Thursday, June 30, 2005

A look at Solano's economic future

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - California's housing market will begin to deflate by 2007, fewer Fairfield workers will commute to work in the year 2030, and tourism will be a major economic engine for Solano County if the popularity of wine continues to grow.

Those were findings of a study released Wednesday by The Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific. The 100-page report contains short-term and 25-year projections for the state and 11 metro areas, including Fairfield-Vallejo.

"Any time you make long-run comparisons you really have to rely a lot more on trend analysis, while the quarterly forecasts can incorporate things like business cycles, monetary policy and fiscal policy," said Sean Snaith, director of Pacific's Business Forecasting Center and author of the report. "The further out you look, the more difficult it is to be specific and, quite frankly, accurate."

Researchers tried to get a grasp on California's wily real estate market, a task that's kept many economists and analysts busy for the past couple of years as the price of homes rose to record levels.

Similar studies have predicted home prices would continue to rise at a record pace and others have warned of a bursting bubble. But Snaith's study took a moderate tone, likening the housing market to a delicately baked pastry.

"The current housing market is like a soufflé because it is the end result of just the right ingredients put together at just the right time in just the right environment that has allowed for prices to make this historic climb," the study states. ". . . Once any of the ingredients are taken out of the mix, the soufflé will begin to deflate."

It's unlikely, Snaith said, home prices will continue to rise 30 percent every year, and it's just as unlikely the market will crash. Instead, there might be a slowdown as mortgage rates rise, and that could happen by 2007.

"But to go from 30 percent per anum appreciation to 2 percent doesn't seem to me like a bubble bursting," he said.

The wider economic picture shows steady expansion for the next 25 years, with Fairfield-Vallejo expected to progress faster than the state in many economic categories. In particular, personal income growth in the region is expected to outpace the state average.

The employment outlook for Fairfield-Vallejo is strong as well. After marginal growth for the past couple of years, total employment is expected to increase an average of 2.4 percent for the next three years, with the construction industry leading the way.

"I think employment growth is rising at a nice clip," Snaith said. "The Fairfield-Vallejo metro area is above the state average and certainly above national average growth. It's one of the stronger metro areas we covered in the study."

That's because the state will experience a shift in growth centers from the coastal areas to farther inland as the traditionally popular cities reach buildout, Snaith said.

The Business Forecasting Center at Stockton's University of the Pacific was founded in 2004.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Vacaville among top 100 spots to live, Relocate-America survey concludes

Good news for Vacaville!
Sacramento Business Journal - April 5, 2005
Link Here

Roseville and Vacaville are among America's top 100 places to live, according to Relocate-America, a Howell, Mich., company that describes itself as "a Web site assisting consumers in finding communities that best fit their family's needs."

The only other California locales on the 2005 list are Eureka and the Riverside County duo of Murrieta and Temecula.

The company said that in compiling the list -- one of several such rankings created each year by various outfits -- it employs the following criteria: great people and neighbors; serenity, peace and quiet; beauty of area; great schools; safety for children; low crime rates; activities, such as museums, theaters and sports; and economic health, with employment opportunities and affordable housing.

That collection of criteria produced disparate results indeed, as the California results suggest. In Nevada, where 11 locales were named, it's more pronounced. The 11 are all over the map not just in geography but in size, rate of growth and the pace of life: Reno, Sparks, Gardnerville, Elko, Mesquite, Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, Mount Charleston, Pahrump and Summerlin.

Even more jolting are the only two Oregon cities on the list, wealthy Astoria atop a hill at the mouth of the Columbia and blue-collar Klamath Falls in the south-central part of the state.

Relocate-America ranked only its top 10 and listed the other 90 alphabetically

Spencer, a small town in northwestern Iowa, came in at No. 1.

Long Beach, N.Y., was second. Yuma, Ariz., claimed the third spot. Edmond and Bartlesville, Okla., were No. 4 and No. 5, respectively. Venica, Fla., was sixth. Bonita Springs, Fla., grabbed the No. 7 slot. Montgomery, Ala., weighed in at No. 8. Asheville, N.C., snagged No. 9 honors. Jasper, Ind., was No. 10.

Bakery brings European touch to Vacaville

VACAVILLE - Pure Grain Bakery opened a second location Jan. 4 and hopes to bring a European flare to downtown Vacaville.

The bakery/cafe is the first business to open in the city's nearly finished Town Square development.

Co-owner Michael Meithe said downtown needed a nice cafe and called the new location a dream come true as he sat under the sun at an outside table drinking a cappuccino from the cafe's full service coffee bar.

"It reminds us very much of Europe with the outside dining and town squares," Meithe said of the location.

Miethe and his business partner Holger Seibert began filling a niche for German baked goods in Vacaville 15 years ago. Running a bakery began as a childhood dream growing up in Germany. They both completed apprenticeships at Seibert's father's baker and earned master's degrees in business.

Miethe visited California in 1989 and identified Vacaville as an ideal location to open a German-style bakery because of the many Europeans Travis Airforce Base has brought here. By 1991, Miethe and Seibert opened their first bakery on Eubanks Street.

The bakery specializes in German-inspired products such as Black Forest Cake and European breads. The all-natural breads and rolls are the most popular items, Miethe said.

"Everyone who visits Europe they will definitely say, yeah that bread is the way it's made in Europe," he said.

Pure Grain will operate from both locations - baking and distributing from the Eubanks location.

Until now, Pure Grain has mainly concentrated on its wholesale clientele. They supply baked goods for the University of California, Davis campus, and German restaurants around the Bay Area. Their breads can also be found in the Natural Food grocery stores in San Francisco, Davis and Sacramento.

Meithe said he feels lucky to have found Vacaville. For 15 years, customers have welcomed and supported the bakery, and the Town Square concept is very exciting, he said.

"It's totally a European flair."

Reach Sarah Arnquist at 427-6953 or

Pure Grain Bakery
Owners: Michael Miethe and Holger Seibert
Date opened: Jan. 4
Address: 11 Town Square, Vacaville
Phone: 447-4121

East Bay economy to continue growing

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The gross metro product of Alameda and Contra Costa counties is expected to grow by almost 15 percent in the next five years according to a new forecast from the University of the Pacific. Solano County's gross metro product is expected to grow by 17.7 percent, according to the report.

In the report released Wednesday, Center Director Sean Snaith said that the California economy, as well as the economy of the East Bay, is 'continuing to expand at a healthy pace.'

The latest state and regional forecast from the Stockton university's Business Forecasting Center anticipates employment in Solano County to grow by 13 percent by 2010, fron 127,400 jobs in 2005 to 143,900 jobs in 2010. Employment in Alameda and Contra Costa counties is expected to grow by 6.5 percent, from 1.03 million jobs to 1.10 million jobs in 2010.

The center said California's overall economic outlook is quite sunny.

'The long-run outlook for California's economy is strong and by 2030 real gross state output should exceed $3.7 trillion,' said Snaith, in a statement. 'Some of the highest-growth regions in the state will be found in California's Central Valley as economic muscle will be added to the agricultural backbone of this region.'

Shorter term, the center predicts that California's payrolls will grow at 1.6 percent annually from now through 2007; state unemployment will hold steady at 5.8 percent and, California housing starts will hold steady this year and start to fall off in 2006-2007, as mortgage rates rise. The current housing market, the center said, resembles "a soufflé -- a delicate combination of many factors, threatening to deflate with any change in environment or ingredients."

The center was founded last year. Part of the Eberhardt School of Business, it produces quarterly economic forecasts of the United States, California and 11 metropolitan areas from Sacramento to Fresno and the Bay Area.

