Monday, December 8, 2014

Celebrating ‘Spirit of Solano’

Celebrating ‘Spirit of Solano’

By Robin Miller @RobinMiller1883 on Twitter

It was a packed house at Fairfield’s Hilton Garden Inn for lunch Thursday afternoon as civic and business leaders from across Solano County gathered to honor companies they feel best exemplify the “Spirit of Solano.”

The annual event marked its 19th year honoring Solano County’s chambers of commerce and businesses, each chamber selected for embodying a spirit of helping the community and improving the local quality of life.

Vacaville’s chamber nominated and honored its business of the year, Kaiser Permanente, with chamber board president Tracy Mitchell noting the healthcare provider’s commitment to Solano county dating back to 1946, when it first opened its Vallejo facility until today, with its new Vacaville Hospital designated a Level II trauma center.

“Each year, Kaiser Permanente provides nearly $5 million in grants and sponsorships to nonprofit organizations serving Solano and Napa counties, in addition to providing subsidized health care to many low-income families,” he noted From Dixon, family-owned Cat­tlemen’s Restaurant was honored with the chamber noting “their long relationships in Dixon have been extremely important to the success of their business.”

Abby Becker accepted the award and in brief comments said the restaurant “realizes the important of giving back to the community that has supported us” and thanked the community and chamber for the years of support.

The Fairfield-Suisun Chamber honored Chick-filA in Fairfield and The Salvation Army Kroc Center in Suisun City.

Chick-fil-A franchise owner Annette Fortney thanked the chamber for its support and offered a word of encouragement for young people, who may still be looking “for their dream” and uncertain of their future. “Yes, you can,” she said. “If I did it, you can as well.”

The Salvation Army’s Capt. Jonathan Harvey was also grateful and vowed to continue to uphold a “vision of excellence” laid out for the center, which provides a host of programs from art to music, education and recreation.

“We are proud to be able to serve this county,” he said. “Tens of thousands visit and use the facility and like the song says, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

The Vallejo Chamber of Commerce recipient brought down the house, though.

Medic Ambulance and the Manfredi family (its owners) were honored by the chamber for being “all that is good in business and the community,” said Tom Atwood, chamber board president. He noted that from the founding of the business in 1979, the firm has grown from 10 employees and 2 ambulances, to a company with 225 employees and 75 vehicles serving Solano, Sacramento and Placer counties. In addition he noted the company’s plan to open new headquarters in Vallejo in 2015 that will include a state-of-the-art dispatch center, education center, and logistical and administrative office.

Rudy Manfredi then took the stage and joked that he’d been waiting for the honor for years. Praising Vallejo, he quipped that when his family came to America and landed in New York, he wanted nothing to do with the big city. “I said, ‘No, I want to go to Vallejo!’” he insisted, as the crowd roared with laughter.

The list of chambers and honorees included: Benicia Chamber: Alonzo & Small Insurance Agency, Inc.

Dixon Chamber: Cattlemens Fairfield-Suisun Chamber: Chick-fil-A and The Salvation Army Kroc Center Filipino-American Chamber: Skyview Memorial Lawn Solano County Black Chamber: U.S. Military Veteran Family Resource Center, Inc.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014, 6:25 am

Impact Solano to highlight three unique county enterprises

By Gary Quackenbush, Special to the Business Journal

FAIRFIELD — Executives from three Solano County enterprises will be panelists at the Nov.21 Impact Solano conference, which will focus on the State of the Solano Business Climate.
Business leaders from HM.Clause, Guala Closures North America and Mare Island Dry Dock will join Robert Eyler, Ph.D., economics professor and director of the Center for Regional Economic Analysis at Sonoma State University. He will provide an outlook for the global and local economy in 2015.
“Solano County has a growing mix of agriculture, wine, high-tech, research and manufacturing firms that collectively add to the rich texture of our economic community,” said Sandy Person, executive director of the Solano Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
“These firms are often part of a larger supply chain essential to the overall success of key local, national or international industries.”
She said the three companies to be highlighted at Impact Solano are examples of the wide breadth of firms included in the county’s expanding industry cluster that is putting Solano County on the map.

HM.Clause, Inc.

Located at 260 Cousteau Place in Davis, HM.Clause specializes in the breeding, production and commercialization of vegetable seeds varieties for professional growers.
Tamiko Michelle Gaines of HM.Clause
Tamiko Michelle Gaines is director of institutional relations for HM.Clause, which has an Americas office in Davis and is part of Groupe Limagrain of France.
With over 2,000 varieties in more than 23 vegetable crop species, HM.Clause provides innovative solutions to growers worldwide. The company has about 1,600 employees in more than 30 countries.
The firm’s varieties are available in more than 100 countries through 16 commercial subsidiaries and local sales networks.
As one of the world’s top four seed producers, the HM.Clause hub office for the Americas is based in the heart of Solano County’s agricultural region close to hundreds of farmers that use its products.
The company also has a research facility in Solano County staffed by 26 percent of the workforce.
Fifteen percent of annual sales are invested in research at two main laboratories in France and California, along with 12 varietal breeding centers in eight nations — including three in the U.S. (California, Florida and Wisconsin).
Tamiko Michelle Gains, director of institutional relations and development for HM.Clause, will provide an overview of the company, describe its operations and talk about future plans at Impact Solano.
HM.Clause, Inc., is a business unit of Groupe Limagrain, an international cooperative headquartered in France. It markets its seeds under two brand names, Harris Moran Seed Company, headquartered in California, and CLAUSE Vegetable Seeds, headquartered in France.

Guala Closures North America

Guala Closures enhanced decoration capabilities for newest plant, in Fairfield.
Guala Closures in early 2014 installed new small-run aluminum screw cap production equipment with enhanced decoration capabilities at its newest plant, in Fairfield. (image credit: Guala Closures)
Guala is a multi-national manufacturer of custom closures (screw caps and non-refillable closures) for firms in the wine, spirits, water, beer and olive oil industry sectors. The company established its presence in the U.S. with a new facility in Fairfield initially dedicated to small production runs.
Alessandro Bocchio
Alessandro Bocchio is general manager of Guala Closures USA
General Manager Alessandro Bocchio, will present an overview of this firm that markets to producers representing the entire beverage and olive oil industry spectrum.
The world headquarters is located north of Milan, Italy. However, Guala produces 14 billion closures a year at 16 plants around the globe.
“We saw an opportunity to produce screw caps for the wine industry in California and decided to invest in a manufacturing facility that is now up and running in Solano County,” Mr. Boochio said.
“As part of our entry strategy, we developed new technology to serve the job-lot market and invite clients to work with professionals at our Guala Closure Design Studio to develop branded closures for small production runs нн- as few as a single box — often used for special promotions, weddings, anniversaries, company milestones or other events.”
He said over the next two to three years the company plans to expand operations at Fairfield and gear up for large-scale manufacturing.

Mare Island Dry Dock

Coast Guard ship at Mare Island Dry Dock
U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star had $5.1 million in repairs in August 2014 at Mare Island Dry Dock in Vallejo before setting off for Antarctica. The project employed 70 for three months.
Mare Island Dry Dock, LLC, is a privately held firm with more than three decades of experience in the maritime industry along the East Coast. It is now based at 1180 Nimitz Ave. in Vallejo with 86 employees.
Executive Vice President Christine Snyder is set to talk about how Mare Island Dry Dock is able to handle ships of all types, including cruise ships, coastal tankers, barges, commercial freighters, ferries, Military Sea Lift Command, Coast Guard and U.S. Navy vessels.
The company’s 18-acre site has berth space up to 1,300 linear feet, and two concrete gravity dry docks (680 and 720 feet long) that can handle ships under fully loaded conditions.
“We’re no longer in the moth-ball fleet dismantling business and now provide a wide range of services for active carriers,” said Ms. Snyder.
Services include essential ship repair and conversion, turbine overhaul and welding, vessel berthing, reduction gear repairs, structural steel renewal as well as steel and aluminum fabrication and emergency ship services.
This special event is presented by North Bay Business Journal, in cooperation with co-hosts Travis Credit Union and the Solano EDC, and with underwriting from NorthBay Healthcare. The session starts at 7:30 a.m. at the Fairfield Hilton Garden Inn.
Limited seating is available. To register, visit or call Linda Perkins at 707-521-5264.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Solano business leaders told state election likely to be a quiet one

By Melissa Murphy @ReporterMMurphy on Twitter
Posted:   10/29/2014 08:50:54 PM PDT

Given that the November election is Tuesday, the Solano Economic Development Corporation isn't taking sides, but wants to stay informed.

