Friday, January 30, 2015

ICON Aircraft seen as a sign of good things to come

By Melissa Murphy, The Reporter, Vacaville

Posted: 01/29/15, 10:01 PM PST |

Solano County’s economic environment is taking off and the business community is hoping to ride the momentum created last year into 2015.

“Solano County is a great place to be and it’s important that we all work toward economic development,” said Laura Kuhn, Vacaville city manager and chair of the Solano EDC board of directors.

Sandy Person, president of Solano EDC, agreed.

“We are team Solano,” she said. “When we work together we make really good things happen.”

One of those “really good things” that happened during 2014 was the announcement from ICON Aircraft Inc. that it is relocating to Vacaville from Southern California. ICON is known for its A5, an amphibious light sport aircraft, that will be in production later this year.

Thursday afternoon during Solano Economic Development Corporations annual lunch, business leaders welcomed once again Kirk Hawkins, founder and CEO of ICON.

Hawkins shared with the full room that ICON was attracted to Solano County because of its business friendly atmosphere, facilities, proximity to world class destinations such as Napa, Tahoe and San Francisco, amazing terrain and nearby lakes, and year round flying weather.

He explained that ICON, a company of about 100 people, will expand to hundreds then to thousands of jobs and bring $350 million annually of economic impact to the region. Additionally, having ICON in Vacaville will bring global awareness to the area, according to Hawkins.

He added that the move would not have happened if it didn’t feel right. Vacaville was up against some stiff competition, he said.

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 by August.

Hawkins, a former Air Force F-16 pilot insists that the A5, a luxury recreational “power vehicle,” will not be as difficult as most think.

“It’s very automotive, very approachable,” he told the crowd as pictures of the plane were shown from a projector.

The gas-powered aircraft can take off and land on water as well as traditional runways. Hawkins explained that with a valid driver’s license and the 14 days of training that come with the purchase of the nearly $200,000 plane, having the ability to fly is obtainable.

“Flying isn’t all the same,” he said and added that there is a difference between flying a commercial airline jet and the sport plane. “It’s not as difficult as you think it is.”

For instance the sport plane will only be allowed to fly during the day and during the right weather conditions, according to Hawkins.

Hawkins said ICON is about democratizing aviation and that wanting to fly is deep within human nature.

“We want to bring that emotional connection to the consumer,” he said. “We’re looking to change people’s lives.”

Sports aircraft company CEO recalls effort to locate in Solano


Solano EDC meeting
Icon Aircraft Founder & CEO Kirk Hawkins speaks at the Solano Economic Development Corporation’s annual meeting, at the Hilton Garden Inn, Thursday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)
January 30, 2015 
FAIRFIELD — Attendees at the 32nd annual meeting of the Solano Economic Development Corporation heard firsthand Thursday about the modern mode of flying sport planes from the event’s keynote speaker, Kirk Hawkins, founder and chief executive of Icon Aircraft.

“It’s time to bring an aircraft to the consumer that they will fall in love with,” Hawkins told those at the sold-out luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield.

Icon Aircraft announced last year that it will build its Icon A5 two-seater sport plane at Vacaville’s Nut Tree Airport. Icon’s sales, service and flight training will all be located at the Vacaville site, Hawkins said.

The popularity of sport flying came about after the Federal Aviation Administration created a new category of aircraft and new category of sport pilot license, Hawkins said. New rules reduced the cost and time necessary to learn to fly. Obtaining a sport pilot license takes about half the time of a regular license, he said.

“It’s not as difficult as you think it is,” Hawkins said. “I can teach a person in a matter of hours.”

The Icon A5 sport plane carries a price of approximate $200,000 for a base model, Hawkins said. It features foldable wings and can land on water or solid ground. It is designed for speeds of 120 mph and a range of up to 300 miles. It burns both auto and aviation fuel.

Hawkins talked Thursday about the influence that attracted Icon to Vacaville and recognized those in attendance at the luncheon who played a role in drawing the startup aircraft company here.

There were a lot of reasons to choose Vacaville, he said.

“I was quite surprised at how aggressive they were in wanting us here,” he said.

The competition to attract Icon was competitive, with Texas and Arizona also being considered,
Hawkins said.

His company is currently located in Southern California and has about 100 employees, he said.

Hawkins estimates it will eventually employ 500 workers and have a $350 million annual economic impact to the region.

Icon will build about 20 aircraft this year and 400 in 2016, according to Hawkins. Future production could be 1,000 planes per year, he said.

Hawkins flew fighter aircraft in the Air Force and later was a pilot for American Airlines. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Clemson University and his master’s degree in engineering from Stanford University.

In other matters at Thursday’s luncheon, the Solano Economic Development Corporation recognized its board of directors for 2015. A special presentation was made to past chairwoman Patsy Van Ouwerkerk.

Reach Kevin W. Green at 427-6974 or

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Solano County Small Businesses Enjoy Lower Energy Bills Through Energy Watch Participation

         More than 100 small businesses participated in Solano Energy Watch last year and are now enjoying reduced energy bills and updated lighting and refrigeration. J.Paul Harrington, Solano Economic Development Corporation representative, said Solano Energy Watch (SEW) reduced recurring, annual, energy costs for participants by more than $200,000 in 2014.[1]

          Harrington said SEW is a new program for Solano EDC. The program gives businesses the opportunity to receive a no cost energy audit, and savings program that can result in reduced lighting and refrigeration bills.
           “It’s an easy process which begins with a comprehensive No Cost energy evaluation." Harrington said. "We process the rebates and help find the right contractor for the job. In some cases, the rebates can cover up to 100% of the project cost. In 2014 alone, we have saved the businesses of Solano County over 2 million kilowatt hours.”

          Solano EDC President, Sandy Person said, “We see this program as part of our efforts to increase the economic vitality of the businesses of Solano County by helping businesses save energy and add to their bottom line.”
           The Solano EDC is a non-profit public private partnership delivering professional economic development services and working with collaborative relationships on a local, regional and state level to ensure Solano is recognized as a strategic location for industry growth and retention.       

          Harrington said the mission of SEW is simple: “We want to help reduce your energy use and save you money.”
          To schedule a no cost, no obligation energy evaluation, call the 24 hour hotline 707-639-1044.
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If you would like more information about this topic visit

or contact JPaul Harrington at 707-864-1855 or email at

Solano Energy Watch is funded by California Utility customers and is administered by Pacific Gas and Electric Company under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission.

[1] Footnote: The energy costs reduction of $200,000 was calculated based on a $0.10 per kWh electricity charge.