Monday, November 11, 2013

Solano business forum sees improving economy

Solano business forum sees improving economy

business climate 11_7_13
From left to right, Rob Eyler, Sonoma State economics professor, Sandy Person, Solano Economic Development Corporation president, Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, Travis Credit Union president and CEO, and Brad Bollinger, North Bay Business Journal publisher, hold a discussion at the Impact Solano conference on the business climate in Solano County Friday at the Hilton Garden Inn. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)
From page A3 | November 09, 2013 | 2 Comments
FAIRFIELD — A Solano County business forum on Friday depicted a local economic outlook that continues to brighten, even if reasons for caution remain.

Look for the United States gross domestic product to grow 2 percent to 2.5 percent in 2014, said Robert Eyler, chairman of the economics department at Sonoma State University. California’s economy is forecast to grow 3.2 percent, he said.

“Generally speaking, Solano County is probably going to grow a little faster than California next year,” Eyler said.

Eyler was among the speakers at the Impact Solano forum produced by the North Bay Business Journal and Solano Economic Development Corp. The morning event took place at the Hilton Garden Inn inside a packed conference room.

Eyler added some caveats for California’s economy. The state is getting less and less business friendly. Technology in Silicon Valley is driving much of the economy, but it’s unknown how much longer this can be the case. The state has tax code issues, he said.

The forum also announced the results of a survey of 100 local businesses.

Forty-three percent of respondents said the business climate will be better in a half-year, 50 percent said it will remain the same and the remainder said it will be worse. Almost 65 percent said the local business climate is friendly.

Travis Credit Union President Patsy Van Ouwerkerk said the credit union is starting to see more requests for business loans. The business market is picking up, though there remains a sense of caution, she said.

Solano Economic Development Corp. Chief Executive Officer Sandy Person said that, even though it’s hard for her not to be enthusiastic, given her personality, the past five years have been lousy.

But she has reasons for enthusiasm these days. She pointed out that the Fairfield industrial vacancy rate has fallen to 5.1 percent, about half of the number a year ago.

Among the projects underway is Buzz Oates of Sacramento building two warehouses on Cordelia Road in Fairfield. Encore Glass is moving its winery supply business into one of the buildings.

“We haven’t seen build to suit or spec in a long time,” Person said. “We’re going to see more than that.”

Roger King, president of the Suisun Valley Vintners and Growers Association, talked about the wine industry. The local wine scene got a boost with the recent announcement that the owners of Caymus Vineyard of Napa Valley will build a winery on Cordelia Road that could produce 5 million gallons of wine annually.

Caymus will be doing such things in Suisun Valley as packaging juice from its Monterey County vineyards and shipping, King said. He pointed out that the local wine economy extends beyond local vineyards to such enterprises as wine bottle capsule manufacturing.

Genentech recently announced it will add 200 jobs to the 400 jobs already at its Vacaville plant. Jon Reed, vice president and general manager of the local plant, gave a presentation.

Genentech owns 97 acres in Vacaville and 65 acres are developed. There are 10 buildings with 956,000 square feet of space, he said. The plant operates 24 hours a day manufacturing such pharmaceuticals as Herceptin for breast cancer and Rituxan for rheumatoid arthritis.

The company has two cell culture plants at the Vacaville site. The latest was built in 2007 and decommissioned in 2010 because of too much supply. The announcement in October that this second cell culture manufacturing plant is reopening led to the 200 hires.

Rituxan will be the first product to be produced there, Reed said.

Person asked Reed if Genentech is having trouble finding 200 people to hire. Reed said no, that Genentech as received “tons” of resumes and is conducting about 150 interviews a week.

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