Sacramento Bee Political Columnist Dan Walters shared with those gathered for the monthly Solano EDC breakfast Wednesday morning what voters should expect to see when polls close next week.
Walters characterized this election as "bizarre" and "weird" given that the most interesting race is for state schools superintendent, otherwise, he said, it will be another sweep by the Democrats.

He also explained that there are enough seats in play where the Democrats could lose the super majority, but other than "bragging rights," Walters said it won't make that big of a difference.
He added that voter turnout will be low with a best case scenario of 40 percent or slightly higher of registered voters actually casting their votes.

"There is not much contest for governor, there are no barn burning ballot measures and no senate race," Walters said. He explained that the Republicans do have a better chance of getting a seat in low voter turnout elections because that's when the Democratic vote turnout drops.
"The real game in this election is the senate contest, which California has no part of," he said. "California is on the sidelines of the main game of politics."

Walters also shared his thoughts on California's economy.
"The good news is we're still coming out of a recession," he said. "Which is better than still being in the recession."

However, while it looks like the state has regained the jobs it lost during the recession, Walters said to look more closely at those numbers.
"The reality is that California's population has grown," he said. "It's growing slowly."

California, he said, continues to lose people to other states and its unemployment rate is still high.
"We haven't really gained ground," he said. "Our unemployment rate is still one of the highest in the country."

Also, he said that just because it shows the state has gained jobs "it does not mean those are the jobs we need or want for economic recovery."
He said poverty rate, when factoring in cost of living, means California's rate is at 23.8 percent.

"There is a higher cost of living in California," Walters said. "In relation to income, it's by far the highest rate."
He added that the Bay Area counties have the highest poverty rates in the state.

"The incomes don't keep up with the cost of living," he said.
Walters also noted that the cycle of one boom and one bust every decade has "corrosive effects" on the economy.

"It's difficult to encourage investment when they're wondering when the next bust will happen," he said and added that California has a difficult investment climate.
Walters said that while state elected officials say they're going to change the dense regulatory investment climate, they have yet to do anything about it.

"It's hard to do business in California," he said.
Another hit to the business climate in the state is its infrastructure, according to Walters.

"We have crappy highways in California," he said. "Your car tells you when you've hit the state line. ... It's simply falling apart because we've neglected it."
He added that the states in the South that some would consider "backward" have better roads.

Walters did say that California does have some positives including its entrepreneurial spirt, access to the coast and its University of California system. However, he said, the state can't continue to rely on those aspects without making some changes.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

California and Solano County wants businesses to stay

By Melissa Murphy @ReporterMMurphy on Twitter
Posted: 08/13/2014 07:06:44 PM PDT

The state is reaching out to businesses through various tax exemptions to keep them in California.

Patrick McGuire, senior business development specialist for Gov. Jerry Brown and the Office of Business & Economic Development (GO-Biz), stopped by the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce Wednesday morning to share with business leaders that changes have been made for the state to invest in businesses already in California.

"We're helping existing long-term California companies," he said and added that while it might seem that businesses are flocking to outside of the state, businesses are also relocating to California.

GO-Biz services include investment services, permit assistance, international trade and innovation. They're also getting the word out about the Government Economic Development Initiative that provides sales tax exemptions, hiring tax credit and the California Competes tax credit.

California Competes is part of the governor's Economic Development Initiative (GEDI). A total of 396 companies applied and requested more than $500 million in total credits. GO-Biz evaluated the most competitive applications based on the factors required by statute, including total jobs created, total investment, average wage, economic impact, strategic importance and more.

The California Competes Committee approved $28.9 million in tax credits for 29 companies expanding and creating jobs in California.

"The inaugural round of California Competes awardees represents a broad range of industries and regions across California," said committee chair Michael E. Rossi, in a press release. "I am confident these companies will use the tax credits to invest in their business, hire more people and contribute to California's ongoing economic growth."

The awards approved by the committee are projected to help these companies create almost 6,000 jobs and generate more than $2 billion in investments across California. Awardees are exempted from paying state income taxes in the amount awarded.

An additional $150 million in tax credits will be allocated this fiscal year and companies not selected in the first round are eligible to reapply once the next application period opens.

The GEDI also includes a hiring credit for areas of high unemployment and poverty, and a sales and use tax exemption for the purchase of manufacturing, biotech and R&D equipment.

McGuire explained that one company cannot get more than 20 percent of the pot and that 25 percent has been earmarked for small businesses.

"It really benefits everyone more equally when everyone can apply," said Sandy Person, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation and added that the tax credits aren't targeting specialized districts.

"We're helping companies now apply for this," she said. "Economic development is a team sport. It takes the local leadership, the county and the state to work together."

McGuire also pointed to the California Capital Access Program, Cal-CAP, which encourages financial institutions to make loans to small businesses that fall just outside their conventional underwriting standards. Cal-CAP is a form of loan portfolio insurance that provides up to 100 percent coverage on certain loan charge offs.

Person said the challenge is where to start and that's when Solano EDC is there to help navigate.
"To bring those tools and resources to the businesses is a challenge, but California is making an effort," she said.

For additional information visit or visit

Monday, August 4, 2014

County unveils Solano economic diversification study

By Barry Eberling
From page A1 | August 02, 2014               

FAIRFIELD — Solano County wants to diversify the local economy, with ideas ranging from creating a new look along Interstate 80 to better training the workforce to meet local job demands.

Travis Air Force Base is the county’s largest employer, with 13,400 workers and an estimated $1.6 billion annual economic impact. The county’s stated goal is to find ways that the area can better weather defense spending fluctuations.

Solano County used a $369,860 federal Department of Defense grant over the past 18 months to address the issue. The result is 300 pages in economic reports by consultants Economic Planning System Inc.

Solano County calls the effort Moving Solano Forward.

The county Board of Supervisors will discuss the proposed Moving Solano Forward strategies Tuesday. The session takes place at 2 p.m. at the county Government Center, 675 Texas St. Supervisors will begin their meeting at 9 a.m. discussing other topics.

“As the county regains its footing after the recession, the next phase of commercial growth will be instrumental in setting the tone for future economic growth and development,” the county economic report said.

The report calls for county civic and business leaders to align themselves and work together to diversify the economy.

County Senior Management Analyst Stephen Pierce on Friday compared Moving Solano Forward to a barn raising. Each party has different skills, but when they get together, the barn goes up, he said.
The county conducted 10 forums over a year to engage public and private sector leaders on how to diversify the local economy, a county report said. The mayors from the county’s seven cities and the county supervisors participated in the Moving Solano Forward effort.

All of this has resulted in a number of proposed goals to be pursued by various local agencies and groups over the coming year.

For example, one priority is to conduct a “visioning study” on how to enhance the I-80 corridor. Ideas in the report include establishing countywide design standards for architecture and fencing, exploring various branding opportunities such as “Prosperity Corridor” and refining signage to highlight key gateways.

Pierce called the freeway the “Main Street” of the county.

Solano County is to take the lead on the I-80 study. It is to work with the Solano Transportation Authority, school districts, the brokerage community, colleges and Solano Economic Development Corp.

Among the other first-year goals are:
  • Determine real estate and labor needs for potential businesses in major county business clusters, such as biotechnology. Solano Economic Development Corp. is to be the lead group.
  • Develop an economic development messaging strategy. Solano Economic Development Corp. is to be the lead group.
  • Form a countywide crime rate improvement and prevention task force. The county Police Chiefs Association is to be the lead group.
  • Connect public and private schools and communities through formal partnerships with local businesses, nonprofit groups and community organizations. The Solano County Superintendents Group is to be the lead group.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider approving the economic study and Moving Solano Forward strategies. The reports will be presented Aug. 14 to the City County Coordinating Committee – a meeting of the seven mayors and Board of Supervisors. They will be presented at the Aug. 28 Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast.

Comments received will be incorporated into a final version of the economic report to be completed in the fall.

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

Solano County looks to strategically diversify its economy

By Melissa Murphy

The Reporter, Vacaville @ReporterMMurphy on Twitter
Posted: 08/02/2014 09:20:40 PM PDT
Solano County continues to explore ways to grow and diversify its economy.

