Friday, April 28, 2006

Bay Area businesses leaders optimistic about forecast

Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal - April 21, 2006

Bay Area businesses leaders optimistic about forecast
Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal - April 21, 2006by Mark Calvey
Northern California businesses are increasingly bullish on their outlook for the year despite expectations that interest rates and costs for everything from labor to commodities and energy will continue escalating, according to the second annual Mechanics Bank Business Optimism Index and Survey.

The survey's findings underscore a growing sense among some observers that the foundation is being laid for another economic boom despite angst over pensions, health care, taxes, housing prices and the war in Iraq.

The Richmond bank said it was surprised by the intensity of positive expectations in the face of all the continuing economic and political uncertainty.

The majority of those surveyed - 55 percent - said they are better off now than a year ago. The bank said it found it even more "astonishing" that 84 percent of business leaders surveyed expect their companies to be better off a year from now. That figures rises to almost 90 percent for those businesses in San Francisco and Sacramento.

The Mechanics Bank Business Optimism Index inched up from 100 to 100.28 last year. The bank surveyed 1,213 business owners and senior managers at Northern California businesses with annual revenue between $50,000 and $20 million.

"What's striking is the near unanimity of many of the opinions and attitudes expressed by these businesses," said Steve Buster, president and CEO of the Mechanics Bank.

Economist Tapan Munroe said he was surprised by the survey results.

"In my 30 years as an economist I have seldom seen survey results of this type that tracked better with the economic numbers coming out of the marketplace," Munroe said. "By most measures, the Northern California economy - and the U.S. as well - are doing better than most people think."

Calvey is a reporter for the San Francisco Business Times.

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Median family income rose 3.15 percent over the past year in the Sacramento area

Sacramento Business Journal - April 27, 2006

Region's median income on the rise
Sacramento Business Journal - 11:59 AM PDT Thursdayby Mark AndersonStaff writer
Median family income rose 3.15 percent over the past year in the Sacramento area, based on Department of Housing and Urban Development figures for 2006.

Median family income for the Sacramento Metropolitan Statistical Area is $65,400, up from $63,400 in HUD's 2005 estimates.

The median means that half the households in the region make more and half make less.

The highest median-income metropolitan area in the country is San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, with a median income of $97,100, up 3.4 percent from the previous year. The second highest in the country was Bridgeport-Stamford, Conn. which had a median income of $95,900.

The median income in San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City was $91,200. Santa Barbara-Santa Maria's median income is $65,800. The median in San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos was $64,900.

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Tourism report shows Napa's appeal helps North Bay
Article published - Apr 24, 2006

BUSINESS JOURNAL EDITORIAL: Tourism report shows Napa's appeal helps North Bay
A new study of tourism in Napa County is revealing for both its measure of the enormous economic impact of the industry – $1.3 billion annually – and the existence of opportunities for regional collaboration.

Among the findings of the report, “Napa County Visitor Profile and Napa County Economic Impact Study,” released March 30:

• The Napa County travel market is largely domestic, with nearly half coming from within California. Just three Bay Area counties alone, Contra Costa, Solano and Alameda, accounted for nearly 18 percent of visitors.

• Visitors are relatively wealthy, with 58 percent reporting household incomes of more than $100,000. Nearly three-quarters report having bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees. Most visitors are couples traveling without children.

• These visitors spend $2.5 million a day and support 17,500 jobs. Spending included an average of $146 for day-trippers and $233 for those who stay overnight. Tourists spend $184 million on wine, $176 million on hotels, $40 million on bed and breakfasts and $265 million on food.

• Visitors generate nearly $123 million in taxes from hotel and other purchases, which the Napa Valley Conference and Visitors Bureau said translates into $1,000 for every county resident.

• Not surprisingly, most visitors come to Napa for wine and food. But they also visited downtowns, museums, art galleries and spas.

Beyond these key measurements of the role tourism plays in Napa’s economy, the study also identified one interesting piece of data for Sonoma County and Wine Country in general.

That is, visitors to Napa identified San Francisco and Sonoma County as two places they planned to visit on their current trip. With millions visiting Napa and Sonoma County every year, the potential for expanding that market – in both directions – seems worth exploring, particularly if it improves the overall visitor experience and market.

One finding should give heart to the visitors bureau and other local leaders as they continue their two-year-long effort to establish a destination strategy: A resounding 9 in 10 visitors to Napa said they would recommend the area to their friends.

Visitors didn’t like everything, of course. They were underwhelmed by the nightlife and did not like the traffic and tasting room fees.

That’s why Napa County tourism leaders are not resting.

Business confidence in Sonoma County remained strong in the in the spring,

E-mail Express

Business survey suggest strengthening economy

SONOMA COUNTY, April 11, 2006 -- Business confidence in Sonoma County remained strong in the in the spring, and local executives predict that the economy will strengthen over the next six months, according to a quarterly report by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board. The report is based on survey responses from 99 local county businesses.

For more on this story, visit

Massive Solano wind energy project comes online

April 15, 2006

Massive Solano wind energy project comes online

By Nathan Halverson

FAIRFIELD - The giant blades are almost a football field in length. And this week, for the first time, they began spinning and producing energy.

The huge wind energy project in Solano County, known as Shiloh, is capable of producing 150 megawatts of energy. That's enough energy to power about 45,000 households.

Pacific Gas and Electric purchases about 75 megawatts from the project. Other buyers include the city of Palo Alto, which wants a portion of its energy to come from a renewable source.

The turbines are located in the Montezuma Hills west of Highway 12 between Suisun City and Rio Vista, near Bird's Landing.

Shiloh is the first renewable energy project in the state to be completed under a state law requiring power companies to provide more alternative energy.

"It's a substantial milestone," said Jon Tremayne, spokesman for PG&E.

The law, known as the Renewables Portfolio Standards and passed in 2001, requires some electricity providers such as PG&E to increase the amount of renewable energy they provide by 1 percent each year. Electric companies must procure 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2017 under the law.

"Our goal is to reach that percent by 2010," Tremayne said.
A second wind energy project in Montezuma Hills, known as Shiloh II, has been proposed and is undergoing an environmental review. It will also generate 150 megawatts.

The mammoth turbines, which are about 660 feet tall, are built on ranch lands in the area. Ranchers receive substantial payments from the energy companies for leasing a small bit of land for the turbines.

Some ranchers in Montezuma Hills said they would make more money from the turbines than from raising livestock, and the turbines require virtually no work.

One of those ranchers, Bill Blacklock, has three turbines on his property. He said it's been a lot quieter since construction on the turbines was completed.

The income more than makes up for having to look at them every day, Blacklock said.

"They're great. They're not nearly as unsightly as the ones they used to build. These are much more pleasant to look at," he said.

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Suisun City Old Town anchor project gets green light

April 26, 2006

Old Town anchor project gets green light

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The Old Town building project Mayor Jim Spering called "a landmark for Suisun City" was given the green light by both the Suisun City Council and the Planning Commission Tuesday.

The council and commission approved the first three buildings of a plan that city leaders hope will fill in the vacant lots in Old Town with businesses which will increase Suisun City's sales tax income.

Earlier this month, the city council approved selling 13 agency-owned parcels in Old Town totaling 8.4 acres for $3.7 million to the Suisun City-based developer Main Street West.

Main Street West proposed starting off by putting three commercial and retail buildings on the two vacant lots that flank Solano Street just east of Main Street.

The plans propose a two-story building on the southeast corner with 17,500 square feet for businesses on the first floor and 16,500 square feet for offices on the second.

It will include a public courtyard in the center, featuring an outdoor fireplace.

A second proposed two-story building on the southwest corner will cover 5,400 square feet with businesses on the ground floor and offices or apartments on the second floor.

The only concerns that planners, councilmembers and some residents had was whether the buildings' design allow them to fit in with the already existing Old Town structures.

The city council gave Main Street West a two-year deadline to put retail and commercial development along Main Street as well as build homes and possibly a hotel on vacant land near Civic Center Boulevard on the opposite side of the Suisun Slough.

Suisun City's leaders are pinning their hopes on these developments to bring in more businesses to generate badly needed sales tax revenue for the city's coffers.

City leaders are also hoping that this construction will spur private building owners on Main Street's west side to take a more active interest in renovating and putting viable businesses in them.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Vacaville Nut Tree overpass to be completed by August

April 27, 2006

Nut Tree overpass to be completed by August

By Daily Republic staff

VACAVILLE - Drivers can expect to use the new, improved Nut Tree Drive overcrossing by August, Deputy Public Works Director Shawn Cunningham said.

