Thursday, April 20, 2017

Solano EDC to shift focus; seeks new CEO, funding

By Daily Republic staff From page A1 | April 20, 2017

FAIRFIELD — The Solano Economic Development Corporation announced a shift in focus Wednesday that will include a new president and chief executive along with an effort to boost the organization’s funding.

Sandy Person will soon leave the organization as it implements a new program this summer, according to a press release from the nonprofit economic development alliance. Recruitment for her replacement is underway.

The shift in leadership comes after two years of planning by the organization to launch Solano Means Business, which is described in the press release as an aggressive strategy with clear-cut tactics to attract new jobs and companies. The plan calls for a larger budget for recruitment efforts, a marketing campaign to reach key targets and a transition to new leadership, according to the release.

Directors of the Solano Economic Development Corporation will be asked in May to endorse a new $500,000 budget to fund enhanced business attraction efforts, including a comprehensive website that gives companies looking to relocate or expand a full description of available development site in Solano County’s cities, according to the press release. The website will feature demographics of the county, its workforce, the quality of life in Solano County’s communities and other promotional messages.

Person chose not to continue as the organization’s president and chief executive as this planned shift in focus gains steam late this summer.

“Solano Means Business, is a long-term strategy that will take a year to fully operationalize, and several more years to optimize,” Person said in the release. “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 saw success during the Great Recession and its aftermath in retaining existing businesses and ensuring the viability of Travis Air Force Base amid threats of federal budget cutting leading to military base closures, Person said in the release.

“Those,” she said, “became my passion and my strengths.”

Person said the change in focus, and what that means for the organization’s chief executive, prompted her decision to step aside.

“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 said in the release. “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.”

Person, who began at the economic development corporation 16 years ago, said Wednesday during a conference call that “I did a lot of soul-searching.”

Louise Walker, chairwoman of the organization’s board of directors, said Person’s decision was unsettling.

“After all,” Walker said in the release, “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.”

“We hope she’ll still be involved in some way,” Walker said Wednesday of Person and the organization.

The shift to a marketing focus that targets bringing new employers and jobs to the area does not mean the organization will lose sight of its previous priorities, according to the release.

“Solano EDC will not ignore business retention, support for Travis Air Force Base and legislative advocacy on behalf of local employers,” Steve Huddleston, the board’s immediate past president, said in the release. “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.”

The board will work to recruit what’s described as in the release as a “business recruitment guru,” as well as fashion a sustainable budget and build more support among private-sector members, to include additional financial support, according to the release.

“We have ambitious goals,” Huddleston said in the release. “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.”

The target to have a new chief executive in place in late summer, according to the release. Website development continues in the interim, as does the creation of marketing materials.

Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine said Wednesday that he spoke Monday with Person about her decision.

“She’s done a wonderful job with EDC,” Augustine said. “I hope she’s available to help us in Vacaville.”

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