Saturday, January 21, 2017

Bank executive takes over as Solano EDC chairwoman

FAIRFIELD — Solano Economic Development Corporation CEO Sandy Person joked at the group’s annual luncheon this week about “power and money” being a concept women truly understand.

Shortly after that, Louise A. Walker, president and chief executive officer of First Northern Community Bancorp and First Northern Bank, was introduced as the new chairwoman of the Solano County organization.

Walker, a Dixon resident, has held her current position since Jan. 1, 2011, and has been with First Northern since 1979.

Walker will help lead the economic development organization into the implementation stage of the branding and marketing program, Moving Solano Forward, with a Feb. 15 announcement that Person said will “knock the socks” off everyone, but offered no details at Thursday’s luncheon.

“We’re unveiling the final presentation of Moving Solano Forward,” Person said Friday, specifically noting a marketing video about which she is particularly proud.

“Part of this process is how do we position ourselves, what are our assets, in the global market,” Person said.

“We are really trying to send a message that it’s business first (in Solano County),” Walker said in a phone interview Friday.

“I think it is really focused on job growth in the county. It is really focused on retaining existing business and attracting new ones,” Walker said.

It will take even stronger private-public collaboration for Moving Solano Forward to reach its goals, Walker said.

Moving Solano Forward has been a two-year, two-phase effort funded by a $453,000 Economic Adjustment Grant through the U.S. Department of Defense, with the Solano Economic Development Corporation as the primary agency, although Person describes it as a public-private collaboration.
“There were a lot of things that impressed me, and, yes, there were some things that surprised me,” Person said.

Person, however, disagrees with Supervisor Jim Spering’s recent statement that the marketing program and branding cannot include “Solano” because of what he describes as negative impressions attached to the name.

Person said Spering is knowledgeable about regional matters, but said, “we’re not losing Solano. I respectfully disagree with Supervisor Spering.”

Person said she believes the work to retain and expand existing business while recruiting new industry to the county is not about overcoming any kind of negative impressions.

“I think we have to overcome a lack of awareness,” she said.

In addition to Walker taking over as chairwoman of the group, which has about 100 private-sector members plus representatives from public agencies, several new directors were seated. The full list was not immediately available.

Walker replaces Steve Huddleston, who is vice president of public affairs for NorthBay Healthcare.

Reach Todd R. Hansen at 427-6932 or