Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sutter plans medical services expansion

Article Last Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 11:28:20 pm PDT
By Sarah Arnquist

FAIRFIELD - Health industry executives announced Tuesday another multi-million dollar injection into Solano County's medical services.

The Sutter Regional Medical Foundation announced plans Tuesday for a $42.5-million Solano County expansion that includes new medical office space for new physicians in Fairfield and Rio Vista.

Health industry executives from Kaiser, NorthBay Healthcare and Sutter Health committed millions in recent months to expanding health care services in Solano County.

"The (population) expansion and need for health care in Solano County is going to be very strong and we're trying to be responsive to that need," said Carolyn Appenzeller, Sutter Foundation's chief operating officer.

The expansion will boost the Foundation's ability to recruit the best and brightest new doctors, Appenzeller said.

"With this new round of funding we can now add the new medical facilities and state-of-the art equipment necessary to attract the best medical and technical talent to care for Solano County patients," said John Ray, the foundation's chief executive officer.

Sutter Regional Medical Foundation is a locally governed and managed affiliate of Sacramento-based Sutter Health, a network of physicians and hospitals in Northern California. Sutter Health has a $5.7-billion plan to replace and expand much of its medical infrastructure.

Solano County's expansion plan includes constructing a 50,000-square-foot medical office building and administrative offices next to the $35 million medical office, outpatient surgery and diagnostic imaging center on Chadbourne Road in Fairfield that opened last fall. The foundation will add another physician to Rio Vista and another dozen in Fairfield and Vacaville.

The Solano Regional Medical Group, the county's largest multi-specialty group practice and a Foundation affiliate, plans to move from its current location on Empire and Pennsylvania Streets to the new medical building by October 2007.

Dr. Samuel Santoro, Solano Regional Medical Group president, said the expansion will provide seamless care throughout the county.

"These new facilities are very exciting to physicians as they offer us the space and equipment to attract the most talented physicians and take health care in Solano County to the next level," Santoro said.

Reach Sarah Arnquist at 427-6953 or sarnquist@dailyrepublic.net.

Proposed health expansions to Solano County

NorthBay Healthcare

-- $10.8 million VacaValley Hospital Emergency Department expansion that will triple the ER to be completed by 2007.

-- New Center for Primary Care near Waterman Road in Fairfield to be complete in 2006.

-- Plans for a 20-acre Green Valley Medical Campus with a new hospital, medical office building and conference center.

Sutter Health Affiliates

-- Opened new $35 million medical office, outpatient surgery and imaging center Chadbourne Road in Fairfield in fall 2004.

-- Will build a new 50,000-square-foot medical office building adjacent to the building on Chadbourne Road.

-- Building a 60,000-square-foot cancer center and medical office building in Vallejo to be completed this fall.

-- Will add clinic space for 12 new doctors in Fairfield and Vacaville.

-- Will add a doctor to Rio Vista.


-- $350 million Vallejo Tower Expansion: 460,000-square-foot expansion will add 188 new hospital beds opening 2008.

-- $300,000 million Vacaville Hospital and Medical Center: 460,000 square foot hospital with 150 beds and 217,000 square foot medical office building opening 2009.

Copyright Daily Republic. All rights reserved.

Sutter Health expanding in Solano

Sutter expanding in Solano
Sacramento Business Journal
May 30, 2005


Sutter expanding in Solano
Will spend $42.5M to recruit docs, compete with Kaiser

Kathy Robertson
Staff Writer

Sutter Health will spend $42.5 million over the next two years to recruit more doctors and build more medical offices in Solano County.
The move is expected to increase Sutter's footprint in the rapidly developing area between the Bay Area and Sacramento, and put the Sacramento-based health system in a better position to compete head-to-head with Kaiser Permanente in the region.

For now, Sutter is a distant second place in the Solano market, but the healthcare stakes are rising in the county. Sutter has the only large medical group besides Kaiser in the area.
"Kaiser has recruited lots of physicians -- they are good at it," said John Ray, CEO of the Sutter Regional Medical Foundation. "But we are getting better. They set a standard here but are not everybody's cup of tea."

Sutter stepped up its involvement in Solano two years ago, when the largest multi-specialty doctors' group in the county sold its assets to the health system. Solano Regional Medical Group, which split from NorthBay Healthcare in Fairfield in 2001, was losing $250,000 to $400,000 a month and didn't see any relief coming.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, but 69 doctors and other providers who cared for some 60,000 patients joined the Sutter network. The numbers have grown since then to 80 doctors and other providers and 70,000 patients, Ray said. The medical foundation has about 350 employees.

"The last year and a half have been spent fixing operational issues," he explained. "Now we are ready to think of the next step in terms of the medical foundation."

Most Sutter patients in Solano go to Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo for inpatient care, although those at the north end of the county are sometimes sent to Sutter Davis.

Kaiser has 205,000 members and 550 doctors in Solano County, said company spokesman Paul Vetter. That means Kaiser has already signed up almost half the county's population of 421,657 and has almost seven times more providers than Sutter. Last week, Kaiser broke ground on a $300 million, 166-bed medical center in Vacaville. It's expected to open in 2009.
Expand and replace

The Sutter board's recent approval of $42.5 million in new money for Solano County follows construction of a $40 million medical complex near the Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. plant in west Fairfield. The 80,000-square-foot complex opened last year. It includes a diagnostic imaging center, outpatient surgery center and two-story medical office building.

The new money would go toward:

Constructing an additional 50,000-square-foot medical office building and administrative space on the West Fairfield campus.

Securing another 13,000 square feet of clinic space to accommodate up to a dozen physicians and staff in the Fairfield-Vacaville area. No site has been announced.

Expanding an existing clinic in Rio Vista to accommodate a second physician. There is talk of developing a 10,000-to-12,000-square-foot clinic in the city in four or five years, Ray said.
Sutter Regional Medical Foundation is expanding in south Solano County as well.
A cancer clinic and adjoining medical office building under construction at Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo are expected to open by year-end. The medical foundation will lease about 15,000 square feet of office space on the second floor to accommodate up to 12 doctors and their staff.

"For the first time, the physicians who have been loyally serving our community over the years, and new physicians who want to establish their practices in Vallejo, will have a modern new facility for treating their patients," said Terry Glubka, CEO of Sutter Solano Medical Center, in a prepared statement.

The idea behind the expansion is to improve access to services for Solano County residents who are not Kaiser patients, Ray said. Longtime doctors in the region are getting close to retirement. Younger ones seem reluctant to go solo.

"Without an organized multi-specialty practice to house, recruit and retain them, it's not clear whether physicians would come here to care for people. Availability will erode," Ray said. "This (expansion) is a very important part of our long-term strategy."

Kaiser plots a course

Kaiser expects to spend more than $650 million in Solano County over the next five years. That amount includes $300 million for the new hospital in Vacaville, which is expected to open in 2009. A replacement facility for Kaiser's Vallejo hospital would cost $350 million and be completed in 2008.

Another development still not approved by Kaiser board would add a 217,000-square-foot medical office building to Kaiser's medical campus in Vacaville.

"We do have quite a few members in Solano County," said Mariann White, chief operating officer for Kaiser's Napa-Solano region. "In order to provide primary and specialty care more conveniently to our members, we will be expanding in the Fairfield and Vacaville areas."
The new hospital in Vacaville alone, she said, is expected to bring more than 1,000 new jobs to the area.

© 2005 American City Business Journals Inc.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Solano County approve 2 mile dairy buffers

Article Launched: 05/26/2005 07:40:44 AM

Supes approve dairy buffers

By Jason Massad/Staff Writer

With little fanfare, a long-standing debate over the future of the county's megadairies concluded quietly Tuesday when Solano County supervisors passed a final reading on new regulations.
In contrast to the years of debate over the issue, supervisors passed the ordinances as part of the consent calender, meaning there was no discussion, officials said.

The far-reaching restrictions run the gamut from how much manure can be used on dairy farmland to a system of buffers that would keep large-scale facilities involving animals away from cities.

The restrictions would also create a two-mile buffer around a soon-to-be built Veterans Affairs cemetery between Dixon and Vacaville.

While supervisors did not debate the issue Tuesday, a representative of Borges and Machado, which hopes to establish a large dairy operation near Pitt School and

Weber roads was present to complain about the county's regulations.
The three-mile buffer zones established around Dixon and Vacaville, as well as the buffer around the cemetery, could thwart the Borges and Machado plans.
Supervisor Mike Reagan said the 11th-hour complaint involving the Borges and Machado proposal could presage a future lawsuit.
Jason Massad can be reached at county@thereporter.com.

Vacaville event honors city's military heritage

Event honors city's military heritage

By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

Getting representatives from the different branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, sometimes friendly rivals, together in close proximity can be a risky proposition.

Various veterans groups and armed services advocates, however, came together at the newly-christened Town Square in downtown Vacaville on Wednesday to celebrate the city's military heritage.

The warm evening wasn't without incident, however. One Navy midshipman tossed a wooden airplane, making it soar about 10 yards and wooing a couple of watching toddlers.
He then promptly turned to a nearby table of Air Force recruiters and said, without missing a beat, "That's how the Navy flies."

Quips aside, Mike Reagan, a county supervisor and a retired Air Force officer, said Solano County's history is tied to its relationship with the American military.
"There's not a community in this county whose identity didn't begin with the military," Reagan said. "It defines who we are."

