Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Biotech Behemoth Leads Vacaville Boom

Biotech Behemoth Leads Vacaville Boom
Genentech expands cell-culture plant; Kaiser builds 142-bed hospital
East Bay Business Times - February 23, 2007
by Jessica Saunders

The Genentech campus in Vacaville, when completed by 2009, will be the world’s largest cell-culture biotech plant. The first phase of the project opened in 1998.

Once best known for the Nut Tree and outlet stores, Vacaville is developing a new identity - as a biotech center.

The city owes its new identity to Genentech Inc., which is creating the world's largest cell-culture biotechnology manufacturing plant, a $1.2 billion, 807,000-square-foot facility with a production capacity of 344,000 liters. The facility, located at Vaca Valley Business Park, will be completed by 2009.

Vacaville, the northern Solano County town of 96,395, began its evolution when Genentech, the global biotechnology leader and maker of cancer treatments such as Herceptin, Avastin and Rituxan, opened a production facility there in 1998. Now the city is among locations worldwide considered for new drug plants. "In the world of biotech manufacturing we are a place to be looked at," said Mike Palombo, the city's economic development manager.

And it's not just biotechnology that's growing in Vacaville. In the same area - the so-called "triangle" formed by the intersection of interstates 80 and 505 - Kaiser Permanente is building a 142-bed hospital and a second medical office building, and the State Compensation Insurance Fund has broken ground for a five-building, 434,375-square-foot office complex that will be the city's largest. The new Nut Tree shopping center is open, Solano Community College wants to expand its Vacaville campus, and hundreds of new homes are under construction.

Many factors drive boom

What's driving the boom is the relatively cheap cost of land, affordable housing, a skilled labor force and proximity to the Bay Area. Commercial real estate experts also point to relatively short commute times and low unemployment and crime rates.

In a crowded field of commercial development in Vacaville, Genentech's 380,000-square-foot expansion of its manufacturing facility, which already looms along Interstate 505, is the clear standout. The project, announced in April 2004, was begun to meet a growing demand for existing and future drugs. Genentech chose to expand in Vacaville to leverage the staff and assets already there, and because its strong relationships with state and local governments gave it a "significant timing advantage for increasing our production," according to an e-mail from a company spokesperson.

The new plant, CCP2 (cell culture plant two), will house eight bioreactors, each with a 25,000-liter capacity, which is about double the typical bioreactor size and the largest in the industry. Contractors used three-dimensional computer modeling to plan how to ship the outsized, highly polished stainless-steel tanks and get them into place, said Steve Zoeller, principal project manager, project engineering. The plant is also "base-isolated," so it will roll during earthquakes.

The expansion adds 200,000 liters of capacity to the 144,000 liters produced by the existing CCP1, a 427,000-square-foot plant that opened in 1998 and was licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May 2000. According to industry research by Genentech, the total 344,000 liters that will be available upon licensing of CCP2 makes the Vacaville plant "by far" the largest facility of this type in the world, said Frank Jackson, vice president and general manager of Vacaville operations for Genentech. The next closest is an Amgen Inc. plant in Rhode Island.

The expansion will add about 575 employees to the more than 700 on-site as of November 2006.

The construction project - led by DPR Construction Inc. and involving 120 companies, contractors and vendors - has taken 1,300 workers 3.1 million work hours, required 2,800 truckloads of concrete and 12,000 tons of steel, and included the installation of 13,000 instruments.

"It is an incredibly complex facility, and it has to be because of the requirements of the process," said Karen Brockwell, CCP2 client team leader.

The plant will produce bulk liquid drugs that are shipped to another site for portioning into individual doses, packaging and labeling. In addition to Avastin, Herceptin and Rituxan, the Vacaville plant also produces Xolair for asthma patients, with production varying each year.

Construction of CCP2 is expected to be completed in June, about three years since ground was broken in the third quarter of 2004. After that, the company begins the roughly 24-month licensing process.

Prior to licensing, manufacturing facilities undergo periods of startup and validation. The plant will produce qualification batches of product and then submit an FDA filing for licensure. Company officials said they expect the facility to be licensed in the second half of 2009.

Kaiser building hospital

Less than a mile away, Kaiser Permanente is working on a 142-bed hospital with an emergency department, maternity services and all private rooms, scheduled to open in April 2009, along with a second medical office building due to open in late 2008, according to Senior Vice President Deborah Romer, Kaiser Permanente's area manager for Napa and Solano counties. The expansion is expected to add 1,500 jobs.

Kaiser membership in the two-county area is at 250,000 people and continuing to grow, with Vacaville and Fairfield representing the fastest-growing cities within that region. Romer said Kaiser estimates the new hospital will serve 50 percent of its membership in Napa and Solano counties.

The growth in membership includes many young families, so maternity services are an important aspect of the expansion, she said.

The new office building will provide space for up to 60 specialists in services that include gastroenterology, orthopedics, cardiology and general surgery, along with an ambulatory surgery center. The existing office building, which opened in 1996, houses primary-care services such as pediatrics; obstetrics and gynecology; occupational health and mental health; and ear, nose and throat surgery.

Hospitals designed by template

Vacaville is one of four areas where Kaiser is building new hospitals. The others are Antioch, Modesto and Irvine. All were built using a template design - a common set of architectural features customized to reflect each facility's square footage and number of beds - thus saving months in the approval process by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, Romer said.

Partly because of the success of the template project, Kaiser is considering establishing a common design for all its new hospitals. In addition to saving time, it would allow for a common "identity and experience" for hospital patients and visitors, Romer said. "We are looking at that much more closely."

Another project, the State Compensation Insurance Fund's first phase of its five-building complex, located between Kaiser and Genentech on a 32-acre site in Vaca Valley Business Park, is expected eventually to house 1,200 employees.

The nonprofit workers' compensation insurer in 2005 decided against expanding its headquarters in San Francisco and instead chose to build the new space it needed on cheaper land in Vacaville, spokesman Jim Zelinksi said. Its headquarters remain in San Francisco.

The first phase of the campus, three two-story buildings, is expected to be completed in 2008. The remaining buildings, also two stories tall, will be added by 2011. Among the functions to be housed at the site is State Compensation Insurance Fund's information technology division, including a data center for the secure storage of insurance information for 223,000 policyholders.

All the expansion in the area hasn't been lost on one of the Bay Area's biggest home builders. Concord-based Albert D. Seeno Construction Inc. is building 2,000 homes and apartments in the 880-acre North Village development, across Vaca Valley Parkway from Kaiser, State Fund and Genentech. It's expected to reach build-out in 10 years.

A Genentech employee, below, works inside the facility.

Genentech Inc.

Business: Biotechnology company
Headquarters: South San Francisco
Founded: 1975
Chairman & CEO: Arthur D. Levinson
Employees: 9,500
2006 Operating Revenue: $9.3 billion
2006 U.S. Product Sales: $7.2 billion
Address: 1 DNA Way, South San Francisco 94080
Phone: 650-225-1000
Web: www.gene.com

Kaiser Permanente

Business: Private nonprofit health care provider
Headquarters: Oakland
Founded: 1945
Chairman & CEO: George C. Halvorson
Employees: 148,884
Address: 1 Kaiser Plaza, Oakland 94612
Phone: 510-271-5800
Web: www.kaiserpermanente.org

State Compensation Insurance Fund

Business: Nonprofit workers' compensation insurer
Headquarters: San Francisco
Founded: 1914
President: J.C. Tudor
Employees: 10,500
2005 Assets: $21.6 million
Address: 1275 Market St., San Francisco 94103
Phone: 415-565-1234
Web: www.scif.com

jsaunders@bizjournals.com | 925-598-1427

Magna Set to Jockey on Downs

Magna Set to Jockey on Downs
Proponent prepares to propose changes to its masterplan for an ambitious racetrack project in Dixon.
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

Developers of a proposed horse racetrack and entertainment facility in Dixon say they are willing to make some changes before their plan heads to voters in April.
Ontario, Canada-based Magna Entertainment Corporation officials will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. today at the Chamber of Commerce office in the Dixon Train Station, 220 N. Jefferson St., to announce exactly what sort of changes they have in mind, company officials said Monday.

While details were few, Erin Lahane, campaign manager for "Don't Let Dixon Down" a pro-racetrack effort, said the proposed changes will impact things such as noise levels, traffic and will address concerns of local businesses and Campbell Soup, which has filed suit against the development.

They apparently are not, however, changes that would require the entire project to undergo a new review by city officials.

Lahane said Magna will be announcing new self-imposed "burdens" on its 260-acre Dixon Downs site off Pedrick Road, aimed at easing voter concerns.

"The changes will put restrictions on the usage of land," Lahane said, adding that they come as a result of a telephone survey and information gathered by campaign officials going door-to-door, listening to residents' concerns.

"The people had real concerns," Lahane said. "Their interests had to be taken into account. We want people to be comfortable with the project and we wanted to deal with this upfront."

The City Council approved the racetrack in October by a 4-1 vote. Since then, Dixon Ci- tizens for Quality Growth - opponents of the track - collected enough signatures to push a special election, scheduled for April 17.

"None of the new changes will change anything on the ballot," Lahane confirmed.

