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