Sunday, February 18, 2007

Solano County enjoyed a remarkable - and record-breaking - burst of economic activity during the final quarter of 2006

Where the action is
Final quarter numbers show market rebound

By John Ireland and Amanda Janis/Reporter Staff
Article Launched:02/17/2007 07:17:38 AM PST

Welcome to Boom Town. Solano County enjoyed a remarkable - and record-breaking - burst of economic activity during the final quarter of 2006, thanks largely to increased activity in industrial/office park absorption.

Case in point: Colliers International brokers reported that commercial realty leasing activity totaled about 2.5 million square feet during the final three months of 2006. Considering that's more square feet than Colliers usually leases in the course of a single year, Solano County may be becoming "the" place to be when it comes to industrial/commercial location.

"This is the most economic activity we have seen in Solano County in the last three years," said Michael Amman, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation (SEDC).

"That kind of activity in such a short time is incredible," said Brooks Pedder, managing partner with the Colliers office in Solano County and SEDC board chairman. "I think we have bucked the trend to a certain extent. We have some pent-up demand on both the office park side and the industrial side."

Pedder suggested this is an indication that market migration, which stalled soon after 9/11, is now enjoying a healthy rebound.

The companies that took large chunks of office, research, or industrial space in the October-December, 2006 period came primarily from the East Bay or San Mateo County, according to Pedder. He said the deals included relocations by Encore Glass, Home Depot, Ashley Furniture, Owens-Illinois, Alsco, Oakhills Hardwood, Checkers Moving and Cole Supply.

In Fairfield, the projects included Saint-Gobain Containers' 1.02-million-square-foot warehouse on Stanford Court, and the series of buildings put up by Panattoni Development at Beck Avenue and Cordelia Road.

"In the commercial area, the economy is still doing well, so we have companies looking to expand," said Sean Quinn, the director of Fairfield's Department of Planning and Development.

Mike Palombo, Vacaville's Economic Development Manager, said his city's most successful recruitment in 2006 was the 430,000-square-foot State Compensation Insurance Fund office campus.

"What makes that significant, in addition to its size and employment opportunities, is that it represents a breakthrough for (Vacaville) in order to attract outside users," said Palombo. "This shows to the rest of the Bay Area that Vacaville is at least considered an office area by a significant player."

Location was cited as the crucial factor in the recent boom.

"We will always be in demand for companies who like to be in the center of their customer base," said Amalia Lorentz, Benicia's Economic Development Manager. "We're between Sacramento and San Francisco and, if you serve those areas, you have to be close to your customers and clients."

"A lot of companies which have moved here are following their employees," Quinn explained. "They can afford houses here, as opposed to other communities in the Bay Area."

Another significant factor in the county's financial up-tick is how its sister communities have been on the same page when it comes to being aggressive in their business transactions.

"One of the advantages Solano County has is how the cities work together to attract business, instead of working against each other," Quinn said. "It helps."

George Avalos, of the Contra Costa Times, contributed to this report. John Ireland can be reached at

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