More information from the report is available at

Business - Long-term prosperity seen for Sacramento area

Link Here

The Sacramento region's economy will more than double and its population will soar to 3.5 million by 2030, predicts a new forecast being released today by the University of the Pacific's Business Forecasting Center.

Personal incomes for residents of El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties will also grow above the state average of 6 percent, rising to a total $350.1 billion in 2030 from the current $70.1 billion, the Stockton-based university center predicts.

Sean M. Snaith, an economist who oversees the Business Forecasting Center in the Eberhardt School of Business, released the projections for the Sacramento economy along with his center's quarterly economic outlook for the state.

'Some of the highest growth regions in the state will be found in California's Central Valley as economic muscle will be added to the agricultural backbone of this region,' Snaith said in his report.

The state's short-and long-term economic prospects remain solid, but the red-hot housing market could cool and even deflate a little over the next few years if mortgage interest rates rise, Snaith said.

Contradicting a recent study by the University of California, Los Angeles, Snaith said that the housing market has not entered a bubble phase, adding that there will be no crash in home prices as dramatic as the Internet stock market correction.

Instead, Snaith likened the California and Sacramento housing markets to a fast-rising souffle.

UOP forecasts $199B Sac metro economy in 2030

Link Here

The economy of the Sacramento metro should more than double by 2030, predicts a new forecast from the University of the Pacific, accompanied by big gains in population, employment and especially personal income.

The latest state and regional forecast from the Stockton university's Business Forecasting Center anticipates a gross Sacramento metro product of $199.6 billion in 2030, more than twice the $83.9 billion of 2005. Other predictions:

- population will increase from 2.07 million now to 3.49 million in 25 years

- total personal income will quintuple, from $70.1 billion now to $186.3 billion in 2020 and $350.1 billion in 2030

- total establishment employment' will rise from 875,000 now to 1.46 million, with an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent in 2030.

Greater Sacramento should grow faster than the state, the center said, although California's overall economic outlook is still quite sunny.

'The long-run outlook for California's economy is strong and by 2030 real gross state output should exceed $3.7 trillion,' said Sean M. Snaith, director of the center, in a statement released Wednesday. 'Some of the highest-growth regions in the state will be found in California's Central Valley as economic muscle will be added to the agricultural backbone of this region.'

Shorter term, the center predicts that:

- California's payrolls will grow at 1.6 percent annually from now through 2007
- state unemployment will hold steady at 5.8 percent
- California housing starts will hold steady this year and start to fall off in 2006-07, as mortgage rates rise. The current housing market, the center said, resembles "a soufflé -- a delicate combination of many factors, threatening to deflate with any change in environment or ingredients."

The center was founded last year. Part of the Eberhardt School of Business, it produces quarterly economic forecasts of the United States, California and 11 metropolitan areas from Sacramento to Fresno and the San Francisco Bay Area.

More information from the report is available at

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

East Bay predicted to lead region in economic gains. Solano County looks to be an even faster-growing region in the next five years.

Link Here
Posted on Wed, Jun. 29, 2005
By George Avalos

The East Bay will be the economic bulwark of the Bay Area over the next five years and will outpace the region's other major urban centers in economic growth, job creation and personal income, according to a forecast released today.

What's more, the East Bay is helping propel growth not only in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, but also in adjacent areas, according to the quarterly economic report by the Stockton-based Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific.

The expansion in the East Bay is one reason Solano County should boom between now and 2010. Growth in housing and population in Solano will also fuel development in that county, which is mostly rural outside the Interstate 80 corridor, said Sean Snaith, director of the Business Forecasting Center.

"In a lot of ways, the East Bay is an engine," Snaith said. "It is pulling Solano County and part of the Central Valley with it as it grows."

The economy of the East Bay is projected to grow 14.6 percent in the coming five years, total personal income by nearly 36 percent and employment by 6.5 percent. And the East Bay already has a bigger economy than either the San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin region and Santa Clara County, the UOP forecasters found.

"The East Bay has become the employment center of the Bay Area," said Bruce Kern, executive director of the Oakland-based Economic Development Alliance for Business.

The report points to the growth of residential and commercial construction in areas such as eastern Contra Costa County and eastern Alameda County as key reasons for the robust economic outlook for the East Bay.

"Those areas have a lot more room to grow," Snaith said.

The East Bay also is an engine that has managed to avoid the bumpy spots that remain in the wake of the Internet and technology debacle that erased hundreds of thousands of jobs in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco area.

"There is still some slack lingering from the boom and bust of the dot-com days," Snaith said. "But I see that slack starting to be picked up."

Solano County looks to be an even faster-growing region in the next five years. Solano's economy is forecast to expand nearly 18 percent, total personal income will soar 38 percent and jobs will swell by 13 percent, the UOP researchers predict.

Manufacturers have opened a number of sites in Solano over the years, including beer and candy factories, as well as newer biotech production complexes.

"It's a combination of the new biotech manufacturing base, the growth of Travis Air Force Base, some traditional agriculture, and an increased population," said Michael Ammann, president of the Fairfield-based Solano Economic Development Corp. "We have a lot of opportunities to participate in growth."

The jump in population has kindled interest in major retail projects along I--80 in Solano. Developers intend to transform part of the county fairgrounds in Vallejo into a retail and entertainment complex. Another entertainment and shopping center is in the works for the Nut Tree site in Vacaville. And an upgrade is being crafted for the Westfield regional mall in Fairfield, Ammann said.

The various growth factors in the East Bay and Solano have prompted banks and other companies, such as Wells Fargo & Co., to ramp up their services, said Michael Billeci, a Wells Fargo regional president who heads the bank's operations in the East Bay and South Bay.

"It makes sense for businesses to follow the housing," he said. "We are definitely in an expansion mode in the East Bay. We also believe the other parts of the Bay Area are not going to grow as quickly as the East Bay and Solano."

Despite the prospect of favorable trends, Kern warned that the East Bay must soon confront a number of challenges that could cause the Alameda-Contra Costa economy to sputter.

"The cost of doing business in the region continues to move upward," he said. "We are concerned about the affordability of housing in the East Bay."

It's not enough, Kern maintained, to have stronger employment and income growth.

"We have to focus on creating a competitive economy to sustain the opportunities for the East Bay that the UOP forecast portrays," he said.

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

Dixon funds marquee train station

06/29/2005 06:49:14 AM
By David Henson/Staff Writer

One of the smallest towns in Solano County moved a sizable step closer to connecting by rail to two of California's biggest cities.

The Dixon City Council approved Tuesday night a $1.25 million contract with a Vacaville-based company to construct the marquee train station that essentially will complete the city's Multi-Modal Transportation Center.

The building should establish the city as a future stop for the Sacramento- and Bay Area-bound passenger trains that currently zip through without a pause.

"I'm glad to see this move forward," Vice Mayor Gil Vega said. "I believe regional transportation's challenge, especially for small communities such as Dixon and others, is for it to move outside the large metropolitan areas like Sacramento and San Francisco."

Swank Construction, which was awarded the bid from a pool of six applicants, expects to begin construction as early as August and complete the building by spring.

Completing the transportation center, which already has parking spaces and slots for buses to pick up passengers, puts Dixon well ahead of its neighbors in regard to solving gridlock issues on Interstate 80, Vega added.

"Incrementally, we're getting closer to where we can restore passenger rail service to Dixon," he said.

Swank's bid was the lowest, but still more than the original $1.1 million budget. However, the increased cost was not unexpected since the first estimate was calculated a year ago and did not take into account increased construction costs.

A set of wooden benches in the plans was deleted and an additional $200,000 from the Redevelopment Agency's budget will be applied to make up the difference.

