Thursday, December 30, 2004

Business made a bang in 2004

By Marla J. Pugh
FAIRFIELD - Solano County business and community leaders saw big deals made here this year, and the groundwork being laid for an even more profitable 2005.

From Genentech's plans to expand in Vacaville, Wal-Mart's interest in putting at least one more store in Fairfield and a new mall developer's interest in Vallejo, business made a bang all over the county in 2004.

But it will be 2005 when all the fruits of those plans make the most impact on the local economy. And for local business leaders, they can hardly wait.

"I feel really positive about 2005," said Steve Epps, owner of Virgil's Bait Shop in Suisun City and a member of the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber. "The polls are showing that confidence is up, and I think we have a governor that is pro-business. There seems to be a lot to look forward to."

While other areas in California rode an economic roller coaster in 2004, Solano County remained stable because of it's Ace in the Hole - Travis Air Force Base.

"There wasn't any event in 2004 that drastically changed our business climate here, primarily because of Travis," said Mac McManigal, chairman of the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and executive director of ORBA Financial Management in Fairfield.

Base closure decisions next year may provide more opportunities for Travis, added Sean Quinn, director of Fairfield's Department of Planning and Development.

"An opportunity may exist to attract additional missions to Travis, which will help local businesses," he said.

Politics took a turn for the better for business in 2004.

Many business leaders agree Arnold Schwarzenegger's leap from actor to governor helped their bottom line.

"Our new governor has a more pro-business stance. . . . His veto of all the job-killing legislation really helped, as did what we have seen so far in workers compensation reform," Vacaville Chamber of Commerce President Gary Tatum said.

Denton Connor, chairman of the Vacaville Chamber board and co-owner of Cavanagh, Connor and Co., a CPA firm, added that in Vacaville, there were also pro business city council officials elected in 2004, helping the local business climate.

In Fairfield, communication between the business community and city leaders improved, some said.

"Business and the city have not gotten along that well in the past, and it seems like we are getting along better," McManigal said.

In 2005, the Fairfield mayor, two city council seats and a county supervisor will be up for reelection, and McManigal said who wins those races will be one of the biggest deciding factors in how business is shaped locally, especially on the issues of transportation and crime - the top two concerns voiced by Fairfield-Suisun Chamber members in a recent survey.

This year also marked big plans and improvements for the downtowns in almost all Solano County's cities.

In Fairfield, the new government center has already sparked activity in the downtown core, where big names such as Quiznos and Starbucks - once thought impossible to get here - have decided to open stores.

"Getting big businesses like that here makes more people want to come downtown," said Kerry Vafeas, co-owner of Amore's restaurant located downtown, and a member of the Fairfield Downtown Association Board of Directors. "I'm hoping as more people come downtown to check those places out, the more people will learn about our business, too."

In Vacaville, a new town plaza and library, which are almost complete, are also sparking renewed growth.

In Suisun City, plans moved forward to redevelop the area west of Main Street and to add a lighthouse to the waterfront.

And in Vallejo, the remodel of a historic downtown theater and plans for private developers to revamp the downtown core also progressed.

There was also a big push in 2004 to get people outside of Solano County to take another look at spending money here.

The Solano Economic Development Corp., known primarily as Sedcorp, changed its name to the Solano EDC and came up with a marketing plan to attract more businesses, led by the slogan "Solano's Got It!"

Fairfield's new Tourism Promotion Agency also got approval from the city to form a new business improvement district to raise money for tourism efforts, including a California Welcome Center. And Vacaville started its own Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

In Suisun City, the Suisun City Business Group and the year-old Suisun Business Improvement District joined forces to have a stronger political voice as well as to market the area better.

"The camaraderie between the businesses was great this year," said Shelly Kontogiannis, president of the Suisun BID and co-owner of the Athenian Grill in Old Town Suisun. "There was a lot of synergy, a lot of people working together to bring more business to the whole downtown, not just to one business. I felt like we really worked together to brand Suisun as a place to come shop and play."