Reagan said Vacaville especially has seen that impact, citing the number of active-duty Travis Air Force Base personnel who call the city home, as well as an ever-growing population of Travis retirees.

Late last week, City Councilman Chuck Dimmick, also retired from the Air Force, spoke to the impact the military has had on Vacaville and the need to recognize that publicly.
"When I walk around places like Leisure Town and meet people, I'm floored when I find out how many of them are retired military," Dimmick said. "Vacaville's so unique because not only do we have the base and those people, but we have such a high veteran base."

Wednesday evening's Town Square event was the first in the just-finished plaza, excluding Tuesday morning's dedication ceremony. City spokesman Earl Parker said Town Square is perfect for events like Military Day.

Having left their leather pants and mohawks in the barracks, the band Mobility rocked through a couple of sets on Town Square's stage in blue jumpsuits and military-approved hairdos. The band is one of a handful of ensembles comprising the United States Air Force Band of the Golden West.
Tom Hall can be reached at vacaville@thereporter.com.

Vallejo residents review ideas for Solano County Fairgrounds redevelopment & respond favorably to arts center

Residents review ideas for fairgrounds, respond favorably to arts center

By GREG MOBERLY, Times-Herald staff writer

Combining retail and fair attractions into a one-of-a-kind destination wasn't the only thing piquing Vallejoans' interest in the potential Solano County Fairgrounds redevelopment Wednesday night.

Possible inclusion of community activities such as facilities for art and performing arts groups captured some people's imaginations. Others expressed concerns how proposed retail development may impact restaurant and retail shops on the other side of the Interstate 80.

More than 30 local residents came out to the Solano County Fairgrounds Wednesday to learn more about the proposal.

Arlington, Va.-based Mills Corp. hopes to start from the ground up, melding a new arena exhibition hall, a temporary livestock building and fair administration buildings with unique destination retail stores, a hotel-convention center and specific community attractions, including a county welcome center.

It sounds like an art center could be included in the redevelopment, said Cleven Goudeau, a retired artist. Goudeau's wife, Jeanette McCree Goudeau, is the director of the Vallejo Artist Guild.

Trina Flores said she would love to see a cultural center included in the redevelopment, adding the proposal she'd seen is beautiful.

If the proposal becomes a reality, Flores said: "We're going to be the envy of Solano County. Maybe all of California."

Laylie Mack and Ed Hoffmark wanted to know if their group, the Vallejo Gem and Mineral Society, would have a home in the redeveloped fairgrounds. They said they didn't leave Wednesday's open house reassured.

For years, county supervisors have worked toward changing the fairgrounds into a destination-retail development.

The preliminary master plan concepts, which residents viewed Wednesday, is just one step in a long process, county and Mills officials have said.

Many of the same developments, once mentioned, including a Cabela's, a store for hunting, camping and fishing enthusiasts could be part of the project.

But Mills and county officials have declined to mention any store names or community groups that may be part of the project.

They say they don't want to jeopardize prospects, adding that its premature to know with certainty that the redevelopment will occur.

Judy and Janice Kirkley said they don't want the fairgrounds redevelopment because they fear it will draw business from Gateway Plaza and Target Center businesses across Interstate 80.

"We just built that up (Gateay Plaza and Target Center) and we're going to build this up," Judy Kirkley said.

Redevelopment of the fairgrounds property sounded ideal to Paul Singh, who owns Long John Silver's at 1015 Redwood Street.

Singh said he thought the redevelopment would draw more people to town and that possibility eventually would help all the city's retail businesses.

The concept includes plans for 252,000 square feet of fair commercial space, 57,800 of restaurants on the outer edges, 230,700 of entertainment-hotel space, 400,0000 of destination retail space and 200,000 of specialty retail stores.

It would all be spread out on the fairgrounds with wide pedestrian walkways.

A gourmet grocery store, hotel-convention center and water park, a book store, and an electronics store are proposed for the redevelopment.

Mills next deadline is Sept. 15 when it is expected to reveal a preliminary master plan including a revised layout, a financial feasibility analysis, a preliminary development and construction schedule, traffic study and construction cost estimates. By the end of the year, the board of supervisors will decide whether they want to proceed with the plans.

- E-mail Greg Moberly at GMoberly@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6833

Rosy job picture in Solano, East Bay


Posted on Thu, May. 26, 2005

Rosy job picture in Solano, East Bay

By George Avalos

Companies in the East Bay and Solano County are more eager to bring on new employees this year than their counterparts in the rest of the Bay Area, according to a survey released today.

The study by Mechanics Bank offers fresh evidence that the Bay Area economy has turned the corner after several bleak years. What's more, it appears the surge is being led by a robust economy in Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties.

"The East Bay is the place to be," said Steven Buster, president of Richmond-based Mechanics Bank. "It is better diversified, not totally dependent on technology as other parts of the Bay Area, and has very optimistic companies. It seems to be a very healthy environment."

About 68 percent of the employers in Solano County said they were likely to hire workers this year, compared with 55 percent in Alameda County and 54 percent in Contra Costa County. San Francisco, San Mateo, Napa, Sonoma, Santa Clara and Marin counties were less optimistic about hiring plans. The survey also found that 61 percent of Sacramento County businesses were likely to hire.

"We think that the employers in the East Bay and Solano are experiencing increased activity in their business," Buster said. "It could be partly in their DNA that they are just optimistic and entrepreneurial. But we think the main factor is more activity."

The remainder of the Bay Area still maintained some optimism about hiring plans, though. Although East Bay and Solano employers were more likely to hire than the rest of the region, hiring plans still looked hopeful in most counties. Marin County was the only area where the number of employers who were likely to hire was in the minority.

One Bay Area economist was not surprised that the East Bay and Solano appear to have stronger job markets.

"Technology hiring has really not picked up the way we would expect," Munroe said. "The East Bay and Solano County have more of a mix of old economy industries than Santa Clara County. We will continue to see structural economic differences between various parts of the Bay Area."

What's more, it could be years before hiring picks up among big tech companies.

"My analysis is that we will not see a whole lot of hiring in existing high tech companies," Munroe said. "You have increases in productivity, companies searching hard for a profit, and continued offshoring. Most of the hiring that occurs in tech companies will come in startup companies. We are a job incubating region."

The survey did contain some mixed signals:

• Every region surveyed, including Sacramento, said transportation has deteriorated. Contra Costa County has the most dire outlook about transportation, with 84 percent of the employers saying transportation is getting worse. About 72 percent of the Alameda County and 68 percent of the Solano County respondents said traffic was getting worse. The least-bleak outlook for transportation was in the Santa Clara-San Mateo region, where 61 percent said traffic had become worse.

• In only three of the 10 counties -- Alameda, Sacramento and Solano -- did most respondents say the California business climate is headed in the right direction. In six counties, fewer than half of the employers said things were headed it the right direction.

Still, bank executives believe the Bay Area economy will continue to improve.

"Our loan activity is increasing at the bank," Buster said. "These companies want more money to invest in their businesses as they expand. And we have never had a lower past-due experience in our loan portfolio than we do now."


Employers in the East Bay and Solano County were more likely than other parts of the Bay Area to hire more workers this year. This chart shows the percentage of employers surveyed that are likely or unlikely to hire people in 2005.

County Likely Unlikely*

Solano 67.7% 32.3%

Alameda 55 44.2

Contra Costa 53.5 44.7

San Francisco 52 46

Napa/Sonoma 50.3 47.7

San Mateo/Santa Clara 49.2 47.6

Marin 48.2 50

* Numbers don't always add up to 100 percent because some respondents said they were unsure.

Source: Mechanics Bank

George Avalos covers the economy, financial markets, and banks. Reach him at 925-977-8477 or gavalos@cctimes.com


© 2005 ContraCostaTimes.com and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Developer, city fast-track Canyon Oaks Elementary in American Canyon

AmCan school dedication

Developer, city fast-track Canyon Oaks Elementary

By SARAH ROHRS, Times-Herald staff writer

- City dignitaries on Tuesday dedicated a new elementary school flanked with unfinished homes and cul-de-sacs where the pavement has barely dried.

Canyon Oaks Elementary School is a case of a housing developer building a school even before the homes where the school's kindergarten through fifth grade students will live.

The usual course is that housing developers provide land and school impact fees, and the school district builds - only after slowly plodding through red tape to get enough money and approvals.
American Canyon students won't arrive for another three months, but the school is already fully landscaped, and even has flags for the flag poles. The only thing missing from the finished rooms are desks.

Standard Pacific Homes is building about 700 homes in northeast American Canyon. The new school is on Silver Oak Trail. Saws and hammers and other home-building sounds filled the air Tuesday as about 50 city and school dignitaries attended the dedication.

"It is unusual because of the collaboration with the developer to get the school built. They built the school and turned the keys over to us," said Debbie Brenner, Napa Valley Unified School District assistant superintendent for business services.

Standard Pacific spent $7 million for the school, which cost $17 million. The school district contributed $3 million and the state put in $7 million, Brenner said. Local funds stem from Measure M bonds.

Standard Pacific spent far more than it would have in ordinary school impact fees. Brenner said those fees would have been about $2.2 million.

