Monday, January 29, 2007

Top Business Exec Predicts a Solid Future

Top Business Exec Predicts a Solid Future
Solano Can't Help But Grow
By Amanda Janis/Business Editor

Solano County's positive economic growth will continue in the near future, according to the county's top economic development chief and new findings from a Bay Area planning agency.

In his 'state of the county' type address, Michael Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp., outlined 2006 progress he predicts will continue into 2007.

"When you're the middle point between two rapidly growing Northern California markets, you're going to grow, too," Ammann told more than 300 local political and business leaders recently gathered at an annual luncheon sponsored by the Solano EDC.

"We've taken care of business here," he said, launching into a synopsis of the county's economic report card.

Travis Air Force Base - a major economic engine for the region - is safe and secure, having escaped the military base closure list last year, Ammann said. And the much-heralded addition of 13 new C-17 cargo aircraft is just part of a $100 million investment the Pentagon is making at Travis, he noted.

Ammann also pointed to the increasingly low unemployment rate for residents - hovering at 4.5 percent - as proof of Solano's superlative economic health at a time when many other regions of the state and nation are showing signs of economic distress. In the past year alone, more than 2,300 jobs were added in Solano County, according to the state's Employment Development Department.

That translates to a 1.8 percent job growth rate, matching Santa Clara County's and outpacing the rest of the region's 1.6 percent rate, according to a recently released report by the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Solano should continue to grow at a moderate pace, said Paul Fassinger, an economist and research director for the agency.

"We expect to see the county add 2,000 jobs this year and about 1,800 jobs in 2008," Fassinger said. The slightly lower projections for 2007 and 2008 can be attributed to the softening housing market, he said.

One market that isn't softening, however, is local business/industrial park real estate. Brooks Pedder, managing partner of Fairfield's Colliers International office and Solano EDC board chairman, told the audience at Thursday's Solano EDC luncheon that 2006 was record-breaking.

"In the last 90 days of the year, in business parks throughout the county, there were transactions that totaled about 3 million square feet," said Pedder. "We only have a business park market that's approximately 24 million square feet total, so in 90 days, 10 percent of our market turned over - which has never before been seen in our marketplace."

Additional successes highlighted by Ammann include:

• Kaiser Permanente's $1 billion investment in a new hospital, the groundbreaking of a 430,000 square foot office campus, and partial completion of the Nut Tree development in Vacaville.

• Development of new retail parks and continued construction on the new high school in Dixon.

• Construction of two hotels and office condos, as well as land purchases by NorthBay Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, and Copart in Green Valley Corporate Park.

• Groundbreaking on Suisun City waterfront's redevelopment centerpiece, Harbor Square, which will add 34,500 square feet of retail, residential, restaurant and office space.

• Expansion of Touro University, Kaiser Permanente, and Sutter Solano Cancer Center in Vallejo.

• An 18 percent year-over-year sales tax revenue increase in Benicia, as well as $20 million-worth of investment and expansion in the Benicia Industrial Park.

• Annexation of the former U.S. Army Reserve Center and plans to create a 10-acre research center in Rio Vista.

The Times-Herald, Vallejo contributed to this report. Amanda Janis can be reached at

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