Friday, January 18, 2013

Editorial: Solano EDC brings it all together

Published by The Reporter
Posted: 01/18/2013 01:04:09 AM PST

During its 30-year existence, the Solano Economic Development Corp. has rightfully been credited with guiding major employers and whole new industries to Solano County.
Just as important -- and far less noticed -- is that Solano EDC has become the forum where private industry and government leaders can come together, discuss their challenges and work out common-sense solutions that strengthen the entire county.
That wasn't always the case.
When Solano EDC was born in 1983 (it was known as SED Corp. then), local communities regularly tried to undermine each other in their scramble to bring in jobs, while local businesses often did what they could to keep out competitors.
A peek into The Reporter archives shows that, just prior to Solano EDC's formation, there were two countywide organizations devoted to business development -- one run by government and the other, by private industry -- that worked independently of each other and even publicly bickered from time to time.
Once Solano EDC was formed, its leaders managed to bring those factions together and get everyone to acknowledge that it was more important to bring industry into Solano County -- even potential competitors -- than it was to nitpick about which community that new industry chose to settle in.
Such cooperation has continued through three decades and has led to the rise of Solano County as a center for biotechnology and an expanded food industry built on the region's reputation as an agricultural center.
Solano EDC has been at the helm of improving Solano's workforce by creating ties with the state university system and expanding local college opportunities. It marketed Solano County to the world, and foreign industries responded by bringing their companies here.
Solano EDC has done for Solano County what California has completely failed to do on a statewide level. And now, with the demise of redevelopment agencies, Solano EDC's role in local economic development has become even more vital.
Of course, none of this happened overnight. It took three decades of building personal relationships while reminding the world that Solano County is the "heart" of the Northern California region that stretches from San Francisco to Sacramento -- and the work continues.
How exciting to imagine what the next 30 years could bring.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

County to look at diversifying Solano economy

January 15, 2013         

FAIRFIELD — Solano County has a chance to study creating a more diverse economy that depends less on defense expenditures at Travis Air Force Base.

A $369,000 federal grant is available for the study. The county Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday whether to accept the money. It looks to be an easy decision – the item will appear on the board’s consent calendar, which is reserved for items likely to be noncontroversial and require no discussion.

Supervisors meet at 9 a.m. at the county Government Center, 675 Texas St.

At a glance

  • Who: Solano County Board of Supervisors
  • What: Accept grant to study how to diversify the economy
  • When: 9 a.m. Tuesday
  • Where: Solano County Government Center, 675 Texas St.
  • Info: 784-6100
Solano County doesn’t want to contemplate a less vigorous Travis Air Force Base, much less a base closure. Rather, it wants to study further building an economy that has Travis Air Force Base and a whole lot more.

“It grows the economy around the base so that the base is a smaller piece of the pie, so it is not having an undue influence on the economy, even though it will always be a significant aspect,” county spokesman Steve Pierce said.

At the same time, the study will look at the supply chain serving the base. Then the county can reinforce the supply structures that the base needs, he said.

“It’s a gain all around,” Pierce said.

Travis Air Force Base had its beginnings in 1942 during World War II, when bulldozers carved out two runways in pastureland 10 miles east of Fairfield. Fairfield at the time was a small town with
about 1,400 residents.

A fast-growing base helped transform Fairfield-Suisun, as did the coming of the interstate freeway system and the rise of the commuter culture. Fairfield’s population by 1950 had doubled since the base opened and by 1960 had grown by 10 times, the start of a growth boom leading to today’s Fairfield population of about 105,000.

Today, Travis Air Force Base officials estimate the base’s local economic impact at about $1.4 billion annually. This includes the payroll for 13,368 employees at the base, other jobs created in the community because of the base and contracts awarded by the base to local businesses.

The base is the largest single employer in Solano County and employs about 6 percent of the county’s total industrial work force, a county report said. In addition, nearly 10 percent of the county population is veterans.

A county report said the study will assess:
  • Industry clusters in the county and how much these clusters rely on and benefit from the base.
  • Solano County’s work force and its ability to meet the demands of a more diverse economy.
  • Work force leakage, which is local residents taking their talents to other regions.
  • Potential opportunities to further diversify the county’s economy.
Finally, the study is to recommend a course of action.

If the Board of Supervisors grants it approval Tuesday, the county will look for a consultant to do the study. Results should be available in about 18 months.

Pierce said that the county receiving an economic diversification grant from the Department of Defense isn’t a sign that the base is marked for closure.

“The Department of Defense’s perspective is they want the communities around (bases) to be very viable,” Pierce said. “For a variety of reasons, it helps the bases.”