"The only thing we were obligated to do was provide a site," Martin said. "We wanted to build a school. It's good for the community."

The developers, city and school district joined together to get the school built quickly, Standard Pacific East Bay division president Glen Martin said.

American Canyon City Manager Mark Joseph said city officials "spent a lot of time persuading the developer" the area would need a new school. The school is the first elementary school built in the Napa Unified School District in 30 years, Superintendent John Glaser said. Standard Pacific had never built a school before, Martin added.

Canyon Oaks was built quickly because developers and the school district agreed to use school building designs the state had already approved, Martin said. That cut down on the normally long design review process.

American Canyon parent Yanet Hernandez toured the school, peeking into new classrooms and multi-purpose rooms with her mother and young daughter. Her son Oscar will attend when school starts Aug. 17.

"We are happy. We live close by and now I won't have to go all the way to Napa Junction. This is more convenient," Hernandez said.

Maren Roca Hunt, the school's new principal, is coming from Winters Joint Unified School District where she has worked for 11 years, including the last helping to open a new elementary school.

- E-mail Sarah Rohrs at srohrs@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6832.

Dixon Council approves expansion of City Hall

Dixon Council approves expansion of City Hall

By David Henson/Staff Writer
Looking at plans for the second time this year, the Dixon City Council laid the foundation Tuesday night for an eventual expansion of City Hall that will more than double its size.

With a 5-0 vote, council members placed the $3.5 million cost estimate and schematic design for the 11,606-square-foot expansion into the city's five-year capital improvement program.

The city currently is recalculating the fees it charges developers and the new estimate for the City Hall - roughly double a figure from the 1990s - will be a factor in any increase in those fees to help fund the expansion.

"This is why it is important to do this now," said Mayor Mary Ann Courville.

Tuesday's approval also paves the way for the city to solicit bids on the project, according to city documents. Several council members seemed reluctant to pin a time frame on the project, saying it could be several years before the city begins construction.

"We're not suggesting to start building tomorrow or next year or even four years from now," City Manager Warren Salmons said. "We're saying let's acquire the resources to do it."
Councilman Mike Smith, however, seemed to disagree.

"If we approve this, that means we're going to build it," he said. "The only problem I see is that by the time we start building it, it will be too late."

City workers already are too cramped, he said, later suggesting the council look at temporary solutions to the space problem.

When criticized for approving the project because city staff recommended it, Vice Mayor Gil Vega quipped that previous city councils had the foresight to "rubber stamp" new construction for the police and fire departments as well as the current council chambers.

"Dixon is not going to stop developing, so I guess we'll just have to 'rubber stamp' ourselves into the future," he added.

An expanded City Hall would place the engineering department in the same building as its co-workers for the first time in 15 years. Plans call for more room for future new staff members in the community development, planning and engineering departments, as well as creating a multi-purpose room accessible to the public.

The cost estimate and plans were developed through a space-needs analysis and interviews with city staff, but Councilman Steve Alexander questioned the breakdown of needs and whether it was necessary.

Responded Salmons, "Let's say we're off by four or five positions. The worst that happens is the space doesn't get used until later."

David Henson can be reached at schools@thereporter.com.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

ScottishPower plans to build a 150-megawatt wind farm valued at $235 million

Windy investment

A Portland subsidiary of ScottishPower plans to build a 150-megawatt wind farm in Northern California's Solano County.

PPM Energy, which along with PacifiCorp is owned by ScottishPower, said the wind farm should be up and running sometime this year.

The local company acquired the project, which has all necessary permits, from Enxco, a company affiliated with EDF Energies Nouvelles of France. The project is valued at $235 million. The wind farm is located between San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif.

PPM currently controls approximately 830 megawatts of wind power in seven states.

Leaders to honor Travis AFB air personnel

Leaders to honor Travis air personnel

By Reporter Staff

Civic leaders will gather in Fairfield May 31 to honor the men and women who make Travis Air Force Base one of the premier airlift bases in the United States.

The event, a second annual community tribute to the base, will feature U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Solano, as keynote speaker. Tauscher has been one of the most outspoken advocates in Washington D.C. for the local air base.

Two hundred people are scheduled to attend the ceremony coordinated by the Travis Community Consortium, which includes all seven cities in Solano County as well as county government.

The tribute is an invitation-only event planned for businesses and other members of the consortium. It is to be held at the Fairfield Community Center.
"This is the community wanting to honor (the men and women at the base) for the personal sacrifices that they make everyday," said Sheree McDonald, military liaison for the Travis Community Consortium, who recently finished r military career at Travis.
The three wings at the base, its expeditionary task force, army and navy elements stationed at the base all will be individually recognized at the ceremony. One of the wings honored will be the reserve wing.

The base has been busy quietly continuing to move personnel and materiel to the ongoing war in Iraq. The base was also elemental in the effort in Afghanistan.

The biggest most recent news at the base, however, came last week with the announcement of a military base closure list. The base, to the joy of local leaders, was not included on the list.

Vacaville-based Large Scale Biology Corp. will collaborate with Bayer CropScience

Pharmaceutical collaboration

By Jim Wasserman -- Bee Staff Writer

Published 2:15 am PDT Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Vacaville-based Large Scale Biology Corp. will collaborate with Bayer CropScience for research and development on an LSBC pharmaceutical product.
Terms of the agreement are confidential, but LSBC and Bayer said they will jointly investigate the potential of an LSBC pharmaceutical product produced by tobacco plants.

Company officials said they aim to develop and commercialize a new therapeutic product aimed at cardiovascular diseases brought on by high cholesterol and triglycerides. Other potential targets include cancer and rare diseases.

Bayer CropScience is a subsidiary of Germany-based Bayer AG.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Unemployment numbers down in Solano County with 1800 new jobs added in April

Unemployment numbers down locally, in state

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

Unemployment in Solano and Napa counties was down last month and the number of newly created jobs was up, according to the latest state figures.

Cynthia Solorio, the Employment Development Department's labor market consultant for the Napa, Solano and Sonoma areas, said all the signs bode well for the local economy in the next few months.

"There were some 1,800 jobs added in Solano County (over the last month), which is a very nice job gain," Solorio said. "Some of them are seasonal, like in the leisure and hospitality industry, which gained 600 jobs. And this is just the beginning of the summer season, so that should grow."

Between April 2004 and last month, 3,000 jobs were gained in Solano County.
However, she said, the price of gasoline may be a wild card in the mix.

"If people don't travel because gas prices are too high, we could see jobs lost in that industry this summer, instead of gained," Solorio said. "That's something to watch."

At 5.2 percent unemployment, Solano County in the middle third of California counties, according to the latest figures. That's down from a 5.6 percent in March and below the year-ago estimate of 6 percent.

Marin and Orange counties were tied for first at 3.5 percent unemployment, and Imperial County ranked last at 14.6 percent unemployment. Napa county ranked fifth. The unadjusted unemployment rate statewide between March and April was 5.2 percent. It was 4.9 percent nationally.

Besides the hospitality industry, the largest job gains in Solano County between March and April, were in construction and government, figures show.

"It's promising that construction jobs continue to grow, even with all the rain. It's a very good sign for the local economy," Solorio said.

The Napa area gained 1,500 jobs between March and April and just over 1,000 over the year, the figures show. The main gains were in construction, trade and transportation, leisure and hospitality, and government.

Solorio said the unemployment rate is calculated based on where people work and not where they live. However, it's a good sign that the number of unemployed people actively seeking work in Solano County has dropped, while the number of jobs created here has grown.

"There's a pretty high commuter factor in Solano County, but the civilian unemployment rate over the past three months has been consistently dropping," Solorio said. "That could reflect a percentage of people getting jobs among those newly created in the county."

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at RachelZ@thnewsnet. com or call 553-6824.

Solano County March/April Residential Real Estate Report

Standing strong

Real estate sales remain stable as appreciation rates pick up

By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

The real estate market appreciation rate in Solano County is picking up steam, with the median sales price idling at last month's median of $409,000 and with fewer homes selling compared to March.

According to a real estate information service, 944 homes sold in April, a dip from 1,029 in March. Appreciation of residential real property in the Bay Area has surpassed that of Southern California for the first time in four years, according to La Jolla based-DataQuick Information Systems.

Steve and Sue Kappel, brokers and owners of Kappel & Kappel Realtors Inc., said from their perspective sales are still going strong for early spring, but the surge in homebuying should begin this month.

"The prognosis from the experts at the California Association of Realtors is that we're not going to see a decline or leveling off within the next few months," said Sue Kappel. "The interest rates are not significant enough, and the loan programs out there are so flexible."

Meanwhile, Bay Area home prices moved up to another new high last month as sales remained at near-record levels, the result of strong demand and flat mortgage interest rates.
A total of 11,158 new and resale houses and condos were sold in the nine-county region in April. That was down 1.3 percent from 11,310 for the previous month, and down 10.2 percent from 12,421 for April last year, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

Last year's April was the strongest April on record. Last month was the second- strongest. Last month's year-over-year sales decline was the first of this year.

Marshall Prentice, president of DataQuick, said in a prepared release that the firm is watching carefully for any turn in the market.

"Appreciation is pretty even across the different categories, there are really no changes in market mix, purchase and financing profiles are stable. Mortgage rates haven't gone up as they were expected to do, and demand appears to be strong," Prentice said.