Tuesday, the Solano County Board of Supervisors will receive a presentation and public comment at 2 p.m. on the draft 2014 Solano County Economic Diversification Study report, available online at

The need for economic diversification, according to the county, stems from Solano coming out of the great recession and to strategically strengthen promising industry sectors in order to hedge against Travis Air Force Base funding fluctuations. The county noted in the report that Travis is a primary driver of the county economy. It's the largest employer with annual economic impacts that reach $1.6 billion.

In a report to the board, staff explained that the Solano Economic Development Corporation was asked to assist the Office of Economic Adjustment in conducting an economic diversification study. The OEA, according to staff helps communities with local economies that have significant Department of Defense expenditures.

In January 2013, the board of supervisors accepted a grant to develop a countywide economic strategic approach "to further diversify the Solano County economy so that the local economy is not as dependent on defense expenditures at Travis Air Force Base and to create a sustainable economic base that enables residents and businesses to thrive and prosper independent of budget cycles and changing priorities related to defense spending."

Moving SOLANO Forward was then created and input was collected from various public and private sector leaders that explored the county's demographic and economic profile, existing economic development ecosystem, and viable industries and clusters.

The vision of Moving Solano Forward is for the Solano County region to "work collaboratively to create a diverse and robust economy focused on city-driven growth, desired industry cluster growth in targeted locations, viable agricultural uses and strengthened recreational assets that expand economic opportunities for employers and residents."

The goals of the economic diversification include enhancing countywide development capacity, strengthening regional economic development and workforce development programs and services, and improving quality of life for county residents and businesses.

During the process the analysis refined the characterization of Solano County's existing targeted industry clusters by adding the "advanced materials industry" cluster to those clusters that already exist, energy, food chain, and medical/life sciences.

The advanced materials cluster, staff explained, includes a wide array of high-tech engineered materials, components, and systems, as well as the commodities, products, processes, and instruments to make and monitor the materials.

"Focusing economic development efforts on these clusters will support the potential job and wealth creation in the county as well as strengthen the local economy as a location for these distinct economic activities," staff said.

Additional presentations will be made before the 4Cs, Aug. 14, and Solano EDC, Aug. 28.
The final Diversification Report is expected to by completed in September.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors meets at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the County Government Center, 675 Texas St., Fairfield.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Orcem poised to make Vallejo a manufacturing mecca, officials say

Firm envisions Vallejo as a manufacturing hub

The Dublin, Ireland-based "green" white cement manufacturing firm Orcem could become a huge economic driver for Vallejo, the region and the state, speakers at a Thursday breakfast meeting agreed.

Representatives of several regional political figures, Vallejo's economic development department, city government and others filled the Courtyard by Marriott banquet room for the event, presented by the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce and the Solano Economic Development Corporation and hosted by Orcem.

Rebuilding the country's manufacturing capacity is fundamental to its economic health, the speakers agreed. Orcem's proposed reuse of the old South Vallejo General Mills plant is exactly the type of project they mean, they said.

Speakers at "Manufacturing Matters," the name of Thursday's presentation, all noted a need to capitalize on the nation's economic recovery by reinventing America's nearly lost manufacturing sector.

Kish Rajan, Governor Jerry Brown's Office of Business and Economic Development director, said that while some areas of the state, like Silicon Valley, San Francisco and San Diego, are already booming with high-tech manufacturing, other areas, like the state's Inland Empire remain in a quagmire of low job development and high unemployment.

"They lack the 21st Century infrastructure required to succeed and we must change that trajectory in those communities or risk further bifurcation between the high-tech hubs and the others who will be left behind," Rajan said.

This will be accomplished through a renewal of the faltering middle class, he said.

"The bread-and-butter industrial centers need to be rebuilt," as the ladder workers have traditionally climbed to higher social-economic levels, he said.

One of those is manufacturing and the state has recently created some incentives to encourage this, including business tax credits and, starting July 1, a sales tax exemption for the purchase of equipment, he said.

"From hot sauce to rocket ships, California is a leader and we must create the conditions where these industries can grow and thrive," Rajan said.

The state need not sacrifice environmental health to achieve these ends, he said.

"We know these objectives can be harmonized; that the infrastructure for industry can be re-purposed for modern use," he said. "I'm very pleased to see Orcem here, and encourage it. This seems to be the type of project we're talking about."

Orcem America president Steve Bryan explained how the product his firm is already creating in Europe can help propel Vallejo to the forefront of a new statewide manufacturing boom, by producing an environmentally friendly cement using an eco-friendly process.

Orcem produces a white-colored, durable cement out of a by-product of Japanese steel-making. They propose to bring the raw material, which looks and behaves like wet sand, to Vallejo in ships that already carry grain to Japan, but now return empty.

The material will be ground into the final product inside a machine, inside a specially-built structure, and shipped by truck to distributors.

The production process replaces the current high-C02-emitting cement-making process with one with a nearly zero carbon footprint, he said.

The firm proposes to invest $50 million in Vallejo, creating 140,000 hours of union construction work, and some 60 permanent jobs, half of those indirectly.

It will mean some $360,000 in annual tax revenue for the city, about $410,000 for Solano County and about $13 million annually to the area's GDP, Bryan said.

Should the project go forward, building will take about 18 months and officials hope it will be operating by 2016's second quarter.

He suggested that Orcem's project could inspire other economic development in Vallejo, as businesses often like to be near the source of their materials.

Vallejo Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rich Curtola said that as a Vallejo native, he can feel change in the air.

"There's something happening in my home town," he said. "It's palpable. I can't explain it, but something's going on here."

Call Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at 707-553-6824.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Talk with children campaign takes off

Talk with children campaign takes off

May 30, 2014
FAIRFIELD — A “talking is teaching” campaign aims to educate parents about the importance of communicating with their children, people who attended a Solano Economic Development Corp.
breakfast meeting heard Thursday.

Susan True, who has a master’s degree in business administration from Stanford University and was introduced as among the smart, talented and driven people from the Bay Area, said grandmothers have always known that when a baby coos, you coo back.

Playing peek-a-boo, True said, “is top-notch neuroscience.”

Now a public education campaign will emphasize those and other points in a Bay Area Council program to reinforce the message promoted by First 5 California, the statewide commission established after a 1998 ballot proposition championed by actor Rob Reiner.

Tote bags and a clothing line are among the methods to promote Talking is Teaching.

True told the Solano business group that Hollywood screenwriters, along with Hillary Clinton, are emphasizing that message as well.

“Our approach is to turn the world into a learning opportunity,” True said.

Clinton is part of a Too Small to Fail program to aid young children and she and Reiner are galvanizing screenwriters to include the Talking is Teaching message in entertainment, True said.

The Bezos Foundation established by the founder of is creating a computer application to emphasize Talking is Teaching, True said, and “Sesame Street” is participating in the effort as well.

The Stanford MBA grad said that when, as a child, her grandfather read stories and her mother read books to her, “I knew I was loved.”

She cited an article in The New York Times about what a writer called “capital S stress” – the daily setbacks that True said residents of very high-poverty communities face. Such problems reinforce that they have little control over their lives and, over time, impede the early childhood development of their offspring, True said.

Children hear, “Sit down” and “Stop playing” while children in affluent families may be told, “I love the way you tie your shoes,” True said.

Socio-economic disparities are evident at 18 months, she said. By age 2, children in high-poverty communities are likely to be six months behind their affluent peers, True said.

True said the public education campaign is taking its cue from Kaiser Permanente broadcast spots that promote health and talk about the benefits of walking up the stairs at Bay Area Rapid Transit stations rather than taking an escalator. Kaiser Permanente’s messages keep it simple about promoting health, she said.

A First 5 California commercial announces that babies brains develop “with your every word.”

“It’s free and easy and something you can do any time,” the announcer says. “Talk. Read. Sing.”

Suisun City Councilman Mike Segala, who attended the event, said not all children will be doctors, attorneys and CEOs. The Bay Area Council campaign should include such messages as “My daddy’s a carpenter” and “My mommy’s an electrician” when emphasizing the importance of parents talking to their young children, he said.

True agreed and said message testing with First 5 California found some families offended by images of only doctors and engineers in white-collar jobs.

