Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Lot of Good News Lately in Dixon

A Lot of Good News Lately in Dixon
By Doug Ford

There have been all kinds of good things to note in February this year. First, we had two weeks of beautiful spring-like weather that produced blossoms four to six weeks early. Then the State of the City presentation led by Dixon Mayor Mary Ann Courville, which was filled with good news.

Fire Chief Rick Dorris reported on a well-functioning fire prevention program and the Dixon Police Department reported an overall 20 percent decrease in crime in 2005 over 2004. Both departments are now operating cadet programs in cooperation with Dixon High School and the Solano County Office of Education.

City Engineer Royce Cunningham reported that Dixon's new train station and transportation center is nearly completed. That will greatly improve Dixon's chance of getting a commuter train stop approved ahead of neighboring towns. Also, good work in developing drainage projects has saved the town from the serious flooding problems that hit Vacaville and Fairfield in the new year's storms.

Dixon Community Development Director Dave Downswell said the city is planning a revision of the city plan in 2008-2010 and that the city may be getting a Home Depot store. Both Cunningham and Downswell have been in town only four months, but seem to have hit the ground running. City Manager Warren Salmons emphasized that Dixon is thriving on all fronts from good planning and good fortune. Mayor Courville wrapped it all up with the comment that the one thing lacking is working space at the City Hall which will need expansion soon.

More good news at the Solano Economic Development Corp. session in Fairfield on biotechnology. Matt Gardner, president of Bay-Bio, the industry organization for Northern California's life science community, reported that 240 Northern California biotechnology products have been approved for production. Genentech, which gained approval for sale of the first biotech product about 27 years ago, now has passed the $100 billion market cap milestone and is nearing completion of the huge Vacaville addition that will nearly double the capacity of the world's largest biotech manufacturing facility.

The good news for Solano County is that manufacturing capacity cannot be expanded on the San Francisco peninsula where most of the new products are developed. The Interstate 80 corridor is well situated to gain more new manufacturing plants. Gardner said that 8,000 new biotech jobs are forecast for the next 12 months in Northern California.

The key to attracting more biotech business to Solano County is the support of the education system in providing well-educated and trained employees. We also need state legislation to give the industry the same kinds of advantages that are now being offered by other states. We have spent 30 years building the industry here and cannot afford to let it go elsewhere.

University of California, Davis, Associate Vice Chancellor Alan Bennett, provided an overview of biotechnology programs at the university, which is the top university in the country in awarding degrees in the life sciences at the bachelor's and doctoral levels. He introduced Carey Kopay, recently appointed director of BioTech System, a Bio Tech consortium of Solano, Yolo, and Sacramento counties for Training, Education and Mentoring. The consortium is particularly interested in working with local school districts to improve their offerings in the life sciences.

Solano Community College Superintendent-President Dr. Paulett Profumo told about how dedicated SCC faculty and staff are trying hard to meet Solano County's needs by working with UC Davis and through its own Vision 2020 plan. She said that "Solano needs to be the biggest and best cluster in biotech," and that SCC is dedicated to that goal.

The author lives in Dixon and serves on the Solano County Board of Education.

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