As a result, Kontogiannis said, business as a whole increased this year, she said.

"I'm optimistic," she said. "Now that business has increased in 2004, I think a lot of people are hoping it will do even better in 2005."

Reach Marla Pugh at or 427-6934.
Copyright Daily Republic. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Large Scale Biology Corporation Awarded Biowarfare Defense Research Program

VACAVILLE, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 12/27/2004 -- Large Scale Biology Corporation (NASDAQ: LSBC) today announced receipt of Federal funds to expand the Company's participation in national biowarfare defense initiatives. The $1 million award will be used to develop more effective candidate products for prevention and treatment of biowarfare-related illnesses.

On August 5 of this year, President George W. Bush signed legislation into law that funds key Department of Defense (DoD) initiatives. Included in this package was a $1 million earmark for Large Scale Biology Corporation to employ its proprietary GRAMMR™ (Genetic ReAssortment by MisMatch Resolution) DNA shuffling and molecular evolution technology to help develop more effective candidate biopharmaceuticals for protecting military personnel and civilians in biowarfare situations.

This new appropriation is in addition to the $1 million in current funds that the Department of Defense has invested in LSBC to support the development of enhanced biowarfare therapies in collaboration with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. "Our ability to obtain this type of funding in a budget year with such tight fiscal constraints is evidence of the solid support the DoD has placed in one of LSBC's core technology platforms," said Ronald J. Artale, LSBC's Chief Operating Officer. "A great deal of credit must be given to Congressman George Miller of the 7th Congressional District, whose steadfast support and successful sponsorship of this appropriation will enable us to make important contributions to our national defense needs," Mr. Artale added.

LSBC is contributing two of its core technologies to this program, including the Company's GRAMMR™ directed evolution technology and its plant-based biomanufacturing system, which can be used together to rapidly optimize and produce therapeutic proteins and vaccines. LSBC has assembled an experienced team of scientists and business professionals to advance the boundaries of science by employing these proprietary systems for the improvement of global health.

"The combination of our proprietary molecular evolution technologies, our established plant-based biomanufacturing facilities and our clinical experience enables us to carry out research programs that are beyond the reach of most biotechnology companies our size," Mr. Artale concluded.

"Large Scale Biology is making an important contribution toward protecting America's armed forces in the battlefield, and I am pleased to be able to help them in this endeavor," said Congressman Miller. "Biological warfare is an unfortunate but real threat and we must be prepared for it," Miller added.

About LSBC

Large Scale Biology Corporation is a biotechnology company developing and biomanufacturing biotherapeutics, vaccines and industrial proteins for important life science industry markets. Corporate headquarters, molecular biology and product design laboratories are located in Vacaville, California, and the Company's bioprocess development and commercial-scale biomanufacturing facilities are located in Owensboro, Kentucky. In addition to its class-leading internal capabilities, LSBC relies on a network of industry, government and academic collaborators throughout the US and Europe to achieve rapid, commercially relevant product discovery, optimization and manufacturing. For more information about Large Scale Biology Corporation, visit the Company's website at

This release contains forward-looking statements about applications of LSBC's technologies and potential markets for our products. These forward-looking statements involve risks, uncertainties and situations that may cause our actual results to differ materially from those implied by these statements, including our ability to commercialize one of our products, the ability of our collaborators to sell products we make for them, the effectiveness of our and our collaborators' technologies to produce specific products and/or in a cost-effective manner, any difficulties or delays in obtaining regulatory approval to test and market such products, and the requirement of substantial funding for us to preserve our technology base and product pipeline. We cannot guarantee future results. You should not place undue reliance on these forward- looking statements, which apply only as of the date of this release. For a further list and description of such risks and uncertainties see the reports filed by Large Scale Biology Corporation with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including our reports on Forms 10-K and 10-Q. Except as required by law, we do not undertake to update or revise any forward- looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

LSBC™, our logo, GENEWARE® and GRAMMR™ are trademarks of Large Scale Biology Corporation.