The record rains earlier this year pushed the completion date for the much-anticipated project back nearly two months.

Once completed, drivers crossing Interstate 80 will have a four-lane roadway with left-turn pockets. It replaces what was a two-lane bridge and an aging hook-shaped ramp to bring drivers to what was once the Nut Tree.

"This will take a lot of the traffic and congestion off of Allison Drive," Cunningham said.

Vacaville isn't too worried about the delay because the construction of the adjacent Nut Tree project was also delayed by rains "and our main goal is to keep pace with the private development," Cunningham said.

Copyright © 2005, 2006. Daily Republic

Solano County predicts $20 million surplus

April 28, 2006

County predicts $20 million surplus

By Mike Corpos

FAIRFIELD - With the end of the 2005-06 fiscal year in sight, Solano County's general fund looks to finish the year very much in the black.

Solano County isn't spending as much money as originally planned and is bringing in more revenue that expected - which adds up to about $20 million extra money in the general fund so far this year, county budget analysts said in a report to the Board of Supervisors.

Add that to contingency funding already in the general fund budget and as of the third quarter, Solano County could have $40 million by the end of this fiscal year, the report said.

The general fund represents unrestricted money which the county can spend as it likes, as opposed to other funding earmarked by state or federal governments for such things as welfare checks or operating courts.

According to the report, the county spent $4.3 million than expected out of the general funding and brought in $15.8 million more than expected. The county expected a $12.3 million shortfall in the general fund, but that was offset by higher-than-expected revenues.

"This great news is the product of year-round spending discipline exercised by county department heads, led by our county administrator," board Chairman Supervisor John Vasquez in a press release accompanying the report.

But it wasn't all good news.

"There are outstanding issues, listed in the body of this report, which may affect the projected fund balance," the report said.

Interest rates, the stability of the economy, and caseloads and costs in health and social services and criminal justice areas are some of the variables that could affect the county's projections.

Once the final surplus amount is known, what to do with the extra money becomes the question, Supervisor Duane Kromm said.

The money could be used for a proposed health and social services center in Vallejo instead of using future tobacco settlement revenue, he said.

Other posible uses for the money include improving child welfare services or filling significant vacancies in key county departments, Kromm said.

The report shows a 14 percent vacancy rate in health and social services, 10 percent in the sheriff's department and 18 percent in information technology, Kromm pointed out. That could easily be a reason the county spent less money than projected.

"Also at this point we're in a position where I think possibly cutting taxes would be worth talking about," Kromm said.

Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6977 or

California employers are poised to see a third straight double-digit cut in workers' compensation insurance rates

Workers' comp optimism
Employers likely to see another sharp rate cut

By Gilbert Chan -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Friday, April 28, 2006

California employers are poised to see a third straight double-digit cut in workers' compensation insurance rates this summer, but it could be the last resulting from a landmark legislative overhaul of the system.

The Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California, a key industry group, recommended Wednesday that Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi urge insurers to cut rates by 16.4 percent across the board.

At the same time, a bureau spokesman cautioned that insurers have already reaped the biggest savings from the state's cost-cutting measures.

"We have probably reached a point of the last of the double-digit decreases. This filing includes all the post-reform data," said Jack Hannan.

Critics, including labor leaders and the California Applicants' Attorneys Association, have accused carriers of reaping excessive profits and urged even larger rate cuts.

"There are huge reductions of benefits to injured workers. We don't want to get fooled into thinking that all the savings are being passed on to employers because the advisory rates went down," said Mark Gerlach, a consultant to the attorneys group, whose members represent injured workers.

After sweeping legislative changes in 2003 and 2004, workers' comp insurers cut rates five times in a row. If the commissioner adopts the latest proposal, the cumulative rate reduction would add up to an average 55 percent since July 2003.

While carriers are not bound by the commissioner's proposal, they use his number as an important benchmark.

A state-commissioned study by Bickmore Risk Services reported insurance rates have fallen nearly 40 percent and generated $8.1 billion in savings because of measures that included new medical-fee schedules, uniform guidelines on treatment and benefit payments, new HMO-style doctor's networks and a revamped formula to calculate permanent disability benefits.

Still, Gerlach said, a Union Bank survey of small businesses last month found 56 percent of employers reported their premiums remained the same in 2005 while another 29 percent saw increases.

However, a separate survey released this month by the business-backed Workers' Compensation Action Network reported 68 percent of employers experienced a drop in workers' compensation costs.

"Some businesses have not seen significant decreases in rates. The majority has seen significant savings, upward to 40 percent," said Michael Shaw, a lobbyist for the California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.

About the writer:
The Bee's Gilbert Chan can be reached at (916) 321-1045 or

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Lennar learning from base projects

Monday, April 10, 2006

Lennar learning from base projects

Lennar Corp. has taken a page from its Bay Area projects for Great Park building.

The Orange County Register

Last year when Lennar Corp. presented its preliminary plans for the approximately 2,200 acres it will develop as part of the Great Park at the old El Toro air base, the scattered audience in the Irvine council chambers watched with the polite detachment expected of people watching a documentary, a play or a tennis match.

Redeveloping bases is a bit different in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Every step of Lennar's plans for the three bases the company is developing there has been subject to intense discussion, debate and wrangling over environmental, political, economic and social issues and even ethnic considerations.

In Orange County, the only real issue at El Toro was "airport or something else?" At Tustin, the biggest stumbling block was a debate over how much land the Santa Ana Unified School District ought to get.

Consider Hunters Point, an old Navy base in San Francisco closed 31 years ago. Various proposals fluttered and died and the community in the area grew distrustful anything would happen for the good.

But Lennar is grading the hilly old base now and by late next year houses are expected to begin sprouting. Under its agreement with the city, 30percent of the housing will be designated for lower-income people. That's twice what Irvine and Tustin will be expected to provide at the old Tustin and El Toro air bases.

Lennar also is under pressure to create jobs at Hunters Point.

At Mare Island, a 5,000-acre base near Vallejo, about 30 miles north of San Francisco, job creation also was an issue – but so is preservation of many of the buildings on the base, which opened in 1854. Except for the blimp hangars at Tustin, the buildings at the two Orange County bases evoke little sentiment and don't cry out for preservation.

Employment is a big issue at Hunters Point and Mare Island, where thousands of jobs were lost when the bases closed. In Orange County, the jobs lost at Tustin and El Toro were replaced in the frenzied expansion of the late 1990s. Both bases closed in 1999.

As if the economic and preservation concerns were not challenge enough, two of the three Bay Area bases are dealing with environmental challenges that are considerably more severe than at Tustin and El Toro, where the big scrubbing task at both bases involves pumping up water from underground aquifers contaminated with solvents used to clean aircraft.

Hunters Point's environmental problems were a big hurdle in getting development cleared. Among the activities at the base was ship breaking, the process of cutting up, recycling and reusing old ships.

The Navy already has spent about $400million in environmental cleanup at Hunters Point, twice what is expected to be spent at El Toro. Mare Island suffered from the pollution residue of the 513 ships built there, the ammunition made there and the fuel, batteries and other pollutants that were used.

Treasure Island was mostly used for training, but to make its plan work there, Lennar wants to cut a harbor into the island for ferries to dock.

Lennar also is advancing plans for the old Northern California bases:

At Treasure Island, it wants to minimize dependence on cars. All services will be within a 10-minute walk from the housing area. A 20-acre organic farm is planned for the man-made island.

On Yerba Buena Island, the hilly, natural island to which Treasure Island was connected, the company plans a wellness center and a health spa. Single-family homes also are expected to be built.

30 percent of the housing at Hunters Point must be deemed "affordable."


CONTACT US: (949) 553-2914 or

Lennar learning from base projects
ACCEPTING THE CHALLENGE: Lennar Mare Island has been formulating a reuse plan for this dry dock at the old Navy base on Mare Island near Vallejo, one of three Bay Area bases the company is redeveloping.




Lessons learned

Here's what Lennar executives in Northern California say they learned from creating plans for the three bases and then proceeding to build.

Environmental - Be flexible in dealing with the sometimes different demands of the federal and state regulators.

Political/social - In a diverse community, demands can conflict. Lennar executives in the Bay Area have attended so many community meetings to sift plans for the base that they lost count. Look for creative solutions.

Economic- Press for changes in the plan when the economy shifts. Apartments may have been a smart construction bet five years ago, but now condos are a smarter business move.

Preservation- Some can be passionate about preserving certain buildings on old bases.

"It's a learning curve all the way," says Tom Sheaff, Lennar's regional vice president at the Mare Island base.

