Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Vallejo Representatives Make Connections in Philippines

Vallejo Representatives Make Connections in Philippines
By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald

It might be the jet lag or it could be the packed itinerary that has Vallejo business and city officials still reeling Monday from a week-long trade mission to the Philippines.
Nearly two dozen Vallejo representatives toured the island nation last week seeking business opportunities, and meeting with Philippine officials up and down the political food chain - from the mayor of Baguio City to the president herself.

The Vallejo Business Alliance and the Vallejo mayor's office made stops including the former Subic Bay Naval Shipyard and the former Clark Air Base. Along the way, their trip was documented in several Philippine newspapers.

Nearly half the group returned to Vallejo on Sunday night with souvenirs, including the key to a Baguio City. The rest of the group was still touring the island nation Monday.

Getting an audience with the leader of a country was unusual and impressive, Vallejo Mayor Tony Intintoli Jr. said Monday, noting he was still tired from the trip. He chatted with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the nation's palace the second day of the visit.

"I was very delighted to have that opportunity to speak directly to her," Intintoli said. "We talked about Vallejo and the Filipino presence in the Bay Area and the desire for Filipino investment."

Intintoli, who was joined by Councilmember Hermie Sunga, said they plan to brief the council on their trip at a future meeting.

The goal was to encourage more investment in Vallejo, Intintoli said, citing Sonoma Boulevard's Seafood City shopping center as an example.

Many contacts were made by the Vallejo group, but those exchanges may take time to result in new business, Intintoli said. The immediate effects of the trip may be tourism because of all the publicity, he said.

The Philippine STAR in Manila and the Sun Star in Baguio both ran stories about the delegation, which may bring more tourism to Vallejo, Intintoli said.

"It lauds Vallejo as a travel destination," Intintoli said.

Many people they met, including the president, knew of Vallejo probably because the city has a large population of Filipino Americans, said Rick Wells, president of the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce. The chamber was one group represented on the trip.

"I think it's the first step towards building better relationships between businesses and organizations and officials within the city for long term," Wells said.

Some of the sights the group saw reminded them of Vallejo. For instance, the reuse of the former Subic and Clark military bases are similar to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard renewal, Wells said.

But unlike Mare Island, Subic is much larger and has a shipping port and commercial airport, he said.

"They also have an infrastructure that's existing and they have the ability to use the infrastructure immediately," Wells said. "We don't have that many options here."

The group exchanged many gifts with government officials there, members said.

In Baguio, the delegation gave city leaders a U.S. flag flown over the Capitol by U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

Vallejo Mayor Intintoli said he received a key to the city, which he plans to put on display in the Sister City room at JFK Library.

Intintoli said he also was given a painting with an agricultural theme from Philippine Speaker of the House José Clavería de Venecia Jr.

The group made many stops and was welcomed by many communities, Intintoli said. On one stop, the group was greeted by school children performing songs and dance, he said.

"They were spectacular," Intintoli said. "No word is enough to describe how well choreographed and how well the music was."

Intintoli, however, said it was harder for him to be prepared for the meetings because of a cold.

"I'm thoroughly exhausted," Intintoli said Monday. "But it was OK. I did OK, I hope."

Groups that sent representatives on the trip also included the Solano County Black Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Solano/Napa counties, the Fil-Am Chamber of Commerce of Solano County and the Sister City Commission.

E-mail Chris G. Denina at cdenina@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6835.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Postcards Showcase Vacaville

Postcards Showcase Vacaville
Local agency for tourism launches six new cards it plans to use in marketing the city's attributes.
By Jennifer Gentile /Staff Writer

A collage shows the six new postcards promoting Vacaville. (Rick Roach/The Reporter)

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, the director of the Vacaville Conference and Visitors Bureau said this week, then the city's latest strategy for boosting tourism speaks volumes.

The Vacaville Chamber of Commerce hosted an unveiling of six new Vacaville postcards, featuring photos taken by Eric Shaw, the bureau's sales and marketing director. The images will be familiar to most Vacaville residents and include Lagoon Valley Park, Andrews Park, the Vacaville Art Gallery, Town Square and the Vacaville Museum.

"We wanted to try to capture the essence of Vacaville," Shaw said. In an effort to increase visibility and exposure for the city, Shaw said, "We took photos of everything we're trying to highlight."

Visitors Bureau Executive Director Antonette Eckert said 10,000 copies have been made of each postcard, which retail for 30 cents each. So far, three businesses, including Bowman's Stationers, Yellow Brick Road and the Vacaville Art Gallery, have them available, Eckert said, with a push under way to bring them to additional businesses.

"The postcard idea has been brewing since I started," Eckert said. "I really want to build a brand for Vacaville."

Andrea McPeak, director of sales and marketing for Courtyard by Marriott and chairman of the VCVB board, said she is including the cards in sales packets that are sent to clients and those who inquire about the hotel. There are also plans to sell them in the hotel's gift shop.

"We are really promoting Vacaville as a sleepover destination," McPeak said. "People are very visual, so I think it will have an effect when they see what a beautiful place Vacaville is."

Mayor Len Augustine, who attended the unveiling, said he is impressed with the postcards and all of the latest efforts to bring people to the city.

"Tourism is a key part of what we strive to attain," Augustine said, "and the Conference and Visitors Bureau is well ahead of the curve in promoting our city." Aside from the postcards, Vacaville events have been featured in a number of publications recently, including the RV Journal; Via, the AAA magazine; and the American Bus Association's Annual Top 100 Events in North America.

Eckert also took the opportunity to announce that the VCVB would be holding a photo contest next month, adding that the winners would be featured on the Web site and in literature.

"We encourage people to capture the essence of Vacaville," Eckert said.

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at vacaville@thereporter.com.

'Pirates' Anchor in Rio Vista

'Pirates' Anchor in Rio Vista
Historical Vessels Pause to Educate
By Jennifer Gentile/Staff Writer

It is not every day that a bona fide celebrity comes to Solano County, but a star of Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" arrived at the Rio Vista waterfront Wednesday and will remain there through Tuesday.
While the celebrity in question was not Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, or Keira Knightley, this star was integral to the film and was their home on the high seas. Named the Lady Washington, "Pirates" fans know it better as the Interceptor and the boat where much of the first film's action took place.

With a displacement weight of 178 tons and a length of 112 feet when fully outfitted, the Lady Washington is a faithful reproduction of a merchant vessel that sailed from 1750 to 1798 before foundering in the Philippines. The Lady Washington is accompanied to Rio Vista by the Hawaiian Chieftain, which is not a replica, but modeled after trading vessels of the same period. The slightly smaller Chieftain, classified as a square topsail ketch, has 10 sails to her counterpart's 11 and is 106 feet long at full extension.

Both the Lady Washington and the Chieftain are owned by the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, which has plans to sail them down the California coast throughout the rest of the year. The more maneuverable Chieftain will remain behind in the Sacramento area briefly before making the voyage.

Crew members explained that education is the ships' primary purpose. Michael Jacobson, the captain of the Lady Washington, estimated that 15,000 schoolchildren had walked across the deck in the past year. The education program encompasses seafaring history, the life of a sailor, as well as the operation of the vessel itself.

"We try to make it as interactive and hands-on as possible," said Lady Washington mate Tyson Trudel. "Our take is that if they wanted to stay in the classroom, they would have stayed in the classroom."

Jacobson added, "It is really gratifying to see young people get excited about history, and this boat really lends itself to letting history come alive."

The public can participate in dockside tours, by donation only, while the boats are in port, as well as mock battle sails and three-hour adventure tours for prices ranging from $25 to $50.

While the Chieftain joined the Grays Harbor fleet only recently, the Lady Washington was built in Aberdeen, Wash., in time for the state's centennial in 1989. In 2002, she went to Los Angeles and on to St. Vincent Island in the Caribbean to begin filming a blockbuster.

According to Trudel, the process began with "making her look how Disney wanted her to look," which meant striking all modern gear on board and giving the ship a new paint scheme, among other modifications. Several of the Lady's crew members served as extras, Trudel said, and also spent a day teaching the actors the basics of sailing.

"Being that this is an educational vessel, teaching actors was not that far of a stretch," Trudel said. He added, "They were nice folks, and Johnny Depp, particularly, was a really nice, personable guy."

After traversing the Panama Canal, Trudel said the Lady Washington faced strong winds commonly known as the "Christmas trades," which caused roaring 20-to-25-foot seas and as much as 40 knots of breeze. A broken jib boom forced a stop in Colombia, where repairs were made and the Lady Washington went on to become famous.

"It was a good experience," Trudel said, "and it was a lot of work."

The Lady Washington has since returned to her day job, and groups of students waited excitedly Thursday for their chance to board her and the Chieftain. Margaret Campbell, who teaches sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at Lewis Carroll school in Oregon House, found out about the Rio Vista visit on the Internet and traveled more than three hours with her students for the unique field trip.

"They couldn't believe it when we were driving up the road," Campbell said. The teacher said prior to making the trip, she had been talking to her students about trade and the role seafaring played in commerce and the spread of civilization.

The public can board the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain through Tuesday. For further details about them and their schedules, visit www.historicalseaport.org.

