Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Windows of Hope

Windows of Hope
Mid-Year Revival Seen for Solano
By Danny Bernardini/Staff Writer

Crews unload lumber for homes under construction on Tilden Circle in North Village in Vacaville. (Rick Roach/Reporter file)

After a mostly economically dismal 2007, brought on by a crashing housing market, one local expert sees things turning around for Solano County in 2008.

The coming year will bring many large-scale commercial construction projects to a finish, something Solano County Economic Development President Mike Ammann said will help level things out in the area toward the middle of the year.

He said the completion of projects like the Kaiser Permenante building in Vacaville, Sutter Hospital in Fairfield and the North Bay building in Green Valley, work started two years ago will start to be utilized.

"A lot of the things we see in process, will continue to move along. We are finishing a lot of the stuff that started in 2006 and '07. There is no reason to think we are going to have a terrible economy," Ammann said. "It's in the ground and being finished up. It's kind of a finishing up year. I'm far from doom and gloom. I just don't see the reason for that. I see it as a pretty good year, not an outstanding year."

Ammann said besides commercial real estate, which he said did quite well this year, traditional real estate still did plenty of business, even while dealing with the foreclosure crisis. Those folks on the other side who dealt with being foreclosed or close to it this past year, Ammann said, will again have a tough time.

"If you look around, there are still people buying and building homes. It's just not at the level we were in in '06 and '07. It just kept going and going," he said. "Housing is certainly going to be a struggle in '08. People can't pay their mortgage. I don't know how you get through that."

Besides Ammann and his team, The UCLA Anderson Forecast also has taken a look toward the coming year. Their recent report, "California's Economic Outlook: Short-Term Recovery, But Longer-Term Uncertainties," reports some of the things Ammann brought up.

Both mentioned the need for California to continue expanding health care and manufacturing as a goal for the future. Ammann said Solano County has been doing that and mentioned the Genentech expansion and Novartis plant in Vacaville as two prime examples.

The UCLA report mentions the tendency for agricultural-heavy counties to be tempted by the money-making opportunities behind "urban sprawl," but Ammann said Solano has the perfect blend of ag and development. He said their is enough demand for both agriculture and commercial business for them both to survive.

"All the characteristics that have made it one of the most diverse economy are still in place," Ammann said. "There hasn't been any significant closures of businesses. We are still pumping out food and beverage. People are not going to quit eating Jelly Bellys or drinking Budweiser."

Another reason Ammann said Solano County does so well is the traffic on Interstate 80 acts as a never-ending supply of shoppers. Shopping attractions like the new stores in the Nut Tree, Ammann said, will continue to bring folks in.

"A lot of people are running up and down (Interstate) 80," he said. "We pull a lot of people off the highway. They don't seem to be affected by gas prices."

Danny Bernardini can be reached at

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