Thursday, July 26, 2007

Experts: County Hot Spot For Businesses Looking To Expand

Experts: County Hot Spot For Businesses Looking To Expand
By Ines Bebea

FAIRFIELD - Solano County has what growing companies are seeking: available land. Industry experts on Wednesday explored the county's growth potential in a panel discussion hosted by the Solano Economic Development Corporation.

With the county linking Sacramento and San Francisco, the experts agreed that Solano will continue to see a migration of companies looking to expand or relocate. But they also stressed the supply of land will not be available for long.

"The migration of Bay Area companies to Solano County picked up in the fourth quarter of 2006 after a period of cooling off," said Brooks Pedder, a managing partner with Colliers International in Fairfield. "The migration will continue because we have land and at affordable prices compared to other areas. This will give us an opportunity to attract more research centers that will bring high paying jobs to the county."

According to Pedder, the county's proximity to large universities in Davis and Berkeley makes its prime location for research facilities. Companies such as Genentech, Gymboree and NorthBay are already working on expansion projects.

The problem, Pedder pointed out, is that available land for new facilities will run out in the next three to five years.

"In the future, we will decide where our next research location will be," he said. "But now bringing those research centers, like Genentech in Dixon, translates to the high paying jobs that we wanted. Hopefully we can become a cluster for facilities like that."

In the retail segment of the real estate market, Solano County continues to see growth throughout the seven cities, with companies such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Longs Drugs showing interest, said Jim Shepherd, a sales associate in the Walnut Creek office of Cornish & Carey.

"Although rents are rising in the market, we will not experience a slowdown," Shepherd said. "In retail, everyone is still building. This means that land prices are going up. But Solano County is in a good position."

Solano County's economy is also vulnerable to other factors. As the world continues to shrink economic borders, the county will compete with foreign countries attracting manufacturing facilities and commercial real estate.

"Brazil, Russia, China and India are emerging economies that are attracting a lot of capital," said Jose McNeill, founder of McNeill Real Estate Services. "Those countries are attracting manufacturing plants, commercial space and the materials needed by builders.

"The biggest obstacle for Solano County is infrastructure. The emerging countries are building infrastructure faster."

McNeill added that if the county cannot meet companies' land and infrastructure needs, it will lose the opportunity to attract them here.

"We have ready land, great weather and a great location, in addition to a lot of support for the business community," he said. "We need to train people locally so that they can perform the jobs in the manufacturing and the research sector, for when those jobs come here."

In closing, Solano EDC President Michael Ammann summarized the panel's objective.

"We have value and product," Amman said. "We have buildings and people ready to work.

"We are in a good place where companies are starting to not only know about Solano County, but also recognizing it."

Reach Ines Bebea at 427-6934 or

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