The "changes," however, seem to be causing more confusion, said Gail Preston, a member of Dixon Citizens for Quality Growth.

"I'm sure they are willing to do a lot of things now, that they weren't willing to do in the beginning," Preston said. "This is very, very late and it will only cause confusion."

The possibility of changes doesn't sit well with Preston and other members of the group.

He questioned why city staff didn't push for these "changes" to the project before now.

Cissie Perkins, also a member of Dixon Citizens for Quality Growth, agreed.

"The whole thing is just mind boggling," she said. "The best thing that can happen is that the racetrack doesn't come."

Melissa Murphy can be reached at dixon@thereporter.com.

State Yanks 80/680 Junction Off Funding List

State Yanks 80/680 Junction Off Funding List
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - California transportation officials on Monday dealt a potentially fatal blow to Solano County's efforts to start renovating the interstates 80 and 680 interchange with state bond money.

Staff for the California Transportation Commission released a revised, expanded list of projects recommended to get the bond money to relieve traffic congestion. The commission is to award $4.5 billion on Wednesday.

But the interchange - considered Solano County's biggest traffic bottleneck - is once again missing, just as it was from an earlier list released Feb. 16.

"You sure have to wonder what people are thinking," county Supervisor Jim Spering, a Solano Transportation Authority board member, said Monday.

Solano County did get a project added to the recommended bond money list: $56 million for Interstate 80 car-pool lanes from the interchange heading east through Fairfield and Vacaville.

"We got the segment we felt should come later, not first," Spering said. "First is the interstate 80 and 680 connector. That's the highest priority."

And both Solano and Napa counties are expected to get money to widen Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon from two lanes to four lanes. This segment is a major link between Napa and Fairfield.

The latest list recommends $95 million for the Highway 12 project, compared to $74 million on the earlier list. The remaining money for the $139-million project is to come from other sources.

The CTC will have the final word on awarding the state bond money. It has the power to overrule the staff recommendation and give money to the interchange.

"I don't see that happening," Spering said.

Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, said she was pleased that $56 million had been recommended for car-pool lanes but was disappointed that another $100 million wasn't recommended for the interchange project. She plans to personally lobby members of the commission before Wednesday's meeting.

"While I'm encouraged that the commission has responded to our efforts, I can't say I'm satisfied," she said Monday evening. "Unfortunately, this is not enough to complete enough of the improvements on the I-80/680 interchange. We are redoubling our efforts. I-80 is the only major east-west interstate in Northern California. It is critical to our region, and to all of California."

CTC Executive Director John Barna said Monday that he expects the commission to make some changes to the list, but not wholesale changes.

"I think we've identified the great majority of what's going to move forward after Wednesday," Barna said in a conference call with the media.

Fixing the entire interchange is to cost more than $1 billion. The STA asked for $150 million in bond money for an initial $243 million phase to renovate the connectors between the two freeways and Highway 12.

The CTC is awarding $4.5 billion targeted for congestion relief in a $20 billion transportation bond passed by state voters in November 2006. Various regions of the state submitted about $11 billion worth of requests.

Spering doesn't see interchange connector renovations coming from other categories of money in the bond.

CTC staff released its initial list Feb. 16, recommending the commission award only $2.8 billion initially and save the rest for a later date. That recommendation came under fire.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was among those who asked the commission to award to the full amount and to consider such projects as the interstates 80 and 680 interchange. Assemblywoman Lois Wolk asked the interchange be added.

CTC staff is now recommending spending the entire $4.5 billion for 50 projects statewide. But the interchange scored low on a list of criteria it used to rate each project.

Spering said one reason might be that commission staff wants projects that can be built quickly. With the bond money, the interchange renovation was to start in late 2011.

For now, Solano County transportation officials can only wonder why their No. 1 traffic priority failed to make the cut.

"It's a major goods corridor," Spering said. "It's such a vital link between San Francisco, Sacramento and the Napa wine industry. It's kind of like the hub. Everybody's using that interchange.

"Why it doesn't have a high priority with the CTC is very baffling."

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

Regional projects

Some projects recommended for bond money by state transportation officials:

-- $56 million for Interstate 80 carpool lanes between the Interstates 80 and 680 interchange and Putah Creek in Solano County.
-- $95 million to widen Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon in Solano and Napa counties.
-- $175 million for the Caldecott Tunnel fourth bore in Alameda and Contra Costa county.
-- $85 million to widen Highway 4 between Sommersville and Route 160 in Contra Costa and Sacramento counties.
-- $71 million to extend Interstate 880 carpool lanes from Route 237 to Interstate 101 in Santa Clara County.
-- $73 million for the Route 65 Lincoln bypass in Placer County.
-- $18 million for the Route 49 La Barr Meadows widening in Nevada County.
-- $95 million for the I-880 carpool lane near Marina-Hegenberger in Alameda County.

Suisun to Consider Hampton Inn's Plans for Waterfront

Suisun to Consider Hampton Inn's Plans for Waterfront
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The Suisun City Planning Commission is expected to give its blessing to the first hotel to be built in Suisun City in about a half-century.

Basin Street Properties is proposing to build a 63,000-square-foot, four-story hotel. The New Hampton Inn & Suites would be located just north of Driftwood Drive and next to One Harbor Center along with a smaller two-story commercial or retail building.

This is one of two Hampton Inn & Suites hotels that Basin Street is building. The other is a 113-room, three-story hotel in Windsor. Construction is expected to start in the spring on that project.

The commission meets at 7 p.m. today in the Suisun City Council chamber where it will hold a public hearing on the hotel's permit.

The hotel, if approved, will be the first one to call Suisun City home since 1958 when the Arlington Hotel, the last of the town's once numerous hotels, burned to the ground.

This hotel is aiming at both business and tourists. It will feature suites with decks that face toward the Suisun City harbor, according to the planning commission report written by Community Development Director Heather McCollister.

"It will fit in well with pedestrian access along the waterfront," McCollister said of the project.

Basin Street Properties, a 30-year-old commercial property owner and developer with projects in Northern California and Nevada, is building the hotel.

The waterfront hotel is one of three major commercial development projects that Suisun City Manager Suzanne Bragdon has said should significantly help generate more money for the city's coffers.

If built, the hotel is predicted to bring in up to $300,000 a year in hotel taxes, about $10,000 in property taxes, create 25 full-time jobs and generate more customers for the city's waterfront restaurants since it won't have a restaurant of its own.

This is the second time that the city has tried to bring a hotel to town.

In 2000, another group proposed building a $7 million, three-story Quality Inn & Suites near the new proposed hotel's site.

Increasing construction costs and troubles with construction unions prompted the developer to drop the project in 2002.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.

At a glance

Who: Suisun Planning Commission
What: Public hearing on a hotel proposed for the waterfront.
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: City Council chamber. 701 Civic center Blvd.
Info: 421-7300

Monday, February 26, 2007

Amusement Park Adds Extra Dimension to Nut Tree Village and Keeps History Alive

Amusement Park Adds Extra Dimension to Nut Tree Village and Keeps History Alive
Developers Redo Roadside Icon
East Bay Business Times - February 23, 2007
by Jessica Saunders

The founders of the original Nut Tree would not recognize the site today, which is being transformed into a $100 million mixed-use development with shops, hotels, office space and town homes. Yet elements of the once world-famous roadside attraction remain.

Seven anchor tenants - Best Buy, Sport Chalet, Borders, Old Navy, PetSmart, HomeGoods and BevMo - are open at the new Nut Tree Village, a joint venture between Westrust of San Francisco, Snell & Co. of Larkspur and Rockwood Capital, and leases have been signed with other tenants ranging from Panera Bread and L&L Hawaiian Barbecue to Citibank, Justice Just for Girls clothier and Peet's Coffee & Tea.

Retail developer Westrust has leased about 85 percent of the 332,000 square feet of retail and office space, said Ricardo Capretta, managing partner for Northern California. The first phase's grand opening is planned for early summer, although parts are open now.

"We are really proud of the results. It's not an ordinary retail project. A lot of effort and detail went into it," he said.

Much of that effort had to do with commemorating the original Nut Tree, while at the same time making the best possible use of 2,400 linear feet of frontage on heavily traveled Interstate 80. In keeping with the roadside-attraction tradition, Westrust created an 18,000-square-foot market pavilion - larger than the 8,000 square feet requested by the city of Vacaville - that will feature local and Bay Area specialty food companies such as Mariani Packing Co. and Fentons Creamery. The pavilion opens in April.

Another feature is the 3.7-acre family amusement park, which sits on the other side of the pavilion from the parking lot and opened last fall. It includes the original Nut Tree steam train, a carousel, seven other rides and replicas of the wooden hobby horses ridden by generations of children. The park also has picnic tables, indoor party space and a garden with benches, as well as the white-columned 1907 farmhouse where it all began, shifted about 1,000 feet from its original site. The Vacaville Museum plans to restore the house and display original Nut Tree memorabilia and other artifacts.

Motorists traveling Interstate 80 between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe stopped at the original Nut Tree for generations to enjoy its renowned dining room; visit the toy store, bakery and candy store; and let road-weary kids burn off energy riding wooden hobby horses and the miniature railroad.

