Thursday, December 16, 2004

Report: Solano jobs outlook is bright

Association of Bay Area Governments also says the county will be the fastest growing in the region.

By Patricia Valenzuela/Staff Writer

Solano County will be a hotbed for jobs during the next five years and its population growth rate will surpass other Bay Area counties for the next 25, according to a recent report by the Association of Bay Area Governments.

ABAG released its growth projections Tuesday, declaring Solano will be the fastest growing county in the nine-county Bay Area region.

The report, "Projections 2005," forecasts job growth and population growth in the nine Bay Area counties through 2030.

The report predicted a growth rate of 47 percent for Solano County.

Solano's population was 394,500 in the 2000 Census. That figure is expected to increase to 581,800 in 2030. Vacaville's population is expected to be 127,100, up from 89,300 in the 2000 Census.

Solano won't be the only Bay Area county to grow significantly during the next 25 years. Santa Clara County had the second highest percentage projection of growth at 35 percent while Contra Costa County was projected to increase by 31 percent.

Speaking about the projections for Solano, ABAG Senior Regional Planner Brian Kirking said, "It's high for the Bay Area because we are a slow-growth area. People don't encourage growth here, but it's not as high compared to Phoenix and Las Vegas."

Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine questioned the projections. He was cautious in his comments, saying he did not want to criticize the report, but that the unforseen could affect the numbers.

"There's a lot of variables," Augustine said. "They can project all they want, I'm not sure that it's accurate."

Kirking said the figures are projections and should be used by city and county staff for making planning and land-use decisions.

Overall, the Bay Area will be home to 8.7 million people in 2030, according to the report. The demographics of the population has changed slightly. According to the report, the median age of residents will increase to 41.8 from the 2000 median age of 35.6.

Thousands of new jobs will come to Vacaville and Solano County in the next several years, the report found. Vacaville is expected to have 45,900 jobs in 2030, an increase from the 27,100 jobs reported in the 2000 Census. Solano County is projected to have 217,900 jobs in 2030, up from the 136,700 in the 2000 Census.

"It's not gotten worse, which is a good thing," Kirking said of the jobs projections. "The county has not lost as many jobs as other parts of the Bay Area."

Solano County has a good mix of jobs, which helped. According to Kirking, there was not one job industry in Vacaville that stood out from the others. ABAG breaks jobs into several categories, including manufacturing, financial, health, education and other.

Kirking said Solano County is attractive to employers because the costs to locate businesses in Solano County are less than other Bay Area counties.

Vacaville City Manager David Van Kirk said the city's location and its residential base have helped the city gain more jobs.

"You do have to establish a reasonable base of residential, which we have over the last 20 years, and then jobs are easier to get," he said.

Vacaville officials have stressed the need for a well-balanced jobs-housing ratio. Vacaville City Councilman Chuck Dimmick is a strong advocate for a balance. Dimmick spent some time commuting to Sacramento and speaks from experience.

He said a well-balanced jobs-housing ratio improves the quality of life for Vacaville residents and "it takes some of the load off the freeways."

Augustine said thousands of new jobs will become available when projects like the expansion of biotech giant Genentech, the revamp of the historic Nut Tree site and development in Lagoon Valley are complete.

"We are at that breaking point where things are happening. ... You will see more job growth which will follow other jobs," Augustine said.

Augustine also said the Genentech expansion could attract other biotech companies to Vacaville. He added that efforts by the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce, the Vacaville Conference & Visitors Bureau and the Vacaville Downtown Business Improvement District attract businesses to the city.

"I think the business end has been energized and is starting to get going here," he said.

Patricia Valenzuela can be reached at

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