benicia is expected to talk about the economic effects of widening Highway 12 to handle more cars and provide better efficiency.

The corridor in Solano County faces significant challenges, particularly in Rio Vista, where replacement of the Rio Vista Bridge has been identified as a big need.

The current study does not include Vallejo, though the city will see some impacts from Highway 12 improvements, planners have said.

Study shows better Highway 12 would boost economy

Study shows better Highway 12 would boost economy

highway12, 7/20/11
Trucks and other cars travel on Highway 12 outside of Fairfield . (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic file)
From page A3 | June 28, 2012 | Leave Comment
FAIRFIELD — Improving Highway 12 through Solano County and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta should boost regional business activity that already tops $6 billion annually, according to a new study.

How much ranges from 3 percent to 10 percent, depending on the amount of improvements. Widening Highway 12 to four lanes would generate more job and housing growth than a more modest approach of making only safety improvements to two-lane segments of the highway, the study found.

The Solano Economic Development Corp. prepared the draft Highway 12 Corridor Economic Analysis for the Solano Transportation Authority. Robert Fountain of Regional Economic Consulting did the analysis.
Fountain and the Solano EDC will conduct a workshop on the study at 6 p.m. Thursday at D.H. White Elementary School in Rio Vista.

Study findings are just one more factor for local, regional and state officials to consider when planning a future for Highway 12. Others include the cost of the improvements and environmental factors.

“We have a game plan for the Interstate 80 corridor,” Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said Wednesday. “Highway 12, we’re still having that conversation.”

The draft study begins by looking at existing economic conditions along 52 miles of Highway 12 from Highway 29 in Napa County to east of Interstate 5 near the Lodi airport. It measures economic activity generated by businesses, governments and households within ZIP codes along the highway and comes up with a gross regional product of $6.4 billion.

Manufacturing and food processing is the biggest economic sector. This includes everything from the Budweiser brewery in Fairfield to General Foods in Lodi to wineries to farms. Next comes government employment, which ranges from Travis Air Force Base to Solano County government to schools to the cities of Fairfield, Suisun City, Rio Vista, Isleton and Lodi.

The Highway 12 corridor as measured by the study is home to 161,707 people and 67,145 jobs.

One possibility for the future Highway 12 is to keep it two lanes in rural areas and make improvements only for safety, not capacity. This would add $183 million to the gross regional product, or a 2.9 percent increase, the study estimated. It would add 1,193 jobs and 965 households.

Another possibility is to improve traffic flow on Highway 12 by adding more passing lanes and improving key intersections. This approach adds $332 million in economic activity for a 5.2 percent boost. It adds 2,286 jobs and 1,849 households.

Finally, all of Highway 12 could be widened to four lanes from Suisun City east through the Delta to Interstate 5 near Lodi. This adds $623 million in economic activity for a 9.7 percent boost. It adds 7,609 jobs and 6,154 households, according to the draft study.

The economic study is to go to the Solano Transportation Authority Board of Directors on July 11.
Other, already completed Highway 12 studies look at possible, new Rio Vista Bridge alignments and traffic issues. Solano Transportation Authority Director of Planning Robert Macaulay said the studies are in “silos,” each focusing on their own particular subjects.

“Now we go all into the one big area where we don’t have the walls that divide these studies anymore,” Macaulay said.

That work of synthesizing the various studies will likely take place before the Solano Transportation Authority’s State Route 12 Steering Committee, which has Solano County representatives, and the State Route 12 Corridor Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from other counties as well.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or Follow him on Twitter at

Solano EDC mulls benefits of Highway 12

By Melissa Murphy/
Posted: 06/29/2012 01:07:39 AM PDT

The "lifeblood" that is Highway 12 is under much scrutiny as it is closely evaluated for the potential economic benefits to the region.

Running from Lodi through Solano County to Napa, the highway is a major "vein" of transportation. Major safety improvements have been made along the corridor and possible structural improvements are being studied.

The Solano Economic Development Corporation was hired by the Solano Transportation Authority to complete an economic analysis of the Highway 12 corridor before major studies are completed.

Consultant Robert Fountain with Regional Economics Consulting addressed an audience of about 30 people gathered Thursday night in Rio Vista for a community outreach workshop. The highway runs through the city.

