Friday, October 15, 2004

Dixon boom puts city on the map, forum told

By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

Dixon's economic gains are putting the city on the map of the region, according to experts at an economic development forum held Thursday.

"Dixon: 2004 and Beyond" was the theme of the breakfast forum that drew a full house at the Dixon Senior Multi-Use Center, where a panel reported on land development and the burgeoning retail market.

Jim Jeary, division manager of Panatoni Development reported that while industrial and office use have been slow, retail is flourishing, crediting Wal-Mart as a regional draw that has changed the dynamics of doing business in Dixon.

"When Wal-Mart comes to town, people kind of want to be near Wal-Mart," Jeary said.

Jeary reported a number of new business coming to town, including Tractor Supply Co., a firm with 300 locations in the Midwest. Panatoni is building a 50,000 square foot facility on North First Street and Vaughn Road to house the business.

Also in the works is a 12,000 square-foot building for mixed retail; a 10,000 square-foot building for a health club; a Wendy's under construction across from Wal-Mart; a "dollar" bargain store; an optometrist, barber shop, car wash and veterinarian.

A mattress retailer and furniture retailer plan to move into a 5,000 square-foot building on North Lincoln Street, and other businesses are "circling," Jeary said.

Jeary said Dixon has a lot of inventory, good freeway access and lower land prices.

"And I think the quality of life we recognize will attract employers to Dixon," he said.

Real estate veteran and broker Gary Archer of Archer & Ficklin reported on the progress of the 561-acre national cemetery in rural Dixon, a $6 million sale to the Department of Veterans Affairs that Archer worked on for four years before it closed escrow in July.

Seismic work has been completed, and construction should begin in 2006, Archer said. The government believes the cemetery will be built out by 2030, he said.

"It will ultimately inter approximately 60,000 veterans and their spouses," he said. "On a personal level, we are fortunate to have that kind of facility come to Dixon. ..."

Archer also reported on major land developments, including the huge southwest housing development and land for the new high school in southeast Dixon.

Real estate broker Marianne MacDonald gave an overview of the housing market, noting the seller's market, complete with bidding wars, is over because the market has settled down.

However, in 2003 the average sales price of a Dixon house was $215,000, compared to $382,000 this year. She said buyers are coming from Dixon, or are returning to Dixon.

"People want to stay here," she said. "The vast majority of people are right here in Dixon."

She also reported on city financing programs that help first-time homebuyers, and the Oct. 22 groundbreaking of an affordable housing project in the Valley Glen subdivision. Also on the horizon is an 81-unit senior housing complex and, pending approval, a 172-unit apartment community for both seniors and families.

Margorie Dickinson, assistant vice chancellor for government and community relations at the University of California, Davis, reported on the university's long-range development plans and partnering with Dixon.

Dickinson considers the soon-to-be developed $3.7-million, 300-acre Dixon-Davis Greenbelt a "legacy" that will be modeled after the Vaca-Dixon Greenbelt.

Mike Ammann, president of Solano Economic Development Corp. discussed Solano EDC's regional and national outreach efforts to attract businesses to Solano County, as well as to Dixon.

Ammann said Solano EDC is doing well in the Sacramento area, and trying to work well with the Bay Area.

"We've got to start getting a national presence," Ammann said. "People just don't know where we are. They know a lot about us, but they do not know Solano County and all the benefits they have to offer a business."

However, Solano EDC's "Team Solano" concept is under way. As an example, Cardinal Medical was recruited to Dixon at the Biotech 2004 convention in San Francisco in June. Marshall Drack, the city's economic development director, attended the convention with Team Solano.

Barbara Smith can be reached at

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