The one-time roadside attraction eventually merited its own airport and post office, complete with ZIP code. The Nut Tree was one of Solano County's top five employers from the 1970s until it closed in 1996 because of internal ownership struggles.

The next phases of planned development include two hotels - one with a 20,000-square-foot conference center - 140,000 square feet of office space and 180 town homes.


Business: Real estate development
Headquarters: San Francisco
Founded: 1992
Managing Partner, Northern California: Ricardo Capretta
Employees: 48 2006 Development Value: $461 million
Address: 580 California St., Suite 1700, San Francisco 94104
Phone: 415-489-1700
Web: www.westrust.

jsaunders@bizjournals.com | 925-598-1427

Nut Tree Set For Phase 2

Nut Tree Set For Phase 2
By Jennifer Gentile/Staff Writer

While residents certainly have noticed the new stores, the train and the carousel that are the first part of recreating the Nut Tree landmark, they may not be aware of how much is yet to come.

Snell and Co. of Greenbrae, the author of the first phase of the Nut Tree revitalization, is negotiating another agreement with the city, according to City Manager David Van Kirk. He expects that agreement to come before the City Council within the next month.

"He's trying to do several things in the next phase," said Van Kirk of company owner Roger Snell. "From the city's perspective, the number-one priority on our table is the conference center and hotel."

The agreement, Van Kirk said, calls for a full-service, 200-room hotel and a 20,000 square-foot conference center, the likes of which Solano County and the surrounding area has never seen. The center would accommodate 1,000 people for dining.

"There are not many things like this along the I-80 corridor," Van Kirk said, adding "The first to do it will probably be the one that is successful."

Genentech, Kaiser and Travis Credit Union are just some of the local companies Van Kirk said could patronize such a facility.

"We're getting some major employers now that are looking for that size of a facility," he said. Economic Development Director Mike Palombo added, "We don't have a conference center of sufficient size to accommodate the types of events we'd like to serve."

Brad LaRue of Snell and Co. said the company and the city have an overall agreement for the entire $350 million, 80-acre Nut Tree project. The agreement the parties are hammering out, he said, "enumerates the terms of the hotel development."

"We have a very good relationship with the city of Vacaville," LaRue said.

While he acknowledged that the hotel is a city priority, as well as a Snell priority, LaRue said there is much more to the second phase of the project.

"A lot of the jewels are yet to be uncovered at the Nut Tree," he said. For example, another 100,000 square feet of retail space has yet to be developed between Monte Vista Avenue and the freeway, and nestled between two commercial developments will be a two-acre vineyard along Monte Vista.

"Due to the close proximity of Napa Valley, we wanted to extend that feel to Vacaville," LaRue said. The area designated for the vineyard has been graded, he said, and planting will begin in the spring.

Yet another part of phase two is the construction of 150 medium-density residential units. Snell has selected Delco Builders of Pleasant Hill as a partner in developing those townhomes, which will be located in the northwest part of the project area.

The housing element, Palombo said, would also be unique in the city.

"This is really our first major concentration of townhome-type residential properties," he said.

Denoted in blue on Snell's site plan, posted at www.nuttreeusa.com, is 150,000 square feet of planned office space, also to be completed in the next phase. According to Palombo. "That makes it one of the larger office projects in the city."

The hotel, residential and retail all will be developed at the same time, starting in late 2007, early 2008, LaRue explained. After the hotel is constructed, Snell will continue to own the property but will turn the management over to a hotel company.

The Nut Tree, in its entirety, has a projected completion date of 2010, according to LaRue. He proclaimed the first phase of the massive undertaking "a complete success" and said, "I think a lot of the exciting parts are still yet to come."

"As time progresses, more and more tenants will be opening up," he said, "and there will be more and more special places to go in that part of Vacaville."

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at vacaville@thereporter.com.

Solano Cities Hope Hotels Can Help Tap Into Tourist Trade

Solano Cities Hope Hotels Can Help Tap Into Tourist Trade
By Ines Bebea

The mix of leisure activities available in Solano County, like Jelly Belly tours, may be the key to tapping into the tourism well. (Photo by Mike McCoy)

FAIRFIELD - While San Francisco and Napa are the crown destinations in the Bay Area, Solano County is positioning itself to be the unpolished diamond on Interstate 80.

With the launching of the 80on80.com tourism campaign, executives and elected officials from five cities along the I-80 corridor - Vallejo, Fairfield, Vacaville, Dixon and Davis - banded together to promote the myriad activities available to visitors and residents.

"All the communities realize that we have a lot to offer and have very affordable hotel prices compared to the surrounding counties," said Len Augustine, Vacaville's mayor. "That's why we hope that the proposed hotel on the Nut Tree property will attract both business travelers and tourists to not only visit but stay here as well."

The five-star full-service hotel is expected to have 200 guest rooms and a conference room with capacity for 1,000 people, Augustine said. The hotel is part of the phase two development of Nut Tree and Vacaville's tourism campaign.

"Most of the tourism to the area is from people that are bused in from other cities," Augustine said. "People come here and shop or sightsee for the day, but we want them to stay here for our hotels, sporting events, family activities and to eat in our restaurants. Tourism is an industry that is certainly growing."

The mix of leisure activities available in Solano and Yolo counties may be the key to tapping into the tourism well. According to the California Travel & Tourism Commission, the state recorded $88.1 billion total in direct travel spending in 2005, an increase of 7.6 percent over the previous year. Travel spending has increased every year since 2003. During 2005, travel spending in California directly supported almost 912,000 jobs, with earnings of $28 billion.

"Tourism will help us eliminate the economic leakage that we are suffering," said Antonette Eckert, executive director of the Vacaville Conference & Visitors Bureau. "Vacaville is a bedroom community, which means that the people that live here work elsewhere and while working they eat and spend money outside of our area. Tourism will help us fix that."

The 80on80 pilot program was created last February 2006 to educate people about what's going on in the cities that people normally drive by on their way to Sacramento and San Francisco, Eckert added. The Web site offers information about all the cities, as well as listing of activities throughout the year.

"By getting residents and visitors to spend more time here, their financial contribution will be felt on the other areas of our community," Eckert said.

But Barbara Glover, interim executive director for the Fairfield Hotel Association, wants to bring the tourism tunnel closer to home.

"What would be a win-win situation is to have those tour buses based here," Glover said. "If we get them to create a hub here, people get the hotels and recreation all in one."

With a local base for the tours, it would give visitors the extra time to spend in restaurants, wineries, museums and hotels in all the cities in the county, she added.

"Right now there are plans for two new hotels in Cordelia," she said. "One would be a Homewood Suites and the other a Stay Bridge suites hotel. They are considered extended-stay hotels for business as well as leisure, so in addition to our existing hotels, we certainly have the hotel room to accommodate the tours."

In Vallejo, the addition of the USS Iowa on Mare Island's Historic Ships Memorial at Pacific Square and the renaming of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is expected to bring and additional 300,000 to 400,000 visitors to the area.

"Tourism is the No. 1 or No. 2 job-creating industry," said Mike Browne, executive director of the Vallejo Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It is a tremendous asset for the economy for all the cities. 80on80 is a testament to what we all offer and how to capture all the attractions."

Also, 80on80 will help to change the perception of the county from a bedroom community to a destination, he said.

"Vallejo is considered by many the gateway to the county because of our location," Browne said. "Our foremost mission is to attract the visitor from outside to stay in our hotels, while promoting the county as well to the folks that live here."

While neither Suisun City or Benicia are geographically part on the 80on80 marketing campaign, both cities are working toward attracting visitors to take advantage of their attractions and hotels.

Suisun City already approved the construction of its first hotel along the waterfront.

"Having a hotel on the water front will be huge for us," said Suzanne Bragdon, city manager for Suisun City. "It will take us from zero hotel tax revenue to $300,000. The hotel will allow us to build on the tourist trade, just like what we recently experienced with the white owl." The sighting of a rare white owl drew hundreds of birders to the Suisun Marsh.

The hotel is expected to be completed by spring or summer 2008. It will have 102 rooms.

Bragdon sees a wealth of tourism opportunities in Suisun City, from its train depot, the existing businesses and restaurants and even farm tours.

"When you talk about tourism, the county has to promote it together," Bragdon said. "While we need to continue to promote all that we have, I would be interested in seeing us promoted as the gateway to Napa. People go to Napa for the environment and fun, and they can stay here on our waterfront because it's cheaper."

The city of Benicia will add a Holiday Inn Express to its existing hotels as part of its economic investment for tourism and job creation.

"The city feels that we have been underserved when it comes to hotels," said Amalia Lorentz, economic development manager for Benicia. "We feel that the Holiday Inn is a good investment in our development of the east side of Benicia. We are a great day trip destination, but we don't have many opportunities for people to spend the night."

The construction of the 48-room Holiday Inn Express on Fifth Street will begin in March, and give the city a wider range of overnight options - it now offers bed and breakfast and a Best Western.

"This hotel won't be in downtown or in a highly commercial area," Lorentz said. "But if people stay in the city longer, it will benefit the entire community."

Reach Ines Bebea at 427-6934 or ibebea@dailyrepublic.net.

