Thursday, May 17, 2007

Vacaville Revives VIP Day, A Development Sales Pitch

Vacaville Revives VIP Day, A Development Sales Pitch
By Jennifer Gentile/Staff Writer

The Nut Tree Family Park was the backdrop Wednesday for the triumphant return of a very important local event, which drew more than 200 VIPs - top developers, real estate executives and other professionals from throughout the region.

Vacaville once again showcased its assets during the first VIP Day in a decade. Professionals from Sacramento to the Bay Area were invited to mingle with their peers and local leaders while learning about growth and development opportunities in the city.

Mayor Len Augustine extended the official welcome and said he is proud of Vacaville's economic vitality. He explained that one of the city's goals is to support business.

"If I start talking about Vacaville, I could go on all day," Augustine said. "So many things are happening, it's hard to explain everything."

Event chair Patsy Van Ouwerkerk said the theme of the day was "get connected to success," referring to the networking opportunities the occasion provided. VIP Day drew a variety of business representatives, from familiar names to visitors whose only prior contact with Vacaville was blowing by on the freeway.

Alan Wulff of local business Wulff Electric, said, "I commend the city of Vacaville for providing this kind of environment. This is an opportunity to promote our services to local businesses and to potential new businesses coming into the Vacaville area."

Lori Coleman, project manager with Nut Tree developer Snell and Company, exclaimed, "we're tremendously excited that we've had such a positive turnout. Many people don't know the Nut Tree has returned, and this gives us a chance to show off our asset."

A bus tour that followed breakfast hit all local points of interest, traveling through the city's commercial and industrial areas. Along the way, guides pointed out the sites of projects like the Genentech expansion, Opportunity Hill, Kaiser Hospital and State Compensation Insurance Fund, as well as established assets like Town Square, the Factory Stores and Lagoon Valley.

Tour guide and Economic Development Director Mike Palombo explained the significance of the sites, like the 7 million visitors that the factory stores draw to the city each year and the more than 400,000 square feet of office space the State Fund site will add to Vacaville. Along the way, he shared details about vacant land and commercial and industrial space available to businesses.

A. Marie Young, a member of the Solano Community College Governing Board, said the tour was her first venture into the interior of the city. Before Wednesday, she said she was not aware how many businesses were in the area and how much growth had occurred.

"After the tour, I see that Vacaville, if you've got a business, is the place to come," Young said. "Vacaville has the kind of businesses you can't find in other cities in Solano County."

The day ended with a luncheon, which featured guest speaker Luis Belmonte of Seven Hills Properties. Belmonte told the assembly that there were only three periods when "the world acted as a single economic unit." These were the height of the Roman and British empires and the present.

"The absolute cutting edge of the economic universe is right here," he said, referring to the Bay Area region. However, he added, "this is a precarious mountain top we're on."

Speaking to the importance of the biotechnology industry, Belmonte said, "(biotech) has the potential to change the way we live" and suggested its role in solving the health care crisis. Touching on the issue of global warming and alternative energy, he mentioned that the country imports 14 million barrels of oil per day.

"We are not going to achieve energy independence," he said, but added that the country could diversify its energy sources.

The speaker also decried the "regulatory gridlock" that obstructs construction of affordable housing and stressed the need to advocate for free trade "all day, every day."

"This perch is in no way, shape or form guaranteed," he said. "We're going to have to take some action."

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at

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