By Melissa Murphy, The Reporter, Vacaville
It’s the beginning of a new era for the Solano Economic Development Corporation.
In an announcement Wednesday morning, Solano EDC leadership explained that after two years of planning and refinement, Solano County’s non-profit economic development alliance this summer will launch Solano Means Business, an aggressive strategy with clear-cut tactics to attract new jobs and companies.
Solano EDC Board of Directors in May will be asked to endorse a new half-million-dollar budget to fund enhanced business attraction efforts, including a comprehensive website that gives companies looking to relocate or expand a full description of developable sites available in Solano cities. It features extensive demographics of the county, its capable workforce, the quality of life in our communities and a host of other promotional messages.
NorthBay Healthcare’s Steve Huddleston, immediate past chairman of the Solano EDC board, explained that in the next few weeks there will be community outreach to public and private partners within the organization.
“We’re asking them to step up,” he said and added that the half-million-dollar budget is needed to reach “aggressive goals in business attracting.”
The larger budget will allow for a “larger, more powerful toolbox,” he said.
Solano EDC President and CEO Sandy Person is confident the community will step up to support the new focus.
Meanwhile, Person has opted to take a step back so that a new face will be recruited to take the reins. Person was essential in the success of Solano EDC through the Great Recession and its efforts in retaining existing businesses and ensuring the viability of Travis Air Force Base amid periodic threats of federal budget cutting leading to military base closures.
“Solano Means Business, is a long-term strategy that will take a year to fully operationalize, and several more years to optimize,” Person explained. “I wholeheartedly support it. It’s best for the community. It’s what Solano EDC should be doing. But it’s a serious change in focus for the CEO and some different skills are essential. ...”
“The organization is embarking on a rigorous new path, in a better economy, with an emphasis on business recruitment, which means the CEO will do a great deal of travel throughout the region and state,” Person continued. “While I want to be on a path with challenges and opportunities, I do not feel I can commit to such a long-term obligation.”
The chairwoman of the Board of Directors, Louise Walker, emphasized that Person’s decision was a bit unsettling.
“After all,” she said, “Sandy’s been not just the face of Solano EDC, but its backbone and its heart. Still, I respect her for seeing how her transition at this time would be the best timing — for her and us.”
During a telephone conference call, Person admitted that her new role going forward hasn’t been figured out, yet.
The outgoing CEO, who has been a part of the organization since 1987 as a member, board member and then active staff, explained that she was “looking to lighten my load.”
Walker, however, reassured that Person will continue to play a “crucial role” in the organization, especially when it comes to Travis Air Force Base.
The types of businesses Solano EDC has an eye on would fall into four different categories, or strong suits for the county: Food and Beverage, BioTech/BioMed, Logistics (trade) and Advanced Materials.
Person said that when it comes to attracting businesses, it’s not just a competition with neighboring counties.
“It’s a global dynamic,” she said. “We’re competing with the rest of the world. Solano has to get its message out.”
While gaining jobs and new employers are the top priority, Huddleston explained, “Solano EDC will not ignore business retention, support for Travis Air Force Base and legislative advocacy on behalf of local employers.”
And he added, “I hope, we might find there’s a role for Sandy in those efforts in conjunction with us. She is so strong in those areas.”
For now, the Board of Directors will work to recruit a “business recruitment guru,” as well as fashion a sustainable budget and build more support among private-sector members, especially financial support, Huddleston said.
“We have ambitious goals,” he noted. “To achieve them we need new financial support from business members, public sector partners in cities and county government, and anywhere else we can find it.”
Recruitment of a new CEO is under way with a target hiring date of late summer, according to Walker. In the meantime, website development continues as does the creation of marketing materials.
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