Economic impact of travel in the U.S. 2003

(Including both U.S. residents and International Travel)

Travel expenditures* $554.5 billion

Travel-generated payroll $158.4 billion

Travel-generated employment 7.2 million jobs

Travel-generated tax revenue $94.7 billion

Trade surplus $2.6 Billion

Source: Travel Industry Association of America, Bureau of Economic Analysis/U.S. Department of Commerce

*Includes spending by domestic and international travelers in the U.S. on travel related expenses (transportation, lodging, meals, entertainment, recreation, an incidental items)

Travel Expenditures in the U.S. 1999-2003 ($Billions)

Year Domestic* International Total International Passenger Fares Grand Total

2003 490.0 64.5 554.5 15.7 570.2

2002 473.6 66.7 540.3 17.0 557.3

2001 479.0 71.9 550.9 17.9 568.8

2000 498.4 82.4 580.8 20.7 601.5

1999 467.2 74.8 542.0 19.8 561.8

Source: Travel Industry Association of America, Office of Travel & Tourism Industries/U.S. Department of Commerce

*Domestic travel expenditure estimates have been adjusted due to data revisions

Revenue Outlook Is Rosy For Dixon

Revenue Outlook Is Rosy For Dixon
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

With revenues exceeding expectations, the city of Dixon's budget is looking healthy.

City staff will share Tuesday night with the City Council that the mid-year General Fund budget is tracking better than expected and the year-end reserve is expected to be considerably greater than in the original budget plan, according to a staff report.

The report explains that revenues were projected $13.69 million, with the bulk of funds estimated to come from property taxes, sales and use taxes. Now, the revenues are expected to top $14.425 million, a difference of about $735,000.

And while revenue is up, the city's expenditures are down. Expenditures originally were projected to be $14.9 million, but now it's projected the city will only spend about $14.5 million, a reduction of about $405,000. The city had anticipated using about $1.2 million of its reserves.

The staff report explained that expenditures are expected to be lower than the original budget figures, even in the face of some unexpected expenditures, including an additional $50,000 for an April special election and salaries and benefits savings.

In other action, the City Council will have the chance to adopt a resolution appointing a 12-member committee and establishing a charge statement for the citizens wastewater committee.

The committee will be charged to bring forward to the council options including any preferred option which may be identified for a wastewater treatment and disposal program which will at a minimum:

• Meet Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board water quality discharge and treatment capacity criteria;

• Be able to be implemented in a time frame sufficient to meet Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board requirements and provide system capacity in a timely fashion so as to meet the demands of the community's ongoing development commitments;

• Is accompanied by a proposed funding mechanism(s) which can be put in place in a timely manner relative to program/project/activity implementations and which do not require customer service rates to be higher than those which were overturned by the Measure L vote. And to the degree that any funding is to come from development impact fees, the amount of such fees, must meet all nexus tests as required by law.

City staff also is recommending the council adopt an urgency ordinance establishing a moratorium on the approval of applications and permits to construct, modify or place wireless telecommunication facilities in the city.

The council meets at 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber, 600 East A St.

Melissa Murphy can be reached at dixon@thereporter.com.

'Napa Valley Cuisine at Vacaville Prices'

'Napa Valley Cuisine at Vacaville Prices'
By Ian Thompson

Shakers Grill House owner Frank Welcker promises he will eventually offer a Sunday brunch. (Christine Baker/Daily Republic)

VACAVILLE - Good Napa-style cuisine in a relaxing atmosphere is what Vacaville residents will get to experience when Shakers Grill House opens next month.

Owner Frank Welcker loves to cook, was once a chef and has always wanted to open a quality restaurant.

That opportunity came last year when he discovered Las Palmas, a nightclub on Orange Circle that was in its last days of business.

Welcker suggested reopening it as a restaurant, an idea the building owner liked. Welcker signed a lease to create Shakers Grill House, "which will offer Napa Valley cuisine at Vacaville prices."

"It will be a great hangout place with good food and a very comfortable atmosphere," Welcker said.

The downstairs will have restaurant seating and two bars while the upstairs will be used for special events such as business meetings, birthday parties and bridal showers.

For the business meetings, the grill house will be completely wireless to allow PowerPoint presentations, Welcker said.

"There will be no nightclub activities in deference to the seniors," Welcker said of the senior citizens' neighborhood located to the south of Shakers Grill House. "We are going to stay away from the live music. We want to fit into the community."

There will be flat-screen screen TVs for sports fans, pool tables and darts in a casual setting to put the patrons at ease and enjoy themselves.

"Our other aspect will be catering," Welcker said. "We have a very experienced event planner and caterer on board to serve our customers' needs."

Rodney Ivan Botelho, who has served as chef for 15 years at venues that have included Merchant & Main, Cache Creek Casino and Stars, will run the kitchen.

Welcker describes the fare as "American fusion" that centers on steak and seafood "with an international twist" on what he calls an interactive menu where the patron can build their own meal in a combination of main courses and appetizers.

The grand opening is slated for mid-March with Welcker and Botelho offering free food samples of everything on the menu to show new patrons what the restaurant can do.

Unlike many other restaurants, the place has plenty of parking and it will offer a 15 percent discount to senior patrons.

Long-range plans simply are to offer as good a dining experience as possible in a relaxed atmosphere.

A month after Shakers Grill House opens, Welcker plans to start offering Sunday brunches.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.

Shakers Grill House

70 Orange Tree Circle, Vacaville

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

Phone: 446-9925

Web site: www.shakersgrillhouse.com (under construction)

Owner: Frank Welcker

Open for business: March 15 (tentative)

County May Lower Solar Panel Cost Again

County May Lower Solar Panel Cost Again
By Ben Antonius

FAIRFIELD - Several cities have waived their fees for homeowners who want to install solar panels - and Solano County will have the chance to join that club on Tuesday.

After significantly dropping its fees in September, the county has been exploring another decrease, which if passed would make it even cheaper to put the panels on a roof or in a backyard assembly.

County staff are recommending against the change, but county supervisors could reject that and cut the fees if they feel encouraging cleaner energy use is worth the lost money.

The item is scheduled for the morning session of Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, which starts at 8:30 a.m. at the county government center on Texas Street.

The county reduced average solar fees in September from about $1,100 to $257 because newer solar systems are simpler to install and therefore require less government oversight and permits.

The Sierra Club and photovolatanic contractors subsequently asked county planners to look into further reductions, wrote David Cliche, county building official. Many places have taken that step in recent years, including Sacramento County and the city of Sacramento.

The discussion comes less than two months after the state launched the $3 billion California Solar Initiative, an incentive program aimed at lowering the cost for homeowners who want to install solar cells on their roof.

Solar systems are still expensive to purchase - $30,000 is typical for a family home. But extensive rebates can often halve the cost.

"Both types of systems are purported to return that cost in electrical savings in a matter of years," wrote Cliche.

Reach Ben Antonius at 427-6977 or bantonius@dailyrepublic.net.

At a glance

Who: Solano County Board of Supervisors

What: Meeting topics include fees for solar panels and changes to the general plan advisory committee.

When: 8:30 a.m. Tuesday

Where: Board of Supervisors Chamber, 675 Texas St.

Info: 784-6100

Supes to Pick New Members of General Plan Committee

Supes to Pick New Members of General Plan Committee
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - Solano County supervisors Tuesday are to appoint a new version of a citizens committee to help shape the county's future in land use and other areas.

The 16-person committee is to make recommendations by the end of the year for the General Plan update. It replaces a previous committee that met for 10 months, but was disbanded by the Board of Supervisors a few weeks ago.

Some members who served on the previous version of the committee, among them former Fairfield Mayor Karin MacMillan, will be missing from the new one. MacMillan didn't reapply.

And there will be new faces. Among those recommended to be appointed in a board report is former Vallejo Mayor Terry Curtola, who would serve as chairman.

Each supervisor can appoint one member. The remaining members are recommended by Supervisors Jim Spering and John Silva, who selected from a field of 45 applicants.

"What we were looking for is balance," Spering said Friday. "We wanted business, we wanted agriculture, we wanted land owners, we wanted people with municipal experience. We looked at geography and what background people had."

The Board of Supervisors meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the county Government Center at 675 Texas St.

Spering was a driving force in disbanding the previous committee. The group was "fairly dysfunctional" given the lack of progress it made and problems with attendance, he said.

Still, under the recommendations, eight members would be holdovers from the previous committee.

"We felt like we had to have some continuity from the old group," Spering said.

The old group didn't have a chairperson. Spering and Silva think the new group should and recommend Curtola in part because of his experience as Vallejo's former mayor.

"We wanted somebody who could facilitate meetings and bring them to a conclusion," Spering said.

Though each supervisor gets to appoint a committee member, Supervisor Barbara Kondylis' choice didn't appear in the board report. The remaining board members each chose someone who served on the previous committee.

Spering appointed former University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor Larry Clement. Clement had previously been appointed by former Supervisor Duane Kromm, who Spering followed as 3rd District supervisor.

Supervisor Mike Reagan appointed Michael Fortney of Placer Title Co. Supervisor John Vasquez chose Curt Johansen of Triad Communities. Silva appointed Anthony Russo of Kewit Companies. They made the same appointments to the previous committee.

