Friday, October 2, 2015

Solano County seeks firm for economic diversity study

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times-Herald

Posted: 10/01/15, 11:20 PM PDT

Solano County officials expect to have a specific plan for diversifying the countywide economy by 2017, ensuring it’s not overly reliant on Travis Air Force Base or any other one industry, they said.

To do that, the county has issued a Request for Proposal seeking qualified consulting firms to conduct a comprehensive study of the local economy, with a focus on developing a countywide strategic approach for diversifying the economic base. The submission deadline is Oct. 19, county officials said.

This is the second phase of the Moving Solano Forward Economic Diversification Study project begun two years ago with another study that identified four main most promising industry “clusters” in the county, spokesman James Bezek said.

The first phase identified the clusters — energy, food chain, medical and life sciences — and set a five-year time frame to study those, said Bezek, managing analyst administering the project for the county.

“They had another grant opportunity and we applied for and got that,” said Bezek.

The grants are from the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Economic Adjustment.

The $369,860, 2013 Phase One grant paid for a study that identified not only the county’s important industry clusters, but also 13 strategies for retaining and expanding existing businesses and recruiting new ones in those clusters, Bezek said.

The $453,460 Phase Two grant is for a new study to build on those, he said.

“The Department of Defense routinely goes out and works on economic diversification of communities around their bases,” Bezek said. “People who work at the base often live in the surrounding cities and there is a potential resource for our economy to benefit from that.”

The process should take about 18 months, until February, 2017, said Bezek and Solano Economic Development Corp.’s Sean Quinn, who is involved in the project from that agency’s side.

“At the end we should have a better understanding of the county’s assets and how they can be showcased to recruit desired businesses,” Quinn said. “It will also develop a comprehensive data base for the public, identify key needs within the clusters and how to meet those.”

The first study determined what’s needed in terms of a labor pool, real estate and other specifics and how best to address them so officials can retain, expand and attract new business within those clusters, and the types of ancillary enterprises that support them, Quinn said.

“It’s a very hands-on approach to coming up with implementation efforts,” he said. “Getting down to individual sites. It’s not pie-in-the-sky at all.”

The study should also produce an assessment of countywide strategic projects and what improvements are needed along transportation corridors, Quinn said.

“And it will look for infrastructure improvements we can do to improve the prospects for private sector investment and then look for funding sources for achieving a lot of the goals,” he said. “Phase Two actually looks at key sites in the county and what it would take to development them to help diversify the economy,” Quinn said. “At the end, the county will have a comprehensive specific plan on how to diversify the economy and tools identified and individual sites prioritized.”

The Solano County Board of Supervisors approved the grant application in June and the grant officially started Sept. 1, Quinn said. The next step is the Request For Proposals, he said.

“The goal is to finalize the search process by mid November and make selection soon after that,” he said.

Anyone interested in receiving the RFP or finding out more about the project should contact James Bezek, Sr. Management Analyst with Solano County at (707) 784-6112 and

Contact Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824.