Large Scale Biology Corporation
Ronald J. Artale
Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer
(707) 446-5501

SOURCE: Large Scale Biology

Sunday, December 26, 2004

A busy year of business

From expansion projects to a red-hot real estate market, Solano sizzled in 2004
By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

A red-hot real estate market drove home prices to historical highs in 2004. Skyrocketing gasoline prices left consumers feeling burned. And cement - a staple of the building industry - became known as "gray gold."

Yet throughout the year, homebuyers kept buying, motorists kept filling their tanks and builders kept building. Whether it was simply faith in a cheerleading governor or a stabilizing economy, business bustled in Solano County, with plans mapped out for a golden future in 2005.

Here are the top 10 local business stories for 2004 as voted on by editors of The Reporter:

1. Genentech Expansion
In April, coincidentally on its 10th anniversary, biotech giant Genentech announced plans to nearly double its manufacturing plant and local work force on a 97-acre site at Interstate 505 and Vaca Valley Parkway. The $577 million project, dubbed Cell Culture Production 2, is presently under construction. Described by Genentech officials as a "showcase ... one of the most highly automated facilities in the world," it will upon completion include three buildings and add 380,000 square feet to the existing facility. It will add roughly 575 employees to its 600 member-work force.

The star of the groundbreaking show was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said, "We're tearing down the walls and the obstacles of doing business here, and getting California back on track."

"Horizons 2010" is the time frame the biotech giant hopes to reach in its ambitious goal to become the world's leader in biotherapeutics by the development and production of five new oncology products to be placed on the market in 2010 - and by getting five new immunology products into approved development and clinical trials the same year.

2. Kaiser Permanente Expansion
Currently Genentech's next-door neighbor, Kaiser Permanente announced plans earlier this month to construct a $300 million, 166-bed state-of-the-art hospital adjacent to its existing medical office on Vaca Valley Parkway.

The 340,000-square-foot facility will boast an emergency room; eight labor and delivery rooms; and radiology, surgical and intensive care services. Pending state and local regulatory approval, the not-for-profit health-care provider estimates groundbreaking for the four-story building in 2005 with a 2009 opening.

Adding to the 168,000-square-foot medical office building already in operation, the new office building will include room for 60 primary care and speciality physicians and an outpatient surgery center of 217,000 square feet. Also part of the project is a 34,000-square-foot central utility plant. When all the new facilities are completed, the entire complex will encompass 750,000 square feet. The hospital will also fill at least 1,500 new jobs.

Kaiser Permanente serves more than 8.4 million members nationwide including 3.2 million in Northern California. In the Napa-Solano area, there are more than 240,000 members.

3. Vacaville Downtown Revamp
After years of planning, the heart of Vacaville's historic downtown is emerging as envisioned with a 15,000-square-foot library, Town Square Plaza and new buildings and businesses on Main Street.

A mix of speciality shops, offices and restaurants will fill two multilevel Italian villa-style buildings flanking the plaza created by the Guido Addiego family. The Pure Grain Bakery is expected to open any day, and new businesses already open include Hot Porridge, a specialty toy store, and the Town Square Candy Co.

Restaurants planned to open include Saltato's Italian restaurant, a 2,000-square-foot full dinner house with a Tuscan Roman theme seating up to 55 and eventually an additional 25 outdoors.

Saltato's will compete with existing establishments like Merchant & Main Grill & Bar, China House, The Old Post Office and Fire Falls restaurant and lounge, which has been considered a cornerstone of the downtown renaissance. Just around the corner on East Main Street will be a new, two-level building that will house

the John Vasquez family deli. Vasquez Deli will move from its McClellan Street locale into the building, which will have apartments on the top floor.

Also, Joe Murdaca, owner of Pietro's No. 1, is working with the city on his Don Carmello's Bistro on the corner of Dobbins and Monte Vista Avenue.

The Town Square Plaza itself is roughly 15,000 square feet, and will include a 39-foot clock tower, trees, water features and a stage.