The at-large appointments recommended by Spering and Silva are Curtola, former state Department of Conservation employee Patricia Gatz, county Parks and Recreation Commissioner Eva Laevastu, Sandy Person of the Solano Economic Development Corp., civil engineer Brian West, farmer Ian Anderson, Randy Dawson of Premiere Commercial, Ronald Jones of Rio Vista, Vacaville businesswoman Carol Landry, rural landowner Jerry LeMasters and Fairfield attorney Scott Greenwood-Meinert.

The committee will meet twice a month, rather than once a month as the previous group did. For example, it is to discuss agriculture on March 12 and conservation on March 26.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

At a glance

Who: New appointments to county's General Plan Update Citizens Advisory Committee

What: County Board of Supervisors

When: Tuesday, 9 a.m.

Where: County Government Center, 675 Texas St.

Info: 784-6765

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Realizing our economic potential in Solano County

Realizing our economic potential
By Michael Reagan
Article Launched:02/25/2007 07:29:50 AM PST
The face of Solano County has changed. We have gone from being seen as the edge of the Bay and Sacramento areas to being viewed as the center of an internationally recognized economic region - a powerhouse stretching from Monterey to Reno.

This new portrait was painted at last week's Solano Economic Summit, which elicited an impressive array of ideas and suggestions about areas to focus on. The upbeat event had a clear, unifying theme: Solano County as a place where all families can thrive and where our communities are interdependent for economic success.

The discussions affirmed that some actions already in the works are well aligned with our collective vision for Solano County. At the same time, the summit brought to light that we - the seven cities and the county - need to overcome our distinct economic (di)visions and make a serious commitment to our collective economic vitality.

Some of the key topics discussed were:

• Marketing: Every business will tell you that marketing is crucial to their very existence. Communities are no different. The message from the summit is that we collectively need to be better sales reps. For example, we need to capture our talented graduates here at home instead of acquiescing; they're first looking for jobs elsewhere. We need to work on our image, and I challenge public relations professionals in the public and private sectors to develop a strategy that promotes what makes Solano County special. This will also take a partnership with our local media outlets too.

• Workforce development: The conversations at the summit have already re-energized relationships between the County Office of Education, our unified school districts, Solano Community College and our four-year universities. Their task is to devise an education program that aligns the entire spectrum of the student population with future employment requirements - as well as provides life-long learning and retraining opportunities.

We had to remind attendees that we have two universities with four-year campuses in this county - Touro University on Mare Island and the California Maritime Academy (a California State University campus) in Vallejo - that supplement our community college and other universities with smaller footprints here. We should sell these incredible assets.

• Business retention, recruitment and incubation. This statistic hits home: 77 percent of all employers in Solano County have 10 or fewer employees. Improving the ability of these small businesses to hire one additional employee would bring in more new jobs than another Valero, Alza or Genentech. Focusing on smaller businesses also will attract more big companies, too. Our expert panelists advised us to build on the existing clusters of biotechnology and food processing, while growing new clusters, such as logistics or green energy. We can do this by taking government out of business' way with a countywide, streamlined permitting process.

In the works are several efforts to assist in economic development. The county has three studies under way to discover how agriculture can survive as an industry. Smaller communities are joining forces with the county to obtain community development block grants for economic development. The county and some of the cities are exploring ways to obtain or produce inexpensive energy as a job creation enticement. The Solano County Water Agency is studying the underground aquifer that serves much of Northern Solano County to understand what kind of water users we can sustain and where.

The summit also echoed something I have called for. We need to analyze our commuter workforce so existing and potential employers know the skills and value of the labor pool we hemorrhage to surrounding counties. I will champion the funding of that study during county budget hearings in June.

• Collaborative planning and leadership: The revitalization of the County-City Coordinating Council is an example of the public sector working together to resolve issues of mutual interest. The summit, however, also brought forward the idea that the private sector needs a unifying public policy voice to work effectively with local, regional and state agencies. That's a challenge we need to step up to.

• Community services and facilities: Summit attendees consistently emphasized that our amenities - parks, family attractions, arts, cultural events, education, city services, medical services, etc. - play an essential part in attracting companies that bring in quality jobs and innovative people who will shape our future communities.

• Land-use planning and infrastructure: There was an overwhelming consensus that the county's new general plan should address all of our future needs, from fostering a dynamic quality of life in distinct urban centers to ensuring our transportation infrastructure meets our need to attract quality jobs. The plan also should reflect the limited growth expectations of some of our cities. Summit attendees dared to imagine how enticing this county might be to potential employers if we removed the "unknown" from our planning processes. Our next step should be for the economic development community to profile our cities' intentions to meet future employment requirements and define any gaps that might be appropriate for the unincorporated area to fill. We should do this immediately to ensure we remain on track to adopt the general plan in November 2008.

These are the key initiatives and issues raised at the Economic Summit. I can promise that this supervisor - and I believe a solid majority of our supervisors, mayors, council members and other elected officials - are committed to ensuring a vibrant economy throughout the county. The next big step is to obtain a commitment from small groups of business and community members to sort through what we learned and bring back tactical plans when we regroup (now planned for June 19) to map our vision.

• The author is chairman of the Solano County Board of Supervisors, where he represents District 5.

Solano homes slightly more affordable

Study: Solano homes slightly more affordable
4 percent more houses for median incomes last quarter
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald
Article Launched:02/24/2007 07:31:04 AM PST

Less than 15 percent of Solano County homes are affordable to people earning the median income here, and that's the good news, a new building industry study shows.

Between last Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 4 percent more homes sold in Solano County were affordable to those earning the area's median income of about $62,000, the study showed. In December, the county's median home price was about $446,000. Someone earning the county's median income, depending on their credit score, bills, down payment and other factors, likely couldn't afford a home priced over $350,000, said Solano Association of Realtors president Jeff Dennis.

At 14.9 percent, the Vallejo area's fourth quarter affordability rating - the percentage of homes affordable to those earning the area's median income - rose from just under 11 percent the previous quarter, according to the study. But the area's slight affordability rating improvement won't likely mean much relief for first-time home buyers here, experts said Friday.

What it means, said Home Builders Association of Northern California president Joe Perkins, is that the dream of home ownership in the region remains dim for nonhomeowners.

The study ranked the nation's 52 least affordable metro areas, finding the Vallejo-Fairfield area 30th least affordable in the fourth quarter of 2006 - down from 24th the previous quarter.

Deana Vladic, spokeswoman for the California Building Industry Association which conducted the study, said the cooling housing market likely accounts for the affordability improvement. That aside, though, California remained the nation's least affordable state when it came to housing last year, she said.

"A slight improvement like that doesn't have much effect on affordability," Vladic said. "But after years of unprecedented appreciation of homes in California, the soft spot in the market, bringing affordability up a little, makes this a good time to buy a home, especially since interest rates are low."

But with only a small percentage of median income earners able to afford the median-priced home here, Perkins said pundits who predicted a slower housing market would help have been proven wrong.

"They suggested a softer housing market would help with affordability," Perkins said. "Well, it

hasn't. It makes it even less likely that the 40 percent of Bay Area residents who don't own a home, will ever be able to buy one."

The latest building industry study reveals that nationally, about 42 percent of homes are affordable to buyers earning the median income. By contrast, Napa ranked as the nation's fourth least affordable area in 2006's last quarter, with the median wage earner able to afford just over 4 percent of the homes there.

For the second consecutive year, Los Angeles has the dubious honor of ranking as the nation's least affordable area, with just 2 percent of the homes affordable to median income earners, the study shows.

E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at RachelZ@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6824.

East Bay's housing slump may soon affect jobs, study says

Housing slump may soon affect jobs, study says
By George Avalos/Contra Costa Times
Article Launched:02/24/2007 06:19:21 AM PST
The East Bay's employment market remains the Bay Area's star performer, but the relentless erosion of the housing market could tarnish the region's economic luster and darken the job outlook, a new report warns.

In an assessment that starkly declares "The East Bay forecast: The real estate juggernaut falters," a researcher with UCLA's Anderson Forecast said the region faces plenty of economic hazards in 2007. Economist Ryan Ratcliff of the Anderson Forecast suggested real estate will impede the East Bay economy this year.

"We've only seen the beginning of the East Bay real estate slowdown," Ratcliff wrote in his report.

The biggest concern is that home sales have nose-dived in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

"We may not have seen a rebound yet in the housing market," said Bruce Kern, executive director of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance, which commissioned the quarterly study. "We may see continued softening. Hopefully, by the second half of this year, things will have bottomed out and we can adjust."

The decline in sales activity has also caused residential construction to plummet.

During 2006, the number of residential construction permits that builders pulled declined 4 percent in the East Bay. It was far worse in California: Statewide, residential permits sagged by 22 percent, according to the Construction Industry Research Board.

"Like many other regions in California, real estate has gone from pulling the economy forward to actually holding it back - it's just taken longer to happen in the East Bay than in most other parts of the state," Ratcliff wrote in his study.

The construction board's data, though, also show that the East Bay residential construction market in 2006 was a tale of two counties.

Permits in Alameda County rose 31 percent in 2006, bolstered by healthy gains in multifamily residential construction. But Contra Costa County, where single-family subdivisions have sprouted, suffered a 28 percent decline in residential building activity compared with 2005.