“They don’t have to be going to Harvard,” she said of students. But we want to make sure they have skills, True said.

Segala after the event spoke about the crucial role of parents and family in children’s success and recalled how as the father of two daughters he linked their allowances to reading books. One daughter is now a civil engineer and the other is a geologist.

Jay Speck, Solano County superintendent of schools and chairman of the First 5 Commission for the county, said during the meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn that the Talking is Teaching program is “shining a light on the importance of early learning.”

“All the dots lead back to early childhood,” he said of success in school.

“The need in our community is limitless,” Speck said.

Every $1 spent on preschool returns $2.78 in the future, he said.

Speck quoted the late writer Neil Postman, who said, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we may not see.”

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or

Friday, April 25, 2014

ICON Articles

 ICON unveils first production version of its A5 aircraft

Vacaville Reporter

Click photo to enlarge
The production version of the A5 takes its maiden flight over Tehachipi on Monday. (Courtesy ICON)
ICON Aircraft has unveiled the first production version of its A5, an aircraft the company refers to as Engineering Serial Number 1 (ESN-1).

This is the first A5 built from the production design, with production tooling, and using production methods and components. ESN-1 was built over a five-month period, from January to June, and successfully completed its first flight on July 7 in Tehachapi. Its official unveiling was done at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisc., on Monday. This aircraft is one of three that will be used to verify performance and complete FAA approval prior to the start of customer deliveries in May of 2015.

ICON recently announced that it would begin operating in its new 140,000-square-foot facility in Vacaville, in early 2015. The company is currently readying the factory and offices to begin full-scale manufacturing. Once at full production rates, the factory will be capable of producing more than 500 aircraft per year.

"This is one of the most significant milestones to date for ICON. It represents the culmination of years of research, design, engineering, and manufacturing dedication by an outstanding team," said ICON Aircraft Founder and CEO Kirk Hawkins in a press release Tuesday. "The A5 is no longer a prototype or concept aircraft; it's a sophisticated, production-ready, consumer-focused aircraft. The entire ICON team is pouring its heart and soul into bringing the A5 to our customers, and it shows in the truly exceptional execution of the product. I couldn't be prouder."

"The A5's development has been a massive undertaking," said ICON VP of Engineering and CTO Matthew Gionta. "The amount of intellectual horsepower and years of relentless commitment that has gone into this aircraft is impressive. The ICON team worked tirelessly to make the A5 a reality; it is difficult to convey the magnitude of work involved to bring a new aircraft to market, much less one balancing all the demanding design requirements of the A5.

Before we could even begin designing the aircraft's 1600-plus unique components, the team spent thousands of hours designing, building, testing, and iterating the proof of concept aircraft to get it right. Only then could we design the production 2 parts, the tools to manufacture them, and work with the 100 or so suppliers that are contributing components to the A5," explained Gionta. "With ESN-1 complete and ESN-2 under construction, we are now looking toward FAA approval, after which we will begin customer deliveries. I can't wait for our customers to finally experience the finished product."

ESN-1 was built at ICON's facility in Tehachapi, and made its first flight from the Tehachapi Municipal Airport earlier this month. A video from the fligth can be viewed at

"ESN-1 performed very well on its first flight," said ICON Test Pilot and Lead Aero Engineer Jon Karkow, who was at the controls for the flight. "Its flight characteristics are similar to the proof of concept aircraft, which logged more than 700 flights, with the same responsive character and control harmony. The hard work of the engineering and production teams is very clear."

A second production prototype, ESN-2, is currently under construction and is scheduled for completion and structural testing this fall. The first three aircraft built will support the FAA approval process, and the third aircraft will be delivered to the first customer after that process is complete.

To celebrate EAA AirVenture and the completion of ESN-1, ICON is auctioning one of the early ICON 100 production positions, serial number 030, which is scheduled for delivery in early 2016. The company will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Veterans Airlift Command, a non-profit charity that provides free air transportation to post 9/11 combat wounded and their families through a national network of volunteer aircraft, owners, and pilots. For more information about the auction, visit

Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 4:48 pm

ICON Aircraft to bring hundreds of advanced manufacturing jobs to Vacaville

By Gary Quackenbush, Special to the Business Journal

ICON Aircraft factory in Vacaville
Architectural rendering of the planned ICON Aircraft factory in Vacaville that would employ hundreds of workers starting in early 2015. (credit: ICON Aircraft)
VACAVILLE — ICON Aircraft founder and CEO Kirk Hawkins on Wednesday said this manufacturer of a new generation of amphibious light sport aircraft will be moving all company functions from Los Angeles to a 140,000-square-foot facility near the Vacaville airport in coming months.
This facility, at 2141 Beechcraft Rd., will consolidate all company functions, including aircraft design, manufacturing, sales, training, service, as well as the firm’s corporate headquarters.
ICON Aircraft's new A5 model
ICON Aircraft’s new A5 model
Mr. Hawkins said ICON already has 1,000 orders for the twin-seat aircraft that can land on runways or in the water. The first customer aircraft, called the A5, is scheduled to be completed and delivered by 2015. Initially this production center will employ 150 workers rising to 500 or more as output increases.

The price tag on the A5 is $189,000. Only two weeks of training at this center adjacent to the Vacaville airport runway is required to qualify for a daylight/good weather/low altitude Light Sport Aircraft license, including 20 hours of flight time. Training cost is extra and the fee has yet to be determined.

The annual economic impact on Vacaville and Solano County is estimated to exceed $350 million through wages paid, local purchases made by ICON, and increases in employee and visitor spending, as well as sales and property tax revenues to the city and county once the company is at full production rates.

Correction: An earlier version of this article included an outdated
price for the A5 aircraft. The article now reflects updated information.


Sport aircraft company relocating to Vacaville

By Susan Winlow
May 15, 2014 

VACAVILLE — It was love at first sight for many on Wednesday.They touched. They circled. They looked underneath, on top and marveled at the beauty. “Talk about a cutie,” Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez said.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, caressed the carbon fiber outside and said, “Doesn’t it make you want to say, ‘Can I buy one, Patty?’ ”

The object of everyone’s affections was the new lightweight, compact amphibious sport plane, the Icon A5. The fact that the up-and-coming startup company chose Vacaville as its permanent place to land and begin full-scale production had an enthusiastic crowd of supporters – including state, county and city officials – on their feet with ovations a few times during the hourlong presentation to formally announce the company’s arrival in Vacaville.

Icon Aircraft has leased a 137,940-square-foot building on Beechcraft Road, adjacent to the Nut Tree Airport. The company, which already has more than 1,000 preorders on the $139,000 plane, is looking to roll out its first A5 from the Vacaville warehouse in early 2015.

Icon CEO Kirk Hawkins said the Icon A5 is designed to create an emotional feeling and “reinvent flying,” changing the face of personal aviation by making it more accessible. The airplane’s classification allows pilots to fly it with a sport pilot license that requires about two weeks of training, he said. That training will be supplied at the Icon location to those who purchase an A5.

The two-seater sport plane with foldable wings can land on both water and solid ground and is designed for speeds of 120 mph and a range of up to 300 miles. It burns both auto and aviation fuel.
“I call it human bladder duration,” Hawkins said, joking, about the fuel mileage distance.

It’s been a long time coming. The city began the flirting and wooing process more than three years ago. During that time, Hawkins, a former Air Force pilot, said the company took its location search all over the country, with sites in Texas, Arizona and California the final contenders.

The move will allow the company, which started in 2006 in the Silicon Valley and is currently located in Southern California, to locate its entire production – manufacturing, sales, training, service and corporate headquarters – at one location.

Hawkins said that despite the reputation of California being unfriendly to businesses, Vacaville “made us feel wanted.”

“This community went above and beyond,” he said. He cited the nearby locations of “world-class destinations,” the terrain, nearby lakes, the year-round flying weather and the area’s talent pool as reasons why the company chose Vacaville.

The positive economic impact to the area will be a boon to the city, the county and Solano Community College, which has also been a cornerstone in the efforts to bring the airplane company to Vacaville. A partnership between Icon and the college looks to possible internships, job opportunities for graduates and the creation of specific educational vocational classes and programs for Icon employees.

The company is estimating the creation of 500 local jobs, Hawkins said, with an all-told economic impact estimated to eventually exceed $350 million, citing revenue-generating activities such as local wages paid, local purchases made by Icon, increases in visitor and employee spending, plus sales and property tax revenue.