Lennar gets good grades from city officials and community leaders in the Bay Area.

Michael Cohen, San Francisco's director of base reuse and development, has been working with Lennar for seven years.

"I've watched them evolve – they were a 'sticks and bricks' homebuilder, and now they have become a very sophisticated urban infill developer," he said.


Here is what's planned for the three San Francisco Bay Area bases.

Hunters Point: 500 acres, 1,238 dwellings planned on the first parcel (66 acres); six acres of community facilities and 25 acres of open space, including what will be called the International African Marketplace.

Treasure Island: 484 acres, 5,500 for-sale and rental units within 12-minute walk of a planned ferry, 15 historic buildings to be reused, organic farm, wind turbines, marina, retail center.

Mare Island: 5,000 acres (650 has been transferred to Lennar Mare Island), 70 businesses in old base buildings occupy about 3million square feet, about 1,500 employed, 8,000 to 10,000 jobs projected at build-out.

Career fair attracts several hundred with 85 employers

Article Launched: 04/07/2006 6:42 AM PDT

Career fair attracts several hundred
Event features 85 employers

By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

Taneshia Washington, of Fairfield, uses some wall space to fill out an application during a career fair held Thursday at the Cordelia branch of the University of Phoenix. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)

More than a thousand job seekers and 85 employers were united Thursday at a regional career fair organized by the Workforce Investment Board of Solano County in partnership with University of Phoenix.

"It's fair to say we're bursting at the seams in terms of employer demand, job seekers, the variety of things we can offer

in one day, in one setting," said Robert Bloom, president of the county organization that aids employers and employees.

Nearly 20,000 square feet of the university's Fairfield campus were filled with the employers' booths embodying a wide array of industries, including biotechnology, banking, health care, education, law enforcement, and retail - to name a few.

Rodger Rosenberg, regional people development manager for Radio Shack, was impressed with the fair's turnout, noting he'd run out of freebies for job seekers mid-way through the five-hour fair.

"It's an exceptional turnout. This is probably the best turnout I've seen at a job fair in the last 18 months, and this is what I do for a living," he remarked.

Rosenberg, who attends eight to 10 job fairs a month, added that the fair's attendance wasn't the only thing that impressed him, but "the cali-ber of people that I'm finding today. This is definitely far above what I've seen in quite a while."

Caroline Cunningham, manager of staffing for Alza Corp., said she'd seen quite a few applicants who would be great a match for some of the biotech firm's manufacturing jobs.

"Our whole application process is all online so we've encouraged many people to go in and apply for specific jobs," she said.

The fair attracted a diverse group attendees, seeking all levels and types of employment.

Kathy Fallon, an unemployed Benicia resident, came looking for data entry or administrative positions, while Contra Costa County resident Doria Addison was simply looking to change jobs.

"Whether it's a retail, receptionist, or cashier (position)," Addison said, she's simply looking to develop her resume and garner new experience.

Vallejo resident Henry Williams, currently employed in the pharmaceutical industry, came to the job fair for one main reason: Genentech.

"Of course," he added, "I'm going to look around and see who's here, what's going on."

As Williams was bound to find, the Workforce Investment Board made sure that quite a bit was going on in terms of industries and employers represented.

"We've chosen to make it an overall opening for any and all businesses, which we think is appropriate for this economy," Bloom explained.

Response from employers was so strong, Bloom noted, that they were unable to accommodate all who wished to participate and have a presence at the fair. A waiting list for future employment fairs has been created.

The strong response, he said, represents the value employers see in Solano County's work force.

Amanda Janis can be reached at

UC leads patent list for 12th year

UC leads patent list for 12th year, Stanford moves up to No. 4

San Francisco Business Times - 10:22 AM PDT Friday April 7, 2006

The University of California was the school with the most patents for the 12th straight year in 2005 and Stanford University moved up to No. 4

The annual ranking by the United States Patent and Trademark office showed UC with 390 patents for inventions, down from 424 in 2004.

Stanford University received 90 patents in 2005, up from 75 the prior year, placing it in a tie for fourth with the University of Texas, whose total dropped from 101 in 2004.

The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, whose patent total dropped to 101 from 135, was passed as No. 2 on the 2005 ranking by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose total rose to 136 from 132.

In order, the top 10 included the University of California, MIT, CalTech, Stanford, University of Texas, University of Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins University and University of Michigan tied for sixth, University of Florida and Columbia University.

Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal

spirit' keeps downtown Fairfield businesses evolving

April 9, 2006

Pioneering spirit' keeps downtown businesses evolving

By Brian Miller and Karl Dumas

If you are a lover of California history, then you probably realize that in each decade, there have always been people who were considered "pioneers" in real estate development.

Some of those pioneers may have developed the first hardware store, the first classy office building or the first shopping center offering "drive-in convenience."

Today, in our effort to strengthen the historic downtown business district, we would like to recognize a different kind of pioneer: The local owners and contractors who see the value in rehabbing the original pioneering buildings, old commercial structures that may have been devalued over the past decades but still have unique features attractive today.

Downtown Fairfield was once the commercial hub of the city with restaurants, general stores, hardware shops, soda fountains and even small department stores.

The buildings constructed by these pioneering businessmen largely remain today, altered over the years but still forming a unique, pedestrian scale and historic business district.

In the last few years, a couple of local residents have emerged to seemingly take a page in history as downtown development pioneers seeking to restore their buildings to new uses and new businesses. Their efforts are helping to create a more attractive, active downtown with new opportunities for nightlife and fun.

The city of Fairfield has established a Business Revolving Loan Fund designed to assist small businesses or individuals in acquiring the necessary capital to either start up, expand or continue operating their company within Fairfield.

Funded by community development block grants, the program is targeted toward small businesses with the potential of long-term job creation.

The goal of the loan fund is to create new jobs and increase the diversity of Fairfield's economic base.

This program has been useful in assisting some of our newest generation of downtown pioneers.

One of these pioneers is Wayne Mayhew. He opened Pepper Belly's Comedy & Variety Theater in downtown Fairfield a few years ago. Mayhew, a Fairfield resident, purchased the former Fairfield Cinema (closed when Edwards Cinemas opened in 2001) to fulfill his dream of bringing entertainment into downtown.

The building underwent a major interior remodel to transform it from an obsolete movie house into a glamorous gathering den for comedy.

This investment required quite a bit of boldness - the thought process of a pioneer.

The city's revolving loan fund program assisted in bringing the project to fruition.

Mayhew also had the foresight to purchase the building adjacent to Pepper Belly's. The building, which once contained Hickey's Bar and Witt Barbershop, is now being rehabbed into an upscale gathering spot.

Patrons of Pepper Belly's will have a new place to hang out, imbibe and perhaps dine, before the comedy show.

The rehab includes totally gutting the former Hickey's portion of the building interior and installing new bathrooms, flooring and a new bar area. The exterior will also get new glass front doors and windows, and granite accent material. Most importantly, an interior opening between two buildings will allow patrons of Pepper Belly's to move between the new space and the comedy club without going out into the rain (or heat).

Once again, the city of Fairfield's Business Revolving Loan Fund is assisting with the project.

Although the ownership of Pepper Belly's itself has now changed (Jim Ignatief and Kathy Cima purchased the business), Mayhew still owns the building and is working with his tenants to ensure that this pioneering entertainment venue succeeds.

There are plenty of development pioneering opportunities available throughout downtown that could help resurrect the area.

We are thankful that some local owners have taken the initiative to help strengthen downtown.

Economic Notes is an update from Fairfield City Hall 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 or

Massive Solano County wind energy project comes online

April 15, 2006

Massive Solano wind energy project comes online

By Nathan Halverson

FAIRFIELD - The giant blades are almost a football field in length. And
this week, for the first time, they began spinning and producing energy.

The huge wind energy project in Solano County, known as Shiloh, is
capable of producing 150 megawatts of energy. That's enough energy to
power about 45,000 households.

Pacific Gas and Electric purchases about 75 megawatts from the project.
Other buyers include the city of Palo Alto, which wants a portion of its
energy to come from a renewable source.

The turbines are located in the Montezuma Hills west of Highway 12
between Suisun City and Rio Vista, near Bird's Landing.

Shiloh is the first renewable energy project in the state to be
completed under a state law requiring power companies to provide more
alternative energy.

"It's a substantial milestone," said Jon Tremayne, spokesman for PG&E.

The law, known as the Renewables Portfolio Standards and passed in 2001,
requires some electricity providers such as PG&E to increase the amount
of renewable energy they provide by 1 percent each year. Electric
companies must procure 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources
by 2017 under the law.