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at vacaville@thereporter.com.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bay Area's universities rank high in commercialization of research - San Francisco Business Times:

Bay Area's universities rank high in commercialization of research - San Francisco Business Times:: "San Francisco Business Times - October 2, 2006

Business News - Local News
Business Pulse Survey:
Who should control Congress?
Bay Area's universities rank high in commercialization of research
San Francisco Business Times - September 29, 2006
by Daniel S. Levine

In the film 'Max Dugan Returns,' the title character encourages his grandson to study philosophy. His grandson asks, 'Can you make money from philosophy?' and Max replies, 'Yeah, if you have the right one.'

That, it turns out, may be the secret to being successful at technology transfer -- the movement of university-created technology into the private sector where it can fuel company formation, jobs and benefits to its users.

A new report from the Milken Institute 'Mind to Market: A Global Analysis of University Biotechnology Transfer and Commercialization' explores the question of what makes a university successful at transferring its research to industry.

The question is by no means an academic one as the governments have seized on the important role universities play as drivers of a region's economy.

'Some of the academics we talk to don't think it"

Venture firms on track to double 2005's investment in Web 2.0 - San Francisco Business Times:

Venture firms on track to double 2005's investment in Web 2.0 - San Francisco Business Times:: "San Francisco Business Times - October 2, 2006

Business News - Local News
Business Pulse Survey:
Who should control Congress?
Tech business
Venture firms on track to double 2005's investment in Web 2.0
San Francisco Business Times - September 29, 2006
by Adrienne Sanders

Stroll the halls of any Sand Hill Road venture capital firm and you'll hear khaki-clad moneymen chattering about 'web 2.0' -- the latest generation of Internet-based services companies. The term is ill-defined and oft-derided, but it sure is popular with the Sand Hill Road crew.

In the first half of 2006, investors parked $262.3 million in 49 U.S. 'web 2.0' startups, according to a new report from Dow Jones & Co.'s VentureOne. That's an eyebrow-raising jump from the $97.2 million invested in 24 deals in the first half of 2005. At the current rate, VCs will likely more than double the $199.2 million invested in the arena during all of 2005.

The numbers are noteworthy because they reveal such fast growth, but still total only a fraction of the $13 billion poured into U.S. startups this year.

Web 2.0 firms include technologies like AJAX and real simple"

Bay Area may get cash for projects

Bay Area may get cash for projects: "

Posted on Sun, Oct. 29, 2006

Bay Area may get cash for projects

By Marton Dunai

Two transportation measures are on the Nov. 7 ballot, and if voters approve them, they will rain money on California's infrastructure. Their total impact of about $20 billion could jump-start Bay Area projects such as a fourth bore in the Caldecott Tunnel, ambitious public transit improvements and highway expansions.

Although the largest portion of the money will likely end up in Southern California, about $4 billion could find its way to the Bay Area, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pledged to spend at least 25 percent of state contracting on projects involving small businesses. To that end, he issued an executive order appointing a Sacramento-based management consultant named Samuel Wallace to the post of Small Business Enterprise Officer. Wallace's initial focus is to make sure small businesses get their share of the contract spree expected in the transportation sector -- and then in other sectors.

The billions can only find small businesses if they are prepared, Wallace said. He started a statewide tour trying to prepare local governments, prime contractors and small businesses for the task ahead. "
: "

Robust rental market
Solano's occupancy rates still positive
By Amanda Janis/Business Editor
Article Launched:10/28/2006 08:37:22 AM PDT
Solano County cities have robust rental markets, according to recently released data from a real estate information service.

RealFacts' quarterly examination of the Vallejo-Fairfield metropolitan statistical area - described as the cities of Vacaville, Fairfield, Vallejo and Benicia - found the county's occupancy rate averaged 94.5 percent in the third quarter, representing a 2.3 percent growth during the same period last year.

Though that occupancy rate places the local market 23rd among the state's 25 metropolitan statistical areas, it's considered quite positive. 'We typically look at anywhere between 3 and 5 percent as a balanced rental market,' explained Cindy Johnston, director of Vacaville's housing and redevelopment department.

The department recently completed its annual apartment rent and vacancy survey, and its preliminary, raw data is very similar to RealFacts' findings.
Average third quarter rental rates for Solano County apartments
Studio $805
One bedroom $1,000
Two bedroom $1,155
Three bedroom $1,690
Occupancy rates for Solano cities
Benicia 97.5%
Vacaville 95.2%
Fairfield 94.0%
Vallejo 93.6%
Source: RealFacts


Glass half-full - sacbee.com

Glass half-full - sacbee.com: "sacbee.com - The online division of The Sacramento Bee

This story is taken from Sacbee / Business.
Glass half-full
Wine-grape harvest is tops, but several conditions dampen prices
By Jim Downing - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, October 27, 2006

This year is shaping up as one that California wine fans will remember fondly -- but that some of the state's wine grape growers would rather forget.

Late spring rains, a summer heat wave and a warm and dry October are yielding an average-size but top-quality wine grape harvest that some are predicting will be among the best vintages of the last quarter-century.

But an ongoing glut from the massive 2005 crop, changes in the federal law that governs the blending of different vintages and the growing presence of imports in the U.S. wine market have pushed grape prices down for many varieties. In lower-value regions like Lodi, spot-market prices for merlot have dropped below $200 a ton, compared with an average of $482 a ton in 2005. Each ton of grapes yields between 150 gallons and 180 gallons of wine.

'We certainly are in a global wine market, and it's coming home to roost,' said Brad Lange, co-owner of Lange Twins Wine Estates in Acampo.

The abundance of wine in the state probably won't influence prices for more expensive brands, but consumers can"

Friday, October 27, 2006

Developers give new shape to research/development labs - Sacramento Business Journal:

Developers give new shape to research/development labs - Sacramento Business Journal:: "Sacramento Business Journal - October 23, 2006

Business News - Local News
Business Pulse Survey:
Will high-rise condos soon be part of the downtown skyline?
Developers give new shape to research/development labs
Genentech, other Bay Area biotech companies are growing vertically on sites
Sacramento Business Journal - October 20, 2006
by Emily Fancher
San Francisco Business Times
Photo courtesy of Genentech
Genentech is looking to double its footprint in South San Francisco by building vertically.
View Larger

Biotech companies are going vertical.

Research and development campuses on the Peninsula have been mostly low-slung buildings, but as South San Francisco and its neighbors fill up with aspiring startups and expanding giants, real estate developers are beginning to build up.

Mike Lappen, senior planner for South San Francisco, said the the city is seeing redevelopment of older industrial sites where developers want to build four- to six-story buildings where one- or two-story buildings now stand.

In the past year, Slough Estates has filed to demolish existing one- and two-story buildings at 250-270 E. Grand Ave. and build one three- and two five-story office and res"
: "

Dixon will fund memorial hall
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer
Article Launched:10/26/2006 05:46:04 AM PDT
The Dixon Veterans Memorial Hall will receive funds from the city for some much-needed improvements.

The City Council voted Tuesday in full support of the preparation and submission of a grant application for $1 million in Community Development Block Grant General Allocation funds. The council also approved a Joint City and Agency Resolution to commit $275,000 in redevelopment funds as a local match to the application.

In addition, the council agreed to provide $150,000 in revolving loan funds.

'We're excited that we were able to find the money from different sources to fund the improvements,' said Mayor Mary Ann Courville.

The hall, originally built in 1923 and owned by Solano County for more than 60 years, is located at 231 North First St. in downtown Dixon.

Current cost estimates indicate an overall funding need of about $2.7 million, according to a staff report.

The building not only serves as a place for veterans' events, but is a central location for community gatherings.

It has been described as an anchor in the community that needs to be preserved.

'I can attest to the value of the Veterans Hall,' said Gregg Atkins, librarian for the D"
: "

Carpool lanes on I-80 leg in plans
By Reporter Staff
Article Launched:10/26/2006 05:46:02 AM PDT
Solano County gained much-needed funding Wednesday to help with future development of carpool lanes on Interstate 80 in Fairfield.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission allocated $1 million in bridge toll money to the Solano Transportation Authority to help finance the construction of the county's first high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in the median of Interstate 80 between Red Top Road and Air Base Parkway in Fairfield.

'It's a tremendous improvement for the county, both locally and regionally,' said Janet Adams, director of projects for STA. 'This (allocation) is for the design work of the HOV lanes.'

Construction of the lanes, which will extend more than 8 miles in both the east and west-bound directions, likely will begin in the spring of 2008.

'The Interstate 80 carpool lanes are one key element of a comprehensive plan to improve traffic flow through the Cordelia junction, where 80, 680 and State Route 12 all come together,' said Suisun City Mayor and Solano County Supervisor-elect Jim Spering, in a press release announcing the allocation.

'That's a critical chokepoint on the routes to and from both the Carquinez Bridge and the Benicia-Martinez Bridge,' Spering continued.

Solano leads housing slump

Solano leads housing slump: "

Posted on Thu, Oct. 26, 2006

Solano leads housing slump

Solano County homes stayed on the market longer than those in any other Bay Area county, according to a report released by Prudential California Realty.

Single-family, detached active listings went up 43 percent in the county, but they spent an average of 77 days on the market, more than double last year's 34 days. In Suisun City, homes spent an average of 100 days on the market, up from 27 days in 2005.

Contra Costa County 's single-family detached homes spent an average of 29 days on the market, up 10 days from this time last year. Alameda County's average days on the market also rose, from 18 to 27. The Bay Area average was 49 days, up from 32 days last year.

Scott Kucirek, general manager of Prudential California Realty, said the trend is fed by sellers refusing to budge on prices.