The median price paid for a Bay Area home was $586,000, a new record. That was up 3.2 percent from $568,000 in March, and up 19.1 percent from $492,000 for April a year ago.
DataQuick, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, monitors real estate activity nationwide.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,659 in April, an all-time high. A year ago it was $2,237.

Indicators of market distress are still largely absent. Foreclosure rates are low, down payment sizes are stable and there have been no significant shifts in market mix, DataQuick reported.

Barbara Smith can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

Review of Fairfield upcoming street improvements

Article Last Updated: Saturday, May 21, 2005 - 08:51:59 pm PDT

Save time, headaches by reviewing upcoming street improvements

By Brian Miller and Karl Dumas

Most local drivers don't like to be surprised by road improvement projects that hinder traffic. It's frustrating when you're in the middle of the noon-time rush, heading for the mall or Gateway Plaza to chow down and realize your lunch time will be cut in half by a construction project's traffic jam. We thought people might like a "heads up" on some of the upcoming street and traffic signal improvements that may impact local traffic in Fairfield this year.

-- City contractors will install new traffic signals at the intersection of Hilborn Road/Lyon Road/Interstate 80 westbound ramps. The intersection is currently controlled by stop signs. This project will be bid in June with an anticipated start of construction in August and completion in December. It is anticipated to cost about $250,000.

-- The city will also install traffic signals at Claybank Road and Quail Drive, Claybank Road at East Tabor Avenue, Chadbourne Road at Courage Drive and Dickson Hill Road at Dover Avenue. These latter projects will be bid in July with an anticipated start of construction in September and completion in early 2006. The current cost estimate for these new signals is $775,000.

-- Traffic in Cordelia at Lopes Road and Bridgeport Avenue/Cordelia Road should improve after these intersections and streets are widened and new traffic signals installed. The project is planned to start in August and is estimated to cost $880,000.

-- Traffic safety improvements are also planned along Travis Boulevard. The city will upgrade traffic signal equipment at eight intersections along Travis. This project will be bid in August with an anticipated start of construction in October and completion in early spring 2006. The current estimate is $400,000.

-- One issue people have raised is pedestrian safety downtown. The city will install lighted crosswalks at the intersections of Texas and Taylor streets and Texas and Madison streets. A June bid date has been set and construction is expected to start in August and be completed in October. The anticipated project cost is $45,000.

-- Second Street between Texas Street and Travis Boulevard is scheduled for repaving due to the impacts of a waterline replacement project. Starting in August and continuing through November, the project will feature pavement grinding, placement of asphalt concrete, replacement of concrete sidewalk sections, and replacement and/or installation of handicap access ramps. Similar pavement work will occur on each side of the I-80 overcrossing on Travis Boulevard. The project is estimated to cost $750,000.

-- The Air Base Parkway at Dover Avenue intersection is one of the city's busiest. Modifications planned for this area include widening Air Base Parkway west of Dover Avenue to install a second left-turn lane; changing existing islands and the traffic signal; installing new handicap ramps and a retaining wall and replacing irrigation, landscaping, fencing, striping and signs. This project will bid in June with an anticipated start of construction in August and completion in early 2006. The cost estimate is $500,000.

-- Probably the largest construction project that will affect traffic this year is replacing old water mains, services and fire hydrants in the residential area bounded by North Texas Street, E. Travis Boulevard, Taft Street, Tennessee Street and Coolidge Street. The work will begin later this month and construction will continue through the fall and winter. The price tag for the work is $2.9 million.

Economic Notes: An update from Fairfield City Hall is written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. They can be contacted at 428-7461 or e-mail at kdumas@ci.fairfield.ca.us or bkmiller@ci.fairfield.ca.us

Merchant & Main Grill and Bar marks 20-year milestone in Downtown Vacaville

Article Launched: 05/22/2005 09:24:36 AM

Savoring success
Merchant & Main marks 20-year milestone

By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

Bob Tooke, owner of Merchant & Main Grill and Bar talks about his 20 year restaurant success story. (Rick Roach/The Reporter)

It's a rainy weekday afternoon, and the lounge inside Merchant & Main Grill and Bar is warmly lit and quiet save the occasional thumping of dice cups at a corner table.

Vacaville businessmen Rod Boles and Chris Kistner are playing as they wait for their lunches. It's a routine they've enjoyed since the Main Street restaurant first opened.

In a day and age when many restaurants fail quickly, Merchant & Main is bucking the trend. It will mark its 20th anniversary this summer with a gala event and regular patrons like Boles and Kistner say they understand why the local eatery has succeeded where others have failed.

Boles, a telephone service company owner, says he can get a feel of the pulse of the business community inside the eatery.

"It's kind of nice to get the inside information on who's doing what, where, and how ... and you get a good meal. What more could you want?" he says.

"We meet for drinks in the evening, talk business and sports," says Kistner, a local insurance broker.

And of course, there's the food.

"It's got to be done right," Boles says. "Bob takes good care of us."

* * *

Veteran restaurateur Bob Tooke arrives to his restaurant each day before it opens and after his daily shopping rounds.

Dressed in jeans, jersey, vest and ball cap, Tooke, 52, hardly fits the stereotypical image of the owner of an upscale restaurant that has enjoyed unprecedented success in Vacaville.

"Twenty years, a long time in restaurant racket," he said in a recent interview.

Merchant & Main Grill and Bar was established in June 1985 by three Tookes - Bob, brother Jim and Jim's wife, Kathy.

That's when the downtown was a "scary" place, with empty buildings, Tooke said.

"We literally built this restaurant on credit cards," he recalled. "We had no money."

Despite some "bumps in the road," they made it, said Tooke. They bought the building in 1989. He bought out his brother and sister-in-law in 1998. The 1,700-square-foot patio was recently built with city of Vacaville Redevelopment Agency funds.

Total dollars invested through the years: $600,000 to $700,000.

Today, he reluctantly admits he's a millionaire "on paper," but clarifies that it's his friends and family that matter.

"What's cool about Merchant & Main is there has been 50 million friendships and relationships formed from this restaurant. Everybody knows each other," he said.

Tooke's daughter, Jema Hagerman, 28, is now general manager and heads the restaurant's catering business. His son Sam Tooke, 24 is a chef at the eatery. Other family members also work at the restaurant.

On Tooke's "to do" list is new stainless steel equipment for the kitchen. And there's a new menu to roll out in July. Tooke only says he's going to "tinker" with it.

While Tooke has left most of the management up to his daughter, he still works and considers his schedule of 40 to 50 hours a week a light load. Restaurant owners can expect to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week until they pay down their debts, he said.

He does what he likes to do - daily shopping for fresh food and hanging out in the kitchen to "fiddle around" and experiment.

"A restaurant is a kitchen," he said.

So what are entrepreneurs who fail in the restaurant business doing wrong?

"People in the restaurant business have to work in the business," Tooke said. "You can't be an absentee owner in this business. You're not making shirts."

* * *

Mike Palombo, the city of Vacaville's economic development manager, eats in local restaurants often. He said he has had many lunches and a few dinners at Merchant & Main.

"I think that they helped establish the fact that there was a market for a locally owned, higher class restaurant," Palombo said. "The fact is they were one of the first to offer that type of service to this community, and for a long time they were the only one who did.

"I think it's very well matched for the taste of the community," he said.

The prices and service are also key to its success, he said.

Customers are looking for a clean restaurant, consistency and reasonable prices, said Tooke.

"The number one thing we do is we're consistent," he said. "We have an extremely high quality product, everything is fresh. We buy everything daily. We call it 'just in time' buying,'" he said.

The restaurant also offers eight to 10 specials per meal.

"It keeps it interesting for people, instead of the same old thing over and over, and over," Tooke said.

He has loyal, long term employees, like one woman who has been a server for 17 years. And he offers good wages, he said.

"We pay better than most in town. In fact, I know we do," Tooke said.

The restaurant employs 55 to 65, depending on the season.

Tooke is particularly proud of his success because the restaurant cannot rely on freeway traffic to draw customers.

"We rely on repeat customers," he said. "You can't treat anybody like you're not going to see them again. We have to deal with the local people."

* * *

Tooke loves the revitalization of Vacaville's downtown and he's prospered because of it. However, the city can pour money into the downtown but whether or not it thrives depends on how much money merchants are willing to put into their businesses.

Any words of advice?

"Never rest on your laurels. Never think you're good enough, or you're dead," he said.

Tooke is planning a 20th anniversary celebration for customers and former employees at the Opera House June 6 with a nine-piece band. Everybody is welcome, he said.

"We like to feel like we're part of the locals," he said.

So what do the locals think about Merchant & Main?

"Everybody knows where Merchant & Main is. That says it right there," he said.

Barbara Smith can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Solano awarded $10.6 million - Nearly 345 affordable homes and a total injection of $35 million into the local economy could result from the investmen

Article Last Updated: 5/21/2005 07:35 AM

Solano awarded $10.6 million

By Reporter Staff


Solano County has been awarded $10.6 million from a 2002 voter-approved bond to finance affordable housing, affordable housing advocates announced this week.

Nearly 345 affordable homes and a total injection of $35 million into the local economy could result from the investment, according to the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, an advocacy group.