Mare Island Naval Shipyard closed in 1996 and set Vallejo into an economic downturn. Pierce clearly didn’t want to contemplate a Travis closure.

“It’s more than an economy to us, it’s part of our culture,” Pierce said. “That would be like us losing agriculture.”

Solano County will be the lead agency on the grant study, but intends to involve other organizations as well, a county report said. These include the Solano Economic Development Corporation, the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee, the county’s seven cities, the Solano County Workforce Investment Board and the Solano College Small Business Development Center.

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

Monday, January 14, 2013

Solano EDC celebrating 30 years of service

By Melissa Murphy/
Posted: 01/14/2013 01:01:38 AM PST

Through the bumps, twists, turns, dips and unexpected loops, however, one organization stood steadfast, encouraging business owners and employers along the way.

The Solano Economic Development Corporation, known today as Solano EDC, is celebrating it's 30th anniversary of increasing economic activity, entrepreneurship and job generation in Solano County.

"We sit in a global economy and we're not just competing with another county, but other countries," said Sandy Person, president of the Solano EDC.

Person said California is the ninth largest economic engine in the world and Northern California is globally recognized because of that.

"We're situated in the epicenter of that," she said. "It's a significant marketing plus."

Person has been connected to the corporation since the early 1990s when she volunteered on its board of directors. At the same time there was a hit to the residential and real estate markets and it was then that the corporation took an industry focus and had a policy voice instead of focusing so much on the recruitment and marketing as it had done since its inception in 1983.

However, it was the team of Person, who was now president of the organization, and former president Mike Ammann, who joined the corporation in 2003, that allowed Solano County to make a name for itself.

"We were a dynamic force," Person said.

"We recognized that the state didn't have a plan. It has missed the concept of bringing the tools together to build the economy."

"I love this organization and what it represents," she continued. "It's a spirit of partnership and we have the ability to serve the public and private partnership efforts together."

Ammann said he was behind the name change. Initially dubbed SED Corp., he wanted people to know who they were outside of the county, thus it took on the Solano EDC moniker.

"The (nickname) changed, but the tradition on the inside was maintained," he said. "It was our goal to be more market savvy."

He said even a new logo put a dot on the state of California to show where the county sits within the state.

"We wanted to do anything and everything to be identified outside of California," he said.

Ammann said the corporation's influence grew with "Solano's Got It - The best that Northern California has to offer."

Economic summits also helped Solano County market itself as the "heart of the mega region" between Sacramento and San Francisco.

Even though Solano County is part of the nine-county Bay Area region, it was never really part of the North Bay or the East Bay and the differences between the cities of Vallejo and Dixon are so vast, Ammann said, that Solano County was being pulled in many directions.

"We had to come together to see the overall market," he said. "We were in the perfect position to do that. Solano County is in the best location to serve all of Northern California that way. We had to identify and show the unique assets to outsiders."

He said it was initially hard to identify Solano County, especially to the commuters on Interstates 80 or 680 "who didn't realize they're in the county."

The hard work paid off when the biotech industry sprouted in the county.

Ammann said the county marshaled its resources, marketed its tie to the University of California, Davis, Solano Community College and its proximity to other educational institutions in the Bay Area.

Genentech came as did Novartus.

"We exposed Solano County to the opportunities for the biotech industry," he said. "Maybe the industry hasn't met the expectations of the community because of the economy, but there is solid opportunity for future growth. The whole community can be proud we got our arms around the industry."

He said repositioning Solano County, to make it part of both Sacramento and San Francisco was the positive strategy the corporation had to eliminate the "in betweener" reputation.

"As a community we overcame all of that and came together to sell itself," he said.

Ammann, who is now working as the President and CEO of the San Joaquin Partnership, said there have been some big changes during the last 10 years, and the corporation is prepared for new changes moving forward.

Person, who is now president of Solano EDC, said there will be challenges, but working with Solano EDC means the communities can come up with a solution together to tackle those issues.

Looking to the future, the corporation will continue to market and recruit, but it will also develop programs to serve the existing economic base.

"California has unique problems," she said. "But it's time that everyone pitch in and help in difficult financial times. The economic downturns effect bottom lines and the pushing on businesses can be disproportionate. There should be an equal sense of pain."

Still Person is very optimistic.

"You can't find solutions without a positive outlook," she said and added that being the cheerleader is in her DNA. "We have to appreciate the assets we do have and spread the word."

The 30th Annual Meeting of the Solano Economic Development Corporation is at 11:30 a.m., Jan. 31 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield, 2200 Gateway Court in Fairfield.

The cost is $45 per person, $350 for a table of eight. Sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information or to register, contact Pat Uhrich at 864-1855 or

Follow Staff Writer Melissa Murphy at