'Competitive sellers need to lower prices or risk missing the sale,' he said."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

UCD Stem Cell Center in Works

UCD Stem Cell Center in Works
Share of $3 billion in state funds is at stake.
By Jim Downing - Bee Staff Writer

Legal challenges have California's $3 billion in voter-approved embryonic stem cell research funding in limbo, but that's not keeping the state's universities from moving ahead with plans to spend it.

At the University of California, Davis, a $75 million stem cell research center is in the works in a former warehouse at the university's Stockton Boulevard medical center in Sacramento.

The $22 million first phase of construction -- yet to be officially approved by the UC Regents -- would be paid for out of university funds. Officials are gambling that by going forward with the new building, the UC Davis campus would put itself in a stronger position to eventually win a share of the $3 billion in state funding -- assuming it eventually comes through.

Proposition 71, which authorizes the research funds, was passed in November 2004 but was soon challenged in court by taxpayers rights groups and a Christian organization on grounds that it was unconstitutional. An Alameda County judge upheld the initiative in April, but opponents appealed. A final decision is not expected until next year.

The centerpiece of the Stockton Boulevard facility will be a federally approved, ultra-clean laboratory where researchers can safely grow the cells that ultimately will be injected into humans to treat diseases.

To staff the center, the university is building up its team of stem cell researchers and has signed four top scientists from around the world in the past year.

The new director of the Davis program, Jan Nolta, starts work Nov. 1. Nolta, who grew up in Willows, was recruited from Washington University in St. Louis along with longtime collaborator Gerhard Bauer, an Austrian native who is an an expert in the design and management of ultra-clean laboratories.

Nolta and Bauer were at the UC Davis Medical Center on Wednesday as U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, toured the laboratories of Mark Zern, an organ transplant expert whose research team is studying ways to use embryonic stem cells to regenerate the liver.

Nolta, 45, will head a group of about 25 researchers who will form the core of the university's stem cell program.

Nolta specializes in immune system disorders, but she said the Davis embryonic stem cell program will be broad, working toward cures for a wide range of disorders, including damaged hearts and arteries, liver disease, AIDS, diabetes and neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease.

Bauer and Nolta said that they were drawn both by the promise of research funding not available elsewhere in the United States, as well as the expertise in animal research on the UC Davis campus. While embryonic stem cell research could someday lead to treatments for a wide range of diseases, so far no treatments using the technology have been tested in humans.

"We're strongly focused on the animal models to see how the stem cells work," Nolta said.

The new facilities in Sacramento will be built without federal funding, avoiding restrictions that have dogged university embryonic stem cell researchers around the country. Laboratories that receive federal funding are prohibited from using human embryonic stem cell lines derived after Aug. 9, 2001. As a result, universities have had to set up redundant "NIH--free" laboratories to conduct research with newer embryonic stem cell lines.

"The new building is being built out and outfitted with no NIH dollars ... so we can do what we want in there," Nolta said.

Regional Destination

Regional Destination
Benicia Begins Intra-Bay Area Tourism Drive
By Barbara E. Hernandez/Contra Costa Times

First Street is one of the many shop- and restaurant-lined streets in Benicia's downtown area that draw Bay Area tourists. (Brad Zweerink/Reporter file)

It's one of the oldest cities in the Bay Area, with a rich history as a military outpost and former state capital. It has kept and restored many of its Victorian-era homes and buildings, provides scenic sea views, sumptuous meals and a thriving, walkable downtown of artisans.

So why don't more people know where Benicia is?

City officials are trying to change this with an intra-Bay Area tourism campaign - and the first volleys are billboards from San Jose to Sacramento.

"We can't compete with San Francisco, but we can provide a nice experience," said Amalia Lorentz, economic development director for the city. "It's almost like a getaway from the Bay Area in the Bay Area."

But unlike San Francisco, the city of 27,000 has a problem with name and geographic recognition, she said. Many mistakenly believe it's near Sacramento and others confuse it with Brentwood in Contra Costa County - cities respectively 61 and 32 miles away, Mayor Steve Messina said.

"I had someone tell me, 'I was up your way. I was in Angel Island,' " Lorentz said of the state park near Tiburon. "I think Americans in general are poor at geography."

The rotating billboards - featuring photos of Benicia's vistas and restaurants - are part of a deal struck with ClearChannel Outdoor a decade ago in exchange for a lease of city-owned land on Interstate 680.

Billboards are now just north of Roseville and on Telegraph Avenue near the Highway 24 onramp in Oakland, said Stephanie Christiansen, SEO and president of the Benicia Chamber of Commerce. In November, the billboards will be placed on West Grand Avenue, west of Market Street in Oakland and Interstate 5, north of Highway 113.

Messina, the mayor and owner of the Double Rainbow Cafe, said the city is always looking to promote itself around the Bay Area. Traditionally, the city spent its money on print ads in regional magazines.

"Once a year we get a clip from a magazine, like Money's '2005 Best Places to Live,' and I'm sure that's positive," he said. The city ranked 81st in the 2005 Money magazine survey. "It's easy to spend money on billboards and TV advertisements ... but we don't know the exact demographic we're trying to bring in."

Lorentz said that some initial research has shown Benicia visitors tend to be couples usually within an hour's drive with a dual income and no children.

"People (who) enjoy trips, eating out, art, that kind of thing," she said. "After you have children, you tend to put off those day trips."

But with other areas in the Bay Area competing for those same people, the city knows it has a lot of work to do.

"I don't see ourselves competing with Oakland or Berkeley," Lorentz said. "We're more oriented to the water and have more history than College or Solano Avenues."

Instead, Lorentz said that many of their visitors may be coming from Sacramento, Fairfield or Vacaville, those who would appreciate the Carquinez Strait waterfront.

Lou Silva, 55, of Berkeley stopped by downtown Benicia Tuesday afternoon to eat at the Sala Thai restaurant with his daughter, Ariel, 27.

"It's tranquil," Silva said. "Sometimes people want a change of pace and someplace not as frenetic as Berkeley or Oakland."

Benicia's annual tourism budget for 2006-2007 fiscal year is $22,005, a far cry from the $13.6 million budget of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Unlike other cities, Benicia has a handful of bed-and-breakfasts but few hotels. Its transient occupany tax is low and tourism is paid out of the city's general fund.

Carpool Lanes on I-80 Leg in Plans

Carpool Lanes on I-80 Leg in Plans
By Reporter Staff

Solano County gained much-needed funding Wednesday to help with future development of carpool lanes on Interstate 80 in Fairfield.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission allocated $1 million in bridge toll money to the Solano Transportation Authority to help finance the construction of the county's first high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in the median of Interstate 80 between Red Top Road and Air Base Parkway in Fairfield.

"It's a tremendous improvement for the county, both locally and regionally," said Janet Adams, director of projects for STA. "This (allocation) is for the design work of the HOV lanes."

Construction of the lanes, which will extend more than 8 miles in both the east and west-bound directions, likely will begin in the spring of 2008.

"The Interstate 80 carpool lanes are one key element of a comprehensive plan to improve traffic flow through the Cordelia junction, where 80, 680 and State Route 12 all come together," said Suisun City Mayor and Solano County Supervisor-elect Jim Spering, in a press release announcing the allocation.

"That's a critical chokepoint on the routes to and from both the Carquinez Bridge and the Benicia-Martinez Bridge," Spering continued.

Funds for the design work come from voter-approved Regional Measure 2 bridge tolls. Approved by voters in March of 2004, Measure 2 increased Bay Area bridge tolls by $1, bringing the tolls to $3. Funds realized from the increased tolls are to be used for transportation improvements across the region.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has allocated nearly $7 million in Measure 2 funds to STA for the estimated $1.2 billion Interstate 80, I-680 and State Route 12 interchange project. That includes almost $3.5 million approved in January for environmental studies on the new I-80 carpool lanes and $2.5 million for environmental studies on the North Connector project intended to take some Highway 12 traffic off Interstate 80 and improve traffic north of the Interchange.

Wednesday's $1 million allocation will finance additional environmental work as well as preliminary engineering of the carpool lanes.

Spering, who represents Solano County on the MTC, said the funding is just the beginning.

"The Measure 2 funds are one piece of a very large puzzle that's going to take years to put together," he said. Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, D-Solano, "provided a big piece last year when she helped secure almost $17.5 million for the project as part of the new federal transportation program," he said.

Voters will soon have a chance to add another piece to the puzzle, Spering said, when Proposition 1B comes up for a vote in November.

Prop 1B - the transportation infrastructure bond - includes $4.5 billion for a statewide Corridor Mobility program and $2 billion to improve goods movement throughout the state.

"The I-80 corridor should be able to compete very favorably for funding through both programs with other projects around California," Spering said.

MTC, which is the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area's transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency, has now allocated more than $400 million in Measure 2 funds regionally. The commitments to date include $361 million for 28 separate capital projects and nearly $48 million for transit operations around the Bay Area.

PR Newswire contributed to this report.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Biomedical Industry is Now Second Largest Driver of California's High Technology Economy


Biomedical Industry is Now Second Largest Driver of California's High Technology Economy; Surpasses Motion Picture, Telecom and Computer Industries in Employment

October 25, 2006 - 6:43 AM

By DrugNewswire

California Healthcare Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP Issue Report on Biomedical Sector

LA JOLLA, Calif., Oct. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- California's biomedical industry has grown significantly to become the one of the biggest drivers of employment in the state and the second largest contributor to its high technology economy, second only to computer consulting and programming, according to a report released today by the California Healthcare Institute (CHI) and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The 2006 report on California's Biomedical industry provides a comprehensive overview of the impact of the biomedical sector on California employment, wages and investment as well as a snapshot of the product development pipeline, funding pipeline and major players in the industry.

