Monday, February 25, 2013

Assembly members address Solano business, community leaders

From page A3 | February 23, 2013 | Leave Comment

FAIRFIELD — Solano County’s representatives in the state Assembly are getting ready to work on a state budget without facing financial projections awash in red ink, a change from recent years. 

“We are in different times, perhaps more hopeful times,” Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada said at Friday’s Solano Economic Development Corp. monthly breakfast.

Yamada, D-Davis, Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, each represent a different part of Solano County. They addressed a crowd of local business and civic leaders at the Hilton Garden Inn.

California voters stopped the state’s economic bleeding by passing the Proposition 30 tax increases in November 2012, Yamada said. But, even though the situation looks more hopeful, the Legislature must act with restraint, she said.

“We cannot squander this moment in California’s history,” Yamada said.

Bonilla said that Gov. Jerry Brown would probably like the Legislature to rubber-stamp the proposed budget he has submitted. The Legislature won’t do that, she said. But she did say the Legislature will pass a budget by the June 15 deadline, something that has been a rarity in recent years.

“It’s very important we hear from you in the business community,” said Bonilla, who described the budget as a “tax dollar investment.”

The state in recent years cut about $1 billion from the University of California system and from the California State University system, she said. Now the state can begin filling back in the hole it had to dig, she said.

Bonilla also talked about high school education changes that she would like to see. Students can be bored in classes that fail to reflect the 21st century. Students need to do more than learn how to fill in bubbles on a test, she said.

“Those aren’t the people you want to hire,” Bonilla said. “Last time I looked, that wasn’t on a job description . . .”

Schools need to engage students and educate them to think and solve problems. Students might learn in the context of health care, engineering and the arts, Bonilla said. She also stressed the importance of early childhood education.

Frazier said he has dealt with state regulations as a general contractor. He too has “felt the pain,” he told his audience. He talked about updating the California Environmental Quality Act, a topic that Brown has also mentioned.

An audience member during the question-and-answer session said California overregulates small businesses and called the state Environmental Protection Agency a “rogue agency” that needs to be called to account. None of the Assembly members directly addressed his comments.

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

Three area representatives talk issues at Solano EDC breakfast


By Melissa Murphy/The Reporter, Vacaville

A unique opportunity presented itself Friday morning as three state lawmakers joined local business and government leaders to discuss issues facing Solano County this year.
During the monthly Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast, Democrat Assembly members Mariko Yamada, Jim Frazier and Susan Bonilla, shared issues that they're working on at the state level.
Bonilla, who now represents District 14 which includes Vallejo and Benicia, said this year is a time to restore voter confidence in government.
She said the passage of Proposition 30 will help do that.
"You put trust in the state government to make wise decisions," Bonilla said. "We're in a critical place right now in building trust so that we can look at moving forward."
Bonilla noted that before the tax measure was passed, money was cut from education to fill the state's deficit. She said some 400,000 fewer students enrolled in community colleges and 30,000 credentialed teachers were laid off.
Yamada, who represents District 4 which includes Dixon, said while her district boundaries moved she still has a "toe in" the county's northern portion and a vested interest in its economic success.
Yamada noted that Gov. Jerry Brown has emphasized the issues surrounding education, health care and the prison system, but argued that a healthy economy is key to any success.
Jim Frazier, who represents District 11, an area that includes most of Solano, said he's really living the dream by representing the district.
Frazier told the room of business people that he has been a general contractor for years.
"I have felt the pain," he said. "I'm at the state to encourage a better business environment."
Frazier said his desire to participate in public service started after his two daughters were on their way to Lake Tahoe in 2000 and one was killed in a crash. He said it was then that he made sure the California Transportation Department revamped that section of road on Highway 50 so that accidents would stop.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Solano Economic Development Corporation has new board of directors chief

Posted: 02/01/2013 01:07:46 AM PST

There are many reasons the Solano Economic Development Corporation can celebrate.

Solano EDC is celebrating its 30th year in existence, it's only the third time in the last decade the organization has ended the year on solid financial footing by being in the black and, to top it off, it's the first time a woman was chosen to chair the board of directors.

Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, with Travis Credit Union, will lead the board this year.

"Being the first woman to be selected as chair is an honor and I am proud of the board's confidence in me," Van Ouwerkerk said. ... "I now join a long list of chairmen whose drive, talent, skills and vision have enabled the Solano EDC to move forward and attract new business to Solano County."

This coming year, she said Solano EDC will be focused on retention and on attracting new businesses. Ouwerkerk said she's looking forward to working with the board to "enhance and leverage existing public and private partnerships and to develop new ones in order to improve the economic vitality of Solano County."

Ouwerkerk was a good choice, according to outgoing chair Scott Reynolds with Gaw Van Male, who chaired the board from 2008-12.

"You're in good hands," he told a packed room of government and business leaders who gathered Thursday for lunch at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield for the first meeting of 2013. "Patsy is a dynamic and visionary leader."

"It's been an honor to serve the last five years," he added.

Solano EDC President Sandy Person said 2012 really kicked off a "new normal."

Her enthusiasm in the afternoon's presentation was contagious as she delivered some of the highlights from the past year.

