Thursday, December 08, 2005

Spirit of Community Involvement Honored at Awards

Spirit of Community Involvement Honored at Awards
By Nathan Halverson

FAIRFIELD - Solano County's movers and shakers turned out by the hundreds Wednesday to honor local business leaders who have worked to improve their communities.

The 10th Annual Spirit of Solano awards hosted by Westamerica Bancorp. packed about 400 people into the Delta Breeze Club at Travis Air Force Base.

A real delta breeze would have provided some relief in the club as the room temperature was raised by jubilant attendees who clapped, laughed and provided standing ovations. Honored were eight award winners from industries varying from biotech to hospitality.

"These are the people in business who pursue positive endeavors," said host David Payne, president and CEO of Westamerica. "They raise the bar of excellence."

Hilton Garden Inn general manager Kevin Johnson, who was nominated by the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce, was awarded for his incessant commitment to community involvement.

"If we can be of service and help, we do whatever we can," he said.

Johnson has been instrumental in the push to grow tourism in Fairfield by helping to form the Fairfield Hotel Association, Inc. He also is on the Fairfield-Suisun chamber's board of directors, works with the Rotary Club; and serves on the board of directors of the Workforce Investment Board.
Each local chamber chose a winner from among its members.

Vacaville chose to honor Genentech, whose rapidly expanding business will likely bring an additional 500 employees to the area within the next few years.

Genentech is known for its inventive medical technology, but equally impressive is its innovative projects that reach out to the community.

Each year, Genentech passes out so-called Genenbucks to its employees as part of a program called Genentech Goes to Town. The faux money can be used at participating stores around Vacaville.

Since the company started the program about a decade ago, it has given out $1.3 million in Genenbucks.

It's one example of how the company works to create strong ties between its employees and the city, said Alan Van Buskirk, director of production services for Genentech.

"Genentech loves to give back to the community," Van Buskirk said. "It's a way to get people to shop downtown."

Many attendees celebrated the event's 10th anniversary.

"To me, the holidays really get kicked off with the Spirit of Solano," said Michael Ammann, Solano EDC president.

Kenny Ross, owner of car dealer Team Superstore Vallejo, rounded off the award winners and summarized with this: "Once you buy a house from Willie (Jefferson Jr. of Coldwell Banker), who used a sign from Sign-a-Rama, and you've filled the house with furniture from Comfort Furniture, you can buy a car from us to park in your new garage."

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

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