Meanwhile, the administrative offices of Vacaville Sanitary Service have moved into second-floor offices in the library building.

While rainy weather and other construction-related problems have delayed the opening of many new businesses and the construction of the Town Square Plaza, work is picking up.

The Town Square and plaza are the culmination of about a $5 million project, with the construction of the library costing about $3.5 million. The Vacaville Redevelopment Agency paid roughly $1.5 million for the parking lot and the Town Square Plaza.

4. Hot Real Estate Market
A sizzling real estate seller's market dropped to just a low simmer during the holidays, but the median price of a home in Solano County in November reached an all-time high of $400,000.

That's 80 percent higher than the median price reported in January, and prices are expected to continue to rise, analysts say.

With data clearly showing a trend with no signs of abating, droves of Californians earned their real estate sales licenses in 2004. The California Department of Real Estate reported in midyear there are 389,409 real estate licensees in the state, a number that has steadily climbed since 1999. Also, 1,532 agents were working the Solano County market, according to Bay Area Real Estate Information Services.

In Vacaville, two large brokerages expanded their office space. Kappel & Kappel Realtors Inc. added a sixth branch by opening a Sacramento office to spread out and beef up its 120-plus sales force, while Gateway Realty opened three new offices - one on Mason Street - to house its 105 agents.

5. A.G. Spanos Buys Site
In June, A.G. Spanos Cos., one of the nation's leading builders of apartment communities, purchased a 172-acre swath of land in the Vaca Valley Business Park for commercial development.

While development plans are now just roughly sketched out, the purchase essentially completed the business park by complementing biotechnology giant Genentech and the Kaiser Permanente Medical Offices.

Representatives of Spanos said at the time of the purchase that they hoped to do a mixed-use project, including office, perhaps some additional biotech, and probably some retail.

The 12 parcels in the acreage form a triangle bordered by Interstate 80 and I-505. Spanos bought the land from the partnership of an out-of-the-area real estate brokerage and Morgan Stanley, a global financial services firm. Those firms bought the land from Chevron some 10 to 12 years ago, and it now remains the largest undeveloped piece in the business park.

City officials said the importance of the acquisition is it puts the property in hands of a true development firm, meaning there is likely to be more investment in the property, and the property would be developed faster than it would have by the prior owners.

Spanos said it would spend $8 million to $10 million in infrastructure to complete a road, streetscaping and the rest of the infrastructure to have access to all the parcels.

Alex G. Spanos has built three large apartment communities in Vacaville in the last five years, including the 316-unit North Pointe Apartments on Leisure Town Road, the River Oaks apartments on Elmira Road and The Commons off Nut Tree Road.

6. Nut Tree Redevelopment
The final remnants of the landmark Nut Tree were excavated in 2004 to make room for redevelopment by Larkspur-based Roger Snell of Snell & Co. Snell plans to transform the historic 76-acre site, once home to the famed Nut Tree Restaurant, into high-end retail, hotel-conference, residential, office and family-oriented features.

The Vacaville City Council in September approved the Nut Tree master plan for retail shops, restaurants, office space and housing on the site. Snell has touted the development as a world-class project that will bring back the Nut Tree's reputation as a California landmark.

Snell has said the project will generate about $1.8 million in annual property taxes and $1.5 million in annual sales tax revenue. He has also said the project will create 1,300 jobs.

7. North Village Construction
After some 10 years of planning, construction began on North Village, an 880-acre master planned community in northeast Vacaville.

Located between Vaca Valley Parkway and Midway Road, and bounded on the west by Interstate 505, North Village was annexed into the city more than a decade ago and, when built out, will house an estimated 7,000 and nudge Vacaville's population beyond the 100,000 mark.

North Village, under development by Concord-based Albert D. Seeno Construction Co., is slated to have 2,177 units, including apartments. Seeno was originally given permission to build about 2,500 homes, but plans changed after environmentalists discovered some 50 acres of vernal pools at the site, including the endangered fairy shrimp.