Highlights of the 45-page report include:

-- California is now home to more than 2,700 biomedical companies and more
than 100 universities and private non-profit research organizations
that are engaged in biomedical research & development and

-- The state's biomedical industry accounts for nearly 260,000 California
jobs, far exceeding the aerospace, motion picture, computer and
telecommunication industries in total employment.

-- Biomedical firms paid approximately $18.2 billion in wages and salaries
in 2005. Californians employed within the industry earned an average
annual salary of $70,400, with the highest average annual wage going to
those in biopharmaceutical companies, at $81,300.

-- Biomedical companies in California generated $62 billion in revenue
last year and accounted for two-thirds of the market value of all
Nasdaq-listed life sciences companies.

"This report confirms that the U.S. leads the world in life sciences, and the U.S. is led by California," said David L. Gollaher, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer, California Healthcare Institute. "Though the biomedical industry is a solid, significant and growing component of the states' economy, California's life sciences leadership is fragile. Given increasing regulatory pressure and political dynamics, the future prosperity of the industry and the state will rely on a concerted commitment to promote the growth of this industry and forge stronger partnerships between the public and private sectors."

The report findings position California on the forefront of product innovation, leading all other states and the world in biomedical research and development. There are currently approximately 802 new medicines in California's R&D pipeline. Nearly one-third of these products target cancer. Biomedical companies invested $26 billion in the development of new products for unmet medical needs in 2005. This is an $11 billion increase over 2003. The typical California biomedical company invested 42 percent of its revenues back into R&D.

The biomedical industry relies heavily on funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and venture capital to fuel the growth of emerging and fast-growth private companies as well as to fund ongoing research. California receives the largest share of grant dollars from NIH, more than any other state, approximately 37 percent more than Massachusetts, the second largest grantee. Between 2000 and 2004, funding to California increased by approximately 32 percent.

In addition, the life sciences industry attracted nearly $2.9 billion in venture capital investment in 2005, representing approximately half of the total $5.9 billion invested in life sciences in the U.S.

"Life sciences in general, and California's biomedical firms in particular, continue to be a hotbed for venture investing," said Tracy Lefteroff, global managing partner for Life Sciences Industry Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "An increasing number of biomedical firms are also turning to the equity markets for funds, and as funding opportunities continue to expand as this industry matures, it bodes well for the sector and the state's economy."


CHI partnered with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP to collect and administer data for the 2006 CHI/PwC California Biomedical Industry Survey. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2006 and targeted approximately 1,500 companies that conduct business in California in the areas of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, diagnostics or medical equipment.

About the California Healthcare Institute

The California Healthcare Institute (www.chi.org) is a non-profit public policy research organization for California's biomedical R&D industry. CHI represents more than 250 leading medical device, biotechnology, diagnostics and pharmaceutical companies and public and private academic biomedical research organizations. CHI's mission is to advance responsible public policies that foster medical innovation and promote scientific discovery.

About PricewaterhouseCoopers

PricewaterhouseCoopers (www.pwc.com) provides industry-focused assurance, tax and advisory services to build public trust and enhance value for its clients and their stakeholders. More than 130,000 people in 148 countries across our network share their thinking, experience and solutions to develop fresh perspectives and practical advice.

"PricewaterhouseCoopers" refers to the network of member firms of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited, each of which is a separate and independent legal entity.

Source: California Healthcare Institute

CONTACT: Molly Ingraham of California Healthcare Institute,
+1-858-551-6677, ingraham@chi.org; Constance Hubbell for
PricewaterhouseCoopers, +1-781-878-8882, Hubbell@hubbellgroup.com

Web site: http://www.chi.org/

Power lunch: Bacteria turn leftovers to energy - sacbee.com

Power lunch: Bacteria turn leftovers to energy - sacbee.com: "sacbee.com - The online division of The Sacramento Bee

This story is taken from Sacbee / News.
Power lunch: Bacteria turn leftovers to energy
By Edie Lau - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, October 24, 2006

With the help of billions of hungry bacteria, a University of California, Davis, engineer has cooked up a system to extract energy from table scraps.

At a ceremony today expected to draw hundreds of people, the campus will formally introduce its $1 million 'biogas' plant.

The plant can swallow between eight and 10 tons of food waste a day, feeding tanks of microbes that, in turn, excrete hydrogen and methane -- gases that can be burned to generate electricity or fuel vehicles.

'This is a real commercial-size system,' said Ruihong Zhang, the UC Davis professor of biological and agricultural engineering who invented and patented the system after eight years of tinkering.

'This is 20,000 times larger than what we've been working with in the laboratory,' she said.

At full capacity, the plant can produce enough electricity for 10 average California households a day, said Dave Konwinski, chief executive officer of Onsite Power Systems Inc., a company that developed the system in partnership with Zhang.

Konwinski put $750,000 into the demonstration"
: "

Report: Solano jobless rate below the state average
By Times-Herald staff
Vallejo Times Herald
Article Launched:10/24/2006 06:57:10 AM PDT
Unemployment was down in both Solano and Napa counties in September, and both were below the state's rate of 4.6 percent, the state Employment Development Department announced this week.

Solano County's unemployment rate was 4.5 in September, down from August's 4.8 percent and below the year-ago estimate of 5.1 percent. This compares with a 4.4 percent national unemployment rate.

Napa's September unemployment rate was 3.2, down from August's 3.6 percent and below the year-ago estimate of 4.6 percent.

Solano County gained 3,700 jobs over the year and about 2,000 over the month. The largest gains were in education and health services, trade, transportation and utilities, professional and business services and construction, while manufacturing and information lost a little ground during the year.

The largest job gains in Napa County were in manufacturing, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality, according to EDD statistics."

Altering the Workers' Comp System

Altering the Workers' Comp System
Reforms cut costs 60% in just 2 years but a loophole may be delaying necessary treatments for patients
- Tom Abate, Chronicle Staff Writer

Has workers' compensation reform gone too far?

This state-mandated workplace insurance program once gave doctors a free hand to provide injured workers any treatment at any price. The result: waste, fraud and abuse.

In 2003 and 2004, a series of reforms gave employers and insurers -- who pay the bills -- more control over how doctors treat and evaluate patients by making them subject to new rules and reviews.

Those changes have transformed the system. The overall cost of workers' comp has fallen roughly 60 percent in two years, driving down insurance rates by a comparable amount -- in large part because of a 46 percent drop in new claims for workers' compensation.

But since the changes went into effect, injured workers have complained that the new system is so snarled in red tape that doctors sometimes can't provide needed care.

Now Dr. Anne Searcy, medical director for the Division of Workers' Compensation, is echoing at least one aspect of those complaints. As the doctor-in-chief for the state agency that polices this program, Searcy fears that an enforcement loophole may give the new reviews an unfairly tight-fisted tilt.

Critics note that a central feature of the workers' comp reforms was the creation of HMO-like guidelines for what constitutes proper medical treatment for workplace injuries. Lawmakers also created a process, called utilization review, to provide an additional layer of scrutiny over treatment requests. Since the reviews started in 2005, they've been conducted under what amounts to an honor system with no specific penalties for non-performance.

"That's the piece of the puzzle we need to get in place," said Searcy, who believes some patients seeking sensible care have gotten the runaround.

"I'm hearing now where people are having shoulder surgery and not getting physical therapy and ending up with a frozen shoulder," Searcy said.

How extensive is the problem? Searcy estimated that 5 percent of treatment requests may be getting tied up in red tape. Given the size of the system -- perhaps 600,000 cases will be filed this year -- that could affect 30,000 Californians.

The division has been trying to write rules to penalize abuse of the review process but insurers and employers have resisted. State officials, poised to release new penalty proposals, anticipate getting pummeled by payers, who are likely to consider the penalties too tough, and patients, who may see them as too little, too late.

While reviews and penalties may seem arcane, these practices go to the heart of the changes that transformed workers' compensation from a system that cost employers about $24 billion in 2004 to about $10 billion today.

Before the reforms, state law said a physician treating an injured worker was presumed correct. Whatever the doctor ordered, workers' compensation had to provide. But the reforms stripped physicians of that presumption. Instead, the state designated a set of treatment guidelines -- written by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, better known as ACOEM -- the arbiter of medical necessity.

Lawmakers also created the utilization review process as a safety valve for both sides. Doctors could request treatments not in the guidelines if they had scientific evidence of their efficacy and necessity. Payers could order reviews if they questioned a request.

Mark Webb, vice president for government affairs with Employers Direct Insurance Co. said employers and insurers have opposed penalties because they are trying to defend the heart of the reform from push-back by doctors unaccustomed to being overruled.

"We're looking at this and saying (the guidelines) are presumptively correct,'' said Webb, who wants them to be as powerful as the old presumption that the doctor was right. "We're looking (at the penalties) eroding the presumption that is supposed to be in the guidelines,'' he said.

Trouble is, not everything is written in the book.

"The guidelines are ambiguous or incomplete in many respects,'' said Stanley Zax, chairman of Zenith National Insurance, who is no fan of the old days when physicians ruled.