"Our goal is to reach that percent by 2010," Tremayne said.
A second wind energy project in Montezuma Hills, known as Shiloh II, has
been proposed and is undergoing an environmental review. It will also
generate 150 megawatts.

The mammoth turbines, which are about 660 feet tall, are built on ranch
lands in the area. Ranchers receive substantial payments from the energy
companies for leasing a small bit of land for the turbines.

Some ranchers in Montezuma Hills said they would make more money from
the turbines than from raising livestock, and the turbines require
virtually no work.

One of those ranchers, Bill Blacklock, has three turbines on his
property. He said it's been a lot quieter since construction on the
turbines was completed.

The income more than makes up for having to look at them every day,
Blacklock said.

"They're great. They're not nearly as unsightly as the ones they used to
build. These are much more pleasant to look at," he said.

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

March unemployment down in East Bay - East Bay Business Times:

March unemployment down in East Bay - East Bay Business Times:: "East Bay Business Times - April 21, 2006

Business Pulse Survey: Has the unusually wet weather hurt or helped your business?
March unemployment down in East Bay
East Bay Business Times - 4:35 PM PDT Friday
The unemployment rate in the East Bay was 4.4 percent in March, according to figures released Friday by the California Employment Development Department.
The figure was below the year-ago estimate of 5.3 percent.
This compares with an unadjusted unemployment rate of 5 percent for California and 4.8 percent for the nation during the same period. The unemployment rate in Alameda County was 4.5 percent. In Contra Costa County, unemployment was at 4.3 percent.
The total number of jobs in the area was up 2,500 to 1,050,300.
Leisure and hospitality added 1,000 jobs, mainly in accommodation and food service. Education and health services grew by 700 jobs, mostly in health care and social assistance. Professional and business services fell by 700 jobs.
Between March 2005 and March 2006, industry employment grew by 2.2 percent, or 22,900 jobs.
Strong annual growth occurred in construction which gained 8,200 jobs; financial activities added 3,600 jobs and leisure and hospitality gained 3,400 jobs. "

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Vallejo's Hiddenbrooke housing project moves forward with last batch of homes

Hiddenbrooke housing project moves forward

By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

The last batch of homes planned for Vallejo's Hiddenbrooke community may be a tougher sell compared to earlier housing projects.

In a lengthy public hearing Tuesday, the Vallejo City Council voted 6-0 to deny appeals regarding the 70-house proposal, Hiddenbrooke's third and final phase of development.

The vote followed a discussion about the need for a daycare center, the desire for a fire station and the lack of a road to a potential restaurant site.

Some neighbors said the back yards of the homes were designed too small and the side yards too narrow.

And if those issues weren't enough, some raised concerns over red-legged frogs.

"It's just not fair to the people buying these lots," Bob Schussel, who lives in Hiddenbrooke, said of the back yard sizes.

Schussel was among two parties that filed an appeal to the council, asking it to overturn several project approvals given by the Vallejo Planning Commission in December.

The parties reached a deal with housing developer Triad Communities, city staff said.

Schussel said that a proposed road leading up to a potential restaurant site would have created traffic for residents. The road was dropped from the development plans.

Without the road, the owner said he may be unable to develop his lot.

Schussel also said a daycare center was supposed to be built in a Hiddenbrooke commercial center, but it was designed so small that a daycare center doesn't fit on the property.

The Hiddenbrooke resident also said the developer should give potential home buyers a separate sheet showing property taxes they'd pay. City staff said buyers will get the list.

And Schussel raised questions about why the city is letting the homes be built closer than previous projects to what officials called a critical habitat for a rare type of frog. City staff said federal wildlife officials determined and OK'd the distance.

Another party appealed the planning commission's December approvals. An attorney for David and Mary Laird raised concerns with the development saying it would affect the couple's 14 acres.

In light of all those issues, one resident compared Hiddenbrooke's lack of certain resources to that of a controversial housing development at Bordoni Ranch. Opponents said the project would strain city resources including fire protection services.

Residents should be told Hiddenbrooke still doesn't have a fire station, Councilmember Hermie Sunga said.

"I think it's a safety issue, something that has to be disclosed to buyers," Sunga said.

City staff said buyers will be told in the future they may have to pay for a new fire house.

Deputy City Attorney John Nagel reminded the council that residents can't be promised a fire station.

"Cities are not required to provide fire protection up to any certain standard," Nagel told the council.

Meanwhile, Councilmember Stephanie Gomes said she couldn't fully support the project, but said since it was part of a project already in the works she wouldn't challenge it.

"I don't like sprawl development," Gomes said. "This is a very good definition of sprawl."

Councilmember Tom Bartee was absent from Tuesday's meeting.

- E-mail Chris G. Denina at or call 553-6835.

Rosier year at Sutter Health

Rosier year at Sutter Health
Capital-area facilities called big players in revenue turnaround.
By Jon Ortiz -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Friday, April 14, 2006

Note; Sutter Health operates medical facilities within Solano County.

Sutter Health reported today that its overall net income rose 3 percent last year on the strength of increased operating revenue at its hospitals and clinics, especially those in the Sacramento region.

The announcement marked a turnaround for the 26-hospital medical services system, which saw operating income fall in 2004 by 17 percent to $320 million.

By comparison, Sutter's 2005 income from its hospitals, clinics and other daily businesses grew to $334 million. With investments, 2005 net income rose to $442 million on total revenues of $6.7 billion.

Sutter's reported revenues for the previous year were $6.3 billion.

"We focused on service, affordability and quality during 2005," Sarah Krevans, regional executive officer for Sutter, said in a prepared statement.

Sutter's fast-growing operations in the Sacramento region accounted for $120 million in net income last last year, up 55 percent over 2004.

Sutter opened new clinics in Natomas and Folsom, expanded offices in Elk Grove and Davis, remodeled and beefed up several departments at its Auburn hospital and started construction on a 90-bed tower at the Sutter Roseville Medical Center.

Meanwhile, Sacramento-area hospitals, clinics and other services "worked hard to rein in costs," said Bob Reed, Sutter's chief financial officer.

To do that in the Sacramento region, system leaders last year shut down a skilled nursing unit at Sutter General and closed medical programs and an outpatient pharmacy at Sutter Davis. Some vacant positions in the Sacramento region went unfilled, officials said.

About the writer:

Bee's Jon Ortiz can be reached at (916) 321-1043 or

WestAmerica earnings up 17 percent in Q1 - Sacramento Business Journal:

WestAmerica earnings up 17 percent in Q1 - Sacramento Business Journal:: "WestAmerica earnings up 17 percent in Q1
Sacramento Business Journal - 11:02 AM PDT Wednesdayby Mark Anderson

Westamerica has a large back office processing center located in Fairfield, CA (Solano County)

Westamerica Bancorporation, parent company of Westamerica Bank, earned $26.1 million in the first quarter this year, up 17 percent from $22.3 million in the same period last year.

The bank earned a 2.1 percent annualized return on average assets in the first quarter, up from a 1.89 percent return during the first quarter of 2005. A 1 percent return is considered a benchmark of success in community banking.

The San Rafael-based bank reached $5.1 billion in assets, up 3.9 percent from the year earlier.

Noninterest expense for the first quarter was $25.5 million, $1.5 million lower than the previous quarter, and $400,000 lower than the first quarter of 2005. The decrease is attributed to lower personnel costs, professional fees and operational losses. The decrease from the first quarter of 2005 is primarily due to lower personnel costs and professional fees, offset in part by higher amortization of intangible assets and occupancy costs.

Noninterest income in the first quarter totaled $13.6 million compared to $7.2 million in the first quarter of 2005, which included a $4.9 million loss on sale of investment securities. Merchant credit card income increased $1.1 million in the first quarter primarily due to the acquired merchant card servicing business of Redwood Empire Bancorp on March 1, 2005. Debit card fees were also higher year-over-year due to higher activity levels.

Westamerica (Nasdaq: WABC) operates 87 branches and two trust offices throughout 21 Northern and Central California counties. It got its Capitol Mall location in 1994 when it bought CapitolBank of Sacramento. Westamerica ranks No. 12 in deposits among banks in the four-county Sacramento market, with a 1.75 percent market share, according to the most recent Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. survey.

UC Davis offers freshman admission to record number of California students - Sacramento Business Journal:

UC Davis offers freshman admission to record number of California students - Sacramento Business Journal:: " Sacramento Business Journal - April 19, 2006

Sacramento Business Journal - April 19, 2006

UC Davis offers freshman admission to record number of California students
Sacramento Business Journal - 11:55 AM PDT Wednesday
The University of California Davis has offered admission to a record number of California high school students this year.

