Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Group Brainstorms For Solano's Economy

Group Brainstorms For Solano's Economy
By Shelly Meron/Business Writer

About 150 business owners, local government officials and other stake-holders gathered Tuesday for the second Solano Economic Summit in Fairfield.

The event brought together those concerned about the economic future of Solano County and what it will look like decades from now.

"We are in a very tough global competition," said Dan Iacofano of MiG Inc., who helped moderate the event.

The summit broke up participants into four groups: workforce development, education and training; business retention, recruitment, marketing and promotion; collaborative planning and leadership; and quality of life and infrastructure development. Each group brainstormed its topic in terms of concerns and possible projects that could address those issues.

Those in the workforce development, education and training group discussed putting together a student summit, and how to better prepare students for the work force. Some said there needed to be more focus on science and technology, while others said students should be able to get training in skilled trades.

"Students in the trades are not being encouraged to move in that direction," said Gerry Fisher, interim president and superintendent of Solano Community College. Fisher added that more information needed to be given to parents and students about this option.

Those at the business retention, recruitment, marketing and promotion group said they wanted to find out why businesses left Solano County or folded, and wanted a way for the county to measure its successes. Others said they wanted to see more collaboration between large corporations and smaller local businesses.

"The basis of every healthy region is small business," said Steve Lessler of Lessler Group. "We could do a lot more to encourage big businesses - like Genentech or Travis Air Force Base - to do business more with local goods and services providers."

Others in the group discussed alternative energy innovations and better marketing of tourism opportunities in the county.

The collaborative planning group discussed coming up with a county-wide plan to attract new businesses to the area, streamlining regulatory processes, and working with state and federal agencies on issues like seismic safety, energy efficiency, and the health of the delta. They also discussed putting a convention center and sports complex in the county to attract out-of-town visitors.

"I was glad to see tourism discussed," said Antonette Eckert, executive director of the Vacaville Conference and Visitors Bureau. "We need to understand how many people come here, how long they stay, how much they spend. If we knew that, we could identify opportunities that we can go after."

The quality of life and infrastructure group discussed expanding youth services, including after-school and weekend activities; maintaining natural spaces; developing public transportation; and coming up with a countywide tourism marketing plan.

Mike Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, said some of the ideas would be easier to implement than others, but the group was "ready to take it on."

Although some disagreements did surface, many at the summit said they felt that coming together and discussing ideas was a step in the right direction.

"We're past what we want to do, and on to how we want to do it," said Mike Reagan, chairman of the Solano County Board of Supervisors. "This is going to take a long-term effort."

Shelly Meron can be reached at

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