Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Early childhood education focus of Solano forum

By Karen Nolan/ KNolan@TheReporter.com/Posted:   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 Twitter.com/VacaNolan.

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 swinlow@dailyrepublic.net. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ford: If Singapore can, we can

By Doug Ford/thereporter.com
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 BioSpace.com. "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!

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

Altec prepares to open green fleet assembly plant in Dixon

Monday, May 7, 2012, 6:45 am

‘We’ve built the utility industry’s first green-focused assembly facility’

Finished plug-in electric utility vehicle with JEMS -- Altec's Jobsite Energy Management System reducing emissions by going on battery power for boom and bucket operations while idling.

DIXON – Altec Industries Inc. plans to officially open its newly constructed $5.5 million Green Fleet utility vehicle final assembly plant this month, pending receipt of an occupancy permit. The facility is collocated with the company’s west coast service center at 1450 North First Street in Dixon.
More than 300 employees, guests and fleet partners attended the ribbon-cutting on April 24 to commemorate the completion of the structure.

The construction cycle took 269 days from ground breaking on July 28, 2011 to completion in April 2012.

Lee Styslinger III, Altec President and CEO. "We are committed to sustainability in the products we build and the facilities that build them."

“We’ve built the utility industry’s first green-focused assembly facility” said Lee Styslinger III, Altec chairman and CEO. “This plant will be a focus for our Green Fleet products, which includes plug-in electric and all-electric utility vehicles. Altec is committed to sustainability in the products we build as well as in the facilities that build them.”

The 42,40- square-foot facility is more than 25 percent larger than the previous structure, giving Altec the capacity to increase production of its Green Fleet product line by 50 percent over 2011 totals. The company now expects to assemble up to 600 commercial utility vehicles a year, compared with an average annual output of approximately 350 previously.

Congressman John Garamendi, representing California’s 10th District, said his focus is on job creation and “Make It America” initiatives that keep manufacturing in the U.S.

“These green vehicles — made by Altec, made in Dixon and made in America – are a major step forward in greening our economy and are evidence that we can make things locally,” he said at the ribbon cutting.

Some 300 employees, guests and Altec Industries partners at the ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of the new Green Fleet utility vehicle final assembly plant in Dixon.

He said the U.S. spends some $130 billion a year protecting the flow of oil from the Gulf. “Out of this factory will come solutions for reducing energy consumption along with opportunities for the local economy to stabilize itself.”

With this new plant, company officials estimate that 100 new jobs will be added by July 2012. More jobs could be added based on production growth and the expanded use of Green Fleet equipment in California and surrounding regions.

The general contractor for the project was Spanda Industrial of Sacramento, supported by key sub-contractors Elite Electric and Western Engineering.

“This building exceeds Title 24 energy and lighting codes established by the California Energy Commission,” said David Payne, Altec Facility Manager.

Light harvesting prismatic skylights and high output ballasts with T-8 lighting fixtures were installed. Walls are fully insulated and the structure has a cool roof. Building components include locally produced recycled materials. High-efficiency climate controls also helped Altec exceed Title 24 requirements.

An extensive recycling program for metals and other materials has also been implemented.
Based on energy-saving features, Altec expects that its usage will be reduced by 15 to 20 percent over current demands.

“We plan to utilize more disciplined Kaizen manufacturing techniques and advanced structured flow assembly methods. This will give us a lean production model to help eliminate waste, improve productivity, and achieve sustained continual improvement in targeted activities and processes,” Mr. Payne said.

The company specializes in assembling custom truck bodies for the electric utility, telecommunications and contractor markets, as well as for public sector organizations such as the Defense Logistics Agency, the General Services Administration, Homeland Security and other Federal agencies.

Altec will use this facility to expand development and production of its Green Fleet product line using electric, hybrid and compressed natural gas in medium-duty drive train power systems.
Utility partner PG&E is assisting Altec with field evaluations of green truck vehicles to provide feedback and to ensure design integrity.

Des Bell, senior vice president, safety and shared services, with PG&E said his firm is moving away from oil-based fuels to LNG and all electric plug-in hybrids as part of its Green Fleet Initiative.
PG&E has cut its use of diesel and gas by 3.4 million gallons over 10 years, avoiding 6,000 tons of CO2 emissions. This is equivalent to planting 2,000 trees a year for 15 years.

The company has 300 battery- powered vehicles and plans to double this number in three years.
Altec also received significant guidance and support from PG&E and Southern California Edison (SCE) in the development of the new building.

Using Altec’s Jobsite Energy Management System (JEMS), trucks rely on batteries to power cranes and buckets, eliminating noise and greenhouse gases. Some 30 percent of fuel consumption comes from idling vehicles.

Sandy Person, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, said: “Altec’s expansion and 100+ new green manufacturing jobs is a powerful message and a huge WIN for Dixon, Solano County, and California. We are committed to building on its success in developing more opportunities and partnerships that help grow our budding energy cluster.”

Dixon Mayor Jack Batchelor also thanked Altec for being part of a public-private partnership involving the city, county and the company. “It’s a great day for Dixon and local economic development.”

Altec Industries, Inc., with world headquarters in Birmingham, Ala. is a leading equipment and service provider with 23 technical support service centers in North America, including those located in 20 states and three Canadian Provinces.

The company’s products and services are distributed in more than 100 countries. For more information, go to www.altec.com.