The Division of Workers' Compensation is working with physicians to decide whether, and how, procedures like acupuncture, which are not currently covered, might be added to the approved list. Meanwhile, doctors complain that insurers and employers are taking advantage of the ambiguity and the lack of penalties in the review process to tie up requests in red tape.

"The old system was appalling,'' said Dr. Darien Behravan, 35, who opened his workers' compensation practice in San Leandro just as new rules were setting limits on fees and the frequency of treatments, things that had made workers' comp a "gravy train" for doctors.

"But the pendulum has swung too far,'' Behravan said, by giving insurers and employers too much power to send any request, however routine, off for review, often by a doctor in another state who will only see the patient's file. The absence of case-by-case penalties for foot-dragging contributes to what he considers to be stupid reviews. Behravan said he's requested epidural pain-relief injections, costing $180, which have been sent for reviews that can cost $200 per hour to process.

San Francisco physician Jerome Franz, 62, treats a few workers' comp cases in a practice dominated by regular patients.

"This (workers' compensation review process) is harder than most of the HMOs we're dealing with in terms of the amount of paperwork my office has to do to get anything done," Franz said.

A case in point is San Francisco police officer Michael Glickman, who seriously injured his back while helping apprehend a suspect in September 2005.

"I know that Mike has a real injury," Franz said.

But after 13 months of requests to see specialists and get second opinions on options up to and including surgery, Glickman has received only oral painkillers and a limited regime of physical therapy.

Shortly before showing a reporter his accumulated paperwork, Glickman got approval for an epidural injection that might shrink the swelling and reduce the pain but the OK had the wrong doctor's name on it, and he'll have to get that corrected to get the shot.

"Since there's no one to make them treat me and punish them if they don't treat me, they really don't have to,'' Glickman said.

The San Francisco Department of Human Resources, which oversees workers' comp claims by city employees, said officials were sympathetic and were working to resolve Glickman's "unique situation," while suggesting that all they'd done was to go by the book.

"The Workers' Compensation unit is required to treat everybody the same way under the laws and the rules of the system,'' said spokeswoman Colby Zintl.

Reform critics cite such examples to argue that the new system is slow and stingy and say much of the money being saved is coming out of workers' hides.

"The gravy train has not stopped," said Behravan, the workers' comp doctor. "It has just shifted from the physician side to the insurance company side."

But David Bellusci, chief actuary for the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau -- the San Francisco nonprofit that is the system's numbers keeper -- said the savings appear to be driven by a dramatic reduction in new workers' compensation claims.

"We have 46 percent fewer claims'' after the reforms, said Bellusci. "All other things being equal, that would cut costs by 46 percent."

What would explain the drop? Payers would say the word is out that workers' comp is no longer a pushover. Critics would argue that injured workers, hearing of treatment delays, are shifting work-related injuries to regular insurance if they can.

Payers are happy. Bellusci's figures project that by the beginning of 2007, insurance premiums will have fallen 62 percent, on average, from their January 2004 peak. And despite the drop, his records suggest that insurers should be enjoying their most profitable period ever. In 2005 and 2004, the most recent years for which data are available, they paid out just 31 cents in medical and disability costs for every premium dollar collected. In the early 1990s, when the state regulated workers' comp insurance rates, 66 cents was the target payout, he said.

Carrie Nevans, acting administrative director of the Division of Workers' Compensation, is caught between a rock and a hard place. Her boss, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, considers workers' comp reform his crowning achievement. Nevans echoes business and insurance leaders who say the old system was so bloated there's no way to compare outlays now and then to decide what is fair.

But she and Searcy, the medical officer, have seen evidence that the new reviews, linked to those crucial treatment guidelines, may create an unintended tilt -- unless she gets a stick to help strike the proper balance.

"There's no penalties," Nevans said. "I think we need them."

E-mail Tom Abate at tabate@sfchronicle.com.

Battle for Battleship Goes to the Navy This Month

Battle for Battleship Goes to the Navy This Month
By Ian Thompson

FAIRFIELD - Supporters of the campaign to park the World War II battleship USS Iowa at Mare Island as a museum and memorial got support from the Solano County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Bringing the Iowa here would be a "fantastic addition to the waterfront in Vallejo" and would further enhance Solano County's military tradition, Supervisor Mike Reagan said.

Supporters of berthing the Iowa at Mare Island have spent the last several months gathering resolutions of support from cities, counties and historical groups throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Historical Ships Memorial at Pacific Square will ask the Navy next month to dock the ship at Mare Island.

But that's not the only place the battleship could go. Stockton officials want the Iowa as a centerpiece of a museum planned for the former Navy facility at Rough and Ready Island since 2001.

Stockton is willing to give the ship a berth, 15 acres of land for uses such as parking and one of the buildings to house museum offices and exhibits. Supporters there are presently trying to raise $11 million to fund the effort.

Historic Ships has been trying to get its hands on the Iowa since 1996 as the first ship and the center of its museum.

Historic Ships director Merilyn Wong called it a "community project" that will marry Mare Island's deep history with that of the Iowa's.

"It will be the first battleship memorial on the West Coast," Wong said. "It will also be a significant draw for tourists and will be a catalyst for economic development."

The group is attempting to raise the $15 million or so needed to dredge the channel and prepare the area for the Iowa's berthing, Historic Ships treasurer Tom Carney said.

Both Historic Ships and Stockton will submit their plans for the Iowa to the Navy at the end of the month. The Navy is expected to make its decision on who gets the battleship some time in the next six months.

Built in 1943, the battleship operated during World War II. Initially, Japanese officials were supposed to sign surrender documents there until President Harry Truman moved the ceremony to the USS Missouri, which was named after his home state.

The battleship next appeared off the coast of Korea in 1950 during the Korean War, lending its massive firepower to support United Nations troops there.

While it never came to Mare Island, the battleship had visited the Bay Area several times for maintenance, provisioning, decommissioning and recommissioning.

The Iowa was decommissioned for the final time in 1990 and was later moved to the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet in April 2001 where it's now tied up.

Two of its sister ships have already have become museums - the USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor and the USS New Jersey in Camden, N.J.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.

State Fund has big plans for Vacaville office - San Francisco Business Times:

State Fund has big plans for Vacaville office - San Francisco Business Times:: "San Francisco Business Times - October 23, 2006

Business News - Local News
Business Pulse Survey:
Who should control Congress?
State Fund has big plans for Vacaville office
San Francisco Business Times - October 20, 2006
by Chris Rauber

The State Compensation Insurance Fund has two huge real-estate projects in the works that ultimately will plant 2,000 employees in Vacaville and Pleasanton.

State Fund is proposing to build a 430,000-square-foot office complex in Vacaville to house more than 1,200 employees in coming years, and separately has purchased 321,000 square feet in Pleasanton's Hacienda Business Park, according to Vacaville officials and State Fund spokesman Jim Zelinski. The Pleasanton deal, which closed last spring, cost an estimated $78 million, according to real estate sources.

'We're doing this to ultimately reduce our long-term real estate costs and (to help with the) long-term recruitment and retention of employees,' Zelinski told the Business Times. He stressed, however, that State Fund will keep its headquarters in San Francisco, 'and have a significant presence here.'

The company -- the state's largest workers' compensation insurance carrier -- plans to"

County Backs $3 Million in Regional Road Funding

County Backs $3 Million in Regional Road Funding
By Barry Eberling

Cars travel on Vanded Road between Fairfield and Vacaville on Tuesday. (Photo by Zachary Kaufman/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD - Fees on new homes and other development could help pay the price tag for congestion-relieving, regional roads such as the Jepson Parkway and North Connector.

Solano County is proposing the idea to help it come up with its share of the money for regional roads. But cities would have to agree to help the county out by imposing a yet-to-be-determined road fee within their borders - an outcome that's far from certain.

In the meantime, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to spend $3 million from the county general fund to help keep proposed regional road projects moving forward. Supervisors hope the cities will pass the fee to repay the money, with interest.

"It's abundantly clear there's a giant need and we have to address it," Supervisor Duane Kromm said.

Supervisors John Vasquez, Barbara Kondylis, John Silva and Kromm voted "yes," with Supervisor Mike Reagan absent. Reagan attended the earlier portion of the meeting.

The Solano Transportation Authority wants to build a number of regional roads. Among them are the Jepson Parkway linking Vacaville, Fairfield and Suisun City and North Connector linking Green Valley with central Fairfield. Such roads could help take traffic off of congested Interstate 80.

Federal and state money will pay for only part of the costs. The STA proposes that the cities and county help pay the match for the roads that run through their jurisdictions.

For example, Fairfield would help pay for the North Connector segment within city limits. The county would help pay for the segment in the unincorporated, rural areas.

County growth policies say most development must take place within cities. That leaves the county with no way by itself to raise a substantial amount of road money through development fees. The Board of Supervisors governs the unincorporated areas with little growth and the various city councils govern the urban areas with speedy growth.

Solano County must depend on the cities to help with the fee. County officials said cities should do so because much of the traffic on rural roads comes from the cities.

Kromm expressed concern about the county loaning $3 million from its general fund before a single city agrees to establish the road fee.

"I don't want the cities to look at us as the Bank of Solano," Kromm said.

But the STA wants $2 million from the county for the North Connector next spring. Finishing a study on how much the fee should be could take another 12 to 15 months, county Resource Management Department Director Birgitta Corsello said.