David Henson can be reached at

Solano County sets torrid pace for growth

June 29, 2005
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

The Vallejo area is riding a wave of growth that forecasters predict will more than double its economy in the next 25 years, a new study shows.

Sean Snaith, director of the University of the Pacific's Business Forecasting Center, said the Vallejo-Fairfield metropolitan area is growing faster than nearly anyplace else in the region.

"The bottom line for the Vallejo area is that once again it's looking like one of the strongest metros we cover, over the next two years and also long term," Snaith said.

The center conducts quarterly economic studies for the United States, California and 11 metro areas.

Snaith said the area's growth is fueled by several factors involving regional and national trends.

"The Vallejo area's economy is growing faster than most other areas. It's one of the top two or three," Snaith said. "It's the same kind of thing we're seeing in the Central Valley. The coastal regions are essentially built out, and that, along with economic considerations, is driving people to these more inland areas."

Snaith said the coastal build-out pushes property values there out of most people's reach, which sends them inland in search of affordable housing. The demand for housing in places like Vallejo causes home prices here to soar.

The influx of population, some of which results from baby boomers entering their peak homebuying years, also spurs development of businesses offering the goods and services needed to support them, he added.

Often described as a real estate "bubble," the situation is more like a "soufflŽ," Snaith says.

"It's not like the dot com bubble, which burst," Snaith said. "The real estate market is based on something more tangible - supply and demand - and is not likely to collapse."

The housing boom, and its resulting economic boom, could falter, though, if one or more of the factors driving it drastically changes, Snaith said.

"We don't want to peek in the oven here, but if any part of the ingredients changes, like a sharp rise in interest rates, the soufflŽ could deflate," he said.

The study shows that personal income in the Vallejo area will grow 7 percent from its present $14.2 billion to nearly $20 billion in the next decade. It is expected to reach about $38 billion by 2020 and nearly $73 billion by 2030. This area's personal income growth rate through 2007 is expected to surpass the state's average, because of a strong employment outlook, the study shows.

Construction jobs are expected to grow through 2006, but slow down through 2007. The service sector and professional and business service industries are predicted to create more than 2,000 jobs locally by 2007.

The number of education, health services, and leisure and hospitality jobs are also expected to rise, though more moderately. And, unlike the rest of the state where manufacturing is down, that industry is expected to grow at more than 2 percent in the Vallejo-Fairfield metro area in the foreseeable future.

The study further predicts employment in the Vallejo area growing at better than 2 percent every decade through 2030. And it anticipates the area's population growing from just over 416,000 this year to 672,000 in 2030, with the sharpest spike predicted within the next five years.

The whole story, Snaith said, is told in the center's predicted "gross metro product" for the Vallejo area - the local equivalent of the nation's gross national product. Figured in 2000 dollars, that figure is expected to rise from this year's $13 billion-plus in output to more than $29 billion in 2030.

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A tale of two cities: Dixon and Davis

DIXON - The cities of Dixon and Davis are only eight miles apart - but a county line, governmental and economic grouping and people's impressions keep them apart.

Students, workers and even city councils are overcoming artificial boundaries to explore their neighboring city, and finding that preconceived notions can be deceiving.

Davis is known for its university, twice-weekly farmers markets and toddlers to oldsters getting around on bicycles.

Dixon is known for hosting the state's oldest fair, its agriculture and Lambtown.

But to exit off the freeway into either town is to see that some of the stereotypes are either old or simply wrong.

Dixon was considered as a site for The University Farm, as University of California, Davis, was called at its start in 1906, but Davis got the honor. More than 30,000 students enroll during the school year, but Davis offers no all-night coffee shops or restaurants. Only drive-ins are open 24 hours, offering students a quick bite to eat, but nowhere to study.

Davis' International House of Pancakes is open until 4 a.m. half the week, but, a guide to all things Davis, doesn't recommend it.

"It closes daily," reads the site. "In the opinion of some commentators, this makes it unique among IHOPs, and not in a good way. Apart from that, there's nothing special about it."

Conversely, Dixon welcomes students 24 hours at an IHOP, a Denny's and Java California, highly recommended on

"Last night at 1 a.m., there were about 45 UCD students at the coffee shop," Java California owner John Waterman said. "They like the 24 hours, the free wi-fi and I let them be kids."

Waterman posted a Davis coffee shop's restrictions with all the rules crossed out.

"I spend an absurd amount of time in Dixon at Java California," UC Davis student Eric Klein said. "I go there because it offers something Davis doesn't, all night coffee and wi-fi. You would think that the college town would have something like that, but no."

The rolling green land between Dixon and Davis is a tenuous connection after the two city councils and the university worked together to create a greenbelt. A greenbelt will prevent sprawl from connecting the two cities, but working together broke down other barriers.

When Dixon council members approved the greenbelt in mid-June, Councilman Loren Ferrero called the decision a "historic moment."

Vice Mayor Gil Vega seconded by leaning into his microphone to say "Go Ags."

Although Dixon is in Solano County - lumped with a Bay Area association of counties - and Davis is in Yolo County - rolled in with a Sacramento association of counties - the two city managers try to stay in touch about common issues.

The most controversial thing on Dixon's agenda right now is Dixon Downs, a horse racetrack and entertainment destination the council will vote on during the late summer. The racetrack would be on 260 acres in Dixon's northeast quadrant, about five miles from Davis.

Dixon City Manager Warren Salmons sends Davis City Manager Jim Antonen updates on the project, but so far, neither Davis council members nor residents have made their opinions clear.

Although Dixon Downs would affect Davis in a number of ways, the decision is ultimately Dixon's, Antonen said.

"I think in the past it's been mentioned a couple of times," Antonen said of the racetrack. "It's not in our planning area. It's on the edge of it, but it's not in our area."

Although Dixon is often characterized as a small farming town and Davis is considered a crunchy-granola, earth-shoes kind of place, statistics show that some stereotypes ought to be left behind.

For instance, the people living below the poverty level in Davis far exceed those in Dixon. Although initially surprising, the numbers make sense considering that the jobs of 30,000 Davis residents - attending the university - don't pull down a lot of cash. That could also be why Dixon has far higher individual income levels.

In Davis, however, the median family income is about $15,000 more than in Dixon.

Despite their differences, voters in both Davis and Dixon agreed a small city is a good city. Dixon residents passed Measure B in 2001, capping growth at 3 percent per year. Davis has Measure J, which calls for a public vote for any residential annexation.

Covell Village, a proposed 1,864 unit development on 422 acres of farmland, is going before the Davis City Council soon, and is that city's most controversial current item. If council members approve it in June, the item will be before voters in November.

Davis and Dixon have more similarities and differences than can be addressed simply. But one difference may play into all others.

Davis, with a rotating group of 30,000 students, has an essentially transient population. Dixon, on the other hand, has residents who can boast their great-grandparents knew Thomas Dickson, a farmer and minister for whom the town was named.

"Davis has a totally different mentality than Dixon," said Paul Moller, who lives in Dixon but started the UC Davis Aeronautics Department and is currently fine-tuning a flying car there. "Dixon has a lot of people who have grown up there. There's a lot of people who come and go in Davis."

Reach Claire St. John at 427-6955 or

Monday, June 27, 2005

Preparing for terror - Solano county agencies work together for drill

Link Here

TRAVIS AFB - The man lay in the field between the two houses, metal shards from a bomb lacerating the back of his bloodied legs.

A blood trail traced his steps from the patio where the injured bodies of his victims lay scattered around the remains of the radioactive dirty bomb he planted to exact vengeance on his boss.

The plastic crackle of gray radiation suits announced the arrival of the police as they moved among the houses, guns drawn, serving as the first eyes on the crime. Not far behind came firefighters in their own radiation suits.

