Monday, March 27, 2006

City Reaches Out to Businesses

City Reaches Out to Businesses
By Nathan Halverson

FAIRFIELD - The mayor walked down the scaffolding as hundreds of Pepsi cans went whizzing past.

"This is truly incredible," said Fairfield Mayor Harry Price.

Jeff Prichard, the Fairfield plant manager for Ball Corp., directed the mayor to a machine rapidly applying Pepsi labels.

In the minute Prichard spent explaining the machine, about 2,000 aluminum cans popped into existence - more than enough to supply an entire convenience store.

After touring the facility for an hour, Price sat down with Ball Corp. management to understand the needs of a facility that produces 2.8 billion aluminum cans a year.

It's all part of the city's economic development strategy - basically an outreach to businesses.

"The first thing I say is 'we're from the local government and we're here to help you,' " Price said. "And some of them laugh because they think it's an oxymoron. But we're serious."

City officials are working hard to develop relationships with large manufacturers and other companies that have set up shop in Fairfield.

They want to cultivate an environment that will retain and attract businesses - essentially create a climate in Fairfield that attracts clean, light industries.

To accomplish the mission, they are taking their message directly to companies. The mayor - with an entourage of city staff - plans on visiting 250 businesses this year. To date, they've visited the Anheuser-Busch brewery, Jelly Belly, Amcor PET and Ball Corp.

"At first we were kind of hesitant about what we say in front of the city mayor and manager," said George Jamason, plant manager for Amcor PET's Fairfield plant, which produces millions of plastic bottles. "But the mayor came to help and I was very impressed with that. He's very interested in what he can do for us."

Jamason said he expressed some concern to the mayor about how the fire department would respond in an emergency.

"The next day the fire department called, and said 'we are here for what you need,' " Jamason said. "Since we met they've stood behind everything they said they were going to do."

The Fairfield City Council passed the economic development strategy in July 2005. With an annual budget of $205,000, which is primarily used for marketing, the initiative is an effort to strengthen the local economy.

"Every city is involved in economic development," Price said. "We're just getting very, very aggressive here."

The mayor's message is more than simple solicitude. It's also a sales pitch.

"I ask them, 'What about your suppliers, your business partners, can we relocate them here?' " Price said.

And his request doesn't fall on deaf ears.

Jamason said freight costs are a major expense for Amcor. He would like to see some of his big clients such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola move to Fairfield. He recommended the mayor speak to both companies, which he suggested might be thinking about relocating.

Jamason recommends Fairfield to his business partners.

"I took what the mayor said and have been advertising his message to anyone I talk to," Jamason said.

That suits Price who wants the word to spread across California that Fairfield is a good place to do business.

"That's part of my self-imposed job. Get the businesses to understand there is a vision for Fairfield," Price said. "It costs a lot of staff time. But it generates tax dollars. It creates jobs."

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 ext. 267 or


Here are the five goals of Fairfield's economic development strategy:

-- Develop and market a positive business image of Fairfield as a great place to work and do business.

-- Improve the economic vitality of Fairfield's business districts.

-- Retain and grow Fairfield's existing businesses.

-- Recruit businesses that create quality jobs paying livable wages.

-- Retain Travis Air Force Base as an economic engine for Fairfield.

Source: City of Fairfield

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