"Since Contra Costa County has been the center of gravity for the building boom, this suggests that we've only seen the beginning of the East Bay real estate slowdown," Ratcliff warned in his study.

Despite the gloomy warnings about the East Bay, analysts said a rescue mission could be mounted from an unexpected sector of the economy.

The long-battered technology industry surged during 2006 in the Bay Area. Researchers believe tech's comeback will benefit the East Bay as well, because so many East Bay residents work in Silicon Valley or at tech firms near their homes.

"We have seen a firming up in the last six to eight months in technology manufacturing and services," Kern said. "That is a strength we have been looking for as we anticipate a softening in our housing market."

Ratcliff said the pace of the tech industry's rebound, as well as the ripple effects, are certain to determine how well the East Bay fares during 2007.

"While the East Bay will likely bear most of the brunt of the real estate slowdown," Ratcliff wrote, "exactly how severe this slowdown becomes will hinge on how much steam is left in the tech renaissance."

Still, some economists such as Sean Snaith, a consultant with the Stockton-based Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific, say the fallout from the housing slump, as well as the slump's extent, has been overplayed by economists such as those with the Anderson Forecast.

"It was not a housing bubble, but a housing souffl\é," Snaith said. "If some of the key ingredients in the souffl\é were missing, it would go flat. But it was not a bubble."

Snaith argues that the housing market in California and the East Bay has actually been more resilient than some forecasters believe.

"Despite all the land mines that housing was going to hit, and the economy was going to hit along with it, we have been able to avoid them so far," Snaith said.

And the East Bay itself, along with the nation, has not careened into a recession because of the housing market's struggles. Snaith pointed to strong total economic growth in the fourth quarter for the nation, continued employment gains in California, and the East Bay's reaching a record number of payroll jobs in 2006.

"The East Bay and California are not one-trick ponies," Snaith said. "It is not just housing, housing and more housing for those regions. They both have very diversified economies."

Spirits of invention - sacbee.com

Spirits of invention
Area residents are snapping up patents in search of the Big Idea
By Phillip Reese - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PST Friday, February 23, 2007

Jack Rice was a real estate agent until he had an idea.

While playing paintball with his son, he started tinkering with ways to make the guns shoot straighter.

Six years and a few patents later, Rice, in his mid-50s, is designing and producing paintball guns full time from a shop in his Elk Grove garage. He's not rich -- yet.

"If I could become the flavor of the month," he said, describing the oft-fickle preferences of teenage paintball players, "life would be good."

Since Rice had his epiphany, thousands more local residents have come up with the Big Idea -- the one that drives them to spend countless hours sketching, modifying and creating; the one that makes them or their companies put up tens of thousands of dollars, hire an intellectual property attorney and pursue a patent.

From 1997 to 2006, the number of patents granted to inventors and researchers in Sacramento, Yolo, Placer and El Dorado counties almost doubled, according to a Bee analysis of data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Last year, roughly 900 patents were issued to local inventors, up from about 500 a decade ago.

Most of those patents went to individuals working on behalf of businesses, a sure sign that the region is fostering more innovation and creating more valuable, high-tech jobs, observers said.

"It's really a measure of research and development," said Andrew Hargadon, a professor of technology management at the University of California, Davis, who wrote "How Breakthroughs Happen." "They see a market. They develop a product. They take stock of what they now have and say, 'It's defensible -- it hasn't been done before.' "

Intel, UC Davis and Hewlett-Packard had the biggest share of new inventions in the region. They account for about 40 percent of the local patents last year, their breakthroughs ranging from a new type of voltage regulator to a new type of walnut tree.

Many of the remaining patents went to smaller businesses. And a lot went straight to individual inventors. For example, during the last six months of 2006, almost one in four patents granted to Sacramento residents went directly to an individual, not a business, The Bee's analysis found.

Some of those local inventions are fun -- a Christian board game. Some are practical -- a portable printer. And a few are more unusual -- a stroller for pets.

Michael Esparza's invention falls into the practical category. He got the idea about a decade ago when he was working in his garage and stepped out to check on his son. On returning to his task, Esparza looked toward the street through the open garage door. "I thought: What if something or someone (had come) in?" he recalled.

Esparza stopped to ponder his conundrum: He didn't want to work in his garage with the door shut, but he didn't want anything stolen if he had to leave quickly.

Ding! How about a garage screen door?

It would operate like a regular garage door, but on a separate track, he thought. It could be made with a variety of mesh and paneling, such as the kind that lets you see out but prevents others from seeing in.

Though he soon discovered he was not the first to seek a patent for such a door, Esparza says features -- a way of fastening the screen door to the regular garage door so the two can open and close together -- make his unique.

To date, Esparza has plunked down about $16,000. He finally received his patent in 2006 and now has someone working on a prototype. He's taken out a small-business license so he can hawk it.

Jack Rice's epiphany also came courtesy of his son.

About six years ago, Scott Rice, then 12, got sick of competitive soccer and took up paintball instead. Jack Rice started teaming up with his son on the course. But he found the equipment lacking.

"I could do this better myself," he remembers thinking.

So he built his first design for a paintball gun. Then he worked out some kinks and hooked up with a series of machinists.

Along the way, he spent a lot of money -- he estimates about half a million. Last year, he even sponsored a professional paintball team: the New England Hurricanes.

Rice's guns shoot about 25 rounds per second. They cost between $450 and $675 -- priced to compete with high-end guns already on the market. So far, Rice has made about 600 of the guns, and he went to Taiwan earlier this month to work out plans to produce thousands more.

But it wouldn't be possible without the two patents he got in 2004 and 2006.

The patent is the first, expensive step toward turning an idea into wealth. Sometimes, with an idea that utilizes existing technology, getting the patent is most of the work. But most of the time, the next step involves putting a design -- often just a series of detailed sketches -- into production.

If you are a regular Joe, that can take a lot of sweat and money, as Owen Baser learned.

Baser's invention is deceptively simple. It's a handle for home doors that doesn't utilize a knob or lever -- more like a car handle. A simple pull with a finger or two opens the door.

That's where the simplicity ends. Baser has traveled to India and China in search of a manufacturer. This month, 7,200 of the knobs are scheduled to arrive from China. He's selling them all from a Web site for, he says, about $35. And he's scheduled to be profiled on the History Channel's "Modern Marvels" series.

Baser, 75, reckons he's spent about $500,000 developing his idea and producing the handles -- all from his pocket. "That's how it goes," said the retired building contractor. "We're still spending it."

The government, at times, supports these quests, and federal research grant money has flowed into UC Davis in the past decade. About $750,000 went to Daniel Ferenc, a physics professor working on a radiation-detection device that can be mass-produced.

His machines -- about the size of a television with some of the same flat-screen technology -- will cost about $1,000 to produce, up to 100 times cheaper than current devices. That means, thanks to Ferenc, inspectors could have better access to tools they need to check large containers coming into America's ports -- a big concern among those who fear a nuclear device entering the country. It also could help with medical imaging.

"My idea was not to come up with something very difficult, but to combine different technologies that already exist," Ferenc said.

UC Davis has been on a tear recently -- the number of patent applications coming out of the university has doubled in the past 10 years. That's thanks to a push by the college to encourage researchers to do more than just publish their findings, said Alan Bennett, associate vice chancellor for research at the university.

But experts say the growing number of Sacramento-area inventions need to be put into perspective. The Sacramento region did generate about as many patents last year as Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas combined, but it didn't produce nearly as many patents as the small, Silicon Valley town of Mountain View, home to Google and other high-tech operations.

"We're always going to have a problem being so close to the Silicon Valley," said Hargadon, noting that the types of companies opening satellite offices in the Central Valley also lure the majority of Northern California inventors to the Bay Area.

Either way, the trends brought about by Ferenc, Rice, Baser, Esparza and thousands of others show little sign of abating. Last year's 900 or so patents were an annual record for the area, federal data show.

A Federal Reserve economist sees job growth, housing starting to stabilize. in Sacramento Region

sacbee.com - The online division of The Sacramento Bee

Area earns a bullish forecast
A Federal Reserve economist sees job growth, housing starting to stabilize.
By Dale Kasler - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PST Saturday, February 24, 2007

The economy is bearing up well, in Sacramento and across the country, despite the weakened housing market, a Federal Reserve economist said Friday.

Janet Yellen, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, said the nation's economy appears on track for a "soft landing" with moderate growth and inflation.

Sacramento, even though it's faced some of the worst of the nation's housing slump, continues to generate decent job growth, she said.

The "overall health of the local economy," including renewed hiring by state government, should help Sacramento avoid a repeat of the significant recession that engulfed the area in the early 1990s, Yellen said during a speech at California State University, Sacramento.

"While the pace of employment growth slowed last year in the Sacramento area, as it did in the rest of the state, the state government's fiscal situation has improved over the past few years, and that's helped create new jobs locally and keep the area economy on a stable expansion path," Yellen said.

She added that "there are signs of stabilization" in the Sacramento housing market.

DataQuick Information Systems, which tracks the housing industry, reported recently that while sales activity in Sacramento is still in a slump, the decline in prices has slowed.