“This is truly a great day – there is not an appropriate adjective to describe this,” Vacaville Mayor Steve Hardy said.

Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or Follow her on Twitter at

ICON formally confirms move to Vacaville

Officials describe it as a perfect fit
By Kimberly K. Fu @ReporterKimFu on Twitter

It's official — ICON Aircraft is coming to Vacaville.

The announcement was made Wednesday to uproarious applause during a press conference at the Southern California-based company's soon-to-be headquarters on Beechcraft Drive.

Also applauded — a model of the prototype of the A5, an amphibious light sport aircraft that's generated much excitement and more than 1,000 pre-orders even though it's not yet on the market.

"We spent the last few years looking for our future home and we looked all over the country and in many states," explained Kirk Hawkins, ICON CEO and cofounder. "As of today, ICON, not just in the state of California, but ICON and all its functioning departments, are moving to Vacaville."

ICON's aircraft design, manufacturing, sales, training, service and corporate headquarters are slated to move into its 140,000-square-foot facility near the Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville later this year.

That news has been at least three years in coming.

Back in 2011, Vacaville City Manager Laura Kuhn heard about ICON and that it wanted to relocate. After learning more about the company, she initiated contact and let Hawkins know ICON could be a great fit within the city.

For one thing, Vacaville is home to military veterans, close to Travis Air Force Base and boasts the Nut Tree Airport, which houses the planes of many recreational pilots. Hawkins is a former Air Force F-16 pilot with a determination to build the A5, a luxury recreational "power vehicle."

For another, the gas-powered aircraft can take off and land on water as well as traditional runways, and Vacaville is close to numerous waterways including Lake Berryessa.

The city is also located between major markets — the Bay Area and Sacramento — and the A5's clientele of recreational fliers would have the option of touring everything from San Francisco to the Napa Wine Country to Lake Tahoe and beyond. The plane reportedly can fly for three hours and 300 miles and has a gas mileage of about 20 miles per gallon.

Hawkins and his team soon connected with Kuhn, visiting the city about 20 times in the past few years. Meanwhile, ICON also considered locations in Arizona and Texas.

What turned the tide, Hawkins said, is that Vacaville met or surpassed every need. The city is business friendly, he said, has excellent facilities, is close to world-class destinations, has year-round flying weather and more.

He pledged job opportunities of at least 500 to upward of 1,000, all high-paying, and said the city is destined to become a global destination, with clientele from all over the world.

City officials have long touted the jobs aspect, which means qualified local residents could make a living wage and work closer to home.

Sales-wise, the company comes with a huge order for the planes, which carry a near-$200,000 price tag. Once the manufacturing plant is in place, production is said to take a couple of weeks. The first build is expected to be completed in early 2015.

Last year, the city approved an agreement with ICON including incentives such as sales tax rebates and the sharing of the transient occupancy tax. Aside from tax revenues, the city would benefit from clients staying and recreating locally during the mandatory two-week flight training they must undergo before taking possession of an A5.

Tourism is another potential benefit, with the Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum also set to be built.

And, a partnership with Solano Community College and its aviation program is in the works.
SCC President Jowell Laguerre said the program is being redesigned with ICON in mind, in hopes of creating a labor pipeline for the business and guaranteed careers for graduates.

City spokesman Mark Mazzaferro said officials continue to help ICON through the permitting process.

Hawkins cautioned that there's more to be done.

"We've still got a lot of climbing to do, a whole facility to build," he said, adding that, already, Vacaville feels like home. "We're honored to be part of the community."

For more information on ICON, go online to

ICON still mum on Vacaville location

Posted: 04/25/2014 09:06:34 AM PDT

ICON Aircraft Inc. continues to hover over an announcement of whether it will land in Vacaville.  The company that manufactures small personal aircraft may be holding off on an official announcement but it seems it's only a matter of time before the public is officially informed, quite possibly at an invitation only event scheduled for May 14 on property ICON purchased in October from Solano County for $2.1 million. Vacaville is one of three areas the company has considered for the relocation.

ICON also has informed those applying for certain jobs posted on its website that "In mid 2015 we will move into our new Northern California Location," or "The company will relocate to Vacaville, CA sometime in 2015."

Such tantalizing comments, coupled with the invitation-only event, has city leaders smiling.
Vacaville Mayor Steve Hardy said ICON will be "one heck of a catch." "It's a big deal," he said. "I'm so excited, I hardly have the words for it." "It's at the top of my list of great things during my tenure," he added.

He pointed to ICON bringing some 500 jobs to the area and its relationship to the Nut Tree Airport, which will eventually be the home of the Jimmy Doolittle Center/Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum. There is also potential to partner with Solano Community College and its aeronautical program. "It's a natural progression of things," Hardy said. "We'll be on the world map."

Besides purchasing the property in Vacaville, ICON has been in talks with the city for nearly three years and submitted a letter of intent last summer. The Vacaville City Council subsequently supported continued discussions and negotiations with ICON and its desire to relocate its sales and assembly division to a parcel adjacent to the Nut Tree Airport.

ICON was founded in 2005 by Kirk Hawkins, the company's CEO and a former Air Force F-16 pilot, after the Federal Aviation Administration changed its regulations and created a "light sport aircraft" category. Market research revealed an overwhelming demand for the product, Hawkins said, and together with co-founder Steen Strand, the prototype for a consumer-focused sport aircraft combining "outstanding engineering with world-class consumer product design" was born.

The aircraft can take off from and land on water and traditional runways, seats two, uses automotive fuel, runs at 20 mpg and has a maximum speed of 120 mph. Its range is three hours and 300 miles and has various safety features including a spin-resistant airframe. The aircraft can be towed on a vehicle trailer and its wings can be folded by a single person, without tools, in about five minutes. The price, set in 2008, was $139,000, but now hovers around $200,000, officials said. An order of 1,000 aircraft is awaiting production. Once started, a plane can be finished in a matter of weeks.

"Vacaville is our top choice," Hawkins said in July. "We'll bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenues to the region." The plan is to develop in two phases. A near-138,000-foot building would be renovated for use as a sales and delivery facility with Phase 2 consisting of building a $10 million training facility. Eventually, Hawkins said, the site would be a world-class destination location, an epicenter of aviation.

Recently, the Solano County Board of Supervisors quietly approved, as part of its consent calendar for Tuesday's meeting, a draft agreement between the county and Southern California-based ICON to allow the company to access the county-owned Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville.

ICON representatives have acknowledged that it's been a very competitive process that's lasted for nearly two years and that Tuesday's approval was a major step for them. Additionally, the supervisors agreed to provide fueling services to ICON at the airport.

In the long-term, staff reported that ICON's desire is to develop a water landing area next to the existing runway and will require planning and environmental review involving the Federal Aviation Administration in the form of several agreements and reports including a supplement to the Nut Tree Airport Master Plan and a supplemental Environmental Impact Report.

A time line included in the staff report to the board shows that ICON's goal is to complete a plan for assembly plant improvements in June and July, construction of assembly plant improvements in from July to December and start operating the assembly plant by January 2015.

ICON Aircraft Inc. makes move to land in Solano County

Posted: 04/22/2014 07:12:01 PM PDT

ICON Aircraft Inc. took a "major step," albeit a quiet one, Tuesday to relocate the business to Vacaville. Solano County Supervisors unanimously approved all the consent calendar items during their regular meeting, and tucked away between the 19 items on the agenda was a draft agreement between the county and Southern California-based ICON to allow the company to access the county-owned Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville.

ICON representatives continue to keep their relocation decision close to the vest, but did acknowledge that it's been a very competitive process that's lasted for nearly two years and that Tuesday's approval was a major step for them. Solano County and the city of Vacaville still remain tight-lipped on the issue since Vacaville was on of three locations considered for the move.

ICON is known for its prototype A5, a two-seater, gas-powered recreational plane that can take off and land on water, turf or runways. It costs upward of $180,000 and has a waiting list of buyers. The plane seats two, can travel at a maximum speed of 120 mph, uses automotive fuel, has retractable landing gear and the cockpit of the plane is similar to a car.

