Friday, November 17, 2006

Big Business Deals Head to Vacaville

Big Business Deals Head to Vacaville
Health care, workers' comp and biotech companies could swell the job ranks by 3,500 when the dust settles
By George Avalos

Vacaville is evolving into a significant job hub, with an insurance giant, health care titan, and biotech dynamo planning relocations or expansions in the Solano County city.

State Compensation Insurance Fund confirmed Thursday it will move hundreds of workers to a Vacaville land site the workers' comp carrier has bought near the intersection of highways 80 and 505.

Separately, State Fund has begun to occupy a three-building campus that it bought from Cisco Systems in Pleasanton. About 900 State Fund workers will occupy that site on Owens Drive in Hacienda Business Park, said James Zelinski, a State Fund spokesman.

Most of the employees who will wind up at these new job sites are moving from San Francisco.

All told, decisions by State Fund, Kaiser Permanente and Genentech Corp. to move to that triangle could mean 3,500 new jobs for Vacaville, according to Mike Palombo, the city's economic development manager.

"A number of projects will be going on at the same time here," Palombo said. "This means a lot of jobs for Vacaville."

The employees will work in a triangle bounded by Interstate 80, Interstate 505 and Vaca Valley Parkway:

• State Fund is adding 1,200 employees at a 32-acre site it has purchased in Vacaville. Construction of buildings should begin in 2007 and the first employees could move there in 2008. A city official said it's possible up to 2,000 State Fund workers could move to the site.

• Kaiser Permanente is building a full-fledged medical center in that location, a city official said. The health care provider's plans include a 150-bed hospital and a big medical office complex, said Palombo. About 1,500 Kaiser jobs are expected there, Palombo estimated. The hospital is expected to be opened in 2009.

• Genentech Corp. is planning a new phase of its biomedical manufacturing plant. About 750 Genentech workers are there now and 1,500 in all are expected to be employed at the location when the project is complete in 2009 or 2010, Palombo said.

State Fund's expansions in Pleasanton and Vacaville will mean fewer employees in San Francisco for the workers' comp carrier, although State Fund will retain its headquarters in the City by the Bay, said James Zelinski, a State Fund spokesman.

Plus, some Fairfield employees will also shift to Vacaville and some Oakland workers to Pleasanton.

The insurer has about 1,800 San Francisco workers at present. After the offices are fully staffed in Pleasanton and Vacaville, State Fund is expected to have 900 employees in San Francisco.

"The types of jobs in Vacaville will include information technology, call center, claims adjusting and claims processing," Zelinski said. "In Pleasanton, we will have underwriting, auditing, claims adjusting, bill paying and some legal positions."

Vacaville dangled financial incentives to land State Fund, California's largest workers' comp provider. Through a system of credits for development fees, the incentives the city is providing to State Fund amount to $350,000 a year for five years for the first phase of the project. Future construction phases could trigger additional annual credits, Palombo said.

State Fund eventually will build 430,000 square feet of prime office space in Vacaville, including 264,000 in the first phase. Sandy Person, vice president of the Solano County Economic Development Corp., said the State Fund project would be the largest nonmedical office park in Vacaville. Person said she believes State Fund will help broaden the city's economic mix.

What's more, additional jobs could head into the vicinity. Vacaville has 165 acres that remain vacant in that triangle.

"All communities want diversity in their economic base," Person said. "Vacaville had been thought to be too far up the I-80 Corridor to be a major location for offices. State Fund will give Vacaville more credibility as an office center."

George Avalos covers the economy, jobs, financial markets, insurance and banks. You can reach him at 925-977-8477 or

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