He explained that an analysis like the one conducted by Solano EDC is almost never done.

"This is done in the right order, where the economics is first," he said.

He said the study has already been an eye opener, revealing just how much traffic is on the highway. He said some larger highways in the state see significantly less traffic than the two-lane road.

The study has also shown that, unfortunately, the highway isn't doing much for Rio Vista, as trucks hauling goods pass through the small city without stopping. Instead, the city's revenue is heavily determined by the natural gas industry.

Fountain also noted that the money isn't in agriculture but rather food processing.

"This study is informing you of the economic choices," said Sandy Person, president of Solano EDC. "We're here out of respect to Rio Vista. You've been active and vocal and we want your voices heard throughout this process. The project will be defined by community participation."

Consultants developed three scenarios for consideration:

* Minimum improvement: This scenario includes safety improvements with little capacity enhancement;

* Middle improvement: This scenario includes a slight change in the number of lanes in key traffic areas; and
* Maximum improvement: This scenario is a four-lane divided highway, two lanes on each side with a median and extensive improvements of intersections and access areas.

All scenarios would add to the gross regional product and add to revenues, however, the maximum-improvement scenario would add $622.9 million to the gross regional product and $1.1 billion to the region's revenues.

How the bridge over the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta on Highway 12 will improve with the rest of the roadway also is unknown at this point, according to the consultants.

The presentations during the workshop are available online at

Residents are also asked to answer a couple of questions: What are your top priorities for the development of the corridor and Rio Vista and, if the economy expands, what improvements/amenities/investments do you think Rio Vista and/or the state should consider first?

Follow Staff Writer
Melissa Murphy at

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Highway 12 Economic Study results to be released

The Comprehensive Highway 12 Economic Study results will be presented by consultant economist Dr. Fountain at a workshop sponsored by the Solano Economic Development Corporation. The results will provide an insight as to what could happen to the Hwy 12 corridor if it were widened to enable more efficient traffic capacity. The workshop will be held at 6:00 PM, on Thursday, June 28th at the D. H. White Elementary School multi-purpose room, 500 Elm Way, Rio Vista Ca 94571.

A copy of Dr. Robert Fountain's report can be found here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Early childhood education focus of Solano forum

By Karen Nolan/   05/25/2012 01:03:43 AM PDT

An advocate for high-quality, early childhood education on Thursday urged the Solano business community to speak out against state cuts to programs that benefit the youngest Californians.

"Your voice is tremendously important. You know what this means for your future workforce," Catherine Atkin, president of Preschool California, told attendees of the Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast meeting.

Research focusing on what it takes to succeed in high school, career and college has consistently found that being an engaged learner in third-grade "is critical for future success," said Atkin.

To reach that third-grade target, "kids need to be born healthy, thriving at age 3, successful in preschool and ready for kindergarten at 5," she said, adding that too many California children don't meet those milestones.

"As early as 9 months, low-income children are already lagging in language acquisition," Atkin said. "Low-income children have heard 30 million fewer words by age 3 -- that's less than half the number heard by higher income kids. By kindergarten, they are a year behind their peers."

Those shortcomings can be seen in later test scores, where California students rank near the bottom in math and language arts, she said.

Such deficits can be overcome, she assured, citing access to high-quality preschool and two-year, transitional kindergarten classes for young 5-year-olds as among the programs shown to be effective. Waiting until high school to intervene is too late.

"The best return on investment is in the first five years," said Atkin, putting it in business terms. "The later you invest, the less the return."

As state officials attempt to balance California's budget, a half-billion dollars worth of cuts have been proposed to child development programs, she said.

"We are only 3 percent of the budget, but we are 20 percent of the cuts," Atkin said. "We need the business community to raise their voice. ... We will reap what we sow in the early years."

Follow Staff Writer Karen Nolan at

EDC breakfast stresses early education to ensure career success

FAIRFIELD — Business and civic leaders took in the oft-used message, “it takes a village” to educate a child during Thursday’s annual economic development breakfast focusing on the early years of a child’s life.

While the Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfasts take place monthly, this is the third annual event that focused on the need to start a positive path toward education while the child is young. It was emphasized by various speakers that the path, which starts at birth, can be helped by not only parents and educators, but the business community as well.