Across the street and walking just behind them, other officers in orange vests checked off on clipboards what was going right and what was going wrong.

The crime and the wounded were all theater. The police and firefighters were all there to run through what to do if such a situation happened - a disgruntled employee with access to radiological material using it as part of a bomb.

The Solano County Office of Emergency Services teamed up with a host of police and fire departments, Travis Air Force Base and health agencies to put the county's ability to deal with a hazardous materials spill to the test.

More than a dozen agencies ranging from Vallejo to Dixon with about 200 police, firefighters, security forces, paramedics and explosives disposal experts took part.

The drill is testing the agencies' ability to deal with a criminal attack that released hazardous materials in a residential area, injuring a large number of people.

This was the first such multi-agency drill since November 2003, when more than 300 police and firefighters participated in a nighttime exercise to find out how to work together better.

The exercise held in the vacant housing on Travis Air Force Base was the first chance to test the abilities the county's hazardous materials response team and put what they learned from 2003 to the test.

"We are trying to enhance our capability for working with the different police and fire agencies in the county," said Bob Powell, Solano County Office of Emergency Services director.

Members of the Travis AFB Moulage Team helped set the stage by creating lifelike wounds on a dozen volunteers that ranged from abdominal lacerations to metal and glass fragments impaling arms and legs.

"I got this because I was kind of standing close to the bomb," said "bloodied" volunteer Stacie Dembski of the oozing mess that simulated her intestines.

Once Maj. Sarah Futterman finished creating the injuries, she coached Dembski and others how they were supposed to act.

The exercise started with firefighters setting up decontamination stations to hose off the victims and both police and firefighters getting into the protective gear.

While the suits are far from comfortable, "it is very important that we need to practice and learn how to work with other agencies," said Matt Luckenbach, Fairfield firefighter and hazmat team member.

The participants finished with the exercise by noon with a debriefing slated for later in the day and a critique of what went right and what needed improvement slated for early next month.

"This is important," Powell said of the drills. "Otherwise if we don't practice, it could end up a keystone cop event and we don't want that. The more we practice, the more these agencies will communicate with each other."

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

PG&E meets renewable energy goal

Link Here
June 24, 2005

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said Friday that it has met its renewable energy goal for the year with a contract for up to 75 megawatts of wind energy in Solano County.
The contract, with PPM Energy's Shiloh Wind Project LLC, would supply enough power to serve more than 50,000 customers, Fong Wan, vice president of power contracts and electric resources development, said in a statement.

With the agreement, PG&E said that it has met its annual goal of increasing its renewable purchases by a minimum of 1 percent of retail load.

Under California's Renewables Portfolio Standards Program, each investor-owned utility is required to increase its procurement of eligible renewable generating resources by 1 percent of load per year to achieve a 20 percent renewables goal.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is a unit of PG&E Corp. (NYSE: PCG) of San Francisco and one of the major energy suppliers in Greater Sacramento.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Publisher will print overseas

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Article Last Updated: 6/15/2005 02:38 PM

Plant to close doors
Publisher will print overseas
By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

An international calendar and award-winning bookmaker is closing the printing portion of its north Vacaville plant, blaming it on the cost of doing business in California.
BrownTrout Publishers, headquartered in San Mateo, notified its 22 Chess Press printing plant employees at its recently expanded Vacaville facility that it will close the printing operation July 8, said Wendover Brown, who owns the company with her husband, Marc, and his identical twin brother, Mike.

'It is very reluctantly that we close,' Brown said in a telephone interview from her San Mateo office. 'We have 22 of the best printing staff in the world working out there. But it just became more and more expensive to manufacture here in California. 'Now, we'll source all of the printing in the Far East, as many of our competitors do,' she said.

The company will continue to distribute products from the Vacaville distribution center.

Chess Press, the printing arm of BrownTrout Publishers, did beautiful work, said Mike Palombo, Vacaville's economic development manager. 'It's always a sad day when you lose a quality business from your community, and we're sorry to hear that in order to remain competitive BrownTrout feels that it must leave the country,' Palombo said.

The company, established in 1986, is the largest publisher of calendars in the world. Affiliate locations include Canada, Quebec, Mexico, England, Germany, Amsterdam, Korea, Tokyo, Australia and New Zealand.

The Vacaville operation, opened in 1998, is housed in a 149,000 square-foot buildi"


University of California, Davis
June 23, 2005


[Editor's note: Digital images of the architect's drawing for the Robert Mondavi Institute and of the groundbreaking can be obtained from Pat Bailey, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-9843,]

Using a giant-sized fork, corkscrew and bottle opener, honored guests ceremonially broke ground today for the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science before an audience of some 300 faculty, staff, students, elected officials and representatives of the beverage and food industries.

The public groundbreaking ceremony was followed by a reception in the nearby Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.

Participating in the event were the Mondavis; Doug Muhleman, group vice president of brewing operations and technology at Anheuser-Busch Inc.; UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef; Neal Van Alfen, dean of UC Davis' College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; and Clare Hasler, executive director of the Robert Mondavi Institute.

Representing the state's investment in the institute through voter-approved bonds were California Assemblymember Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and state Sens. Mike Machado, D-Linden, and Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata.

"We at UC Davis are grateful to Robert and Margrit Mondavi, Anheuser-Busch Inc. and the State of California for making the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science a reality," said Vanderhoef. "Our renowned programs in wine and food science will be, just in time, the beneficiaries of this generous vote of confidence."

"It's a great day for everyone interested in wine and food and for all of us present here at UC Davis for this historic groundbreaking,"
added Robert Mondavi. "It is an honor for our family, which has been involved in wine and food for four generations. We expect great things from this institute for many, many years to come."

Hasler, the Mondavi Institute's executive director, called today's celebration "a historic occasion, not only for the institute and UC Davis, but also for the state of California.

"In a very tangible way, we are taking the first step toward drawing together the people, ideas and resources that will position the RMI as the global innovator in university-based wine and food programs."

Scheduled to open in early 2008, the institute will house UC Davis'
top-ranked departments of Viticulture and Enology, and Food Science and Technology.

The first building to be constructed will be a 129,600-square-foot academic building, which will be built in three wings wrapping around a courtyard that will face westward toward a teaching vineyard and open space. The courtyard will contain demonstration gardens and serve as a venue for special events.

All three wings of the academic building will be built of reinforced concrete, with exteriors that combine a glass-curtain wall, cement plaster and stone veneer. There will be two three-story wings, one housing the viticulture and enology department and the other housing the food science and technology department. The third wing will be two stories and include shared sensory laboratories and offices for the institute.

In addition to the academic building, a teaching-and-research winery and a brewing-and-food-science laboratory also will be built.
Construction of the institute's facilities has been made possible by a combination of state and private funds. In 2004, California voters earmarked $33.6 million for construction of the institute's academic building as part of the $12.3 billion statewide Proposition 55 bond measure.

The institute was established in 2001 with a $25 million gift from Robert Mondavi. The Anheuser-Busch Foundation has provided $5 million in matching funds to help construct the Institute's brewing-and-food-science laboratory, and Ronald Miller and Diane Disney Miller donated $1 million for the institute's winery.

Among the many other donors participating in the institute are Beringer Blass Wine Estates NA, which has supported construction of the winery's hospitality rooms, and Wendell Jacob, who is funding the demonstration vineyard in memory of his father, Harry E. Jacob.