That grounded the project for four years, but in June the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted final environmental approval. Seeno had to withdraw some 300 dwellings to set aside acreage for natural habitat.

8. Auto Dealership Sold
Jack Wilson, a founding partner in Vallejo's Wilson Cornelius Ford, confirmed in January that he had sold his interest in the dealership to partner Rod Cornelius. After 44 years in the automobile sales business, Wilson said it was time to pursue other interests.

Cornelius at the time said he was eager to take on the sole ownership.

The business was started by Wilson's father 65 years ago. In September 1940, Claude Wilson established his Ford dealership on downtown Vallejo's Virginia Street. Rod Cornelius' grandfather, Ira, joined the dealership's sales team in 1948.

In 1950, the dealership moved to 1301 Georgia St., and Claude Wilson had a new business partner, Barney Russell. The dealership was known then as Wilson Russell Ford.

Jack Wilson joined his father's business in 1960. Claude's death in 1961 made Jack the new partner.

Glenn Cornelius, who joined the sales team in 1953, became the third business partner in 1965, a relationship that would last 30 years.

By the late '60s, Russell had retired and the dealership was down to two partners - Jack Wilson and Glenn Cornelius. That's when the business became known as Wilson Cornelius Ford.

Rod Cornelius started washing cars at the dealership when he was 14 and was on the sales team by 1974. He became sales manager a few years later and, following his father's retirement in 1995, took over the general management of the dealership and became a partner.

9. Kohl's Opens
The long-anticipated Kohl's department store in Vacaville opened in October, along with 11 other stores in the Bay Area, including Vallejo.

The large-scale Wisconsin-based department store at 570 Orange Drive brought 150 new jobs to Vacaville and 220 to its Vallejo location.

Kohl's debuted in the Golden State in the spring of last year. The new Bay Area stores bring the number of Kohl's in California to 62.

Kohl's is a family-focused, value-oriented specialty department store offering moderately priced national brand apparel, shoes, accessories and home products.

In Vacaville, the Kohl's store is 95,515 square feet, slightly larger than the Kohl's prototype of 88,000 square feet. The store carries well-known national brand names like Levi's, Gloria Vanderbilt, Arrow, Haggar, Dockers, Reebok, Adidas, Nike, OshKosh B'Gosh, Calphalon cookware, Carters, Nine & Co. and Liz Claiborne Villager. It also carries its own private brands, like "Sonoma" and the recently launched "Daisy Fuentes" women's line.

Kohl's public relations officials tout the stores' stand-alone locations, "easy to shop" layouts, centralized checkouts, shopping carts with built-in strollers and plenty of parking.

Based in Menomonee Falls, Kohl's plans to open a total of 190 new stores across the country in 2004 and 2005. The company currently operates 589 stores in 38 states. It earned $591 million on $10.3 billion in revenue last year.

10. NorthBay Healthcare To Grow
In June, NorthBay Healthcare announced plans to develop a third hospital in Green Valley in the next five to 10 years.

The nonprofit operates VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville and NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield.

The 20-acre Green Valley site, at the northwest corner of Business Center Drive and Mangels Boulevard, would be home to advanced speciality services not currently available in the county, including open-heart surgery.

Other examples of advanced high-tech care that could be considered for the site include orthopedic rehabilitation services and a potential trauma center.

The site also provides room for offices and outpatient facilities.

Early in 2005, construction of a new emergency service at VacaValley Hospital will begin, and plans are under way for the development of a 20-acre site in the Green Valley Corporate Park.

Barbara Smith can be reached at

The year in review
1. Genentech Expansion
2. Kaiser Permanente Expansion
3. Vacaville Downtown Revamp
4. Hot Real Estate Market
5. A.G. Spanos Buys Site
6. Nut Tree Redevelopment
7. North Village Construction
8. Auto Dealership Sold
9. Kohl's Opens
10. NorthBay Healthcare To Grow

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Local rancher receives honor

By Barry Eberling

RIO VISTA - This past year was just a little atypical for local rancher Burrows Hamilton.