As for the national economy, Yellen said the Fed continues to strike a balance between keeping the economy growing at a decent pace without igniting inflation. The housing market, plus slumping sales of U.S.-made autos, has taken a bite out of growth but not enough to put a serious dent in the economy, she said.

"Outside of housing and domestic autos, I think the rest of the economy has been doing quite well," she said. "The economy is pretty close to the glide path ... toward a soft landing."

Although inflation over the past year has been "higher than I want it to be," she said it has moderated in recent months.

The January inflation numbers were higher than analysts expected, but Yellen said she doesn't worry too much about a one-month fluctuation.

The Fed last August halted its two-year streak of raising interest rates, reasoning that it had engineered a desired slowdown in the economy. Yellen said she supports the Fed's current policy of keeping rates stable -- but with a "bias" toward tightening monetary policy further in case inflation worsens.

Asked if the Fed should go ahead and raise interest rates to forestall inflation, she said the prospect of choking off economic growth too severely is "a risk we should not take."

Yellen is not a voting member this year of the Fed's Open Market Committee, which is the Fed's main rate-setting arm. A former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Clinton, she has led the San Francisco Fed since 2004. She is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Wolk Backs Fix At I-80, 680 Merge

Wolk Backs Fix At I-80, 680 Merge
By Erin Pursell/Staff Writer

Support is building for much-needed improvements at the Interstate 80 and I-680 interchange.

Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Solano, earlier this week urged the California Transportation Commission to allocate funds toward reducing congestion at the interchange - one of the busiest in Northern California, according to transportation officials.

In a letter to CTC Chair Marian Bergeson, Wolk criticized the agency for excluding the project in its tentative recommendations for funding in the upcoming round of state bond allocations.

"This highway is used by commuters and businesses from the Bay Area, North Bay, Solano and Sacramento Area, as well as travelers from around the state," Wolk's letter reads. "The I-80/I-680 interchange is a critical component for resolving congestion to the I-80 corridor."

Wolk also telephoned Bergeson to express her concern, according to Wolk's press office.

The interchange project already has been designated a high priority by the Solano Transportation Authority and is supported by the Governor, Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Planned improvements aim to increase the interchange's capacity, reduce congestion and speed travel times by adding additional lanes, improving access to and from the freeway and upgrading surrounding local roads.

"The project would provide better freeway-to-freeway connections and access to and from I-80. And it would update 30-year-old facilities to meet current safety and operational standards and to provide improved commuter mobility and goods movement," Wolk's letter reads.

STA has requested $150 million in state funding for improvement projects, and that would be applied toward the $323 million estimated cost for the phase of construction that is expected to begin by 2011.

"This has been our number one priority for federal and state funds consistently for the last five years," said Daryl Halls, STA executive director.

The total estimated cost for all the I-80/I-680 interchange work that is expected to be completed by 2030 is $885 million to $1.2 billion.

"This is a phased approach to this interchange," Halls explained. "There's still additional things to do and more funding we'll need in the future."

The CTC is scheduled to make a final decision on allocation of the highway bond funds at its Feb. 28 meeting.

For more information about this project and others along I-80, visit www.solanolinks.com. Erin Pursell can be reached at county@thereporter.com.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Old Country Roofing Dives Further Into Solar

Old Country Roofing Dives Further Into Solar

Vacaville-based Old Country Roofing formed a new solar division that will focus on providing homeowners and home builders a one-stop solar shop.

OCR Solar Solutions will provide design, installation, warranty and integrated customer service for solar roofs. The company said it expects to become the largest installer of residential solar energy systems in California.

Aaron Nitzkin, vice president of solar operations, will head the new division, whose launch is part of Old Country Roofing's expansion into a new and larger facility. Earlier this month the roofing company announced deals with Vancouver-based Xantrex Technology Inc. and San Jose-based Fat Spaniel Technologies to offer comprehensive solar energy conversions and monitoring to Old Country's customers.

The 40-year-old Vacaville-based company serves more than 100 home builders throughout Central and Northern California, and recently partnered with BP Solar, a unit of the British oil giant BP (NYSE: BP) to offer BP Solar's roof-tile solar modules.

Water Money Flows

Water Money Flows
Funding Goes to Recovery Dam Project
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

Robert Johnson, commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, talks about a grant for a Solano Irrigation District dam project. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)

The Solano Irrigation District, with the help of federal money, now has the funds necessary to construct a new drainage recovery dam at McCune Creek, east of Vacaville.

The district received a check for $70,000 Wednesday afternoon from Robert Johnson, commissioner of the United State Bureau of Reclamation.

"We're trying to get out ahead and avert the conflicts," Johnson said. "We are looking to develop solutions to problems before it becomes a crisis and before it becomes absolutely critical. The bureau is proud to be a part of that.'

The drainage recovery project will cost $150,000, which includes a new concrete canal lining upstream and downstream of the dam to replace an aging and deteriorating structure.

To be named Carrington Recovery Dam, it will be built on McCune Creek, just east of Lewis Road and North of Hawkins Road. The Creek begins in Winters and flows out through the Sacramento River delta, according to Jim Daniels, engineer planning manager for Solano Irrigation District.

The dam also will provide the district the opportunity to recover 500 acre feet per year of farm tail-water runoff and canal spill flows for re-use.

The new dam is part of Water 2025, a program developed three years ago aimed at preventing crises and conflict in the West.

At the heart of Water 2025 is the Challenge Grant Program, in which the Bureau of Reclamation provides 50/50 cost-share funding to irrigation and water districts and states for projects focused on water conservation, efficiency and water marketing, according to a press release.

Johnson explained that the Bureau of Reclamation chose to help fund the Carrington Recovery Dam project because it conserves water and there is a good collaboration between the interested parties, including the Solano County Water Agency and the Solano Water Advisory Commission.

"We had lots of competition," Johnson said, adding that more than 100 counties turned in proposals for funding and only 10 percent were chosen. "It fit the criteria we were looking for and its a great project."

Suzanne Butterfield, general manager of the Solano Irrigation District, said that the same collaboration was used to build the Monticello Dam that created Lake Berryessa 50 years ago.

"We all work together to maximize the water and the money," she said. "We work very well together."

Building of the new dam won't begin until the end of the irrigation season, around October, but is set to be finished as early as November, according to Roger Reynolds, an engineer with Summers Engineering in Hanford.

Robert Hansen, president of the Board of Directors for the Solano Irrigation District, who received the check at Wednesday's gathering, said he hoped the efforts they're making to conserve water now will benefit generations in the long term.

Kirk Rodgers, regional director of the Mid-Pacific Region Bureau of Reclamation, echoed Hansen.

"It's truly a project that keeps on saving."

Melissa Murphy can be reached atdixon@thereporter.com.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Expect Good Job Prospects in Solano County This Year

Expect Good Job Prospects in Solano County This Year

Job opportunities in Solano County are expected to be good in 2007, with 38 percent of the county's chief executive officers saying they will hire new employees.
Mike Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, said this was the finding in a recent Bay Area survey, conducted to determine the confidence level for economic growth in the region.

"San Mateo, Contra Costa and Solano County had the highest number of executives reporting they will bring new employees into their workforce," Ammann said. "This will provide new job opportunities for our residents right here in our own county."

The survey was conducted by the Bay Area Council. Forty-four percent of the 553 CEOs and top executives surveyed in the nine Bay Area counties said they will increase their workforce, with only six percent saying the workforce will decrease at their firms.

"This translates into the best economic climate for the Bay Area since the dot-com boom," Ammann said. "And the results for Solano County show just how strong the economic growth is for us locally.

"All our communities have positioned themselves to attract and keep strong economic entities," he continued. "The survey would point to transportation and construction as the best industries to find jobs in 2007, but manufacturing and biotech growth continue to pose tremendous opportunities for Solano."

Governor Stokes Hope for Interchange Funding

Governor Stokes Hope for Interchange Funding
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - Solano County transportation officials left Tuesday's California Transportation commission meeting with hope that the interstates 80 and 680 interchange may yet get state bond money.

Things looked bleak prior to the meeting. CTC staff left interchange renovations off its list of recommended projects.

"My sense in that list is not final," Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said after the CTC hearing.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is among those who want the commission to add projects to the list, Halls said. Schwarzenegger expressed his wishes in a letter and mentioned the interchange as among the worthy additions.

CTC staff recommended immediately spending only $2.8 billion of the $4.5 billion available for congestion relief, with the rest to be spent later. Schwarzenegger and others are urging the commission to award the full amount.

The commission is scheduled to award the state bond money on Feb. 28.

Solano County wants $150 million for the interchange, which is the county's biggest freeway bottleneck. That would help pay for an initial phase involving the connectors between the freeways.

No matter what happens, the county should see some bond money. CTC staff is recommending that $74 million go toward widening Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon. This stretch of two-lane road is a major link between Solano and Napa counties.

The $4.5 billion for congestion relief projects comes from a $20 billion transportation bond passed by voters in November 2006.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646, ext. 232 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

State Stem Cell Grants Awarded

State Stem Cell Grants Awarded
2 UCD Researchers Among Recipients of $45 Million.
By Jim Downing - Bee Staff Writer

Putting California on track to become the nation's leading backer of embryonic stem cell science, the state stem cell institute on Friday awarded its first 72 research grants, totaling nearly $45 million.