The campus said Wednesday it has admitted 20,791 California high school students, a 15.7 percent increase over last year's 17,284.

UC Davis plans to enroll about 4,850 new freshmen from California and elsewhere this fall, or 10.7 percent more than last fall. The campus also is planning for about 1,755 new transfer students this fall, or 1.4 percent more than last fall.

The Office of Resource Management and Planning projects total UC Davis enrollment for the fall quarter will be 29,910 students, an increase of 273, or less than 1 percent, over last fall's 29,637. Enrollment is expected to average 28,750 over the three regular quarters of the 2006-07 academic year.

Admitted freshmen have until May 1 to indicate their intent to register at UC Davis.

The admission rate for California freshmen -- who continue to account for more than 95 percent of all admitted freshmen -- increased from 62 percent of applicants last year to 68 percent.

Each of the freshman applicants was evaluated using a process that takes into account academic, socioeconomic and personal achievements. Academic factors represent about 75 percent of the possible weight for all criteria. The average grade point average of admitted California freshmen is 3.84.

Students from underrepresented minorities -- American Indian, African American and Chicano/Latino -- account for 17.3 percent of California students with freshman admission status who stated their ethnicity. Last year, the figure was 16.2 percent.

The percentage of African Americans rose from 2.7 percent last year to 2.9 percent this year among students who stated their ethnicity. American Indians continue to represent 0.6 percent of admitted students. Chicanos and Latinos account for 13.8 percent this year, compared with 12.9 percent last year.

The percentage of Asian American students rose to 43 percent of this year's admitted students who stated their ethnicity, compared with 41.9 percent last year. Caucasians this year represent 37.9 percent of admitted students who stated their ethnicity, compared with 40.1 percent last year.

Those who identified with other ethnic groups continue to account for 1.8 percent of all admitted students stating their ethnicity.

This year, 5.6 percent of all admitted California freshmen students declined to state their ethnicity, compared with last year's 6 percent.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

BIO 2006 in Chicago Surpasses Records

Solano EDC along with several other local economic development, biotechnology association (BIOCOM and BAYBIO), and CA Department of Labor collaborated in Team California to fund and staff the California Pavillon during BIO 2006.

April 14, 2006

BIO 2006 in Chicago Surpasses Records

“BIO 2006 was a spectacular success. The convergence of health, food and agriculture, and industrial and environmental biotechnology created a fantastic opportunity for the biotech industry to show the many ways it is innovating to cure and prevent disease, alleviate hunger, and improve the environment,” said Jim Greenwood, BIO’s President and CEO.

A record-breaking number of business leaders met, negotiated and exchanged ideas this year in the business forum. More than 4,260 people representing 1,476 companies entered the doors of the business forum and participated in a record 11,018 meetings.

The exhibit hall at BIO 2006 was the largest gathering of biotechnology exhibitors in history, encompassing more than 1,700 companies, organizations, and institutions representing every aspect of the biotechnology industry. Within 176,000 net square feet of exhibit space, the exhibit hall housed the cornfield, an Indy Racing League racecar and driver, and exhibitors from 43 states and 36 nations.

Nearly one-third of the attendees were international participants, with more than 1,000 joining us from Canada, and hundreds more from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, and South Korea.

Twelve governors attended BIO 2006 including Host Governor Rod Blagojevich (Ill.), Bob Riley (Ala.), Jeb Bush (Fla.), Mitch Daniels (Ind.), Kathleen Sebelius (Kan.), Ernie Fletcher (Ky.), Mitt Romney (Mass.), Jennifer Granholm (Mich.), Matt Blunt (MO), Bob Taft (Ohio), Anibal Acevedo-Vila (PR), and Jim Doyle (Wis.).

Next year the BIO International Convention will be held in Boston May 6-9, 2007 with the theme of “Science Converges. Business Emerges.”

'Yes' on Measure H

'Yes' on Measure H

The Solano Economic Development Corporation's Board of Directors voted unanimously to support Measure H on the June 6 ballot. This measure will address critically needed traffic congestion relief and provide funds necessary to address traffic safety improvements.

The Solano EDC is a unique public/private partnership which exists to improve the economic climate of Solano County. The board believes addressing traffic congestion and safety is critical to improving our local economic climate.

The Solano Transportation Improvement Authority's expenditure plan for Measure H was developed with extensive public participation. We believe the expenditure plan provides a balance of the traffic needs identified by the residents of Solano County.

Our local businesses rely on the movement of goods and services on a daily basis in order to continue providing local jobs and a strong economy. Without improvements to our transportation system, traffic congestion and safety concerns will impact our local economy. Further, Solano County needs a good transportation network to attract new businesses, which will provide good jobs for local residents, many of whom currently commute out of the county.

It is for these reasons that the Board of Directors of the Solano Economic Development Corporation strongly supports the passage of Measure H on June 6.

Brooks Pedder,
Chairman of the Board, Solano Economic Development Corp.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Developer Shops for Retail Anchor

Developer Shops for Retail Anchor
By Nathan Halverson

FAIRFIELD - Bill Mellerup does a different kind of grocery shopping.

While most of us search for the best produce, Mellerup searches for the best grocery store to sell that produce.

Mellerup works for Lewis Planned Communities, a developer set to build a large retail center at the intersection of Clay Bank Road and Air Base Parkway. It will be known as Laurel Creek Plaza.

The center's main attraction will be - you guessed it - a grocery store.

Right now the developer is considering two grocery chains: Safeway and Nugget Markets.

"Both of those supermarkets provide a wide range of services and products," Mellerup said. "Our center is to be more upscale. We're looking for a good quality, upscale anchor."

Mellerup was still at least six months away from announcing which supermarket will be the anchor.

"It takes a while to make these very large complicated transactions," he said.

Construction of the center won't begin for at least two years.

The retail project is part of a larger development by Lewis Planned Communities. The developer is also building

2,327 homes and apartments on 434 acres known as The Villages, which will be located next to the shopping center.

The idea behind the development, endorsed by the City Council, is to create a community where people complete routine tasks such as grocery shopping without leaving their neighborhood - thus cutting down on traffic and air pollution.

Some City Council members expressed their desire to see Nugget Market get the choice retail spot.

"We'd love to have a specialty grocery store such as Nugget," Councilman Jack Batson said. "Because we have an increasingly sophisticated citizenry that demands a more sophisticated selection of foods."

But the council cannot dictate to Lewis Planned Communities which grocery store to choose.

"It's up to them. The grocery store will go in that can make decent profits," Batson said.

Currently, the developer plans to construct a

55,256-square-foot building for the grocery store - comparable to the Safeway on Waterman Avenue.

In total, the shopping center will house 110,026 square feet of retail space and include a gas station on 11.52 acres.

The center will also include a 15,580-square-foot drug store and three smaller retail strips ranging in size from 9,750 square feet to 3,500 square feet. The retail strips will include restaurants, shops and perhaps a bank, Mellerup said.

"After we've settled on our major anchor, we'll work on the next level which is filling the smaller and mid-level stores," he said.

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 ext. 267 or

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Alza Gets Honor as Employer in Region

Alza Gets Honor as Employer in Region
By Reporter Staff

Vacaville's largest private employer has been recognized as providing one of the best workplaces in the region.

Alza Corporation's North American Global Pharmaceutical Supply Group is the recipient of the 2006 Sacramento Workplace Excellence Leader Award.

The company - which employs 1,200 workers in its North Vacaville manufacturing facility - was cited for having outstanding benefits and training programs, and for promoting good health, safety, advancement, diversity and security.

"When we were informed we were a finalist leading up to this event, a great deal of enthusiasm rippled through the entire organization," said Joe Nuzzolese, vice president of manufacturing for Alza in Vacaville. "The award is a great recognition of all our associates hard work and dedication to transform our workplace culture and make the Vacaville site a great place to come to work every day."

Now in its fourth year, the awards program is presented by the Sacramento Area Human Resource Association. It recognizes organizations in the Sacramento region that it considers "extraordinary employers" that offer an "extraordinary workplace." Vacaville's unit of Alza Corp. earned the distinction in the for-profit category.

The organization comprises 800 human resource professionals representing private and public sector employers.

"I am excited the company's focus on work culture, diversity, employee development, and communications are the reasons we were selected and make it a great place to work," said Pam Englund, associate director of human resources in Vacaville.