Owners of the plane need 20 hours of training to obtain their sport flying license which is half the required time for other aircraft. The business is considering making Vacaville a destination for A5 and other aircraft enthusiasts, as flying lessons could be held at a facility yet to be built near the Nut Tree Airport. An estimated 500 jobs would be created. Additionally, the supervisors agreed to provide fueling services to ICON at the airport.

In the long-term, staff reported that ICON's desire is to develop a water landing area next to the existing runway and will require planning and environmental review involving the Federal Aviation Administration in the form of several agreements and reports including a supplement to the Nut Tree Airport Master Plan and a supplemental Environmental Impact Report.

Staff noted that the water landing area and related planning and environmental reviews will be presented to the board for further consideration and action in the future. A time line included in the staff report shows that ICON's goal is to complete a plan for assembly plant improvements in June and July, construction of assembly plant improvements in from July to December and start operating the assembly plant by January 2015.

County approves Icon agreements

By Barry Eberling
April 23, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Icon Aircraft won approval from Solano County on Tuesday for several agreements related to a proposed aircraft assembly and production plant next to the county’s Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville.

Vacaville has been wooing Icon for more than a year. Icon is looking for a location to build its Icon A5, a two-seat, amphibious landing aircraft with fold-up wings, a speed of 120 mph and range of 300 miles.

Agreements with the county put Icon on schedule to start work on an assembly plant in Vacaville by year’s end and to open the plant in December or January 2015, a county report said. A water landing area for the amphibious aircraft would come at a later date.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the agreements for the Icon project. The county will allow Icon to have direct access to the airport from adjacent property, to construct a taxiway between the proposed assembly plant and the runway, to buy fuel from the county and to negotiate with the county on creating a water landing area.

For all of that, Icon has yet to announce it is moving from Southern California to Vacaville.

“Not formally,” Icon Director of Real Estate Mark Heavey said after the meeting, adding that the company first needed to formalize agreements with the county. When asked if Icon is coming to Vacaville, Heavey laughed. “This is a big step,” he said. “The formal announcement I would think is shortly coming.”

County supervisors passed the Icon agreement without a word. They did so as part of their consent calendar, which allows them to pass a group of items deemed noncontroversial at one time. “I think this begins to solidify the fact they’re going to be here,” Supervisor John Vasquez said after the meeting. “This is a big first step.”

Icon officials for months have said that Vacaville is the front-runner to become the site of their offices and assembly and production plant. They’ve also mentioned Arizona and Texas as possible locations. The agreement with the county says that Icon plans to manufacture and assemble aircraft within an existing building near the Nut Tree Airport. It would have sales, flight training, maintenance, storage and office areas in a building to be constructed.

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

ICON one step closer

By Kimberly K. Fu/
Posted: 12/21/2013 01:01:04 AM PST

An unexpected Christmas gift just landed in Vacaville's lap -- another hurdle cleared for a light sport aircraft company hoping to relocate to the city from Southern California.

"We got through another critical step," said City Councilman Ron Rowlett on Friday. "We're closer than we've ever been."
ICON Aircraft has developed a prototype A5, a two-seater, gas powered recreational plane that can take off and land on water, turf or runways. It costs upwards of $180,000 and has a waiting list of buyers.

In talks for several years with city officials, ICON leaders have made it clear that Vacaville, which is in the running with Arizona and Texas for relocation, is where ICON wants to be. Reasons cited include existing resources, including several bodies of water, its location along the Interstate 80 corridor and the support of the city. In return, the business plans to make Vacaville a destination for A5 and other aircraft enthusiasts, as A5 flying lessons would be held in town at a facility yet to be built near the Nut Tree Airport. An estimated 500 jobs would also be opened.
In recent months, the city approved a final agreement with ICON including tax incentives such as sales tax rebates and the sharing of the transient occupancy tax. City officials previously emphasized that there's no risk on the city's part.

This week, Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Solano, informed Rowlett of progress with ICON. "They had to go through a Cal-OSHA panel that sends information to the Cal-OSHA board," the councilman explained. "They have some kind of paint booth that needed approval."
Approval granted. "It doesn't seem big, but it is," Rowlett said.

There's no doubt that the city wants ICON here, he said, and officials continue to do everything possible to let ICON know that. Frazier's help, he continued, has been invaluable.
There's still more steps that must be taken, but Rowlett remains confident that Vacaville is the most viable home for ICON. According to an ICON newsletter, the company's engineering team is preparing to kick off assembly "of the first of the production prototype aircraft."

Editorial: ICON could kick-start economic revival in Vacaville
Published by The Reporter
Posted: 09/29/2013 01:02:05 AM PDT

Vacaville City Council members didn't hesitate Tuesday night, unanimously signing off on an agreement to share future tax revenue with ICON Aircraft in exchange for the Los Angeles-based company relocating to the industrial park on the back side of Nut Tree Airport.

Council members might be forgiven for not asking a single question about the deal. This was, after all, the culmination of more than two years of wooing ICON here. If council members weren't personally involved, they certainly were kept up to date on what was being considered.
But members of the public who haven't been following every twist and turn of negotiations might be wondering what the city is giving up, why it is doing so and what it expects to receive in return. Let's start with the why: Bringing ICON Aircraft to Vacaville could be a boon to the city, the county and the entire state.

ICON is a start-up company that is preparing to enter the light sport aircraft market that opened up in 2004 after the FAA adopted a new category of licensing for recreational pilots. Sport pilots are allowed to fly only during the day, in good weather and in uncontrolled airspace. The aircraft they are allowed to operate must be smaller, slower and less complicated than a regular airplane.
Enter ICON's A5, a completely portable two-seater that runs on gasoline and which can take off and land on water, turf or runways. It takes only two weeks to earn the license to fly it and even though it's pricey -- currently about $180,000 each -- potential customers are already lined up. ICON is looking not only for space to build and sell its product, but also a place where it can teach customers how to fly it.

Almost three years ago, the company began a national search for just the right place. In California, the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) put out the word, which reached the ears of Sandy Person, director of the Solano Economic Development Corp., who brought it to Vacaville's attention. That started the courtship.
Ultimately, ICON identified an industrial building on Beechcraft Road as one of its top three sites. The other two are in Arizona and Texas, both of which may have an advantage over Vacaville when it comes to the costs of starting businesses there. That's one reason the city feels the need to sweeten the deal by offering ICON incentives to come here.

The other reason is that a business like ICON is a gift that keeps on giving. A company whose product sells for the price of a modest home generates a lot of sales and property taxes. But that's not all. ICON's business plan calls for it to employ as many as 500 people, who would be paid much better than minimum wage. Those employees are likely to live and shop in Vacaville, generating more tax revenue for the city, the county and the state.
As a start-up, ICON will be in the market for raw materials, which could encourage even more new businesses to form to supply them. Those businesses, in turn, would hire more workers and generate more tax revenue.

In addition, as a training site, ICON will need access to hotels and restaurants to house and feed clients -- again, creating more jobs and tax revenue. Added together, ICON could generate up to 850 jobs and add $364.5 million for the region's economy, of which Vacaville stands to reap $1 million in new taxes, according to an economic impact report by economist Robert Eyler.
A few years ago, before the state disbanded redevelopment agencies, Vacaville might have been able to offer ICON a rebate on its property taxes to come here, as it did for Genentech. But, as City Manager Laura Kuhn told the council on Tuesday, "In a post-redevelopment world, we have to be very creative."

To her credit, City Manager Kuhn has creatively negotiated a deal that won't cost the city a dime if ICON fails as a business. If it succeeds, however, the company stands to be rebated a portion of the sales tax it generates. During the first two years, ICON's share of that rebate is 50 percent. In years 3 through 10, the rebate ranges from 30 percent to 75 percent, depending on the number of people ICON employs at an annual salary of $40,000 or more.
In addition, for every hotel room booked by ICON, the city will split with the company the Transient Occupancy Tax it collects on those transactions. The city should be able to afford the rebates, Ms. Kuhn says, because if ICON is successful, the tax revenue from the additional business it will generate throughout the city will cover the cost of providing city services to it.

Vacaville isn't the only public entity that stands to gain from bringing ICON here. For more than two decades, the city and Solano County have recognized that Nut Tree Airport is an underused asset. ICON's presence there would change that in a hurry.
Solano Community College's aviation program at the airport also stands to gain. Not only might its graduates find work at ICON, but the college is prepared to offer training for ICON employees. And if ICON chooses Vacaville, California stands to gain some much-needed bragging rights over Texas. It's not a done deal yet, but Vacaville has done what it needed to do to bring a new major employer to the area. Here's hoping it's enough.