Vasquez favored providing the money. The cities can see the county has taken the first steps, he said.

Cities already impose development fees to raise money for their own road and infrastructure projects. There are no guarantees they will want to impose a new one to give to the county for regional roads. Higher development fees often get passed on to buyers of new homes, creating higher housing prices.

"I appreciate the county Board of Supervisors wanting to help," Fairfield Mayor Harry Price said in a phone interview after the meeting. "Certainly that $3 million will go a long way. But I really don't know whether or not the council would be in favor of an additional fee."

Fairfield will be looking at an increase in its own development fees, Price said. Meanwhile, there is a slowdown in the real estate market, particularly for new development, he said. That's a nationwide problem, he said.

"The development community is very much concerned about any increase in fees," Price said.

Solano County would have to negotiate a deal with each city for the road fee. There is a precedent. Cities already have a county development fee to help pay for public facilities, libraries, social services and other services. In Fairfield, that fee is about $5,000 for a new single-family home.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ten of California's 11 major industry sectors gained jobs in September

For the detailed data and more:

Ten of California's 11 major industry sectors gained jobs in September. State payrolls also rose by 17,300 jobs in September, following gains of 36,800 jobs in August (revised) and 6,600 jobs in July. California's year-over job gains totaled 179,800 (1.2 percent) in September. The State's fifth consecutive month of job growth.

The largest job gain was in educational and health services (4,600 jobs), followed by manufacturing (4,000 jobs), and leisure and hospitality (3,900 jobs). The only industry sector to lose jobs was trade, transportation, and utilities (900 jobs).

California gained 179,800 jobs over the year. (1.2 percent) in September 2006. But is below the pace of the two prior years. In September 2005 job gains peaked at 311,600 (2.1 percent). By and large, the cool down in the State's housing sector and increase in interest rates has translated into

slower job growth in California's construction; trade, transportation, and utilities (and particularly retail trade), professional and business services; and financial activities sectors.

California's share of the nation's gain 34 percent. Although the nation's job gain, at 51,000 in September, was its smallest monthly increase since October 2005, it was tempered by an upward revision totaling 60,000 jobs to the August data.

California's job growth over the last two months was stronger than nation's, longer time comparisons tell a different story. Whereas nonfarm payrolls in California increased by 1.2 percent over the last year, they rose 1.3 percent nationally. Year-to-date U.S. and California nonfarm payrolls grew by 0.9 and 0.8 percent, respectively.

Generally, as has been the case for most of the last 10 to 15 years. Sacramento continues to outperform the State and Nation but likewise is feeling some of the economic slowdowns in construction and the housing market with finance and real estate sectors also feeling the pinch.

On the positive side, Sacramento is not seeing a free fall and the sales numbers appear to show a market that still has buyers and over all a resilient economy. The coming months are fairly predictable with the retailers gearing up, ski resorts hoping for snow and wet weather slowdowns in construction.

Venture investing continues to outpace 2005 in Q3 - Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal:

Venture investing continues to outpace 2005 in Q3 - Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal:: "Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal - October 23, 2006

Business News - Local News
Business Pulse Survey:
How long will it take for the Dow industrials average to hit 13,000?
Venture investing continues to outpace 2005 in Q3
Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal - 9:45 AM PDT Monday

U.S. venture capital investing continued to outpace last year's activity for the third quarter in a row, with $6.36 billion directed to 611 deals and the largest deal of the quarter taking place in Sunnyvale, according to a report released Monday.

The Quarterly Venture Capital Report released by Dow Jones VentureOne and Ernst & Young LLP shows that overall, deal count increased 2 percent from the third quarter of 2005, and the capital invested was 5 percent higher than a year ago.

The largest deal of the quarter was an IT deal -- the $132 million later stage round in telecommunications semiconductor company Cortina Systems Inc. of Sunnyvale. The median size of an IT deal was $7 million, up from $6.6 million a year ago.

By region, the Bay Area remained the dominant market, with 207 deals and $2.45 billion invested, a decline in the number of deals from"

Funding for C-17 Operations Headed to Travis

Funding for C-17 Operations Headed to Travis
By Ian Thompson

FAIRFIELD - Nearly $90 million, mainly aimed at supporting Travis Air Force Base's C-17 III Globemaster operations, is headed this way in the federal Defense Authorization Bill signed recently.

The measure also contained money for improved military readiness, TRICARE military health care for Reservists, a military pay raise and more protection for servicemembers from creditors.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, lauded the development in a press release, saying the funds are "for our troops and their families, especially those here at Travis Air Force Base."

The Travis funding includes:

- $6.2 million for a C-17 munitions storage facility.

- $8.8 million for C-17-related roads and utilities.

- $8.5 million for a C-17 taxiway.

- $50.4 million for a C-17 two-bay hangar.

- $11.9 million for a fire/crash rescue station.

- $1.13 million for planning and design of a Air Force Reserve C-5 and C-17 squadron operations building.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.

Dixon Downs is Off to the Races

Dixon Downs is Off to the Races -- City Council Approves Race Track, Entertainment Complex
By Ian Thompson

DIXON - The Dixon City Council approved a development agreement to build the Dixon Downs race track in late Monday night decision.

Council councilman Steve Alexander cast the sole no vote saying he had concerns about traffic created by the track while other council members cited more jobs and economic prosperity as why they voted yes.

City Council deliberations on whether the Dixon Down's developer should widen the part of Pedrick Road south of the track degenerated into back-and-forth public negotiations late into the evening.

This was all part of the fifth night of council hearings on an agreement to allow Magna to build a state-of-the-art race track and entertainment complex just west of Pedrick Road which Magna says will bring money and jobs to Dixon.

Magna had already agreed to expand Pedrick Road from the race track's proposed entrance north to Interstate 80 to handle traffic going to and from the track.

But a council request to improve the roadway south of the entrance hit opposition from Magna representatives.

"The project is already saddled with $25 million in background infrastructure," said Magna attorney Cleve Livingston, pointing out that further improving the road to hit them with more up front costs.

Magna suggested that it would do some improvements south of the entrance while putting off for awhile paying into a joint powers authority to pay for improving groundwater drainage in the area.

Putting off paying for drainage improvements would allow Magna to shift that money to build the road improvements Dixon wanted.

The Pedrick Raid improvements was only one of several changes to the development agreement the council was getting consensus on before voting.

One proposed by Magna was to allow the developer to speed up some retail development it initially planned to do later, possibly building some of it before the track is finished.

Such flexibility would allow Magna to attract partners to set up stores and businesses there, Magna representative Loren Kumer said.

Dixon Downs supporters say the track will make Dixon a regional entertainment destination that is a more productive use for the land than what was proposed before.

Its opponents say the track will bring traffic congestion to northern Dixon, make it hard for Campbells Soup to keep its facility there and harm Dixon's small-town feel without living up to Magna's promises of economic prosperity.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Round and Round and Then Some

Round and Round and Then Some -- Nut Tree Family Park Arouses Joy and Nostalgia
By Ben Antonius

Three-year-old Julia Young got a chance to ride the carousel with her mom Holly Young at the opening of the Nut Tree Family Park. (Gary Goldsmith/Daily Republic)

VACAVILLE - It was the first time on the carousel for Julia Young and Adrian La Vora, but it was a nostalgia trip for their parents.

After a whirl on a carousel horse, 3-year-old Julia tugged on her mother Holly's arm to go for a ride on a California Highway Patrol motorcycle - an amusement park replica of one, at least.

Meanwhile, 2-year-old Adrian enjoyed a ride on the carousel giraffe as his father Dominic stood by.

"It's always a giraffe," said Shanowa La Vora as she watched her son.

It was a little before 11 a.m. and the doors had just opened at the Nut Tree Family Park. For the moment at least, Julia and Adrian had the carousel to themselves.

As the carousel turned for the first time, several people stood nearby, snapping pictures and filming as Julia circled around. She looked at the cameras and smiled on each rotation.

Holly Young expected to spend the day at the park trying out various rides with her daughter, who continued to tug on her mother's arm and clearly had energy to spare.

Impatient with waiting for Adrian to finish riding the giraffe, Julia dashed off with her mother in tow to the motorcycles, fire trucks and ambulances on the California Rescue Squad ride.

It was the first visit to the amusement park in years for Holly, who lives in Vacaville but grew up in Benicia.

"We used to come here when I was little and I loved it," she said. "We would come every year for the pumpkin patch."

Shanowa La Vora related the same experience.

"I had only been here until I lived here," she said. "Once we moved to Vacaville we stopped going for some reason. I came once before it closed."

Reach Ben Antonius at 427-6977 or bantonius@dailyrepublic.net.

Supes Could Pave The Way To Fix Roads

Supes Could Pave The Way To Fix Roads
By Erin Pursell/Staff Writer

Some of Solano's most ailing roads may soon be closer to long-awaited improvements.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider priorities for regional transportation projects and the authorization of a $3 million loan from the General Fund to help pay for the much-needed work.

The county has been working with the Solano Transportation Authority and various cities for several years on a number of regional transportation projects that are considered high priorities. While the projects are largely funded by federal and state sources, they also require local matching funds, according to staff reports.