He usually can be found in the hills west of Rio Vista taking care of sheep and livestock. His grandparents began ranching in the area in the late 1800s.

But, on the evening of Oct. 29, the spotlight shone on him. He received the 2004 Livestock Man of the Year award.

The presentation came during the Grand National Rodeo, Horse and Stock Show at the Cow Palace. This multi-day event featured everything from bullriding to concerts by such artists as the Charles Daniels Band.

The California Chamber of Commerce has presented the Livestock Man of the Year award since 1950. Ranchers choose winners based on their involvement in the industry on the local, state and national levels, according to the American Sheep Industry Association.

But now the hoopla has died down and Hamilton is doing what he always does, year after year.

"We're right in the middle of lambing," Hamilton said. "We lamb from October to the first part of March. You've got to make sure everything is right."

Hamilton, his brother and his son run an operation that includes 4,000 ewes, more than 200 head of cows, dry land grain production, irrigated crops and orchards.

Though eastern Solano County's hills are somewhat remote, they have been the site of some notable chapters in local history. Hamilton can recall some of these.

He remembers the days when electric trains ran through eastern Solano County. Trains with names such as the Comet took people from Sacramento to Oakland from 1913 into the 1940s.

Hamilton rode on the train to Oakland a few times as a child. It crossed the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers on the "Ramon," a box-like, steel-hulled ferry with a 600-horsepower gasoline engine.

Today, the Western Railway Museum runs electric trains over a portion of the historic rail route. And the Hamiltons are still raising livestock in the nearby hills.

"I'm kind of semi-retired," Hamilton said. "I'm not really pushing as hard as I used to."

But he's doing enough to be the 2004 Livestock Man of the Year.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Report: Solano jobs outlook is bright

Association of Bay Area Governments also says the county will be the fastest growing in the region.

By Patricia Valenzuela/Staff Writer

Solano County will be a hotbed for jobs during the next five years and its population growth rate will surpass other Bay Area counties for the next 25, according to a recent report by the Association of Bay Area Governments.

ABAG released its growth projections Tuesday, declaring Solano will be the fastest growing county in the nine-county Bay Area region.

The report, "Projections 2005," forecasts job growth and population growth in the nine Bay Area counties through 2030.

The report predicted a growth rate of 47 percent for Solano County.

Solano's population was 394,500 in the 2000 Census. That figure is expected to increase to 581,800 in 2030. Vacaville's population is expected to be 127,100, up from 89,300 in the 2000 Census.

Solano won't be the only Bay Area county to grow significantly during the next 25 years. Santa Clara County had the second highest percentage projection of growth at 35 percent while Contra Costa County was projected to increase by 31 percent.

Speaking about the projections for Solano, ABAG Senior Regional Planner Brian Kirking said, "It's high for the Bay Area because we are a slow-growth area. People don't encourage growth here, but it's not as high compared to Phoenix and Las Vegas."

Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine questioned the projections. He was cautious in his comments, saying he did not want to criticize the report, but that the unforseen could affect the numbers.

"There's a lot of variables," Augustine said. "They can project all they want, I'm not sure that it's accurate."

Kirking said the figures are projections and should be used by city and county staff for making planning and land-use decisions.

Overall, the Bay Area will be home to 8.7 million people in 2030, according to the report. The demographics of the population has changed slightly. According to the report, the median age of residents will increase to 41.8 from the 2000 median age of 35.6.

Thousands of new jobs will come to Vacaville and Solano County in the next several years, the report found. Vacaville is expected to have 45,900 jobs in 2030, an increase from the 27,100 jobs reported in the 2000 Census. Solano County is projected to have 217,900 jobs in 2030, up from the 136,700 in the 2000 Census.

"It's not gotten worse, which is a good thing," Kirking said of the jobs projections. "The county has not lost as many jobs as other parts of the Bay Area."

