Posted: 04/27/2012 01:05:06 AM PDT
Solano County continues to hold onto a goal of attracting big businesses to the area in order to boost the economy, but what is it doing to ensure that businesses stay after putting down roots?
That's the question Robert Eyler, economic director of the Executive MBA Program at Sonoma State University, posed to several county and business leaders during Thursday's Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast.
"What are you doing to help them stick around?" he asked. "What lies around (the businesses) to support them long term?"
He said Solano County needs a solid vision, one that focuses on what supports the "clusters," or the concentration of certain industries.
Solano EDC President Sandy Person said they, as well as the chambers of commerce throughout the county, have the objective to create that one voice.
"Retention is a challenging force," she said. "Having one voice will identify a much more effective way to develop the economy."
Eyler said it's not merely finding a place for a business to move into, but working with the business for long-term support.
Just like a garden, he said, needs fertilizer and water -- businesses need complementary resources to keep them in one spot and expand, such as good markets, space availability and financial assets.
He added that having a community that supports different residential price ranges and commercial space will keep people locally instead of commuting to Solano County for work and living somewhere else.
Eyler said shaping the growth in business should match the philosophy of the community.
"You have to get down to the nitty gritty and see where you're at," he said.
Person said the county has momentum with companies like equipment manufacturer Altec in Dixon and car manufacturer CODA in Benicia choosing to stay in Solano.
He took a poll of the group gathered at the breakfast, asking what they see as competitive advantages for Solano County.
The group agreed that having an affordable labor force, the county's location, land/building costs, transportation and the geographical and demographic diversity are all advantages.
However, most of the people said the assets the county has might not match where it wants to be in five years and that some of the advantages could be seen as disadvantages, such as Interstate 80.
Person explained the highway is a great way to move goods, but that one strength can turn into a constraint in an instant when there is traffic.
"It's all about perspective," she said.
The key, according to Eyler, is to look at the assets and match them with goals and get behind the realistic ones.
"You have to constantly evolve as a community with one unified vision," he said.
Follow Staff Writer Melissa Murphy at Twitter.com/ReporterMMurphy.