Global Pharmaceutical Supply Group, North America, in Vacaville manages the pharmaceutical manufacturing supply chain for Alza Corp. and is a member of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Suisun, Rio Vista Look to the Water to Bring in More Work

Suisun, Rio Vista Look to the Water to Bring in More Work
By Ian Thompson

A fishing boat heads out from the Suisun City boat ramp for an afternoon of fishing in the Suisun Bay.(Photo by Gary Goldsmith/Daily Republic)

SUISUN CITY - The last thing local real estate agent John Scaff wants to do before he relaxes on the water is to spend money on gas and time in traffic getting to his boat.

Residents such as Scaff in Northern Solano County's growing towns are making waterfronts and marinas in places such as Suisun City and Rio Vista increasingly popular water destinations.

Rio Vista's marina would like to add more berths but can't. The town is working on plans to create a waterfront promenade.

Suisun City's main boat works, Adams Marine, plans to expand and smaller water businesses such as Sunset Bay Kayaks expect to move into permanent quarters because of the increased popularity of the kayak tours.

"We are certainly getting more activity coming from the waterfront," said Suisun City Community Services Director Mick Jessop about the steady increase of boaters docking in Suisun City. "We are certainly getting a lot of exposure."

Suisun City's rising stature as a water destination has allowed Adams Marine to push forward with expansion plans that will increase its boat repair and maintenance facilities.

"Our image is changing," said Lori Adams of Adams Marine, Suisun City's only major water-oriented business. It opened in 1997.

"We get people from all over who get their boats fixed here," Adams said. "We are getting more visiting boaters who want to know more about the waterfront, about the town."

Adams can easily see the number of water-oriented businesses expand with offerings that could include rental fishing boats and airboats that could take tourists into the marshes.

"It will be a weekend destination for boaters once more people know where we are," Adams said.

Suisun City

Solano County's growth bodes well for places such as Rio Vista and Suisun City, with more residents preferring to put up their boats locally instead of taking a half hour to 45-minute drive to marinas out of the area.

Scaff is one of those.

He moved to Fairfield in 1998 and immediately started casting about for a good marina, eventually settling on the one owned by Suisun City rather than ones closer to the San Francisco Bay.

Scaff calls the boat he berths there "our little getaway" that is only a short distance from his house.

That short commute to his boat, combined with good berthing rates and gas prices, made him an advocate of Suisun City as a good water destination.

"You go down one mile from there and you are in middle of wilderness," Scaff said of the marina's proximity to the large Suisun Marsh.

Suisun City has 151 boat slips in a marina that has been 97 percent full in the winter months and full in the summer for the past several years. It can add another 120 slips if it wants.

"We are in middle of the market," Jessop said of how much the city charges for marina berths. "We constantly stay in touch with other marinas to ensure we stay competitive."

It costs about $500,000 a year to run Suisun City's marina and about $65,000 to provide fuel to boaters. The city makes that money back, plus a small profit.

This doesn't include money the boaters spend in local stores and places such as Adams Marine.

The nearest competition is in places such as Antioch, Benicia and Vallejo which are closer to the San Francisco Bay, but the growing population and number of boaters has ensured all the marinas are near full.

While Suisun City has the room to put in more boat slips, it hasn't done it.

"That consideration is still out there," Jessop said. "We are looking at the market for recreational boating. It has been on a level line right now for where people are spending their dollars."

Even when Suisun City decides to expand its marina, it's a four- to five-year process to get all the approvals, get the bids and build the slips.

Some local boaters are convinced it is a winning idea.

"If they put in more slips for 40- to 80-foot boats, they will get a lot more money. It will bring in a lot of people from out of the area," said Scaff.

He also said that out-of-the-area people will spend more money in the local waterfront stores and restaurants such as Athenian Grill or Bab's Delta Diner.

One definite plus is the waterfront area's ability to expand with considerable vacant waterfront land still undeveloped.

"There are not too many places like this any more," said Scaff, who feels the city could support more water-oriented business.

Rio Vista

Rio Vista's main marina, Delta Marina Yacht Harbor, with its 300 berths, is more than 90 percent full with no more room to grow, according to the Harbor's Parts Manager Ben Parent.

"We have primarily been a fishing harbor but we have a pretty good diversity of boaters from sturgeon fishermen to 60-foot sailboats," Parent said.

The number of boaters is increasing in the town that lies halfway along the Sacramento River Delta between Sacramento and Benicia with the peak season being the summer, but the rest of the year remaining fairly brisk.

"That's not to say it's a hugely increasing number," Parent said. "We are staying full more often and we are booked almost every weekend. We are getting more Bay Area traffic. A lot of people come out here to get into the sun."

Rio Vista had plans to create a city-owned marina a few years ago, but those plans never came to reality due to the town's budget problems.

The riverfront town is now preparing a plan for waterfront development that involves improving the boat docks next to City Hall, according to Rio Vista Planning Manager Emi Theriault.

"There are also plans for a public promenade all along the waterfront that we may do in the future," Theriault said.

Suisun City's plans to put a master developer to work to get in more waterfront development on the downtown's vacant is expected to get the waterfront even more outside interest.

"Hopefully, we will get a lot more exposure if we complete some of the projects out there," Jessop said.

Jessop sees more marine support services coming to Suisun City to serve the boating community - ranging from a possible expansion of the fuel dock to more fishing and bait shops.

"It's moving and it's moving in the right direction," Jessop said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Solano EDC Backing Sales-Tax Measure

Agency Backing Sales-Tax Measure
Reporter Editor:

The Solano Economic Development Corporation heartily endorses a positive vote and the passage of the Solano County traffic relief and safety plan called Measure H on the June 6 ballot.

Why would an economic development corporation endorse increasing taxes to fix Solano County's transportation system?

• Solano County's future economy and our current jobs rely on a safe and efficient transportation system for timely shipment and delivery of goods and services to your customers.

• Congestion and deterioration on the highway corridors of Interstate 80, I-680 and I-780 and along state Highway 12 from Jameson Canyon to Rio Vista must be repaired now. Without maintenance and upgrades enabled by Measure H, traffic delays will reduce productivity, increase costs and cause unsafe road conditions for all of us all the time.

• Measure H will provide for reliable transit systems to get employees to and from work, while providing improved response for medical and other emergency services to those in need.

• With the half-cent "self-help" sales tax investment, we will still remain the lowest sales tax county in the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento regions, while allowing matching funds to be utilized to solve Solano County's transportation infrastructure problem. Current levels of funding will never allow a final solution to fixing the interchange at I-80 and I-680.

• Finally, Solano EDC is committed to retaining and growing local businesses, while attracting new business to create new jobs that will reduce commuting to adjourning counties. Measure H is essential to do both.

I urge voters to vote in favor of Measure H on June 6 or on your absentee ballot to ensure your investment in Solano County and our economic future.

Mike Ammann, President, Solano Economic Development Corp.

Portofino in the Pipeline

Portofino in the Pipeline
New Subdivision Gets Underway
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

Rui Ribeiro (left) and Isidro Viera build a fence around a sales office at the future site of Standard Pacific's Portofino development. (Ryan Chalk/The Reporter)

Good news for hopeful home buyers: construction will soon begin on a new 178-home community in Vacaville.

Named after an Italian seaside town, the Portofino subdivision by Standard Pacific will feature two distinct neighborhoods - The Villas and The Courtyards - situated just off Interstate-80 at the intersection of Alamo Drive and Butcher Road.

Though it won't be located on the Ligurian Sea, Portofino will have a slightly Italian-esque aura, said Jim Berson, vice president of sales and marketing for Standard Pacific's East Bay division.

"It'll be a nice-feeling little community," he remarked. "It's very convenient as far as location, for people that are commuting or people that live and work in Vacaville."

The Villas neighborhood will feature two-story attached single family units ranging from 1,221 to 1,551 square feet, while The Courtyards will consist of detached single family homes ranging from 1,496 to 2,186 square feet.

"I'm anticipating that The Villas will start in the mid- $400,000s and The Courtyards will start in the low- $500,000s," Berson said. Definitive pricing information will become available prior to the first release of homes, scheduled for April 22, he said.

"It's in a more affordable price range for people," Berson remarked, noting Portofino's appropriateness particularly for first-time or move-down buyers.

Three floor plans will be available in The Villas neighborhood.

The Sophia plan, totaling approximately 1,221 square feet, features three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, and a single-car garage; a dorm room option is available in lieu of the second and third bedroom.

The second floor plan, Carolina, numbers approximately 1,230 square feet, comprised of three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths and a two-car garage; a second-floor loft may be selected instead of the second bedroom.