Media contact(s):
* Clare Hasler, Robert Mondavi Institute, (530) 754-6349,
* Pat Bailey, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-9843,

Our full UC Davis directory of media services and 24-hour contact information is available at .
Need information from campus news archives? The UC Davis News Service database contains past (and current) UC Davis news stories dating to 1991. Go to .
More university news and an experts directory:

UC Davis News Service
One Shields Avenue
Davis, California 95616-8687
Phone: (530) 752-1930; Fax: (530) 752-4068

ThinkGlobal: International Trade News and Information for Importers and Exporters

ThinkGlobal: International Trade News and Information for Importers and Exporters:

"Q&A John Engler, President of the National Association of Manufacturers

John Engler is president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the largest industry trade group in America, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Engler became NAM president on Oct. 1, 2004. Here, the former three-term Michigan governor discusses the health of the manufacturing sector and issues related to global competition.

We've been hearing a lot about American jobs being lost to outsourcing. How much pressure is on manufacturers in the U.S.? U.S. manufacturing - standing alone - would be the world's eighth largest economy. Last year, we produced a record volume of manufactured goods. Yet while U.S. manufacturing is more productive and innovative than ever before, and we are on a strong growth curve, fierce global competition now makes it nearly impossible to raise prices to keep pace with rising production costs.

How would you characterize the current health of the manufacturing sector in the United States? U.S. manufacturing finally came out of a lengthy recession and grew faster than the rest of the economy in 2004 for the first time in five years. We account for about $1.4 trillion of GDP, roughly two-thirds of all U.S. exports and three-fifths of private sector R & D. Manufacturing is the seedbed for innovation in our economy. A healthy manufacturing sector is critical to America's overall economic growth and prosperity.

What can be done to help American companies become more competitive in the world market?

We simply must reduce the cost of doing business in the United States. Unfair foreign trade practices are a problem, but some of our biggest wounds are self-inflicted. Health care and legal costs are rising at double-digit rates and energy prices are sky-high. We are doing this to ourselves through unwise policies or, as in the case of energy, absence of policies.

Are you concerned about the growing trade deficit with China?
You bet. That is specifically one of the reasons that we worry about rampant product counterfeiting in China and the Chinese currency valuation vis-a-vis the dollar. The Chinese simply must learn to obey the rules. We can compete with anyone on a level playing field, but the current situation is anything but.

Do we need trade-policy changes?
Our public policies need to reflect the 21st century realities of fierce competition in the global marketplace. On the home front, we simply have to get the external costs imposed on production under control. On trade, the NAM will continue to push for trade agreements that open more markets to U.S. exports. Our nation has lower tariffs than virtually any other country, and a disproportionate share of our trade deficit is with those countries with whom we do not have trade agreements. We are leading a joint effort with the Bush Administration to crack down on international counterfeiting. We also are fighting for currency reforms that lead to a market-based currency in China and other Asian nations.

More information about NAM is available online at

California housing prices soar, but sales slow

California housing prices soar, but sales slow - 2005-06-23 - East Bay Business Times

California housing prices soar, but sales slow
The median price of an existing home in California in May increased 12.8 percent to $522,590 but year-over-year sales decreased 2.1 percent compared, according to the California Association of Realtors on Thursday.

"The California housing market passed an important threshold in April, when the median price rose above $500,000 for the first time," said Jim Hamilton, president of the organization, in a statement. "This trend continued in May, with the median price approaching $525,000. At these prices, eroding affordability and concerns about rising interest rates are constraining sales."

Median home prices in the East Bay were up last month. Solano County saw the biggest increase in price, up 23.5 percent year-over-year to $420,000. Contra Costa County prices were up 22.2 percent since last May to $531,750 and Alameda County prices were up 20.5 percent to $575,000.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 618,920 in May at a seasonally adjusted and annualized rate, according to information collected by CAR from more than 90 local Realtor associations statewide. Statewide home resale activity decreased 2.1 percent from the sales pace recorded in May 2004.

The statewide sales figure represents what the total number of homes sold during 2005 would be if sales maintained the May pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.

"Inventory levels, which have been at or above three months since July 2004, fell below three months beginning in March and have ranged between 2.6 and 2.8 months since that time," said CAR Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. "While not at the record low levels we experienced earlier last year, the tight inventory of homes for sale has impacted sales over the past couple of months."

In a separate report covering more localized statistics generated by CAR and DataQuick Information Systems, a La Jolla-based real estate information company, 97.5 percent or 396 of 406 cities and communities showed an increase in their respective median home prices from a year ago. DataQuick statistics are based on county records data rather than MLS information.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Proposal for Two New Hotels in Green Valley Corporate Park

STAYBRIDGE SUITES AND HOMEWOOD SUITES AT GREEN VALLEY CORPORATE PARK (D.R. 2005-07). Request by Roger Swahn on behalf of Sonmar Development Corporation for Development Review Approval for a proposed 4-story, 85-unit hotel (Homewood Suites) on 3.07 acres, and a proposed 3-story, 82-unit hotel (Staybridge Suites) on 2.31 acres and related site and landscaping improvements on contiguous parcels located at 4755 and 4775 Business Center Drive, A.P.N.'s 0045-280-460 & 470. (Planner: Jon R. Hilliard, 428-7447)

Alden Place Prices on Mare Island include all trimmings: New neighborhoods open at naval shipyard site

Judy Richter, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, June 19, 2005

Alden Place's Plan Two is about 2,803 square feet, with four bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths. As part of Lennar Mare Island's "Everything's Included" program, the house comes with front landscaping and sprinklers. Chronicle photo by Paul Chinn

When a developer opens its model homes, they're usually gussied up with expensive options like upgraded flooring, granite countertops and high- end appliances.

However, the listed prices are for plain vanilla. Choosing all those expensive options can boost he price by thousands of dollars.

Not so at Lennar Mare Island's two new neighborhoods at the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo. Its "Everything's Included" program means just that: The one option is the flooring.

"Everything's Included" applies to lighting fixtures, appliances, cabinetry, countertops, plumbing fixtures and other basics. Window coverings, furniture and backyard landscaping are excluded.
Working with Vallejo to convert the decommissioned Navy base to civilian use, LMI plans to develop 1,400 residential units ranging from new houses and condos to live-work lofts in renovated Navy buildings.

The 125 single-family homes in its first two neighborhoods, Alden Place and Gardner's Glen, are being built on a former Navy housing site on the west side of the island. Each neighborhood has three two-story models.

In Gardner's Glen, the less expensive project, they range from 2,039 square feet with three bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms to 2,496 square feet with four bedrooms and three bathrooms. Lots are 4,500 to 5,000 square feet. Prices range from $647,950 to $684,950.
Alden Place is a bit pricier. Its houses range from $709,950 for the four- bedroom, three-bath, 2,599-square-foot Plan One to $740,950 for the four- bedroom, four-bath, 2,878-square-foot Plan Three. Lots are 5,500 to 7,000 square feet.

Another neighborhood, Kirkland Isle, goes on sale this week, with three models ranging from 2,100 to 2,700 square feet and prices ranging from $632, 000 to $706,000.
The "Everything's Included" list at Alden Place includes maple cabinetry, granite countertops and backsplashes, front landscaping with automatic irrigation, and dual-zoned heating and air conditioning with two digital thermostats.

With those prices -- reasonable by Bay Area standards -- interest in the project has been keen, with the first homes allocated by lottery. However, they are available only to owner occupants. An anti-investor clause prohibits buyers from renting them out.

Plan Two at Alden Place is $721,250 to $723,550 (depending on the lot) for four bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms in 2,803 square feet. Its two-car garage has a third tandem space that could be used for parking, storage or a workshop. The garage sits toward the back of the house, forming a courtyard off the kitchen.

Three facades are available. The model is 2C.

A porch spans the front, leading to a tiled entry. To the left is the formal dining room. To the right is a cozy room labeled the parlor. As in many other model homes, it's actually a vestigial living room.