The one-hour event, hosted by First 5 Solano, took place at the Hilton Garden Inn.

“The early years matter. . . . Everyone has to help,” said Christina Arrostuto, executive director of First 5 Solano.

While most speakers stressed the early years, Jay Speck, superintendent of the Solano County Office of Education, talked about the mental paradigm shift between what college meant to his generation and what it means today.

“The world has changed . . . . We’ve got to start thinking that college doesn’t have to mean a four-year degree,” he said, referencing the importance of technical and trade schools in that shift.

The keynote speaker, Catherine Atkin, executive director of Preschool California, emphasized the need to connect the dots between the early years and career readiness. The early years are getting our greatest asset ready, Atkin said.

“Where can you put a scarce dollar?” she said when talking about business investments. “Put it in the early years and you will reap the benefits.”

Dilenna Harris, a Vacaville city councilwoman and executive director of the Solano County Library Foundation, spoke about the library’s efforts to increase literacy levels through its Literacy in Education Access Resource Network programs and delivered negative statistics that the U.S., California and Solano County face today.

  • One-third of the nation’s children start school unprepared to learn.
  • More than 40,000 Solano County residents are considered low-literate adults.
  • Solano County’s dropout rate is higher than the state’s at nearly 19 percent.

“Economic development requires an educated and literate workforce,” she said in her presentation.

The event also included the 2012 Family Friendly Business awards given to businesses that provide such things as lactation spaces for nursing mothers or family friendly activities and liberal time off for baby-bonding. This year’s winners are Ball Metal Beverage Corporation, Genentech, Jelly Belly, Kaiser Permanente, Meyer Corporation and State Farm Insurance.

Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or Follow her on Twitter at

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ford: If Singapore can, we can

By Doug Ford/
Posted: 05/04/2012 01:06:09 AM PDT

Last week's Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast provided excellent food for thought for Solano leaders. Sandy Person and her staff have been doing a truly great job. The program on "Industry Clusters as Assets" featured keynote speaker Dr. Robert Eyler, professor of economics at Sonoma State University. His talk complemented all the good work that has been done through the economic summits and the Solano Economic Index during the past few years.
Dr. Eyler described in general terms what we need to do, such as prepare a complete list of our assets and develop answers to the questions he raised: "What assets exist to support this industry and these companies? What assets are missing and need to be found to support this industry and these companies?"
The first step is an asset inventory. Solano is fortunate in having life sciences as its fastest-growing cluster. We have tremendous resources in the University of California campus in Davis -- the most life science-oriented campus in the UC system. One of the first things that Linda Katehi did after she became chancellor was to appoint a blue ribbon committee to review technology transfer and commercialization. An excellent presentation available on her website is "The Role of Universities in Innovation."

So our primary asset is the tremendous brainpower we have in the university. We need to become much better acquainted with all it has to offer.

At the center of our life sciences cluster, we have the Genentech plant in Vacaville -- the largest pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in the world and regularly rated as one of the best companies to work for in the United States.

At Solano Community College, we have the first program created to train workers for biotechnology manufacturing. In the Benicia, Fairfield-Suisun and Vallejo unified school districts, we have high school academies in biotechnology, in which students earn college credit while still in high school.

We have strong educational support for our life sciences cluster, but we have plenty of room to improve.

To complete the work that needs to be done in collecting information about our assets, organizing it to make it easily available to all who need it so we can develop improvement plans will require more staff than Solano EDC now has.

In previous columns, I have briefly described the phenomenal growth of the Singapore economy. It was made possible by the Singapore Economic Development Board, which does for Singapore what the Solano EDC was created to do for Solano County.

Singapore's "life sciences cluster is a growth industry that will be developed as one of the key pillars of Singapore's manufacturing sector," according to "In 1999, the life sciences sector grew by 60 percent in output to reach $6.3 billion with value added jumping 75 percent to $5.2 billion."

Singapore, a nation one-quarter the size of Solano County and with enormous handicaps, focused on creating a life science cluster after we have. Now they are a prime competitor. We need to get busy!

- - -
The author is retired from the U.S. Air Force, lives in Dixon and serves on the Solano County Board of Education.