"Nowhere in the Bay Area is the supply meeting the demand for real affordable homes," said Dianne Spaulding, executive director of the association. "The market has been dominated by the production of large, expensive homes."

Between 1999 and 2003, the association cites, the Bay Area construction industry built more than 100,000 homes for people earning more than $100,000 a year.
Meanwhile, only 28,000 homes were built for people earning less, such as teachers, nurses and firefighters.

Proposition 46, the voter approved housing bond passed in 2002, is helping to do what the market is not, said advocates.

"Solano County is finally able to make up the gap created by a market that was producing twice as many market-rate homes as affordable ones," said Merlin Wedepohl, with the Solano Housing Coalition.

Proposition 46 a $2.1 billion housing bond, passed voter muster in 2002 by a 57.5 percent margin.

East Bay job growth still steady

Posted on Sat, May. 21, 2005

East Bay job growth still steady


The East Bay job market displayed increased muscle in April, according to a report issued Friday by state labor officials.

The April employment report showed that over the past year, East Bay employers have added 7,900 jobs to their payrolls, a gain of 0.8 percent. The East Bay is also growing faster than the 10-county Bay Area, where the job market grew 0.6 percent over the year, adding 17,600 jobs.
Solano County had the fastest-growing employment market over the past 12 months, adding jobs at a yearly pace of 2.5 percent.

The rate of the employment gains is also starting to accelerate in the Alameda-Contra Costa region. In March, employers in the East Bay added jobs at a yearly rate of 0.6 percent, and the Bay Area grew by 0.3 percent.

For the month, the East Bay added 3,200 jobs, not adjusted for seasonal changes. The Bay Area added 12,300 jobs in April, the state Employment Development Department reported.
The statewide unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.4 percent, but the state added 20,400 payroll jobs in the month and the number of people unemployed dropped to its lowest level since July 2001.

The state also revised its estimate upward for jobs created last month to 21,000 from the original estimate of 17,600.

The numbers were in line with what analysts were expecting and shows steady, but moderate, job growth.

"The good news is that with five months in a row, we now know that both California and the nation are in a period of job growth," said Stephen Levy, senior economist at the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.

But the state is still not on pace to replace jobs lost in recent years, especially in the technology sector.

"This is a good year, but not a breakout year," Levy said.

Last month, 26 of the state's 28 labor markets showed job growth, the state said.
Notable among those that didn't was the San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara area, which lost 2,300 jobs compared to April 2004.

But the area added 5,800 jobs from March to April, including leisure and hospitality jobs and temp positions, according to the state.

"We're still adding manufacturing jobs year over year in the state," Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Los Angeles Economic Development Commission said. "About the only sour note is the San Jose area, but it's narrowing."

Times staff writer George Avalos and the Associated Press contributed to this story.
© 2005 ContraCostaTimes.com and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.http://www.contracostatimes.com

Friday, May 20, 2005

Town Square the latest gem in redevelopment in Downtown Vacaville

Article Launched: 05/20/2005 07:43:23 AM

Celebrating the rebirth

Town Square the latest gem in redevelopment

At last, the bulldozers have gone, the trees have all been planted, the clock tower stands majestic, the fountain is finished and the public is ready to move in and claim Vacaville's sparkling new Town Square.

It has been a long time in coming.

On land that at one time hosted a used car dealership and a host of underused buildings, Vacaville has created a true gem for its downtown atmosphere: a space where people can stop and smell the coffee, enjoy the sunshine, read a book and soak in the downtown landscape.

The project's roots reach as far back as the 1980s, when the city created its redevelopment agency and started pumping millions of dollars into downtown.

Streets were dug up so water and sewer pipes could be upgraded. About $5 million was invested into the newly renamed Carroll Plaza and Ulatis CreekWalk, a series of sidewalks along the bank of Ulatis Creek in Vacaville's historic Andrews Park. Eventually, abandoned buildings were turned into new shops and restaurants.

Land where the town square and Vacaville's new library sits was acquired in 1999. Unfortunately, there were several false starts, with developers pulling out of the projects. Funding became elusive in tough fiscal times.

Finally, in 2003, the first phase of the Town Square project was approved, and the contract was awarded to a local builder. About the same time, work began on the library, which finally opened in January 2005.

Now the stage is set as Vacaville places the final piece de resistance to the downtown puzzle with the inauguration of Town Square.

The history of this lynch pin for downtown's success is told in "Showcase Downtown: Celebrating a Vacaville Renaissance," a 48-page special section you'll find in today's Reporter. In it, you'll read thoughts on the project, its evolution and the hopes and dreams for downtown from Vacaville's mayor, the director of the Vacaville Museum, the president of the Downtown Vacaville Business Improvement District, the chief executive officer of the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce, the director of the Vacaville Conference and Visitors Bureau, and more.

Local historians and columnists Jerry Bowen and Sabine Goerke-Shrode collected tidbits of downtown history and old photographs, which we've scattered throughout. You'll also read about some of the longtime businesses developed along Main Street, the city's plans for celebrating its renaissance, and some thoughts from our publisher emeritus.

It all becomes official when the city hosts its dedication ceremony at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Whether you come out to observe the fanfare or find your own time to get acquainted with the square, make plans to explore Vacaville's evolving downtown. Celebrate the renaissance.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Suisun City lauds plans as 'super'Wal-Mart Supercenter

05/18/2005 07:51:50 AM

Suisun City lauds plans as 'super'Wal-Mart Supercenter is part of a development project that also includes 359 new homes.

By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

A major housing and retail development anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter is proposed for Suisun City - a project city officials are lauding as the beginning of the end of the waterfront town's money troubles.

Described as a "gateway" location with a regional draw, the project would be built on about 170 acres of unincorporated land known as the Gentry property at Highway 12 and Pennsylvania Avenue.

San Mateo-based Highland Development proposes to build roughly 650,000 square feet of retail space. Concord-based Silverwing Development plans a residential community of 359 single-family homes on about 17 acres.

The developers hope to break ground in 2007, but the land must be annexed into the city and the proposals run through the mandated process, including public review.
That lengthy process didn't diminish Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering's celebratory mood Tuesday as he announced the deal.

Spering said the state budget crisis has had an impact on his city. The retail center with Wal-Mart and accessory retailers will provide in coming years the funding the city needs.

"This project has been in our general plan for more than 20 years, and is finally becoming a reality," a beaming Spering said to business and civic leaders in a crowded council chamber.

The retail center is expected to more than double sales tax revenues for city coffers, said Randy Starbuck, the city's economic development director. Suisun City now collects roughly $800,000 a year sales taxes at point of sale, Starbuck said.

The basic statewide sales-and-use tax (7.25 percent) is divided between the state, local transportation fund, and local jurisdictions. According to the state Board of Equalization, Suisun City has the lowest sales tax revenue of any Solano County city, as well as one of the lowest per-capita sales tax revenue rates in the state.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., based in Bentonville, Ark., announced in October 2004 an aggressive expansion plan involving up to 45 of its flagship discount stores and will wind up with 240 to 250 supercenters in the United States by the company's next fiscal year, Feb. 1.

Wal-Mart often is targeted by community groups and smaller businesses opposed to the huge retailer being in their town. One such example is in American Canyon. A controversial supercenter is moving forward there despite continued opposition including lawsuits.

Meanwhile, the company plans to expand its 100,000-square-foot store in Dixon into a supercenter in early 2006. In Fairfield, a proposal to build a supercenter in the mostly-vacant Mission Village Shopping Center on North Texas Street is undergoing review, as well as opposition from the community.

But in Suisun City, Spering and Police Chief Ron Forsythe consider such a store a veritable windfall.

Budget cuts have eliminated six of 28 positions in the police department, and some officers are working 20 hours a day, said Forsythe.
Also, Suisun City needs a second fire station, he said.

"We've all (been told) to hang in there a little bit longer and wait for the better tomorrow," Forsythe said. "The better tomorrow is finally coming."

Sean Quinn, Fairfield's director of planning and development, said two Wal-Marts in adjoining cities can probably be supported, but there will be impacts.
David Sommer, president and chief executive officer of the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce, said such a large project will be not just an exciting boost for Suisun City, but for the region.

"This is a great opportunity for our city to get ahead of the game," Sommer said.
Kevin Loscotoff, regional manager of community affairs for Wal-Mart, said the 185,000 square-foot supercenter will create more than 400 jobs. He said the supercenter in Stockton is the first and so far only supercenter operating in Northern California. The store recruited to fill 500 positions, but received about 3,500 applications, Loscotoff said.

"These are valuable jobs that are desired out in the community, and fulfill a real need," he said.
Barbara Smith can be reached atbusiness@thereporter.com.

Excitement grows with ground breaking for Kaiser Permanente hospital in eastern Vacaville 340,000-square-foot hospital in Vacaville

Article Launched: 05/18/2005 07:51:50 AM

Kaiser's prescription Ground breaks for expanded Vaca facilities

By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

Doctors don't typically embrace dirt-filled shovels.

But as excitement grows about the coming Kaiser Permanente hospital in eastern Vacaville, doctors, administrators, civic leaders and local builders all donned hard hats Tuesday morning to mark the ceremonial groundbreaking for construction on the expanded medical facilities.

The expansion, recently approved by the city, is set to be finished by early 2009.