Natalia, the largest floor plan at 1,551 square feet, features three bedrooms with two-and-a-half baths, a loft and two-car garage. An additional option is the inclusion of a tech-room.

Nearby, The Courtyards will offer four different single family detached floor plans ranging from 1,496 to 2,186 square feet: Maria, Serena, Theresa, and Isabella.

The Maria, Serena, and Theresa floor plans are all three bedroom, two-and-a-half bath homes, with a two car garage, though a second-floor loft option in lieu of a third bedroom is available on the Serena model.

The largest floor plan, Serena, features four bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, and a two-car garage. Additional options include a fifth bedroom or tech center.

The sales center for Portofino is scheduled to open April 15, and it's possible that Vacaville will see more Standard Pacific subdivisions in the future.

"We have a wonderful feeling about Vacaville," Berson noted. "We have our one community - Lantana (at Alamo Place) - winding down, the people in Vacaville have been fabulous to us, and we want to continue to build there."

Amanda Janis can be reached at

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Food Manufacturer Brings Economic Nutrition to Fairfield

Food Manufacturer Brings Economic Nutrition to Fairfield
By Nathan Halverson

Calbee foods has been described as the Frito-Lay of Japan. (Photo by Gary Goldsmith/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD - A Japanese food manufacturer plans to relocate its North American operations to Fairfield, and that could bring as many as 160 jobs in the coming years.

Calbee, the manufacturer of the popular Snapea Crisps and other health-oriented snackfoods, will move both its headquarters and manufacturing operations to Fairfield.

The company currently operates out of Torrance, near Los Angeles. It manufactures products in Sebastopol.

The move to Fairfield, which should be completed by year end, is an effort by Calbee to expand its business in the North American market.

"We are planning on developing new products for the U.S. market," said Masanori Yasunaga, head of Calbee America, with the assistance of a translator. "We think the future in this new century is in smaller quantity, but better quality."

Calbee will initially employ 40 to 50 employees in its 40,000-square-foot facility. The facility, currently under construction, is on a 4.33-acre site at 2700 Maxwell Way in the Solano Business Park.

Yasunaga said about 15 employees will relocate to Fairfield and the rest will be new hires.

The company plans to add a 35,000-square-foot expansion to its facility in 2008 or 2009. After the expansion is complete, the company will employ about 160 workers, Yasunaga said.

To put that in perspective, Ball Corp.'s Fairfield facility, which employees about 180 employees, has a payroll of about $17 million - a healthy injection into the local economy.

Calbee is like the Frito-Lay of Japan. Its products are ubiquitous in Japanese grocery stores. Calbee's most well-known product in Japan is its Shrimp-flavored chips.

In Fairfield, Trader Joe's and Safeway carry its products.

The food company had sales of about $1 billion in 2005, and employs 1,241 people worldwide.

Calbee will also use its Fairfield location to design and test new products for its North American market.

"Calbee is bringing its oriental culture, and meeting the western culture here, and the two are fusing here," Yasunaga said. "This allows us to create unique food."

When completed, Calbee will open its facility up for public tours.

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 ext. 267 or

Senate Bill Proposes Millions to Buy More C-17s

Senate Bill Proposes Millions to Buy More C-17s
By Ian Thompson

FAIRFIELD - The U.S. Senate has proposed spending $227.5 million to buy more parts for the C-17 Globemaster III jet transport, a step in the direction to buy more of the aircraft.

The money was put in the Senate's version of the 2006 Supplemental Appropriations Bill, according to an announcement from Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

That is $127 million more than the House put in its own version of the supplemental appropriations bill. The funding differences between the House and Senate versions will be worked out in a joint conference committee.

Feinstein said the addition will help keep Boeing C-17 production line in Long Beach stay open past 2008, when the last of 180 C-17s contracted for by the Air Force is finished.

Boeing, the C-17's maker, has lobbied hard to expand the fleet further because the aircraft manufacturer doesn't want to see its Long Beach production line shut down.

Travis Air Force Base is expected to get the first of 13 C-17s starting late July and local community leaders are hoping that if the C-17 gets expanded, Travis could get more of the aircraft.

"This funding would allow the production line to remain open beyond 2008 and ensure that if more C-17s are requested and funded, there will be no disruption in the production process," Feinstein said in a release.

Another $1.6 billion would be needed to buy seven more C-17s which the Air Force listed as a top priority in its 2007 unfunded priorities List. Recent Pentagon studies also stated that the current war has forced the Air Force to fly its C-17s more than it expected.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Suisun City Eyes Revamp in Downtown

Suisun City Eyes Revamp in Downtown
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

Suisun City's "Main Street West" downtown redevelopment project will be discussed tonight by its city council.

Up for consideration is the redevelopment agency's plan to sell 13 parcels, or 8.4 acres, to the project's developer Main Street West Partners, LLC.

Those parcels - which are near the waterfront, Main Street and Civic Center Boulevard - were purchased by the agency in the 1980s, as part of its efforts to rehabilitate the downtown area, explained Scott Corey, Suisun City spokesman.

"Main Street West is an effort to essentially complete redevelopment of the waterfront area," he noted.

The centerpiece of the project, Corey said, will be two, two-story mixed-use buildings on the

corner of Solano and Main streets. To be built in what he characterized as a plaza-style fashion, the buildings will feature ground floor restaurants or retail, and office space above.

In addition to mixed-use, proposed development for the parcels to be sold includes construction of single family and cluster homes for sale, though the former will occur first.

"We're really focused on making sure things happen on Main Street," Corey explained, "so the developer will only be able to build those housing units as he makes progress on Main Street. Once he gets 75 percent occupancy on those projects, then he can work on the housing."

Such an arrangement, Corey remarked, allows for the project to be profitable for the developer, while at the same time providing the city and redevelopment agency with needed commercial space.

"We're really trying to make (downtown) a destination," he said.

Amanda Janis can be reached

Bee Liners Now Part of Travis' C-17 Squadron

Bee Liners Now Part of Travis' C-17 Squadron
By Ian Thompson

TRAVIS AFB - A gift of squadron momentos and some words lauding the heritage of the 21st Airlift Squadron marked the final step in the group's transition to a C-17 Globemaster III squadron.

The squadron, nicknamed the Bee Liners, will now be flying the C-17 Globemaster and not the C-5 Galaxy that had been its airlift workhorse since 1993.

The Bee Liners ended their last overseas C-5 mission on March 13 and flew their last local C-5 training mission on Friday.

"Transition and change has always been a part of the squadron," said 21st AS commander Lt. Col. David Pollmiller at the small Monday morning ceremony in the squadron's operations building.

The 21st logged more than 130,000 hours flying the C-5 since it moved to Travis AFB in 1993, hauled more than 830 million tons of cargo and carried more than 250,000 passengers, Pollmiller said.

Most of the C-5 trained aircrew have either transferred to the base's remaining active-duty C-5 squadron or have moved to C-5 squadrons on other bases.

The 21st AS is now bulking up on fliers trained on the C-17. The first of the squadron's 13 C-17s is expected to arrive from the production plant in Long Beach in late July and will be up to full strength by 2008.

Once that is done, 60th Air Mobility Wing commander Col. Lyn Sherlock said Travis will be the only base in Air Mobility Command to be flying three different kinds of aircraft - the C-17, the C-5 and the KC-10 Extender.

"We will continue to be America's first choice more than ever," Sherlock said.

The gathering all took a moment of silence to think of the Dover AFB, Del., aircrew injured when its C-5 crash-landed Monday morning while trying to return to land at that base.

"That brings home some of the risks and danger we face," Pollmiller said.

The 21st AS is now one of two squadrons on base that will be flying the C-17. The other is the Air Force Reserve's 301st Airlift Squadron, which has been retraining its reservists to fly the C-17.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or

Monday, April 03, 2006

Suisun City to Sell Downtown Land to Developer

Suisun City to Sell Downtown Land to Developer
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The Suisun City Council is expected to put its seal of approval to a land deal City Hall hopes will bring more stores and businesses to downtown Suisun City.

Main Street West, which local developer Mike Rice is a part of, will pay the Redevelopment Agency $3.7 million for 13 agency-owned sites scattered around Old Town, covering 8.4 acres.

The sale is not a money-maker for the Redevelopment Agency, which spent $14.2 million during the last decade to buy, clean up and improve the land it is selling to Main Street West.

Suisun City leaders started talking exclusively to Main Street West Partners almost a year ago after picking them from more than a dozen developers to develop the downtown.