Vacaville council approves agreement with aircraft maker ICON

By Mike Corpos, Daily Republic
September 25, 2013

VACAVILLE — The city of Vacaville has done everything it can now to woo light aircraft maker ICON. With a 5-0 voice vote, the city council approved an agreement with ICON that would provide the company with tax incentives if it chooses to build its offices and manufacturing facility at the Nut Tree Airport. City manager Laura Kuhn outlined the agreement she hammered out with ICON representatives, which puts the city in a position of near-zero risk.

Part of that agreement involves a sales and transient occupancy tax deal with ICON tied to the number of jobs generated at the facility, which will be used to build the company’s A5 sport light aircraft. Kuhn said the 10-year agreement calls for a rebate on sales tax generated by ICON up to 50 percent for the first two years as an incentive for ICON to get the facility up and running. After the two years, the rebate is tied to jobs with salaries averaging $40,000 per year

Up to 75 percent of the sales tax could be rebated, after the city receives its sales tax revenues from the state, if 500 full-time equivalent jobs are achieved. If job generation is less, the rebate is reduced. The evaluation of jobs and rebate payments would be quarterly as the city receives its sales tax reports.

On the TOT, or hotel taxes, the city would also refund 50 percent of the ICON-generated TOT taxes, using a special promotion code to track the money generated by the manufacturer’s customers and business associates. The agreement is for 10 years and is automatically renewed for another decade if the 500 jobs are achieved. Kuhn and the council called the agreement a milestone. “In a post-redevelopment world, we have to be really creative,” Kuhn said. The council lauded Kuhn for her negotiating skills and her efforts to see the project through.

“These kinds of things don’t happen without collaboration,” said council man Curtis Hunt. There’s more work to be done, but the city is ready if ICON chooses Vacaville as its new home.

“The next step is we’ve got to work with the county, and get to an agreement with the county and then we’ve got some approvals to work through with local landowners and the (Federal Aviation Administration),” said Kirk Hawkins, ICON founder and CEO. “A few more hurdles to get through, but this was a big one.” There’s no definite timeline, for a decision.

“We expect in the next several months to have a decision, to be able to make a public announcement at some point, which way that is,” Hawkins said. “While we’re not ready to celebrate just yet, we’ll celebrate this milestone.”

Vacaville Wooing Aircraft Manufacturer With Incentives In Exchange For Jobs

September 25, 2013 12:19 AM  

VACAVILLE (CBS13) — An aircraft manufacturer has an ambitious plan that might just fly and could bring hundreds of new jobs to Vacaville. City leaders are trying to recruit Icon Aircraft by offering big incentives for the company to land in Vacaville.

“I think this is a win for our city as a whole for our residents to get future jobs, and for our business owners to get benefits from their customers being here in town,” said City Manager Laura Kuhn.

The company’s $200,000 light-sport aircraft could soon be bringing big business to the city. “I’ll tell you that Vacaville has surprised us,” said Icon Aircraft CEO Kirk Hawkins. The company wants to build a new facility to manufacture planes. It says it has 1,000 on backorder and would need to hire up to 500 people to meet demand.

But what makes Vacaville so attractive? “The first thing that Vacaville has done is been very proactive and demonstrate that they actually want the business,” Hawkins said. “Don’t just talk about it, go do something about it.” The City Council is considering an economic incentive package that would give Icon up to 75 percent of the local sales tax on each plane sold, and half of the city’s portion of the hotel tax generated by Icon customers and employees.

Existing businesses like Merchant and Main Bar and Grill believe this could lead to more customers and give a big boost to the local economy. “We welcome them. It would be great not just for them, not just for Vacaville, but for every small business if they can bring in more revenue for everyone in general,” said Miguel Vasquez.

And Vacaville says the sales-tax giveaway will be more than made up for by a soaring economic future. “They’ll buy gas here, they’re going to go to restaurants, they’re going to shop, so all those things are good for local businesses,” said Kuhn. Icon is also looking at cities in Arizona and Texas. It hopes to make a decision in the next few months.

Vacaville competing to lure aircraft maker

ICON makes A5 sport aircraft
UPDATED 7:55 PM PDT Aug 01, 2013

VACAVILLE, Calif. (KCRA) —ICON, a company that makes a recreational plane with a cult following, may move to Vacaville -- if that city can fight off competition from two other states also aggressively pursuing the company.

ICON’s CEO, Kirk Hawkins, estimates that production of the plane would create between 300 to 1,000 jobs, depending on future sales. Hawkins told KCRA 3 on Thursday that the company has 1,000 deposits from customers at a base price of $189,000.

“The vehicle’s been designed for anyone who’s ever dreamed of flying and has any aspiration of adventure, fun and freedom on a personal level,” Hawkins said. ICON’s plane, the A5, is a futuristic-looking sport aircraft that can land on, and take off from, water. Tentative plans in Vacaville include a man-made lake at the Nut Tree Airport. But, Hawkins said other locations also have appeal.

“The reason we haven't decided yet is quite frankly, Arizona and Texas are far more aggressive economically, and the deals they've offered us are better," Hawkins said.

He said he is working with Vacaville city leaders on economic incentives that might “level the playing field” between that city and those in Arizona and Texas. Hawkins said ICON will likely move its headquarters, now in Tehachapi, to the site it chooses for production, meaning Vacaville has a chance at becoming an overall home for ICON.

“We really want them to come here," said Mark Mazzaferro, a spokesman for the city of Vacaville. “We've told them [that] from the day they come in and pull permits to the day they operate, it would take probably right around six months if not sooner, and that's pretty quick for an operation this size."

There are several things about Vacaville that appeal to ICON, Hawkins said. “The flight-training weather in that area is great,” Hawkins said. “So, year-round flight training is part of that decision, and frankly, the flying experience in that area will be phenomenal."

Also, ICON began in Silicon Valley. Many of the company’s customers are in Northern California, and members of its executive team live in California, Hawkins said. It will be two months before company executives make a decision on where to locate, Hawkins said.

ICON Aircraft Looking at Vacaville, CA for Manufacturing Facility

Jul 08, 2013 Economic Development Blog

Los Angeles, California-based ICON Aircraft has filed a letter of intent with the City of Vacaville, CA for setting up a facility next to Nut Tree Airport for manufacturing its light sport aircraft (LSA).
ICON was launched in 2005 by Kirk Hawkins after the FAA created a new LSA category in 2004 that had significantly reduced regulatory burdens for both LSA manufacturers and users.

ICON’s introductory LSA model – the long-awaited amphibious ICON A5, has retractable landing gear, uses automotive fuel, can land and take-off on water as well as on runways, and can fly at a maximum speed of 120 mph.

From the cockpit, it looks more like a car for two, and has been designed and priced to make it easier for new people to take up flying in their own plane. Pilots need to log only 20 hours of flight time to get the LSA license, which is half the time needed for other aircraft.

ICON’s A5 has been under development longer than expected, but the company still has a long and loyal list of almost 1,000 customers who have paid deposits and are eagerly waiting to get their own sport aircraft.

Until now, ICON has based its operations entirely in Southern California. Apart from the administrative headquarters in Los Angeles, Icon also has development, testing and manufacturing teams in a facility in Tehachapi, CA.

The proposed move to the existing 137,940-square-foot building at 2141 Beechcraft Road in Vacaville would take them a long way over to Northern California, in between San Francisco and Sacramento.

ICON’s latest outreach to Vacaville officials for support and incentives was preceded by the company raising $60 million in May 2013 as part of its fourth and final equity funding round.

The company said it would use the new funding to complete preparations for production, regulatory compliance and boost R&D for adding new aircraft models.

If they go ahead with the proposal, Vacaville stands to gain millions of these dollars in investments and new sales, property and personal taxes, and up to 500 new general aviation manufacturing and sales jobs. Not to mention spending by ICON’s customers who will stay in the city when they come for buying a plane and getting training.

ICON first started looking at sites for relocation in 2010. Vacaville has been pursuing this project since 2011 in partnership with Nut Tree Airport management and other local organizations including Solano Community College, the Solano Economic Development Corporation and Solano County officials.