A 340,000-square-foot hospital will be the centerpiece, augmented by a new medical office building to sit next to the existing medical offices off Vaca Valley Parkway.

Kaiser's Vacaville medical offices opened in 1996. The hospital phase has been in planning stages since then, and preparations sped up after the turn of the millennium.
Dr. Robert Pearl, the chief executive officer of the Permanente Medical Group, told Tuesday morning's crowd of more than 250 that while it would be difficult for the health-care provider's founders to envision the marvels of emerging medical technology, they understood what makes medicine work best for the patients.

"They understood that health care is not an industry - it is a cause," Pearl said.
Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine said the 1,000 new jobs the expansion will bring to the city in addition to other major developments in eastern Vacaville have helped make the last several years one of the best eras in the city's history.
"I just don't know if I can get the smile off my face," Augustine said. "Today is a great day for the city of Vacaville."

Deborah Romer, Kaiser's senior vice president and Napa-Solano area manager, said the health care provider serves a quarter-million local residents. Adding to the expanded service Kaiser Vacaville will provide, Romer said Vallejo's new hospital tower should be open by 2008.
Augustine said that the new hospital isn't just good news for Vacaville residents, but also for the people of Dixon, Winters and Fairfield.

Dr. Steven Stricker, Kaiser's physician-in-chief for the Napa-Solano area, said because the company takes care of its employees, there are eight applications for every opening, ensuring a top level of skill and competence for Kaiser's doctors.
"Over the next few years, I promise you will see the best physicians working here at the Vacaville Medical Center," Stricker said.

Tom Hall can be reached at vacaville@thereporter.com.

Suisun City officials give Wal-Mart a warm welcome to new superstore

Article Last Updated: Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 10:33:38 pm PDT

Fairfield's Wal-Mart on Chadborne Road will close, but Suisun City will be adding a superstore of its own.

Suisun City officials give Wal-Mart a warm welcome

By Matthew Bunk

- Wal-Mart has targeted the outskirts of Suisun City as a prime place for a supercenter, and city officials say it's about time.Unlike some other cities fighting to keep out big-box stores such as Wal-Mart, financially strapped Suisun City welcomed the world's largest retailer during a highly orchestrated press conference Tuesday morning at City Hall.A handful of city officials, citizens and Wal-Mart representatives answered questions about the economic impacts of such a large development in a small town and the financial viability of building a Wal-Mart Supercenter so close to the site of another proposed supercenter on North Texas Street in Fairfield. The two supercenters would be less than 3 miles apart. "It comes down to customer demand," Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Loscotoff said. "We feel there's enough demand to support two supercenters in these communities. "A typical Wal-Mart Supercenter has a full grocery department, an expanded gardening department and an automobile service center, as well as dozens of departments of discount items. Most are around 200,000 square feet.
Wal-Mart last year told Fairfield about its plan to open a supercenter at Mission Village shopping center, and a few months later announced the pending closure of its store on Chadbourne Road. All along, company officials left open the possibility of opening a second supercenter in the area.Mayor Jim Spering said Suisun City desperately needs the sales tax boost that would come from building a Wal-Mart Supercenter the size of four football fields on windswept grassland between Suisun and Fairfield. "This project will provide the revenue to meet demands without raising taxes," he said.Wal-Mart's interest in Suisun City is only one part of a larger development project in the works for the past 20 years. City planners anticipate building homes and retail facilities on 172 acres of land northwest of city limits, with Wal-Mart anchoring the commercial portion.

The so-called Gentry Project would devote 650,000 square feet of building space for small shops, large retailers and restaurants, but no other tenants were named Tuesday. The other half of the mixed-use project would be a residential subdivision for 359 homes.Before breaking ground, however, the city must go through a lengthy approval process that includes annexing land now under Solano County's control. It could take about a year to cut through the red tape and developers probably won't begin construction until 2007, according to city estimates.Many Suisun residents leave the city to shop, which cuts into sales-tax revenue and limits city funds for police and fire protection and a host of other community services. Just last year the Suisun City police department laid off nearly one-third of its officers and many city streets are in disrepair, officials said.Wal-Mart could make a big impact in Suisun, where 28,000 people live but most shop in neighboring cities, 25-year-old Suisun resident Bridgette Nelson said."We've needed more shopping in Suisun for a very long time," she said. "Now I don't have to leave town to get the goods I need."Every year, Suisun City loses more than 70 percent of potential sales tax revenue to other communities due to the lack of retail options in town, according to the 2004 California Retail Survey. Spering estimated the city's yearly sales tax intake of roughly $800,000 would double once the Wal-Mart opens for business two or three years from now.Each Wal-Mart Supercenter has about 400 workers, so Wal-Mart would become the largest non-government employer in Suisun City. Right now grocers Albertsons and Raley's are the city's largest employers, each with about 100 workers.Wal-Mart's impact on small businesses has become an issue across the country, but Spering said a Wal-Mart on the outskirts of town shouldn't hurt businesses downtown or those along Highway 12 and Sunset Avenue. He drew a comparison to Fairfield's plan to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter in a business district surrounded by small retailers, a Kmart and grocery stores."Proximity to other businesses is the real issue. It's not like we're putting this downtown or in a competing business district," he said. "It's on the fringe of the city, so we only expect it to benefit existing businesses."Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or mbunk@dailyrepublic.net.Project Facts and Figures-- Highland Development and Silverwing Development are in contract to develop a portion of the Gentry Property between Highway 12 and Cordelia Road at Pennsylvania Avenue and are working with Suisun City officials to annex the site into the City.-- Approximately 172 acres will be annexed by Suisun City, but the proposed project will only cover about 51 percent of that acreage, with the remainder reserved for open space and wetlands.-- Approximately 359 housing units are planned to be built on approximately 17 acres by Silverwing Development.-- Highland Development's 650,000-square-foot retail center is planned on about 71 acres.-- Suisun City has the lowest sales tax revenue of any Solano County community, as well as one of the lowest per-capita sales tax revenue rates in California.

Suisun City picks developers for Main Street project

Article Last Updated: Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 10:33:40 pm PDT

Suisun picks developers for Main Street project

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City developer Miller-Sorg and Basin Street Properties of Petaluma will be the team Suisun City leaders will negotiate with to make the master developer for the city's Main Street West project. "It is a very good partnership for Suisun," Mayor Jim Spering said of the development team which he hopes will restart efforts to economically revive downtown Suisun City. The joint proposal by Miller-Sorg and Basin Street beat out three other proposals from firms that included The Wiseman Company, San Francisco developer Roger Snell and Signature properties. If negotiations with Miller-Sorg/Basin Street fall through for some reason, Spering stated a proposal made by residential developer Signature will be the next option. Suisun City leaders met with the candidates for the last month to see who best fit their vision for redeveloping several large and small parcels on both sides of Main Street.

The city put forward the Main Street project late last year to jump-start economic development efforts that had faltered due to a lack of private business interest. The details of the Miller-Sorg/Basin Street proposal will be hammered out over the next few months. The city committee that made the choice was looking for a project that was both fiscally feasible for the Old Town area and that could be economically sustainable. Spering stated the city was impressed by the idea of creating an anchor project that would attract smaller business developments to feed off the anchor project's success. Basin Street has already collected kudos for a similar project on the south side of Petaluma's downtown that saw $10 million invested to build a theater complex and a host of retail shops and restaurants.

This in turn spurred development of more housing, retail businesses and offices in the blocks around it. Miller-Sorg chief Mike Rice was particularly lauded by Spering and Councilwoman Jane Day as "a hometown boy" who both understands Suisun City's needs and has contributed a lot to the community. Rice stated he went after the partnership with Basin Street because of the firm's successful track record with commercial development "that brings in something unique.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.

Copyright Daily Republic. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Kaiser breaks ground on $300 million medical and office facility in Vacaville

Article Last Updated: Monday, May 16, 2005 - 10:55:10 pm PDT

Kaiser breaks ground on medical facility

By Sarah Arnquist

VACAVILLE - Top Kaiser officials will break ground this morning on the three-year construction plan for a new $300 million hospital and medical office building in Vacaville.Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine said above all else, people care about two things: a safe community and access to quality health care. Kaiser's new hospital will benefit people in the whole area, he said."Folks not just from Vacaville but throughout the whole area are excited about not having to drive all the way down to Vallejo," Augustine said.

The nearest Kaiser hospitals are now in Vallejo and Sacramento. Kaiser believes a hospital in Vacaville will help reduce traffic volume on Interstate 80 and provide quality care to its 240,000 Napa and Solano County patients.Due to tremendous membership growth, Vacaville was the next logical place to expand between Vallejo and Sacramento, said Dr. Robert Pearl, executive director and chief executive officer of The Permanente Medical Group, which oversees all medical operations in Northern California.

"The growth in both Fairfield and Vacaville has been remarkable and the success of Kaiser Permanente in the area has been incredible," Pearl said.Kaiser has more construction plans Solano County than any area in Northern California. In addition to the new hospital and medical offices in Vacaville expected to be finished in 2009, Kaiser is building a replacement hospital for the current Vallejo Medical Center that should be completed in 2008. Kaiser also plans to expand it medical offices in Fairfield, though the details are not yet in place, Pearls said."We want to put our facilities as close to our members as possible and provide the highest quality of care," he said.

