Friday, January 26, 2007

Upbeat Assessment of Solano's Economy at Meeting

Upbeat Assessment of Solano's Economy at Meeting
By Ines Bebea

FAIRFIELD - The economic future of Solano County looks promising.

That was the message at the 24th annual meeting of the Solano Economic Development Corporation on Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn. It was attended by more than 300 business executives, politicians, and county and city representatives.

"Solano County is the place to be when it comes to growth and development," said Michael Ammann, Solano EDC president. "We believe transportation is key to the future."

According to Ammann, the county's population is expected to grow by 39 percent by 2035, giving it the highest growth rate in the Bay Area.

Solano County has seen growth in all of its cities. Gymboree is expected to conclude a 150,000-square-foot expansion in Dixon, Fairfield will develop 775,000 square feet of new office space, Rio Vista annexed the former U.S. Army Reserve Center, Suisun City will build a new library, Vacaville could gain 3,000 new jobs from Kaiser Permanente and Genentech, and Vallejo will maximize the potential of Mare Island and its downtown.

"The past year saw a lot of development, and 2007 will continue our prosperity," said Ammann.

As the featured speaker for the sold-out crowd, Dan Walters, a political columnist with the Sacramento Bee - whose work appears in the Daily Republic - did not disappoint.

"The jury is still out on whether Arnold (Schwarzenegger) can be a successful governor, and whether California it self can be governed," he said.

Walters shed some light into the political and economic climate of California and colorfully characterized the re-elected governor as a dominant, aggressive, take-no-prisoners personality who wants to win at any cost.

"Looking at his track record as a bodybuilder and how he changed that industry, his success in becoming an action hero and a recognizable Hollywood personality all over the world, you can see that he wants to succeed in anything he tries," he said.

Walters discussed the defeat of Schwarzenegger's initiatives in the 2006, his subsequent apologies to the voters, and then his reaching out to Democrats as an example of a man willing to change his strategy to find success.

"It would be a stretch to call him an actor," he said to the amused crowd. "What he did was play different roles during his career."

Walters wondered about the governor's ability to solve the state's growing pains. According to Walters, California has grown from 22 million in the mid-1970s to 37 million. That growth put a half-million additional vehicles on the road each year although the state has not added to the highway system for at least 30 years. In addition, 500,000 jobs need to be created and 200,000 units of housing built each year to meet the needs of a rapidly growing state.

"We haven't had renewed infrastructure since the 1970s when Jerry Brown said that California would not grow," he said. "Our infrastructure needs improvement at every level."

Reach Ines Bebea at 427-6934 or

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