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.