If all goes to plan, another $2.95 billion will follow over the next decade, dwarfing the $38 million a year the federal government now spends on such research.

"In one day, California has made a dramatic step forward," said Bob Klein, chair of the stem cell institute's governing board and leader of the campaign for the 2004 bond measure, Proposition 71, that authorized the funding.

The University of California system grabbed 32 of the grants announced Friday, valued at $20 million. Stanford University took a dozen awards, valued at about $7.6 million, the most of any single institution.

Locally, two UC Davis medical researchers will receive grants totaling $837,000 over two years.

All told, the awards announced Friday went to 20 different California universities and research institutes. The grants aim to expand the state's pool of embryonic stem cell researchers by funding startup investigations led by scientists new to the field.

Embryonic stem cells have the ability to develop into any type of cell in the body. Through research, scientists are learning how to guide that process.

Someday, doctors may be able to use embryonic stem cell therapies to treat a vast array of currently incurable conditions, from spinal cord injuries to Alzheimer's disease.

Ebenezer Yamoah, a medical school professor at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience, received $469,000 over two years to expand his work on age-related hearing loss. Yamoah studies the sound-transmitting cells attached to the tiny hairs in ears. Embryonic stem cell research may provide insight into ways to regenerate these cells, which often fail as people age.

Yamoah already is working with adult stem cells, which are not affected by federal research restrictions. The new state grant will allow him to expand his work, he said.

"I'm quite excited about the openness that the state has provided for investigators," he said. "I just want to start working."

Hari Reddi, a leading bone and cartilage researcher at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, won $368,000 to expand his work to include embryonic stem cells. In the long term, such research could lead to ways for doctors to regenerate cartilage in knees and hips, rather than surgically replacing the joints.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the stem cell committee's work and took a swipe at the federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell research that prompted the $3 billion bond measure.

"We all know that we cannot afford to wait when it comes to advancing life-saving science," Schwarzenegger said. "This state doesn't wait. We move forward ... and eventually that will rub off on the rest of the country."

The 29-member oversight committee is scheduled to announce in March a second set of grants, worth roughly $80 million and targeted at well-established stem cell researchers.

Under Proposition 71, the state is authorized to issue bonds to fund as much as $3 billion in stem cell research over 10 years. So far, though, those bonds have been blocked by legal challenges from Christian and taxpayer groups.

In July, Schwarzenegger authorized a $150 million loan from the state to allow the institute to begin issuing research grants. Philanthropic organizations have loaned an additional $45 million.

Resolution of the legal challenges is expected by the end of the year. If the matter drags on and funding for the bonds remains blocked, Schwarzenegger said Friday he is prepared to offer additional money from the state.

"They have my backing all the way," the governor said of the state's stem cell researchers.

Under current law, federally funded research on embryonic stem cells is limited to cells derived before August 2001, a restriction that scientists say presents a number of problems. Research conducted with Proposition 71 funds will not have that restriction.

Racetrack Campaign Brings Out Big Gun

Racetrack Campaign Brings Out Big Gun
Parts Tycoon Frank Stronach Lobbies in Dixon for Project.
By Andy Furillo - Bee Capitol Bureau

Auto parts and horse racing magnate Frank Stronach stopped in Dixon on Monday to tout his proposed new racetrack to a gathering of friendly volunteers, and he plans on making another stop in Los Angeles today to bring up the topic in a breakfast meeting with an audience of one: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Stronach promised international celebrity to Dixon if the town goes along with plans promulgated by his Magna Entertainment Corp. to build a state-of-the-art equine oval northeast of downtown on Pedrick Road.

"We could showcase Dixon all over the world," Stronach told the throng of friendlies at Bud's Pub and Grill.

Today, Stronach said in an interview, he'll be dropping in on the California governor -- a fellow native of Austria -- to talk about assorted undisclosed topics. One of them, in all likelihood, will be Dixon Downs.

"I might bring it up," the Toronto-based Stronach said with a smile, after saying that his conversation with Schwarzenegger would mostly focus on Austria and schnitzels.

Asked to characterize his relationship with Schwarzenegger, Stronach said, "We speak the same slang."

"I have great respect for him," Stronach said of the governor. "He wants to do the right thing."

Stronach's appearance in Dixon was his first in town since about 1,800 city residents last month petitioned a City Council action last October that approved the location of his track northeast of downtown. The matter is now set for a public vote April 17.

In his half-hour talk at Bud's, Stronach downplayed opponents' fears that the track would generate waves of crime and traffic.

As for crime, Stronach said the track would be responsible for "none." "We want families, we want (to be) small-town oriented," Stronach said.

As for traffic, he said it won't be "that bad" because he anticipates patrons coming and going throughout a day's racing card, not arriving at and leaving the track en masse as they might at a football game.

"It's very staggered," Stronach said of traffic patterns at racetracks.

Opponents did not agree with his assessment.

"The project really is not a good fit for Dixon, and the people of Dixon don't want it," said Gail Preston of the group called Dixon Citizens for Quality Growth. "That's what it boils down to. Traffic engineers have studied the project and they came up with gridlock, and we think it will be worse than what their study said. And we think it's going to have a destructive effect on families and young people."

Preston said he is impressed with Stronach's personal story, about a young man who emigrated from Austria with less than $200 in his pocket to build a multibillion-dollar worldwide conglomerate that now employs more than 85,000 people.

"I'm not surprised he felt he could do himself some good by coming down here," Preston said. "I have the utmost respect for him in that way. But he is not going to be doing auto parts here, which we would welcome. He's bringing in a horse racetrack, and people don't want it.

"Most of the people here did not move here in hopes of having a racetrack. We're fighting to defend this little town."

Stronach's corporation owns Santa Anita Race Track in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia, as well as Golden Gate Fields on the shore of San Francisco Bay in Albany. It also operates major horse racing facilities in Texas and Florida, as well as Pimlico, outside Baltimore, the site of the Preakness Stakes.

Magna has spent the better part of a decade trying to push the 260-acre track toward approval in Dixon, and it is now positioned for an up-or-down vote on the facility in the forms of Measures M, N, O and P.

The company has retained a prominent Democratic Party-linked campaign operative, Erin Lehane, to run the "Yes" campaign.

She is the sister of Chris Lehane, a consultant who has worked for former President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. Lehane herself has run Indian gambling campaigns on the East Coast and, more recently, in California, where she helped a Colusa tribe stop a rival band from locating another casino on its turf in the upper Sacramento Valley.

Lehane declined to be interviewed Monday.

Donnie Huffman, the spokesman for the track proponents' campaign committee, Don't Let Dixon Down, said he anticipates that "it's going to take some dough" to get out his side's message and that "I'm sure the budget is going to be high."

"We're going to tell the citizens of Dixon the facts, and the facts are this is a good project for Dixon," Huffman said.

Magna's Los Angeles Turf Club and the affiliated Pacific Racing Association had $178,000 on hand at the beginning of the year, according to the California Secretary of State's Office.

Stronach said he plans to make at least one more appearance in the region before votes are cast.

"We've tried to state our case," he said. "I believe the people here are smart enough to come to their own conclusions."

Survey Shows Local Employers Ready to Expand Workforce

Survey Shows Local Employers Ready to Expand Workforce
By Ines Bebea

FAIRFIELD- Employment opportunities may be on the rise, as local employers are planning to hire more employees over the next six months, according to a survey conducted by the Bay Area Council.

The quarterly survey, which polled 553 top executives from the nine counties in the Bay Area, assessed their hiring plans and overall business confidence.

Highlights include that 44 percent of the respondents said they will increase their workforce, 47 percent will keep their workforce stable, and only 6 percent said they will decrease their workforce.

The confidential survey was conducted from Jan. 17 through Feb. 5 by the Bay Area Council, a think tank that develops and drives regional public policy initiatives and researches infrastructure issues; McKinsey & Company, an international management consulting firm, and Evans/McDonough, an opinion research and strategic consulting firm.

The best economic outlook responses came from the San Mateo County market, where 58 percent of the top executives and CEOs predict that they will be hiring and none foresee any layoffs in sight. For Solano and Contra Costa counties, the increase in jobs will be below the average, with only 38 percent of employers planning to hire new employees and 7 percent planning workforce reductions.

"Unemployed workers are becoming the new endangered species in the Bay Area," said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council in a statement. "Our region has a lower unemployment rate than either California or the United States. As a a hub of the global economy, much rests on our local, state and federal governments' policies to feed the demand for workers by ramping up local worker retraining program, reforming immigration laws to bring the best and brightest workers worldwide to the area and new housing opportunities for all income levels."

While the majority of companies across all industries will be hiring, the best jobs prospects are in construction and transportation sectors. Fifty-seven percent of the executives predicted that their companies will be growing and none will be shrinking.

The economic outlook of the CEOs was based on their high confidence in the economy, with 52 percent saying that the local economy will improve in the next six months, while 8 percent predicted a decline.

Reach Ines Bebea at 427-6934 or ibebea@dailyrepublic.net.

Solano's Got It!

Solano's Got It!
The Best That Northern California Has To Offer.

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