A short hallway leads past a linen closet, guest closet, stairway and half-bath into the tiled kitchen and informal dining area. An island with sink and dishwasher separates the two spaces.
The kitchen comes with GE stainless steel appliances including five- burner gas cooktop, microwave, oven and dishwasher. It also has under-cabinet task lighting and two pantries.
The dining area has a built-in desk on one side and French doors leading to the courtyard on the other side.

The family room offers a media niche, a gas fireplace and a door to the backyard.
The bedrooms and laundry room are upstairs. At the top of the stairs are cabinets under a small window. The two front bedrooms are off this area. One of them opens to a small deck.

A light-filled hall, with room for cabinets under the row of windows, leads past a bathroom and the laundry room, which includes a white GE washer and gas dryer. Beyond that are a smaller bedroom and the master suite.

The master bath has a double sink, a toilet closet, a tub and a shower stall. Windows in the master bedroom and bathroom overlook marshy areas, a haven for birds, and views of the North Bay hills.

As in many of today's new homes, though, the walk-in closet is accessed from the bathroom. Moreover, there's no door between the bedroom and bathroom, a drawback for those who like their privacy.

Otherwise, this model and all of the others in both neighborhoods feature functional floor plans and lots of storage.

There are no homeowner dues, but the area is part of a community facilities district formed by the city. Homeowners will pay a tax that will add about half a percentage point to their property tax bill, based on the purchase price. The tax will pay for capital improvements and maintenance of streets, lighting and other facilities.

Project: Alden Place
City: Vallejo
Model: Residence Two
Builder: Lennar Mare Island
Architect: Dahlin Group
Square feet: 2,803
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 2 1/2
Garage: 2 parallel spaces, 1 tandem
Lot size: 5,500-7,000 square feet
Price: $721,000-$723,550
Sales office hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily except Monday
Address: 340 Klein Ave.
Phone: (707) 556-3405
E-mail Judy Richter at

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Area job forecast looks strong

June 14, 2005
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

Job growth in the Solano and Napa county areas may be slowing slightly, but it's still growing at a good clip, according to the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey.

Twenty-seven percent of the local companies interviewed for the Manpower survey plan to hire more employees this summer, and only 7 percent plan payroll cutbacks, said Greg Gardner of Manpower.

Forty-three percent of local respondents planned no staff level changes this summer, Gardner added.

Manpower's most recent survey's results are up from the second quarter, when 17 percent of respondents intended to add staff and none planned to let people go, Gardner said. But compared to last year, he said, employment growth seems to be slowing slightly.

"Employers are more cautious about hiring than they were a year ago, when 33 percent of companies surveyed thought employment increases were likely and 7 percent intended to cut back," Gardner said.

"The results show optimism among local employers and a robust market out there," Gardner said. "We've been getting a good number of permanent job orders, particularly for executive administration and high-end sales jobs."

For the coming quarter, job prospects appear best in construction, non-durable goods manufacturing, wholesale-retail trade and public administration, he said.

The numbers seem to be consistent with those throughout California, Gardner said.

Statewide, a 27 percent net increase in staffing levels is expected, with Northern California's firms expecting a net gain of 30 percent compared to Southern California's expected 25 percent gain, the survey showed.

The sharpest gains statewide are expected in Oakland, where a net gain of 67 percent is forecast. Statewide, the smallest gain is the San Fernando Valley's 1 percent, while Contra Costa County's 12 percent net gain is Northern California's smallest.

These kinds of results began regularly appearing in surveys as early as March, when the Vallejo, Fairfield and Napa region was found by the Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific's Eberhardt School of Business to be one of the top metropolitan areas in Northern California.

That three-year forecast suggested strong growth locally in employment and personal income, the college's Dr. Sean Snaith said at the time. The study predicted the creation of more than 3,000 jobs by 2007, with construction jobs growing about 4 percent as people from other parts of the Bay Area migrate here seeking more affordable housing.

Later in March the Employment Development Department (EDD) revealed that Solano County had experienced a significant drop in unemployment over the past year - and now has an unemployment rate below that of the state.

In the past few months, surveys conducted by the Bay Area Council and East Bay Mechanic's Bank produced similar findings.

John Grubb of the Bay Area Council said recently that based in part on what Solano County employers plan to do in the next six months, there seems to be a "real end" to the Bay Area's lack of jobs.

And a study earlier this month by the East Bay-based Mechanics Bank's, found Solano County's employers the most likely in Northern California to hire in the next year.

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

County crops bring in roughly $206 million for area growers

Last year's numbers are a drop in value
By Jason Massad, The Reporter, Vacaville
Vallejo Times Herald

Solano County's crop and agricultural commodities created roughly $206 million in gross value for area farmers and growers in 2004, a 4 percent drop from the year before.

It was the first time that local agricultural products have declined in value since 2000. Then, the gross value dropped about $10 million to $186 million, a roughly 5 percent decrease.

Susan Cohen, Solano County agricultural commissioner, said the sky is not falling for local farmers and growers.

'Four percent is not very much. That is a normal variation,'' Cohen said. 'On balance, we had a lot more sunflowers this year. And we saw values go up for field crops, nursery, seed crops and vegetable crops.''

Solano County had 21 crops and agricultural commodities that created more than $1 million in gross value. The top crop for Solano's 558 farms continues to be nursery stock, which raked in $43.6 million in 2004.

Nursery stock, both agricultural and the landscaping variety, has been on a march since 1995, when its value was less than $20 million of the county's ag output.

Tomatoes, traditionally the king of Solano County agriculture, fell to the fourth ranking in 2004 from the third most valuable crop the year before. Processing tomatoes created close to $19 million in gross revenues in 2004.

Wine grapes, a crop that some growers have flirted with, was static in its value in 2004, and remained the county's sixth most valuable crop.

Wine grapes created $10 million and were grown on a sizable amount of the county's 365,868 acres of ag land.

Some 4,300 acres were dedicated to the high-value crop. Other crops using much of the local agricultural land were almonds, walnuts and prunes.

Cattle and calves remained the county's second most valuable agricultural product in 2004, creating $26 million in gross revenues. Alfalfa followed closely at $22 million.

Increased prices were behind some significant gains in vegetable and seed crop values, Cohen said.

Bell peppers moved up in the rankings for "million-dollar crops'' from 20th to 14th. Sunflower seeds and beans also made gains. Overall, seed crops increased 34 percent in value in 2004.

Solano County's traditionally valuable ag products continued to lead the state.

The county ranks first in its production of sheep and lambs, with many coming from the Rio Vista area. Sheep and lambs were the county's 10th most valuable crop in 2004 at $4 million.

Solano's production of hay, safflower and corn also rank high among California counties.

But the county, relatively small in terms of available land, was only the 30th most agriculturally productive in California as compared to the other 57 counties.

Two of the county's significantly valuable ag products - feeder lambs and dairy cows - fell dramatically in the 2004 crop report.

Cohen explained that it was the way the value was calculated for the feeder lambs and dairy cows. The 2004 statistics did not include inventory of some livestock, which lowered their value in statistical terms.

- E-mail Jason Massad at

Monday, June 13, 2005

Bay Area CFOs see slight hiring uptick in Q3

Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal
June 10, 2005

A net 3 percent of chief financial officers in the San Francisco Bay Area expect to hire accounting and finance professionals in the third quarter of 2005, according to a survey conducted for Robert Half International. Eight percent of executives surveyed plan to add staff during the quarter and 5 percent anticipate reductions in personnel. The net 3 percent increase is the same as the national average. The majority of respondents, 83 percent, foresee no change in hiring in the third quarter.