The city is depending on Main Street West to bring in commercial and retail businesses to the vacant lots and buildings along Main Street owned by the Redevelopment Agency.

Main Street West initially promised to bring in a major anchor tenant - likely a movie theater - but then asked to be released from that requirement when the first deadline for handing a proposed agreement passed last fall.

The developer now wants to put up a two-story, mixed-use anchor project with stores on the first floor and residences on the second floor on the vacant lots at Main and Solano streets.

A similar use is also proposed for the empty Margarita Village building and the vacant parcel next to the La Cabana Restaurant. Main Street West wants to put homes on the large vacant lots on Civic Center Boulevard's west side and on the north side of Lotz Way.

The vacant old Crystal school site is not part of the agreement, but is expected to also be handed over to Main Street West for residential development.

Main Street West has promised downtown business owners they will see work starting by mid-summer.

In other business, the council is voting to put out a request for proposals to find the right developers for two vacant sites next to the Albertson's Shopping Center and at the south end of Civic Center Boulevard.

Several developers recently expressed interest in both sites.

The 3.4-acre site at the end of Civic Center Boulevard is zoned for homes. Silverwing Development wants to put a high-density residential project there while Rossi Development wants to put in a low-density one.

Three developers expressed interest in the 8.2-acre site next to the shopping center.

Rossi wants to build a hotel with some office and light industrial buildings there. Monte Vista Equities wants to put in a mixed-use development. Park Avenue Hotel Group expressed interest but didn't state what it wants to do.

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: Approving selling 8.4 acres of city-owned land in downtown Suisun City to a local developer for $3.7 million
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Suisun City Council chamber, 701 Civic Center Blvd.
Info: 421-7300.

Squadron Flies Last Mission on C-5 Galaxy

Squadron Flies Last Mission on C-5 Galaxy
By Ian Thompson

The crew that flew the last local C-5 mission for the 21st Airlift Squadron were hosed down per tradition on arrival at Travis AFB on Friday. (Ian Thompson/ Daily Republic)

TRAVIS AFB - The 21st Airlift Squadron's last mission flying a C-5 Galaxy transport ended Friday amid streams of water as fellow squadron members soaked the crew.

It was a traditional, unofficial farewell to the aircraft that the squadron flew since 1993 before it took up flying a new bird - the C-17 Globemaster III transport.

"I enjoyed this plane. I enjoy getting on this plane every time," said 21st AS commander Lt. Col. Paul Pollmiller, who commanded the squadron's last C-5 mission. "But we are also looking to move the C-17 forward."

The squadron flew its last overseas mission in a C-5 early in March, which took the aircraft around the world, dropping supplies in Iraq, collecting Marines in Hyderbad, India, and picking up two helicopters in Hawaii.

On Friday, Pollmiller took the helm of the last C-5 mission, which involved practicing air refuelings, take-offs and landings before taxiing in under streams of water slot into the air by Travis firefighting trucks.

"It is a bittersweet moment," 21st AS operations officer Lt. Col. Christopher Bingham said, adding that the C-5s and squadron members who flew them "did amazing things over the years."

Most of the squadron's aircrew who are trained to fly C-5s have already transferred to the base's other C-5 squadron or transferred to other bases. The 21st will make the formal transition to a C-17 squadron on Monday.

The Reservists of the 301st AS, which is also changing from C-5s to C-17s, have been retraining to fly Globemasters for a year and some of them are already flying missions on C-17s located at other bases.

Travis is expected to get the first of 13 C-17s in late July with the rest arriving over the next three years.

The base, which had 34 C-5s stationed here two years ago, is in the process of being cut back to having only 16 left that will be flown by the remaining active-duty and Reserve C-5 squadrons.

The older C-5s that are leaving Travis are being sent to Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units stationed elsewhere in the country.

More than $250 million already has been spent to build the support facilities and infrastructure needed to support the Globemaster squadron, ranging from maintenance facilities to a squadron operations center.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Face Lift Under Way for Plaza Downtown

Face Lift Under Way for Plaza Downtown
By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

Tony Fazzari (left) and Carlos Gonzalez install a new surface Thursday at the downtown plaza. (Brad Zweerink/The Reporter)

Visitors of Vacaville's Town Square plaza soon will have a place to sit and some space in the shade.

A face lift of the nearly year-old plaza in the city's downtown is now under way, as crews fight through rainy days to replace some ground covering, install colorful concrete pavers, benches, and trees.

Terry Rogers, the city's housing and redevelopment manager, said Vacaville-based Fazzari Landscape and Construction is well on its way to completing the plaza renovation in advance of its mid-April due date.

The first event of the season scheduled for Town Square - the Middle Earth Fesitval - beings April 21.

"We're trying to get it done by then," Rogers said. "We didn't expect this much rain in March, but it looks like it will be done."

Town Square was originally due to be completed by November 2004. But several hold-ups, including the discovery of buried Native American bones and decades-old fuel tanks, pushed the opening back to May 2005.

But after a season of events in the plaza, the City Council in December decided to put a fence back up around Town Square in order to make $120,000 in improvements.

Mayor Len Augustine said the plaza's grand opening had to be rushed because numerous obstacles made it impossible to get the benches and trees in place with another delay.

"It got to the point where we wanted to get it done," Augustine told The Reporter in December. "There were things we knew we wanted to do, but we didn't want to drag it on for months and months."

One of the Town Square features being removed during the renovation is the pockets of decomposed granite that littered the plaza. In their place, pavers are being installed.

Rogers said decorative boulders and almost a dozen benches have arrived. A handful of table and chair sets have also been ordered, and will be in place within weeks.

Additional trees have been put into place.

Rogers said a second phase, which includes a restructuring of the plaza's water feature and improvements to the stage area, might be able to be completed before the summer.

She said contractors will try to work around the event schedule, which includes a number of regular concert events in the plaza, to get the work done.

Tom Hall can be reached at

Fairfield Already Safer

Fairfield Already Safer
Latest Efforts Will Help Current Crime-Fighting Strategy
By Jack Batson

A recent Editorial had a real bite to it ("Fighting Crime: Kardos, Mraz offer starting point to curb crime," Forum, The Reporter, March 19. It stated that previous Fairfield City Council candidates had "vowed that crime was a top priority. Much fanfare. Little action. Until now."

Little action? Ouch!

Allow me to remind readers of the history of the City Council's previous efforts.

Public concern over rising crime began during 2003 and became a hot topic of that year's council race. In January 2004, the council adopted "Make Fairfield Safer" as its primary goal, a theme that has continued to this day.

It wasn't just empty words; we have results to show.

The past City Council authorized the hiring of 26 more police officers and 18 civilian support services. We sponsored a community Safety Summit in 2004 that led to the initiation of a crime-free multi-housing initiative that will allow landlords to evict troublemakers from their apartments.

We held a study session in which we invited police representatives from Oakland, Vallejo and Vacaville to share how they fight crime in their cities. From this came the idea to form special units. We now have a Domestic Violence Unit, a Gang and Drug Suppression Unit and a Violent Crime Suppression Unit.

These almost certainly are responsible for the startling reduction of crime in 2005. By year end, violent crime in Fairfield had dropped 23 percent from the previous year. That drop recently gained the city recognition by the state attorney general, as violent crime had actually risen across the state in the first three quarters of 2005.

Rehabilitation of blighted housing under our Quality Neighborhoods program has also played an important part in crime reduction. The troubled Ellsworth Court trailer park has now been replaced with modern urban owner-occupied houses on Travis Boulevard. This project followed successful slum-clearance projects on San Marco and Fillmore Streets.

We redeveloped dilapidated apartments on Pennsylvania and Tabor streets, and are assembling properties at the curve of Pennsylvania and Alaska avenues for the same purpose.

Similarly, we have placed video cameras at troubled parks and hot spots that are constantly monitored and can be viewed directly by officers in police cruisers. These actions keep our parks and streets safer, too.

Of course, we aren't finished with the fight against crime in Fairfield, but a good start has been made. Morale in the police force is high due to these successes and recruitment for more "boots on the ground" is proceeding in a tight hiring environment.

The election of John Mraz, with his 21 years of Fairfield police experience, and Frank Kardos, with his sharp research skills, is a definite plus. The creation of police reserves, a gang and parolee injunction program, a dedicated county prosecutor, and an increased emphasis on investigations will continue the progress made so far.

Certainly, there's more to do, but Fairfield is fighting back and, I believe, is gaining important ground in its efforts to "Make Fairfield Safer."

• The author is the Fairfield vice mayor. E-mail:

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