The Vacaville City Council will be meeting on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 where it will consider a resolution authorizing city manager Laura C. Kuhn to execute the non-binding letter of intent with ICON Aircraft Inc.

Apart from exemptions of a percentage of sales tax based on job creation and average wage commitments by ICON, the letter of intent also seeks about $250,000 as a loan for the permitting process, to be paid back from future sales associated with the project.

ICON is also asking for renaming of streets in the area and fast-tracking of all the permits required for site improvements and construction.

Solano Community College may enter into a partnership with ICON wherein it provides training for ICON employees under its Aeronautics Program, and may even expand its curriculum to match ICON’s needs.

The letter of intent states that the City and ICON will attempt to come to an agreement within 60 days, and hope to submit an actual agreement for the City Council’s approval on Aug 13, 2013.

Solano creates ‘environment to nurture newcomers’

More than 300 hear about Caymus plans for winery

By Gary Quackenbush, Special to the Business Journal, February 10, 2014

FAIRFIELD — The 31st annual meeting of the Solano Economic Development Corporation showcased significant public-private sector accomplishments in the county’s seven cities during 2013. Chairperson Patsy Van Ouwerkerk welcomed members and guests and announced that she would be retiring in August from both the EDC and as Travis Credit Union’s chief executive officer. Her successor for both positions will be Barry Nelson, executive vice president for the credit union.

The luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield attracted over 300 business executives, community leaders and public officials eager to hear a status report from Sandy Person, president of the EDC.  “Team Solano worked together to make everything happen by attracting new businesses and creating an environment to nurture newcomers and those already here,” Ms. Person said.

Travis Air Force Base
With the goal of diversifying the Solano economy, a comprehensive analysis of the economic impact of Travis AFB on the region’s infrastructure is being made to see how Solano and its cities can grow their economies around the base. This study, to be released in June, will also update land use plans to protect Travis AFB, the county’s largest economic engine.

Boost from wine
“Clearly, Solano is benefitting from both the wine industry’s strength as well as from the greater economy’s recovery,” Ms. Person said. Caymus Vineyards, based in Rutherford with operations in four North Bay counties, is expanding to Solano with the purchase of the Hopkins Ranch on Cordelia Road.

Caymus will build a 132,000-square-foot winery along with a barrel cellar and casegoods warehouse, along with a 25,000 square foot canopy for processing grapes and a 32,000 square foot mechanical systems building. There are plans to double barrel and casegoods storage.

Approximately 150 stainless-steel wine fermentation and storage tanks at this site will have capacity for 6 million gallons. Chuck Wagner, president of Caymus, was the guest speaker at the luncheon. He provided a brief history of his family’s three generations in winemaking and an overview of his plans to grow wine grapes in Solano. “We have lots of ideas, but it’s too early to tell which varietal Solano will become known for,” he said. “The dry soil here is ideal for dark reds.”

Ms. Person said the city of Benicia was honored by AAA’s Via magazine in its November–December 2013 issue as one of the 50 safest cities in California by SafeWise Security Systems. The city continues to expand its tourism brand with the launch of its economic development site Ten Benicia businesses are poised to save $140,000 in energy costs this year through the Business Resource Incentive Program that provides firms in the Benicia Industrial Park with grants and loans to make energy-saving improvements.

A new 60-unit affordable housing complex in the city of Dixon, called Heritage Commons, was completed. Ground was also broken for the construction of the West B Street pedestrian and bicycle underground crossing.

A 318,000-square-foot Solano Logistics Center was built on Cordelia Road for wine bottle supplier Encore Glass Company. Two other buildings, totaling 650,000 square feet, are set to be built and leased by Saxco International — another bottling industry leader.

The Fairfield auto and RV industry is growing with car sales up 32 percent over last year. New firms in this category include CarMax; a Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership, and travel trailer icon Airstream, opening a 100,000-square-foot showroom on Cordelia Road. Fairfield’s industrial vacancy rate is down to 4.5 percent, as of the fourth quarter, spurred by the arrival of an H&M store at the Solano Town Center regional mall and the headquarters relocations for both Heretic Brewing Company and ST Johnson to this city.

By June, the $89.3 million expansion of the Stanton Correctional Facility in Fairfield should be completed adding 362 beds and 127,000 square feet of new space. Some $62 million of the total is from state AB 900 funds. Pending a state award of $23 million of SB 1022 funds, construction could begin on a new inmate-training center on Clay Bank Road in Fairfield with a completion cost of $25 million.

Suisun City
A train depot improvement project has been launched in Suisun City, using $700,000 in transportation grant funding, to increase the viability and use of this historic commuter rail connection as a hub for connections to local buses and community amenities. This project is part of both the city’s General Plan and Downtown Specific Plan updates for the Priority Development Area surrounding the transit center — expected to support 1,040 residential units and 920 jobs during the next 26 years. Construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter will begin in 2014 on Walters Road bringing hundreds of new jobs and a new source of sales tax revenue.

Janssen Biotech, Inc. is adding a new product line to its facility, creating over 50 new jobs.

Genentech is activating its cell-culture plant 2, adding more than 200 new positions at what is largest biotech manufacturing facility in the world.

Escrow has closed on land for the Jimmy Doolittle Learning Center and its aeronautics program as new and emerging aviation opportunities move into Vacaville and the Nut Tree Airport.

ICON Aircraft, manufacturer of small sport airplanes, is considering making Vacaville its new global headquarters, in late 2014 or early 2015, complete with a global aviation center for aircraft assembly, sales, customer delivery and flight training.

This pending ICON facility could eventually employ 500 people and generate over $100 million in economic impact, according to Ms. Person. In addition, she said nine new tenants also have been acquired at the Nut Tree Center.

Green innovative homebuilder Blu Homes recently announced plans to relocate its headquarters to Mare Island and is expanding its operations there with the lease of another 117,000 square feet. It opened in 2011 in Bldg. 680 on the island with a lease from Lennar Mare Island of 250,000 square feet.

The company is closing its Ann Arbor, Mich., facility and moving those operations and many of its 38 employees to Vallejo, bringing its labor force to 130.

The Solano Community College upgraded its Vallejo campus by adding parking lot solar panels and a 40,000 square foot expansion that includes a new library, student services center, café, along with safety and security measures.

The California Maritime Academy celebrated a grand opening of its 26,000 square foot dining center and rental space. Construction is also ongoing for a new $26.5 million physical education and aquatic center.

Touro University’s library received a $2.5 million upgrade, including a renovated pharmacy training center and a $10,000 electric car charging station.

Avery Green Honda is increasing the size of its showroom to 3,200 square feet, and Momentum Dodge Chrysler Jeep has added a new dealership location on Admiral Callaghan Lane with the firm’s Sonoma Blvd. site serving as its used car sales location.

Rio Vista
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service propose to develop an Estuarine Research Center and Fish Technology Center on 15–17 acres of city of Rio Vista land (a former Army base site) along the Sacramento River.

This project has potential for creating 160 jobs along with generating a proposed $76 million of federal and state investments.

The city also has proposed an extension of the Bridge to Beach multi-use pathway, a visitor interpretation center and supporting commercial uses on the remaining 10 acres at this site.

A $3 million federally-funded EIR/EIS and design process has been initiated by DWR and the California General Services Administration under contract with Horizon Water and Environment, LLC. After a three-year EIR/EIS and design process, construction could begin in 2017–2018.

Some $161,000 of federal funds has been provided for Rio Vista’s new specific downtown plan. A $450,000 Federal Boating Infrastructure Grant (FBIG) has been received to construct Phase 2 of the Waterfront Promenade Trail.

In addition, the city awarded a $225,000 FBIG grant to rebuild the Main Street Boat Dock and $300,000 of state boating funds to design a new downtown boat ramp and parking facilities.

In May 2013 Riovision, a community based group, applied for support from the Regional/Urban Design Assistance Program (R/UDAT) of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

The goal is to create a more viable business environment, revitalize the waterfront, connect old and new housing stock and adapt as Highway 12 changes over time. In February 2014 the R/UDAT team will come to Rio Vista for a town meeting and to develop this plan.

“These are only a few of the completed, in-progress or proposed projects in Solano County. I’m seeing lots of energy and growth in the private and public sectors. It’s very exciting,” Ms. Person said. “There’s more on the way.”