Solano's share for local matches for five regional projects for which federal funding has been received is estimated to be $3.7 million over the next four years, based on STA funding proposals for the projects, which include:

• improving the Vanden Road segment of the Jepson Parkway, from near Peabody Road to Leisure Town Road between Vacaville and Fairfield;

• north and south gate access improvements to Travis Air Force Base;

• construction of the North Connector, a new four-lane parkway to be located parallel to and just north of Interstate 80, between State Route 12 west and east; construction of the Turner Parkway Over crossing, which would connect Turner Parkway, located east of I-80, to Fairgrounds Drive, which is west of I-80;

• re-opening McGary Road and Regional bikeway, south of I-80 and connecting Red Top Road with the east end of the Solano Bikeway, which leads to Vallejo.

To meet matching fund requirements, the board will consider establishing a Regional Transportation Fund. The initial money for this fund would come from a $3 million loan from the county's general fund. This amount then would be repaid with interest through a proposed public facilities fee, which would be charged to new development throughout the county for transportation projects, according to staff.

Erin Pursell can be reached at county@thereporter.com.

Farms Are The Focus

Farms Are The Focus
Solano a stop on agriculture tour by officials who want to eradicate poverty in rural China
By SARAH ROHRS/Times-Herald staff writer

Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez, right, trades toasts with visiting Chinese dignitary Tang...
They want to lift their country's rural citizens out of poverty.

That's one reason a delegation of Chinese toured several Solano County's agriculture businesses Friday, and also talked to county officials about helping the poor and homeless.

Twenty-two visitors from eight Chinese provinces spent the day in Solano County - home to 554 farms - as part of a week-long visit to the United States, officials said. Today, they're scheduled to travel to Washington, D.C.

Most delegates come from China's Poverty Alleviation Office, a hierarchy of government agencies. A Bay Area office, ASM China Corporation, organized their American tour.

Speaking through San Francisco interpreter Allen Lu, delegate chairman Tang Buxin said the group wanted to see Solano County because "there are a great many agricultural products here, and very good development in the agriculture area." He is the Poverty Alleviation Office deputy director for the Chongquin Municipal Government.

Buxin added that delegates want to know more about U.S. agriculture policy, and use that knowledge in China to help "get rid of poverty in agricultural areas." He also said the group is interested in how agriculture can bolster economic development.

On their day-long tour, delegates visited the Mariani Fruit Packing Company in Vacaville, Hines Horticulture in Lagoon Valley, Ledgewood Creek Winery in Fairfield, and NRE World Bento in Fairfield which makes frozen Japanese box lunches and ships them to Japan.

The group also toured the Jelly Belly Factory to get a sampling of one of the county's more well-known businesses. Jelly Belly officials served them lunch, and Solano and Chinese officials exchanged gifts.

"We are very excited to have you here today," Jelly Belly vice president of finance Mary Jannisse said. "We're in Fairfield and we feel very close to farmers and agriculture here," she said to applause.

UC Cooperative Extension director Carole Paterson said Solano agriculture officials felt honored by the visit. The county is unique in that farms and agricultural business thrive in the midst of housing and urban developments, she said.

Before the tour, Solano agriculture commissioner Jearl Howard and county planner Birgitta Corsello gave brief reports on Solano's farms, and how government intends to protect and promote agriculture through zoning and land-use planning.

While the delegates toured Solano, efforts were underway in Sacramento to sign an agreement establishing a trade partnership between China and California with an emphasis on exporting wine, state Assemblyman Leland Yee office reported.

Fairfield Mayor Harry Price said Solano leaders are continually exploring new markets to export the county's agricultural products.

The agreement will create a trade office in the city of Shenyang, Liaoning Province, a manufacturing and commercial hub of northern China, said Stephen Green, a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.

Green said having an office in Shenyang will be "like having a chamber of commerce office for California in China.' Green said the office would help find partners for shippers wishing to import goods to California, and help exporters place their products.

Though Green is unsure how much money this partnership could generate, he said a similar office established in Bangkok, Thailand "has been able to get California wine and cheese into the equivalent of Asia's Wal-Mart."

Yee's office reports China is California's fourth largest trade partner behind Mexico, Japan, and Canada. California exported $7.85 billion in goods, services and agricultural commodities to China in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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

Ritzy Real Estate Set to Debut

Ritzy Real Estate Set to Debut
By Reporter Staff

More choices in local "executive" housing are on the horizon.

The sales center and model homes for a new, upscale Vacaville subdivision are scheduled to open next Saturday.

With a name invoking images associated with an exclusive St. Helena country club, the new community, called Meadowood, is located off Fruitvale Road, and is being developed by Pleasanton-based homebuilder DeNova Homes.

It will be DeNova's first foray into Vacaville's housing market, though the company has extensive experience in the area, having built Marina Estates at Glen Cove in Vallejo, as well as a collection of semi-custom homes in Napa's Browns Valley neighborhood, and numerous communities in the East Bay.

Meadowood will be comprised of 64 homes each built in diverse architectural styles, which the company characterizes as "Tuscan," "French Country," "Craftsman," and "Spanish."

Homes will range in size from 2,836 square feet to 4,220 square feet. Four- and five-bedroom floor plans will be available for the single- and two-story homes, the prices for which start in the upper $700,000 range.

Interior features will include ceramic tile in the entry, kitchen, and bathrooms, as well as dramatic volume ceilings, spacious family rooms with gas fireplaces, designer selected light fixtures, RG6 cable wiring to the family room and bedrooms, and Cat 5 phone wiring to the bedrooms and kitchen.

Homes will also feature gourmet kitchens with state-of-the-art appliances, oval soaking tubs in master suites, and numerous custom upgrade options for every room of the house.

A priority list has been started, which ensures interested parties will be contacted in appropriate order as Meadowood issues sales releases. Its first release is slated to coincide with its model homes' Oct. 28 grand opening.

For more information, visit www.denovahomes.com/meadowood.html.

The Solano EDC Receives Grant

The Solano Economic Development Corp. received a donation of $8,000 from Pacific Gas and Electric as parts of its efforts to promote local economic and community development. The money will be used for the organization's "Plant Your Business in Solano County" branding campaign.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

: "

Farms are the focus
Solano a stop on agriculture tour by officials who want to eradicate poverty in rural China
By SARAH ROHRS/Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald
Article Launched:10/21/2006 08:23:38 AM PDT
They want to lift their country's rural citizens out of poverty.

That's one reason a delegation of Chinese toured several Solano County's agriculture businesses Friday, and also talked to county officials about helping the poor and homeless.

Twenty-two visitors from eight Chinese provinces spent the day in Solano County - home to 554 farms - as part of a week-long visit to the United States, officials said. Today, they're scheduled to travel to Washington, D.C.

Most delegates come from China's Poverty Alleviation Office, a hierarchy of government agencies. A Bay Area office, ASM China Corporation, organized their American tour.

Speaking through San Francisco interpreter Allen Lu, delegate chairman Tang Buxin said the group wanted to see Solano County because 'there are a great many agricultural products here, and very good development in the agriculture area.' He is the Poverty Alleviation Office deputy director for the Chongquin Municipal Government.

Buxin added that delegates want to know more about U.S. agriculture policy, and use that knowledge in China to help 'get rid of povert"

Adobe Lumber pays $7M for Fairfield space - East Bay Business Times:

Adobe Lumber pays $7M for Fairfield space - East Bay Business Times:: "East Bay Business Times - October 16, 2006

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Adobe Lumber pays $7M for Fairfield space
East Bay Business Times - October 13, 2006
by Jessica Saunders

Adobe Lumber has paid $7 million for a 130,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution building vacated this year by fireplace accessory manufacturer Pilgrim Home & Hearth LLC.

The wood products and building supply company will occupy about 30,000 square feet of the building on 9.8 acres in Fairfield at 2400 Cordelia Road, as well as the property's secured yard.

Adobe plans to lease the remaining 100,000 square feet, said Brooks Pedder, managing partner for Colliers International in Fairfield, who represented Adobe Lumber along with Colliers Managing Partner Phil Garrett.

John Troughton, senior director of Cushman & Wakefield, said the building was not included in the 2005 sale of Pilgrim for $4.75 million to SilkRoad Resources LLC, a private equity firm in Palo Alto, and Triton Pacific Capital Partners LLC. Instead, Pilgrim's former owners kept the property and looked for another buyer. Troughton and Matt Bracco represent"

Friday, October 20, 2006

"It's a Drill, Not for Real" large-scale disaster drill planned for Solano County

Printable Page: "It's a Drill, Not for Real
Written for the web by C. Johnson, Internet News Producer

Emergency officials are warning Solano County residents ahead of time about a large-scale disaster drill planned for Thursday.

The county's Office of Emergency Services and other county and law enforcement agencies will participate with Travis Air Force Base in a mock crash of a C-5 at 'Rush Ranch' off of Grizzly Island Road south of Highway 12. The exercise will also include the detonation of smoke bombs. The emergency response drill will be conducted from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The purpose of the drill is to test and evaluate the emergency response capabilities of agencies in Solano County. The exercise will involve multiple casualties and significant destruction of the aircraft.

Those monitoring and evaluating the drill will gauge operational effectiveness and communication among responding agencies.

The county says some 300 people will be part of the exercise, as well as 90 Travis personnel who will pose as crash victims.

The last time a drill of this size was conducted in the county with the air force base was 1998.