"Businesses are trying to gauge the strength of the economy before determining whether or not to add new full-time employees," says Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International Inc. (NYSE: RHI) of Menlo Park. "Uncertainty related to issues such as energy costs, along with rising healthcare expenses, have contributed to the cautious environment. In addition, high productivity has allowed firms to remain competitive without having to expand staff levels."

The local results reflect a two-quarter rolling average based on the responses of 200 CFOs from a stratified random sample of companies in the San Francisco Bay area with 20 or more employees; 1,400 CFOs were queried for the national data. The surveys were conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half International, which has been tracking financial hiring activity in the United States since 1992.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Biotech is outshining pharma at turning research into drugs

San Francisco Business Times
From the June 6, 2005 print edition

The scientific distinctions between biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies appear to be blurring, but the cultural ones remain clearer.

Art Levinson, chairman and CEO of Genentech Inc., examines these differences in a piece in this year's annual report on the biotechnology industry from Ernst & Young. He highlights such things as the academic culture of biotechnology companies, the greater tolerance for risk and willingness to pursue drugs with smaller potential markets.

These may be significant contributors to one other emerging difference Levinson highlights -- R&D productivity.

In 2004, the pharmaceutical industry spent about $50 billion on R&D compared with $16 billion at publicly traded biotechs and an estimated $20 billion from the global biotechnology industry. But starting in 2003, new drug approvals for biotechs surpassed those for pharmas and that trend continued with about 20 approvals in 2004 for biotech and about 10 for pharma.

The R&D numbers probably overstate reality. Increasingly, big pharma is spending its R&D dollars on biotech drug development collaborations. But nevertheless, it's a reflection that big pharma is turning to biotech for innovation it seems less able to produce by itself.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Suisun reveals developer, but not its plans, for Main Street

Article Last Updated: Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 - 11:00:51 pm PDT
By Matthew Bunk

SUISUN CITY - The city made its choice Tuesday from among a handful of developers jockeying to rebuild the neglected downtown business district, but company representatives only hinted at what they had in mind for the so-called Main Street West project.

Suisun City officials picked hometown development firm Miller Sorg Group and Petaluma-based Basin Street Properties to team up on the city's largest ongoing redevelopment project.

The two firms will now begin working on plans to rejuvenate the city's oldest business district by uprooting several blocks of aging buildings and replacing them with a combination of homes and shops.

Representatives from both companies suggested, but would not confirm, what downtown will look like once the construction project is finished.

"It's similar to what we did in Petaluma," Basin Street's Frank Marinello said.

"Strikingly similar," echoed Mike Rice, who owns Miller Sorg Group.

They were referring to Basin Street's $100 million redevelopment project in Petaluma anchored by a 12-screen, multiplex theater. The developer reconstructed seven blocks with a mix of housing, retail office space and a parking garage, and invested $10 million in the theater alone.

The development team is now hailing the Petaluma project as an example of what it can do for the future of downtown Suisun City. Officials seem to have bought into the idea.

"I'm expecting this project to have some award-winning elements," Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering said.

Rice wouldn't confirm whether the plan includes building a theater in Suisun. He did say, however, that one of the goals is to make it "the place to be" in the evening.

"Our job is to get feet on the street for more than just eight hours a day," he said.

When pressed for details, Rice defrayed questions until all agreements are signed.

He talked about an anchor attraction that is "so key to this project that I don't feel comfortable saying anything until it's done."

The development firms are forming a joint company, which they haven't named yet, to work exclusively on Suisun's Main Street West. The partnership is expected to sign a contract with the city later this month that will make it the sole developer on the project.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Basin Street Properties
Headquartered in Petaluma
Specializes in commercial development
More than 25 years of experience
Operates in Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties
Past Projects: Earned statewide acclaim for a $100 million redevelopment of seven blocks in Petaluma, a project that included a $10 million multiplex theater.

Miller Sorg Group
Headquartered in Suisun City
Specializes in residential and mixed-use development
Founded in 1988 and moved to Suisun City in 1998
Operates primarily in Solano County
Past Projects: Built the 89-home Harbor Village in Suisun City, as well as the Promenade live-work district on the Suisun waterfront.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Budget wise, things looking good in Dixon

Article Launched: 06/06/2005 07:27:51 AM
By David Henson/Staff Writer

Buoyed by healthy property and sales tax revenues, the city of Dixon's preliminary budget includes $432,000 worth of recommended new programs and personnel, several thousand dollars more than in recent years.

The staff-recommended additions to the fiscal year 2005-06 general fund budget come largely from several new or adjusted positions across seven departments, all of which City Manager Warren Salmons said are needed.

"It's natural. It is the change that happens with growth," he said. "We have the resources to make the changes if the council feels comfortable with them."

The City Council will begin tonight the first of two workshops on the budget and likely will dis- cuss some of the recommendations.

In recent yearly budgets, new personnel or program requests usually hovered around $100,000 to $150,000, and as a result, Financial Director Peggy Lefebvre said there is something of a backlog in requests.

"We've been a bit pent up in requests for new programs because of the state budget and because we've tried to hold the line and be cautious," said Lefebvre. "The needs are there and the revenue is there. Aside from what the state does, we're growing."

That's not to say, though, the city's preliminary budget for 2005-06 flings around money. Lefebvre said the budget is still conservative.

The city is anticipating about $13.3 million in revenue and spending only $12.6 million, not including the recommended new programs and personnel.

"If you look at the status quo, with no new programs, it's pretty flat," Lefebvre said.

Further, the city consistently receives about 6 percent more revenue than expected and spends 6 percent less than predicted. For example, for the fiscal year 2004-05, the city is projected to exceed expected revenue by $400,000, thanks in large part to increased property taxes and sales and use tax.

For 2005-06, the city is factoring in only 3 percent changes in the budget to reflect its historic trends.

The budget does not include any extra costs associated with the contract negotiations with the Dixon Professional Firefighters' Association or with senior managers, but Lefebvre said the budget will be able to absorb any change.

Salmons said that the budget is both stable and healthy.

Of the new personnel recommended, Dixon's public safety arm would benefit heavily as the proposed positions would help stem excess overtime and increase residents' access to the departments.

In the budget, staff advises that the council create one new police officer position and increase the department's community service officer to full-time status.

The positions would allow the police department to keep its office open later at night and during weekends. In addition, it would increase police officers on duty nights and weekends, Chief Don Mort said.

"As the community grows and moves forward, these positions will give us the flexibility to have at least three officers on at all times," he added.

Moreover, the Dixon Fire Department would be authorized three new firefighter paramedics, which would alleviate excessive overtime and working hours.

David Henson can be reached at

Nursery seeks to root near Lagoon Valley

Article Launched: 06/06/2005 07:27:53 AM
By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

It's not unusual for people to grimace when they hear that a new business is setting up shop right next to a park richly endowed by nature.

That may not be the case Tuesday though, as the Vacaville Planning Commission considers plans to approve a plant nursery at the northern edge of Lagoon Valley Park.

Vacaville Planning Commission
7 p.m. Tuesday
City Council Chamber
650 Merchant St.

The nursery would include four buildings on 1.1 acres at the end of Butcher Road, just south of Interstate 80 on the western edge of the city.

The applicant, Palm Island Nursery owner Dale Motiska, is proposing two 1,500-square-foot greenhouses, a 1,200-square-foot store and 1,250-square-foot workshop on the property, as well as an 1,800-square-foot open trellis structure.

One of the issues involved is the presence of 49 oak trees on the site, 31 of which would be cut down to allow the buildings.

As a result, the city is recommending the commission mandate replacement oaks - one for each small oak cut down and two for every large oak removed.

The replacement trees would be placed either on nursery property or on the site's border with the park.