Solano County has a good mix of jobs, which helped. According to Kirking, there was not one job industry in Vacaville that stood out from the others. ABAG breaks jobs into several categories, including manufacturing, financial, health, education and other.

Kirking said Solano County is attractive to employers because the costs to locate businesses in Solano County are less than other Bay Area counties.

Vacaville City Manager David Van Kirk said the city's location and its residential base have helped the city gain more jobs.

"You do have to establish a reasonable base of residential, which we have over the last 20 years, and then jobs are easier to get," he said.

Vacaville officials have stressed the need for a well-balanced jobs-housing ratio. Vacaville City Councilman Chuck Dimmick is a strong advocate for a balance. Dimmick spent some time commuting to Sacramento and speaks from experience.

He said a well-balanced jobs-housing ratio improves the quality of life for Vacaville residents and "it takes some of the load off the freeways."

Augustine said thousands of new jobs will become available when projects like the expansion of biotech giant Genentech, the revamp of the historic Nut Tree site and development in Lagoon Valley are complete.

"We are at that breaking point where things are happening. ... You will see more job growth which will follow other jobs," Augustine said.

Augustine also said the Genentech expansion could attract other biotech companies to Vacaville. He added that efforts by the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce, the Vacaville Conference & Visitors Bureau and the Vacaville Downtown Business Improvement District attract businesses to the city.

"I think the business end has been energized and is starting to get going here," he said.

Patricia Valenzuela can be reached at

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Vacaville to waive costs for Genentech

By Matthew Bunk

VACAVILLE - The city has agreed to pay or forego a plethora of costs associated with the construction of Genentech's $500 million expansion at its manufacturing plant in the Vaca Valley Business Park.

The terms of the agreement were outlined in a non-binding contract signed by both the city and Genentech at a City Council meeting Tuesday.

The agreement, based on good faith, states the city will give the biotechnology company certain water, sewage output and roadway rights. It also includes monetary incentives, including stipulations the city will forego all sales and use taxes associated with the expansion - a provision worth millions to Genentech - as well as excluding the company from development fees.

Under the terms of the deal, Genentech would not have to pay monthly water and sewer charges up to $200,000 a month. If the bills went over $200,000, Genentech would pay the difference.

Vacaville officials offered the deal informally last year when Genentech began looking for a site for the 550,000-square-foot expansion. The incentives package sweetened the deal for Genentech, which the city had continued to court after the company built a manufacturing facility on 98 acres west of Interstate 80 in 1995.

City officials said earlier this year Genentech's decision to add to its existing 400,000-square-foot facility would more than make up for the incentives. Among other benefits, Genentech expects to add another 500 employees to its existing workforce of nearly 600.

In its economic development strategy, the city identified the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries as a high priority for business recruitment. Genentech, once the expansion reaches completion in 2009, could become the city's largest private employer, topping life science giant Alza Corp., food distributor Albertsons and medical provider Kaiser Permanente.

Kaiser recently announced plans for an expansion of its medical facility that would provide jobs for as many as 1,900 additional workers. Kaiser expects its expansion, which is planned next to the Genentech property, to be complete in 2009 as well.

The deal with Genentech also states the city will support Genentech in negotiations to lower its property tax obligation payable to other government entities, as well as in negotiations with Pacific Gas and Electricity Co. for the company's energy needs.

The deal will be effective until the city and Genentech draft a development agreement amendment, which would be due sometime before construction is complete.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Smart growth would be boon to Vallejo, group says

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

It may be wishful thinking, but the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) announced Tuesday how the Bay Area will look in 25 years if smart growth principles are adopted.

In Vallejo, that could mean nearly 50,000 more people, each earning almost $19,000 more yearly than today's residents, said ABAG senior regional planner Brian Kirking.

As a region's population multiplies, "smart growth" preserves open space and provides adequate local jobs and housing. It also plans development around existing infrastructure.

Under those conditions, by 2030 the number of jobs in Vallejo would increase by half, Kirking said.

