In Vacaville and elsewhere in Solano County, the top business story of 2011 was the ongoing housing crisis, namely a staggering number of home foreclosures that continue unabated, coupled with stubbornly high jobless rates as local, state and the United States economies begin a fragile recovery in the lingering wake of the Great Recession.
But there were many other significant stories, too, and here is a top 10 list as compiled by Reporter editors and writers:

No. 1 Continuing economic struggles. Solano County's economy is crawling northward, but isn't expected to reach prerecession levels for several more years, according to a projection by the University of the Pacific's Business Forecasting Center.

California's economic outlook also is gradually improving, but the gap between the Sacramento and Silicon valleys is widening, according to center officials, who released their projections in April.

No. 2 Hospital wars. A fall 2010 announcement by NorthBay Healthcare, stating it planned to open Solano County's first trauma center, launched a new front in the battle with Kaiser Permanente for local hospital market share.

Battle lines were drawn in January 2011 at a meeting of the Solano County Emergency Services Cooperative, the agency that sets criteria for establishing trauma centers. Cooperative members were reviewing the application process for creating a Level III trauma center at NorthBay's Fairfield, when Kaiser Permanente officials confirmed they had hand-delivered a letter of intent just days before, announcing their interest in establishing a Level II trauma center at their Vacaville hospital.

Ted Selby, Solano County's Emergency Medical Services administrator, explained that while there isn't a limit on the number of Level III trauma centers a county can have, the number of Level II centers. By year's end both hospitals had opened Level III centers as the race for a Level II center continues.

No. 3 Shock's owners sublease their store. Saying "it's a family decision," Stacey Powers, longtime owner of Shock's The Home Comfort Store in Vacaville, in June announced she planned to liquidate her stock and sublease the business (opened by her father, James Shock, in 1976) to another furniture merchant on Oct. 1.

Plans were for Powers and her husband, Bud, a retired school teacher, to relocate to Jacksonville, Ore., in the fall.

No. 4 Longtime jeweler Thornton retires. It was a sight and sound never seen heard before at Thornton & Sons jewelers in Dixon: the front door closed and locked for the last time.

Store owner and namesake Jerry Thornton in May announced his retirement after nearly 50 years in the trade, 40 of them as a small-business owner whose stores have long been recognized as a mercantile institution in Solano County.

The closing of the Dixon store leaves one family-owned store in operation, in Nut Tree on East Monte Vista Avenue in Vacaville, remnant of a one-time small jewelry empire that, in its heyday in the early 1990s, boasted five storefronts countywide, including two in the Factory Outlets complex, with annual sales exceeding $6 million.

No. 5 Fresh & Easy opens. With fresh fruits and vegetables, ready-to-go meals and plenty of choices, a new grocery store in Vacaville lived up to its name, Fresh & Easy, and opened its doors in March, the first grocery to open in the city in many years. The store, a 10,000-square-foot space on Elmira Road, is among the first of 13 that the retailer, a unit of England-based supermarket behemoth Tesco, plans to open in the region.

No. 6 Mercedes comes to Fairfield. Long equated with luxury and quality, Mercedes-Benz cars are "exceptional," said David Long, general manager of Mercedes-Benz of Fairfield, which quietly opened Nov. 1 on the city's Auto Mall Parkway.

Owned by Thomas A. Price and Adam Simms of the Price-Simms Auto Group, which also owns Ford Fairfield and other Bay Area dealerships, the newest player on the city's auto row might also be noted for the exceptional building housing some of the world's most stylish and well-made vehicles. The 41,000-square-foot structure, completed in October after more than a year of construction, is a two-story, glass-and-steel affair with a curved frontage, sleek, modern and largely naturally lighted inside, and will eventually be powered entirely by solar panels.

No. 7 EDC chief Mike Ammann leaves; Sandy Person picked as replacement. Mike Ammann, longtime president of the Solano Economic Development Corp., in May accepted the top job at San Joaquin Partnership in Stockton, an organization similar to EDC, and left his $100,000-a-year post in Fairfield on June 14.

EDC Vice President Sandy Person was named interim president at the nonprofit business that promotes the county's economic interests, and, in October, was named president.

No. 8 Westrust acquires remaining Nut Tree parcel. Westrust, the Mill Valley-based developer of Nut Tree and other properties statewide, in July acquired the final 35 acres of the 96-acre master plan for Nut Tree, giving the company primary control of the project.

"I think it's great for the city of Vacaville," said Ricardo Capretta, managing partner of Westrust, which controls 71 acres of the project, including retail space, the Nut Tree Theme Park, commercial office space and land for more than 200 multi-family units.

No. 9 Borders Books closes. A U.S. Bankruptcy Court in July approved Borders Group's plan to sell off its assets, the final nail in the coffin for the 40-year-old chain, which included a store in Nut Tree in Vacaville. With its closure, which resulted in job losses for 30 full- and part-time workers, the owner of the East Monte Vista Avenue shopping complex, Westrust, leased 10,320- and 9,499-square-foot spaces to retailers ULTA, a purveyor of beauty products, and Kirkland's, a purveyor of home decor, respectively. The retailers plan to open in the first quarter of 2012.

No. 10 Travis Credit Union honored. Vacaville Chamber of Commerce leaders in June formally recognized Travis Credit Union, among the largest credit unions in California, as business of the year.

TCU, led by longtime president and CEO Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, was cited for its chamber involvement and support, community involvement, financial literacy programs and business standards.