Staff has also recommended that the nursery be required to comply with the city on future improvements to the end of Butcher Road. Plans for the road call for its eventual expansion and
an expanded parking lot for the park.

In other action, the commission will hear plans to add a second monument sign to the Town Square plaza parking area in front of the downtown Vacaville Public Library.

The sign would be placed at the edge of the parking lot, 60 feet south of the existing library sign.

It would resemble the existing sign, and would host two Town Square businesses' names - Eunice Cranmer Realty and Town Square Candy Company.

The commission will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chamber at 650 Merchant St.
Tom Hall can be reached at

Suisun to name developers for downtown project

Article Last Updated: Sunday, Jun 05, 2005 - 11:32:01 pm PDT

By Ian Thompson

FAIRFIELD - The Suisun City Council is expected to confirm the Suisun City-based Miller-Sorg Group and Basin Street Properties of Petaluma as the master developers to bring more business and housing to Old Town.

Miller-Sorg and Basin Street are proposing a four-part plan to jump start the city's stalled efforts to economically revive the Old Town area, particularly the west side of Main Street. This includes:

1. Building what is described in a memo to the City Council as a "centerpiece anchor project" on Redevelopment Agency land at the corner of Main and Solano streets.

2. Putting in commercial development on the parcel next to Lotz Way and Main Street.

3. Developing a single-family residential subdivision on land next to Civic Center and Lotz Way.

4. Building a mix of retail, commercial and residential development on the parcels scattered along Main Street's west side and along the waterfront.

The City Council gave city staff the green light three weeks ago to negotiate exclusively with the Miller-Sorg/Basin Street partnership after winnowing through proposals from several other developers.

A city committee that picked out Miller-Sorg/Basin Street told the council that theirs was the most fiscally feasible and economically sustainable of all the proposals.

Miller-Sorg, which has its headquarters in the Old Town, has worked with the Redevelopment Agency in the past, building the waterfront promenade and the building at 710 Kellogg Street.

Basin Street Properties is a commercial property developer and owner whose most recent project was redeveloping the south side of Petaluma's downtown with a theater complex and a host of retail shops and restaurants.

Economic Development Director Randy Starbuck lauded Basin Street as "having the experience in mixed-use downtown development necessary to address the challenges of downtown Suisun City and the Main Street West project."

Suisun City started the Main Street West project last year to deal with the part of Old Town that city leaders felt was holding back economic development of the rest of the area.

The city is offering Miller-Sorg and Basin Street access to large, more lucrative parcels around One Harbor Center as long as the master developer team also develops the smaller parcels along Main Street's west side.

The Suisun City Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Suisun City Council chamber at 701 Civic Center Blvd.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Who: Suisun City Council.
What: Picking the master developer for the city's Main Street West project.
Where: Suisun City Council chamber, 701 Civic Center Blvd.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Info: 421-7300

Friday, June 03, 2005

Senate passes Schwarzenegger's 'million solar roofs' plan

Posted on Wed, Jun. 01, 2005
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO - The Senate on Wednesday passed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan for a new round of incentives to encourage use of solar-generated electricity.

The approval came despite arguments that years of government support have yet to make the industry self-sufficient.

California has a wealth of solar energy just when it needs it most, on stifling summer afternoons of the sort that led to rolling blackouts and spiking electricity costs during the state's power crisis in 2000 and 2001, said Sen. John Campbell, R-Irvine, one of the bill's authors.

Schwarzenegger's goal is to harness that abundance of energy and produce 3,000 megawatts worth of solar power by 2018. That amounts to about 5 percent of the state's entire electricity use at peak periods, the equivalent of the energy produced by six large fossil fuel-fired plants, said Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, another of the bill's authors. One megawatt is enough to power about 750 homes.

Under the so-called "million solar roofs" bill, homeowners and businesses would get rebates for installing solar panels and would save money by producing their own energy and selling excess power back to the electrical grid.

The legislation proposes that utility ratepayers provide incentives for 10 years, a move that "will jump-start this very promising technology," Campbell said.

Senators sent the bill to the Assembly on a 28-3 vote, with Murray's promise to work out lingering objections from labor unions and cap the amount of incentives that could be offered each year. That would ensure electricity bills don't increase exorbitantly to pay incentives.

"I didn't expect to see so much bipartisan support in the Senate. It gives us tremendous momentum" in the Assembly, said Bernadette Del Chiaro of Environment California, which is backing the bill.

Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Northridge, opposed the bill, saying solar energy remains "the most expensive way we've ever devised to produce electricity."

Despite years of subsidies, solar energy costs about three times as much per kilowatt hour as natural gas- or wind-generated electricity, and is far more expensive than nuclear power or hydroelectricity, McClintock said.

Utilities predict the majority of their customers won't be able to install solar panels to take advantage of the incentives, but Campbell argued that wider use eventually would mean lower energy costs for everyone.


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Plans are in place for 3 million square feet of Biotech space

San Francisco Business Times
From the May 30, 2005 print edition
Ryan Tate

The Bay Area is poised for a biotech building boom in the wake of its successful bid to house California's stem cell institute.

Already in the formative stages at the start of this year, the construction spree is expected to accelerate in the wake of the stem cell decision, particularly at San Francisco's Mission Bay.

From Wareham Development's 305,000-square-foot biotech project in Emeryville and Berkeley to Genentech's plans for a 780,000-square-foot complex on the Peninsula, plans are already in place for the Bay Area to gain nearly 3 million square feet of new biotech space, with the vast majority coming online in the next seven years.

The selection May 6 of San Francisco as the home for the headquarters of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is already drawing scientists and scientific groups to San Francisco, said Joel Marcus, CEO of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, the real estate investment trust with plans for 2.1 million square feet of space at Mission Bay.

"It will be a boost," Marcus said. "You have to think of it a little bit like the NIH (National Institutes of Health). People tend to cluster around the NIH because it is much easier to submit and work on grants when you're near NIH."

Marcus should know, since Alexandria has substantial holdings around the NIH headquarters in Bethesda, Md. Unlike the NIH, the stem cell institute will not do research of its own, but Marcus said the institute's funding role should be enough to draw tenants.

It remains to be seen whether the stem cell headquarters will vault San Francisco real estate ahead of more established lab locations on the Peninsula and potentially cheaper space in the East Bay.

In addition to the Wareham project, Simeon Commercial Properties holds 100,000 square feet of existing lab space and entitlements for 180,000 square feet more at its Campus Bay business park in Richmond.

On the Peninsula, Slough Estates has plans for two buildings totaling 130,000 square feet, in addition to the Genentech complex. At 185 Berry St. in Mission Bay, McCarthy Cook & Co. plans to add two stories, or 140,000 square feet, to an existing office building.

Jay Leslie, a vice president at Cornish & Carey who is active in the life science market south of San Francisco, acknowledged that the stem cell decision is "a tremendous boost to an area at Mission Bay that has a lot of momentum." But he added that the move will have positive affects throughout the Bay Area. "It's not going to draw attention from one area to another," since competing locations are so close, at least on the Peninsula, he said.

"It's going to be a lot of smaller start-up types of operations," Leslie said of the companies likely to be drawn by the institute headquarters.

Although Alexandria is expected to develop 2.1 million square feet at Mission Bay, the only development now under way and known publicly is a 165,000-square-foot building at 1700 Owens St., with Alexandria hoping for final city approval before the end of the quarter.

Marcus said the remaining building at Mission Bay will be a combination of speculative and build-to-suit, meaning it should be workable for everything from incubator-stage startups -- space Leslie said will be essential for luring other firms -- to large, established biotech firms.

"People are going to want to be within walking distance," Marcus said.

Ryan Tate is a reporter for the San Francisco Business Times.

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