Plans for the 340,000 square-foot hospital include a 24-hour emergency department, labor and delivery services, radiology, surgery and oncology departments. The medical office building will house up to 60 specialty physicians, a new pharmacy and outpatient surgery center.More than 12,000 people work in the health care industry in Solano County, making it one of the county's largest employers, according to the Solano Economic Development Corp.

Kaiser expects to hire about 1,000 permanent workers to staff its new medical facilities in addition to the hundreds of trade workers needed for construction." Those are significantly high-paying jobs" that will benefit Vacaville, Augustine said.

Reach Sarah Arnquist at 427-6953 or sarnquist@dailyrepublic.net.

Copyright Daily Republic. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Travis Credit Union opening two new offices

Article Last Updated: Friday, May 13, 2005 - 10:50:16 pm PDT

Travis Credit Union opening two new offices

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - By the end of summer, Travis Credit Union will open two new offices in Northern California for a total of 13 financial services branches. Travis opened its first Woodland office May 1 at 1780 East Main St. in the Apple Village Shopping Center. In Vallejo, construction is ongoing at 1796 Tuolumne St. in the Albertsons shopping center, where Travis expects to open in July.

The Vacaville-based credit union was already the 11th-largest credit union in the state, and the expansion marks one of the biggest growth spurts since it was founded in 1951 to serve military workers at Travis Air Force Base. Travis Credit Union has offices in nine counties, 127,000 members and a total value of $1.4 billion, according to a press release. The expansion will help the credit union serve a greater portion of the community, executives said.

"It's our goal to open branches to meet the needs of our existing and future members and to provide the excellent service they deserve," Travis Credit Union CEO Patsy Van Ouwerkerk said. Both new offices will provide full-service consumer and business banking from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Both will have a walk-up ATM and night depository.

Unlike a bank, Travis Credit Union is a nonprofit cooperative financial institution. Credit unions allow individuals to join and share in ownership. This distinction sets apart credit unions from stockholder-controlled banks.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or mbunk@dailyrepublic.net.

No plans for base to grow larger, for now- Travis employes 15,000 and contributes $1 billion annually

Dick Banks
Vice President
First American Title Company
fax 707-425-4672

May 14, 2005

No plans for base to grow larger, for now

By JASON MASSAD, The Reporter, Vacaville

The conventional wisdom surrounding the highly anticipated U.S. Department of Defense base closure plan was this: A facility either will be closed or it will grow larger.

Turns out, however, that neither scenario is planned for Travis Air Force Base.
The local base, which employs nearly 15,000 personnel and contributes more than $1 billion to the local economy, was not mentioned in the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list issued Friday.

That's good news, considering the fearful prospect that the local base could have been targeted for closure, but there's a disappointing side to being ignored.
Travis Air Force Base is not scheduled to benefit from the 180 bases across the country, including 33 major facilities, that have been targeted on the initial list either for closure or realignment.

Local leaders were not at all prepared Friday to criticize, instead basking in the fact that Travis Air Force Base was safe from closure.

But the reality that so many pieces of the nation's military are moving around on the board could create an opportunity in the future, officials acknowledged.

The tricky part, however, is lobbying for more wealth at Travis Air Force Base while other communities face serious losses, they said.

"We don't want to lobby to take missions away from other bases,"said Kevin O'Rourke, Fairfield city manager and executive director of the Travis Community Consortium. "We don't want to have Travis gain at someone else's loss."

When the U.S. Department of Defense broached plans for the current round of base closures, federal leaders called for up to 25 percent of the nation's military capacity to be shuttered.
However, of the some 320 major bases across the nation, only 33 - or about 10 percent - now are targeted for closure. The more minimal BRAC will create less need for large bases like Travis Air Force Base to accept the leavings of others, said Supervisor Mike Reagan.
"We didn't see the gains I had expected, at least not yet," Reagan said.

Reagan, a former lieutenant colonel at Travis, was reading through a voluminous BRAC narrative Friday to begin his look into what bases could be closed, which are scheduled to be realigned, where the missions could be headed and, most importantly, why.
For example, San Diego's medical center is downsizing by 1,600 people, which could create opportunities for the David Grant Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base, he said. Other opportunities also could exist.

But that's for later. For now, Travis advocates will settle for the silence.
"No news is good news," Reagan said. "There is good news at Travis and good news at Beale."
- Jason Massad can be reached at county@thereporter.com.

Higher paying jobs in Solano County make housing more affordable and reduce commuters

Steve Spencer, broker and owner of Gateway Realty said the local market has been a lot less affordable than it has been in many years but it's still much more affordable than areas like San Francisco.

"Solano County has kind of been proud of the fact that it has been the most affordable in the Bay Area counties, and low interest rates continue to help the affordability index here, but unfortunately, until we get some higher paying jobs here in the county, we're going to need help," Spencer said.

"Some of the reports show Solano County as one of the least affordable counties in California, and the reason is because they compare average job pay in the county to average home prices in the county," he continued. "What's a little bit misleading is that well over half the people in the county who own homes in the county work out of the county where the pay is higher."
He noted that many local residents commute to work elsewhere to afford the houses here.

"So higher paying jobs in Solano County do two things - they make housing more affordable for us here, and they also cure a lot of the transportation problems that we have," Spencer concluded.

Article Launched: 05/14/2005 08:50:33 AM

Growing gapStudy finds increasing disparity between incomes, home prices

From Staff and Wire Reports

The gap between what Californians earn and what they need to earn to buy a home is growing statewide according to the California Association of Realtors, and local real estate professionals say Solano County is not immune to the problem.
California households, with a median household income of $53,540, are $60,380 short of the $113,920 qualifying income needed to purchase a median-priced home at $488,600 in California, according to C.A.R.'s Homebuyer Income Gap Index report for the first quarter of 2005.

The association's Homebuyer Income Gap Index is a quarterly analysis of the difference between the median household income and the qualifying income needed to purchase a median-priced, single-family home for the state and for select regions within the state. It is calculated with the same assumptions used to generate C.A.R.'s monthly Housing Affordability Index: a 20 percent down payment and a monthly payment for principal, interest, taxes and insurance that is no more than 30 percent of a household's income.

"These numbers are particularly troubling for would-be first-time homebuyers, who often are locked out of homeownership because of the lack of affordable homes for sale," said C.A.R. President Jim Hamilton. "While home sales statewide continue to surge, the California real estate market is being dominated by repeat homebuyers, who account for three out of four home purchases in the state."
In Solano County, where the median home price in March was $403,750 and Department of Finance figures show the median income per household at $54,099, some residents are having the same problem.

Steve Spencer, broker and owner of Gateway Realty said the local market has been a lot less affordable than it has been in many years but it's still much more affordable than areas like San Francisco.

"Solano County has kind of been proud of the fact that it has been the most affordable in the Bay Area counties, and low interest rates continue to help the affordability index here, but unfortunately, until we get some higher paying jobs here in the county, we're going to need help," Spencer said.

"Some of the reports show Solano County as one of the least affordable counties in California, and the reason is because they compare average job pay in the county to average home prices in the county," he continued. "What's a little bit misleading is that well over half the people in the county who own homes in the county work out of the county where the pay is higher."

He noted that many local residents commute to work elsewhere to afford the houses here.
"So higher paying jobs in Solano County do two things - they make housing more affordable for us here, and they also cure a lot of the transportation problems that we have," Spencer concluded.

The C.A.R. study's findings show the gap for California increased 44.9 percent during the first quarter of 2005 compared to the first quarter of 2004, when the gap stood at $41,660, the median household income was $52,320, and qualifying income needed to purchase a median-priced home at $407,710 was $93,980.

"At $100,000, the household incomes of repeat homebuyers are much greater than the population as a whole," C.A.R.'s Hamilton said. "Repeat buyers also are able to take advantage of equity gains in their current homes, with many making a down payment on their new home that's frequently greater than 20 percent. For those repeat buyers, the Housing Income Gap can fall as low as $23,320. Even though repeat buyers fare better than first-timers, that's little consolation to Californians spending a significant portion of their income servicing their monthly mortgage."

According to the C.A.R. report, potential homebuyers in the Central Valley, with a median household income of $41,040, had the smallest income gap at $32,660, and needed a qualifying income of $73,700 to purchase a median-priced home at $316,100.

The San Francisco Bay area had the highest gap in the state at $92,930, where potential homebuyers had a median household income of $67,770 but needed a qualifying income of $160,700 to purchase a median-priced home at $689,240.

Source: California Association of Realtors

Community Support for Travis AFB Key to BRAC

Article Last Updated: Saturday, May 14, 2005 - 08:55:45 pm PDT

Community Support for Travis AFB Key to BRAC

By Kevin O'Rourke

The Secretary of Defense's recommendation to retain Travis Air Force Base as a cornerstone in our nation's military mobility posture was gratefully welcomed by area leaders. While Travis' future is not set in concrete until the Base Closure and Realignment Commission's recommendations are made and accepted by the president, there is good reason to rejoice. This was the biggest hurdle.

The Secretary validated what Travis proponents said all along: Travis is vital to our rapid mobility needs in the current era. Its strategic location, unique capabilities and critical infrastructure enable it to very effectively perform these missions.

There are other reasons to rejoice.