She shared that the city of Vacaville boasts a 99 percent occupancy rate in its downtown, while trendy national stores are popping up in the Premium Outlets across town.

Additionally, a state-required $150 million expansion project to the city's Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plan is set to finish this year.

Meanwhile, the city of Dixon saw new growth in its business sector with Altec moving into the area. The company builds products and serves the electric utility, telecommunications and contractor markets and added 100 jobs to the area.

Additionally, Viva Market and Dollar Tree both set up shop in Dixon.

Looking at Solano County, Person explained that the agriculture industry continues to grow, and more specifically, in processing.

A new jail expansion at the Claybank Detention Facility and additional windmills at Shiloh IV in the Montezuma Hills adds to the growing economy, she said.

The county has also been awarded a grant of $369,860 to conduct a study on how Solano County can be less reliant on the ever-changing Department of Defense budget, which is connected to Travis Air Force Base.

The base continues to be a driving economic force in Solano County, according to Col. Dwight Sones, who is the commander of the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis.

"Thank you for all that you do for Travis and our families," he said to the members of the Solano EDC. "We could not do what we do without your support."

Driving home that Travis is "America's First Choice," Sones shared that the base brings $1.4 billion of positive annual economic impact to the county and generates 5,000 jobs, according to 2011 data. He said he expects the data for 2012 will be very similar.

A new runway and landing zone is nearly finished. The landing zone, Sones said, will be ideal for assault training that airmen currently have to travel out of state to do.

The landing zone also will allow other installations to train.

"It will pay for itself in three years," he said. "If you pave it, they will come."

There is some budget uncertainty this year," he said.

The dynamic economic environment means times are tough and will include trimming down and stopping certain activities for the time being to save money.

The good news, he said, is that Travis has a culture of being efficient and innovative and has been monetarily rewarded and recognized nationally for their efforts to be fuel and energy efficient.

Follow Staff Writer Melissa Murphy at

Sones: Travis tightening its belt, improving facilities

February 1, 2013
FAIRFIELD — Budgets may be tight, but Travis Air Force Base is still more than able to carry out its mission, thanks to the dedication of its airmen and a determination to fill the needs of its service members and their families.

That was the central nugget of the talk Travis commander Col. Dwight Sones gave to the Solano Economic Development Corporation’s 30th annual meeting Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Sones said that the base is tightening its belt for the time being after the Air Force directed all major commands to start a series of cost-saving measures in case Congress allows massive cuts to defense spending, called sequestration, to take place in March and if Congress fails to pass an appropriations bill this fiscal year.

Expenses that are not deemed critical to the mission included cutting supporting flying missions not directly related to readiness, implementing a civilian hiring freeze, deferring repairs and renovations that are not emergencies and canceling all travel that is not mission-essential.

“Some things we will have to stop doing,” Sones said.

Sones described the measures as reversible and recoverable. He also described the situation as a very dynamic environment that could change quickly. Action is required now even though sequestration may not take place in March or may be delayed by federal leaders.

“We still have to deal with it,” Sones said.

Sones pointed out that the Air Force has not instituted anything like furloughs or reductions in force. He also promised those present that as Travis gets more information about the situation and any impacts, “We will keep you in the loop.”

He said Travis has gotten a reputation for stretching its dollars, with the base’s recent monetary awards for increasing its fuel and energy efficiency.

The Travis commander also used the talk to give Solano Economic Development Corporation members an economic snapshot of the base and the construction projects going on there.

Travis has $13.7 billion in assets and facilities, has a $1.4 billion economic impact and its spending generates about 5,000 jobs in the community, according to data from the base’s 2011 Economic Impact Report, which Sones quoted.

“And the 2012 data is expected to be very similar,” Sones said.

Travis still has a lot of construction in the works, even though it is less than in the past, Sones said.
It has seen several projects completed in the past year, such as the $5.4 million cargo-loading facility and the $11.9 million new fire station, as well as present projects such as the $14.5 million fuel-distribution system and the $1.7 million military working-dog facility.

The $70 million runway reconstruction and new assault runway construction is expected to be finished in April. The assault runway will be used for training by Travis aircrews and also by aircrews from other bases, “and that is huge,” Sones said. The savings from not sending aircraft elsewhere to train will allow the runway to pay for itself within three years.

A $22 million first phase of an airmen’s campus housing facility is under construction, with completion expected in January 2014 and the second through fourth phases expected in the next several years.

David Grant Medical Center just started the second phase of its planned improvements in November 2012, with $63 million being spent to improve the emergency room and outpatient facilities. Future improvements include the operating room, women’s clinic, and labor and delivery rooms.

Solano Economic Development Corporation President Sandy Person preceded Sones’ remarks by talking about Solano County’s economic situation. She said “there is a recovery in place” that has seen industrial vacancies in the county drop from 15.1 percent to 13.4 percent while unemployment dropped to 9.3 percent.

Person said that every community in the county has seen improvements with new businesses opening and bringing jobs to the area.

Solano Economic Development Corporation also recently embarked on a study funded by a $369,860 Department of Defense grant to examine and make proposals about better diversifying the county’s economy.

“This is not about shrinking Travis,” Person said. “This is about growing the pie.”

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or Follow him on Twitter at