Created: 10/18/2006 2:16:21 PM

Updated: 10/18/2006 4:35:24 PM


Asia trade strains port / New U.S. maritime chief pays a visit to Oakland, where bustling traffic points to need for expansion

Asia trade strains port / New U.S. maritime chief pays a visit to Oakland, where bustling traffic points to need for expansion: " click here
SF Gate Return to regular view
Asia trade strains port
New U.S. maritime chief pays a visit to Oakland, where bustling traffic points to need for expansion
- David Armstrong, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

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Driven by surging trade with Asia that is approaching double-digit growth this year, the Port of Oakland -- one of the country's prime gateways for ocean shipping to and from Asia -- is feeling a new sense of urgency about development projects that it hopes will expand its capacity to handle all that new business.

On Tuesday, port officials got the ear of someone who might be able to help them realize their growth plans: Sean Connaughton, the newly appointed administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration.

Connaughton, a Coast Guard veteran and lawyer who has been in his post six weeks, stopped by Oakland on a get-acquainted tour of the nation's 10 busiest ports, a day after visiting Los Angeles/Long Beach and a day before jetting off to Seattle/Tacoma.

Oakland, easily "
: "

Helping Homeless Vets
Three-day Stand Down offers a 'hand up'
By Erin Pursell/Staff Writer
Article Launched:10/18/2006 06:44:35 AM PDT
Northern California homeless veterans received a helping hand up Tuesday.

A flag raising and Jimmy Hendrix's rendition of 'The Star Spangled Banner' marked the opening ceremony of the North Bay Stand Down's fifth annual 'A hand up, not a handout' event at the Dixon May Fair grounds.

More than 250 homeless veterans and their families were bused to the site for three days of hot meals, medical care, and camaraderie.

'Our motto is 'hand up,' not 'hand out' because we want to reach out and help these guys out of the gutter,' said North Bay Stand Down chairman Patrick Stasio. 'It's all about helping get the veterans reintegrated into society as best we can.'

The Stand Down, a homeless veterans advocacy group event, boasts a comprehensive array of services. Key contributors, including the Veterans Administration and Solano County Health and Social Services, help to enable everything from medical and dental care to legal counseling and career advising on-site.

'It's a conglomeration of everyone coming together and providing the services these veterans need,' Stasio said, noting that the Solano County Board of Supervisors also made a $5,000"

Report: California biotech booming, but fragile - Sacramento Business Journal:

Report: California biotech booming, but fragile - Sacramento Business Journal:: "Sacramento Business Journal - October 20, 2006

Business News - Local News
New benefit for print subscribers! Click here to learn more…
Report: California biotech booming, but fragile
Sacramento Business Journal - 2:02 PM PDT Friday

California remains the hot spot for biotechnology businesses, which employed almost 260,000 people in 2005, according to a report issued Thursday.

The California Healthcare Institute report, compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the field of biotech, which includes diagnostic companies and medical device makers, reported about $62 billion in revenue last year for the state. It is the second largest among technology industries in the state, the report said, citing statistics from the state labor department.

And of the about $5.9 billion in venture capital poured into the field, nearly half went to companies in California, many of them developing drugs to fight diseases such as cancer, diabetes and arthritis.

In addition, about $3.6 billion in National Institutes of Health grants went to California scientists in fiscal year 2004, the report found.

'California's biomedical industry is a vital and growing component of our state's high-tech economy"

State, local unemployment rates drop slightly - Sacramento Business Journal:

State, local unemployment rates drop slightly - Sacramento Business Journal:: "Sacramento Business Journal - October 20, 2006

Business News - Local News
New benefit for print subscribers! Click here to learn more…
State, local unemployment rates drop slightly
Sacramento Business Journal - 1:46 PM PDT Friday

The return of the school year helped lower unemployment in the Sacramento region, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department. The four-county area added nearly 16,000 jobs year-over-year.

The state unemployment rate, adjusted for seasonal variations such as the start of the school year, was 4.8 percent in September, down from 4.9 percent in August. Greater Sacramento unemployment dipped to 4.2 percent in September, down from 4.4 percent in August and a year ago. The local numbers were not adjusted for seasonal varations; the equivalent statewide rate without adjustments was 4.6 percent.

By county, unemployment figures (not seasonally adjusted) were 3.8 percent in El Dorado, 3.6 percent in Placer, 4.4 percent in Sacramento and 4.0 percent in Yolo.

Overall for the month, the region netted 3,000 more jobs, a seasonal rebound after two consecutive months of net declines. That gave the region an increase of 15,900 jobs,"

Biotech Still Homes in on California

Biotech Still Homes in on California
Report Touts State's Biotech Even as Profits Remain Elusive.
By Paul Elias/AP Biotechnology Writer

SAN FRANCISCO - California remained biotechnology's favorite place of business last year as other states unsuccessfully tried to woo a disease-fighting industry that has yet to turn a profit, according to a report issued Thursday by an industry booster.

The California Healthcare Institute found that biotech, broadly defined to include diagnostic companies and makers of medical equipment and devices, accounted for $62 billion in revenue in the state last year. The report didn't say how much the industry lost in that time.

Nearly half of the $5.9 billion in venture capital invested in the industry nationwide flowed to California companies. Many of the companies are developing so-called biological drugs to combat such diseases as cancer, diabetes and arthritis. These biological drugs are often derived from genetically engineered microbes, rather than chemicals used in traditional pharmaceuticals.

California scientists also landed $3.6 billion in National Institutes of Health grants in fiscal year 2004, the report found.

"California's biomedical industry is a vital and growing component of our state's high-tech economy," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a foreword to the report.

With the average salary rising to $70,400 from $60,000 a decade ago, Florida, Arizona and other states have put biotechnology atop their economic development lists.

Yet, for all its prestige, biotechnology remains an unprofitable, niche industry that analysts said can't single-handedly boost a sagging economy. Despite being home to 2,700 companies, most employ fewer than 100 workers.

With 260,000 of California's 15 million workers, it's a bigger employer than the aerospace, movie and computer industries individually but smaller than the labor force in government, manufacturing and services.

Open at Last!

Open at Last!
Family Park Debut a Link To The Past
By Amanda Janis/Business Editor

A bird's-eye view of Vacaville's Nut Tree Family Park from the top of the Harvest express rollercoaster is shown. (Ryan Chalk/The Reporter)

"Can we ride it again, Mom?"

That plea, along with a "pretty please" and maybe even some sugar on top, is bound to echo throughout the Nut Tree Family Park today as it celebrates its long-awaited grand opening.

The 3.7-acre amusement park and its smattering of kiddie rides represent a small sliver of a larger, 76-acre redevelopment project spearheaded by Larkspur-based Snell&Co. But of the restaurants, shops, and offices that will gradually populate the project, it has the tallest order to fill - to connect the present with the past.

Through re-creations, refurbishments and even refreshments, the admission-free Family Park pays homage to the original Nut Tree and its nearly 80-year history.

Harbison House, the Nut Tree founders' 1907 home, sits at the heart of the park and will function as a museum, post-restoration.

"It's going to look the same on the outside," noted Roy Moehrke, who worked for the Nut Tree's design and retail departments for more than three decades. And, he added, people will recognize the ticket booth as the Nut Tree's old ice cream pavilion, as well as a new stable of hobby horses and the restored Engine No. 5 steam engine replica and its train circling the park.

"There's going to be a lot of people saying it isn't what it was, but it can't be," Moehrke said. "It just can't be. Anytime you bring something back it won't be the same."

Carol Yount, another veteran Nut Tree employee, agreed. But, she said, "This new project is exciting, and it's going to be fun."

The train in particular will spark nostalgia, she said.

"If you're out there when that train comes around that little bend, people are going to start telling stories - their Nut Tree stories," Yount predicted. "It's going to just rekindle all those memories, just seeing that train."

The park is effectively "bringing back a very important part of California history," said its Operations Manager John Mann, who served previously as deputy director and chief operating officer for the San Francisco Zoo.

Family Park visitors can expect "a fantastic time," Mann said. "We want to offer a wonderful family experience that is multi-generational."

Also noteworthy, he said, is "you can spend nothing if you want, or as much as you like. We're not saying you have to pay to play." Riding the hobby horses and enjoying the grounds, for example, cost nothing.

But for those who will be opening their wallets, expect to pay anywhere from two to four tickets, or $1.70 to $3.40, per ride, per person. Packages of 10 and 20 tickets can be purchased for $8.50 and $17, respectively, or an unlimited ride wristband costs $16.95 per person. There's also a family special: $39.99 buys 50 ride tickets and 20 redemption game tokens for the games building. Charter memberships, which include a season pass, are also available online, at the park, or at Nugget Markets.

Though some locals have balked at the costs, Mann contends it's a good value for the entertainment dollar. "I think it's very reasonable given other amusement venues," he said.

Attendance at the park is expected to be high, due to the sheer volume of traffic along Interstate 80, said Snell&Co.'s Lori Cowen, the Family Park's project manager. Hopefully, she said, people will stop, shop, dine and play at the new Nut Tree.

"This is truly a destination for all generations," she said. "We are extremely proud and very happy to share this project with the public," she said of the Family Park. Despite weather setbacks that delayed its opening two months, she said, "It has exceeded our expectations."

In an e-mail to The Reporter, developer Roger Snell noted his company is "thrilled to develop this exciting new California landmark. We look forward to the new Nut Tree creating generations of fun."

The Nut Tree Family Park is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday to Sunday.

Amanda Janis can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

Solano's Got It!

Solano's Got It!
The Best That Northern California Has To Offer.

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