For the first time in BRAC rounds, all the members of the California congressional delegation were unified in support of California bases and the rich contributions they offer.Our district Congressional representatives on both sides of the aisle, over several decades, were very successful in securing military construction projects and infrastructure improvements that addressed areas of deficiencies in earlier BRAC evaluations. Our current Congressional representative, Ellen Tauscher, is no exception and has worked hard to maintain Travis in our community.

At the state level, the Governor's Council on Base Support and Retention gathered and prepared the data to make the case for Travis and other California military bases. The governor and our state legislative representatives were actively engaged in efforts to support the base.
At the regional and local level, unified support was plentiful, consistent and focused. The Travis Community Consortium comprised of Solano County, its seven cities, the Solano Economic Development Corporation, the Solano Community College, the Travis Unified School District and Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee pooled their talents, time, energy and money. Members of the consortium were able to bring focus and resolution to an inadequate Base Housing Allowance for military members living in nearby civilian communities. Members made numerous lobbying trips to Washington with a consistent unified message of the need to meet Travis' mission and mission support needs such as new on-base housing and construction to accommodate the newest cargo airlifter, the C-17.Local planners and elected officials worked with the base to mitigate incompatible development, easement and environmental obstacles.Chambers of Commerce, other business groups, affiliated military organizations' service clubs, churches and neighbors daily accepted and supported both military members and their families. This was especially meaningful as more and more of our members were deployed overseas.

The Consortium would also like to thank our corporate sponsors for their role in helping the TCC carry out its efforts to improve and enhance the military value of Travis Air Force Base through interaction with the Congressional delegation and the Department of the Air Force. Corporate sponsors include Lewis Operating Corporation, KB Home, A. G. Spanos Companies, Citation Northern, Copart, Inc., Silverwing Development, The Hofmann Company, Travis Credit Union, Davidon Homes, Miller-Sorg Group and Rivendale Homes.

The Consortium wishes to thank the many people in our communities who contributed to the viability of Travis AFB. You have made a tremendous difference and we are deeply grateful to you.

Kevin O'Rourke is executive director of the Travis Community Consortium and Fairfield's city manager.

Travis saved!


From Washington to Sacramento and points closer to home, those who have been fighting for Travis Air Force Base could stand at ease Friday for the first time in a long time. The local base did not appear on a highly anticipated federal base closure list, ending years of speculation about what would happen if the county's biggest economic engine were to be shut down….

All told, California could lose fewer than 3,000 military personnel and about 5,700 civilian jobs. In contrast, previous rounds cost the state nearly 93,500 jobs and $10 billion in annual revenues. "We think that Travis and Solano County should be celebrating, and the state of California should be celebrating," said Kevin O'Rourke…. Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine said that the trend of this round of closures seemed to be that of consolidation, with no attempt to shut down important operational bases like Travis, which is a West Coast anchor for airlift and refeuling…. Travis is not scheduled to receive new missions as part of the process for Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). Supervisor Mike Reagan, however, said that Travis' future still looks bright. A squadron of C-17s are headed to Travis in 2006, planned apart from BRAC. Also, downsizing of facilities like a San Diego medical center eventually could create gains at the local base, which is home to the David Grant Medical Center, he said. Reagan applauded a "unified" effort to lobby for Travis Air Force Base and the rest of California's military installations. "All the stars became aligned," he said. "The state became unified, the Congressional delegation became unified ... and the community has always been unified."…

Travis spared closing - Officials happy air base avoids Pentagon's budget-cutting move


The conventional wisdom surrounding the highly anticipated U.S. Department of Defense base closure plan was this: A facility either will be closed or it will grow larger. Turns out, however, that neither scenario is planned for Travis Air Force Base…. When the U.S. Department of Defense broached plans for the current round of base closures, federal leaders called for up to 25 percent of the nation's military capacity to be shuttered. However, of the some 320 major bases across the nation, only 33 - or about 10 percent - now are targeted for closure. The more minimal BRAC will create less need for large bases like Travis Air Force Base to accept the leavings of others, said county Supervisor Mike Reagan. "We didn't see the gains I had expected, at least not yet,'' Reagan said. Reagan, a former lieutenant colonel at Travis, was reading through a voluminous BRAC narrative Friday to begin his look into what bases could be closed, which are scheduled to be realigned, where the missions could be headed and, most importantly, why…. But that's for later. For now, Travis advocates will settle for the silence. "No news is good news," Reagan said. "There is good news at Travis and good news at Beale."

Travis not on BRAC list -- Base supporters say it's still too early to celebrate


Travis Air Force Base is not on the Pentagon's base closure list, but don't pop the champagne corks yet. "The Base Realignment and Closure process is a long one and this is just an early stage," Rep. Ellen Tauscher said. Travis' legion of supporters got the word early Friday morning minutes after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld released his list of recommended base closures and realignments…. "That falls into line with what the Travis Community Consortium has been saying," O'Rourke said. "The importance of Travis has been underscored by the War on Terror. Afghanistan was the first war supplied completely by air." Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan called the decision to leave Travis off the list "validation of all the hard work that all the military (and) local government have been doing for the last 10-15 years." "A lot of the shortcomings listed from the previous BRACs on Travis were addressed,"… "We need to keep an eye on the BRAC process. (Commission Chairman Anthony) Principe said the commission is not going to be a rubber stamp," Reagan said….

Travis safe from BRAC . . . for now


The real celebrating won't occur until this fall, but Friday's announcement that Travis Air Force Base was excluded from the Pentagon's targeted list of bases to close had most everyone in Solano County smiling. The list, which recommends shuttering about 180 military facilities around the country, including 33 major bases, still must go through Base Realignment and Closure Commission hearings by Sept. 8, then be approved by both Congress and President Bush. Chances that Travis could somehow wiggle its way onto the list is remote.

Members of the Travis Community Consortium were jubilant and very appreciative of the efforts not only in Solano County but by representatives in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento…. The importance of Travis' mission was obviously recognized by the Pentagon and its exclusion from the list solidifies its placement as one of the more strategic bases in the Air Force. Next year, the base will become home to the first of several C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, the first signs of a significant mission enhancement for Travis. Along with the aircraft will be more than $150 million in improvements to the base. The announcement Friday didn't include any other news of additional activity at the base…. The consortium should be proud of its efforts during the last couple of years. But it shouldn't relax until the recommendations are sealed. Continue the full-court press, but keep the champagne chilled. There will be a celebration.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Bay Area job market to grow -39 percent of the businesses it surveyed intended to hire staff in the next six months

Posted on Fri, May. 13, 2005

Bay Area job market to grow

By George Avalos


The Bay Area in recent years has been the worst of the worst of the nation's metropolitan labor markets, but employment in the battered region may be ready to climb out of the cellar.

Employers in the nine-county region have intensified their hiring plans to the highest levels in years, according to a survey of businesses in the Bay Area that was released today.

The Bay Area Council quarterly update found that 39 percent of the businesses it surveyed intended to hire staff in the next six months and just 7 percent intended to reduce staff. About half of the respondents said they planned to keep their staff levels the same. Especially heartening was the revelation in the survey that 27 percent of the big businesses -- those with more than 10,000 employees -- intended to hire people in the next six months.

"Quarter after quarter, our survey found that big companies were downsizing," said Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council. "Now, we are finally seeing more growing than shrinking. That's good news for people who are looking for a job and want to work at a big company tomorrow."

A hefty leap in hiring would be a welcome reversal of the misfortunes that have hammered the Bay Area job market in recent years.

Since employment peaked roughly four years ago in March 2001, employers in the Bay Area have jettisoned nearly 396,000 jobs, including a loss of 44,000 in the East Bay. Improvement in the regional job market has emerged only recently: Over the last year, Bay Area employers have added 7,100 jobs, including 3,900 in the East Bay.

Livermore-based FormFactor Inc. is among those seeking new employees. The maker of semiconductor equipment has 25 openings, including 23 at its Livermore headquarters and two in Japan.

"We continue to seek qualified engineers, marketing and other resources to enable us to accommodate our long-term growth objectives," said Joe Bronson, FormFactor's president.

The company, with more than 600 workers, posted an 80 percent gain in revenue in 2004. FormFactor opened a new headquarters complex in east Livermore in 2004.

"FormFactor's growth will continue this year," Bronson said.

Small companies also may jump onto the hiring bandwagon. Kevin Farnham is the principal executive of two small San Francisco companies that design and produce logos, retail interiors and Internet sites. Each company has about 20 employees and expects to expand its work force by 25 to 50 percent by adding five to 10 employees apiece.

"Design services are the first to go in a down economy," Farnham said. "As times get better, those kinds of services come back."

Farnham's company has clients all over the Bay Area and around the country. Some firms that simply hunkered down during the economic slump are starting to create again, he said.

"We're starting to see a little more experimentation taking place," Farnham said. "People are doing things they literally hadn't done before. It's an exciting time for us."

The survey did contain a minor unsettling note. An index that measures overall business confidence came in at a value of 59, which indicates continued economic expansion but at a slower pace than the 61 value in the survey the previous quarter.

Still, Wunderman believes an employment turnaround is in the offing because Bay Area employers have reeled in profits and sales at an improved pace.

"We're seeing on the whole a profitable Bay Area corporate sector," Wunderman said. "Companies have achieved a lot of profitability by cutting costs. Now it may be time to do a little more investing in their business and taking more risks by hiring."

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