"Vallejo would have more growth under this model than under the current trend, probably at the expense of Vacaville and Dixon," Kirking said. That's because Vallejo doesn't have many undeveloped areas and is more amenable to redevelopment as opposed to sprawl. It's also closer to transportation than cities like Rio Vista, he said.

ABAG also forecast that the Bay Area will add 2 million more people and 1.4 million jobs by 2030, if it adopts smart growth attitudes.

By then, Solano County's population will swell to well over a half -million, ABAG spokeswoman Kathleen Cha said.

In Vallejo, the population would grow from an estimated 125,000 next year to nearly 172,000 a quarter-century from now. In fact, Vallejo is on track to be the fifth fastest-growing Bay Area city, following San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland and Fremont, ABAG analyst Hing Wong said.

Locally, the number of households and the median income are expected to rise.

Solano County's median household income next year will be $73,400, ABAG predicts. By 2030, it should be $97,100.

Vallejo's would rise from $68,000 to $86,400 during the same period, Cha said.

"Growth is expected to be slower in the first 10 years," and much faster in the following 15 years, Cha said.

Solano County is expected to lose agriculture and national resources jobs, Wong said. The majority of them - 27,620 - will be in Fairfield.

Vallejo should get 21,020 new jobs, mostly in health, education and recreation services industries, he said.

Solano County will significantly increase its available housing, adding more than 63,000 units by 2030, nearly a quarter of those in Vallejo, Wong said.

ABAG economist Paul Fassinger said half the Bay Area's population growth will result from births exceeding deaths and half from migration from outside the area.

Despite a job and income loss in recent years, the Bay Area remains attractive to newcomers, Fassinger said. He predicted most Bay Area job growth will be in the information technology, travel and tourism, finance, education, health and research fields.

ABAG's forecasts, produced every two years, are based on input from cities, communities, planners, business experts and activists, Wong said. They are used by other regional agencies, like the Metropolitan Transportation Agency and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, to make regulatory and funding decisions. They also are used by local jurisdictions for land use planning and by individuals and organizations examining their long-term Bay Area objectives.

That's why ABAG intentionally tried to make predictions to "push" a smart growth agenda, Kirking said.

"It relies on the philosophy that smart growth is better," Kirking said. "Smart growth requires less new infrastructure and preserves open space. We hope to cause people to think differently. We don't expect changes overnight. In fact, we don't expect any change for the first several years."

If the projections prove off base, Kirking said, they will be revised.

While ABAG's predictions have proven "fairly accurate," in the past, "you must take them with a grain of salt because many things can change," Wong said.

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Kaiser board approves $200M Vacaville hospital

by Chris Rauber

Kaiser Permanente said Tuesday that it has received approval from its board of directors to fund a large new medical center in Vacaville.

Based on industry estimates, the new facility is likely to cost at least $200 million and possibly as much as $250 million or more.

Officials at Oakland-based Kaiser said groundbreaking of the planned 166-bed medical center is slated for 2005, depending on required planning and regulatory approvals from local and state agencies.

The new 340,000-square-foot acute-care facility is expected to open in 2009, and is part of a multi-billion-dollar series of Kaiser hospital construction and expansion projects statewide.

Kaiser operates an existing 168,000-square-foot medical office building and clinic housing about 90 doctors on the Vacaville site, which will be augmented by the new hospital structure. An ER, eight new labor and delivery rooms, a new medical office building, expanded pharmacy and lab services and parking for 2,300 cars will also be added.

Kaiser has more than 240,000 enrollees in Napa and Solano counties and is expecting significant growth in the region. Deborah Romer, Kaiser's senior vice president and area manager, called it "one of the fastest growing areas in Northern California."

Including additional expansion projects, the entire Vacaville facility will total 750,000 square feet of space when completed, officials said.

"We've recognized the need to expand our services to provide an even more comprehensive, full-service medical center in this area," including Vacaville, Fairfield, Dixon, Davis and other fast-growing areas in the vicinity, Romer said.

© 2004 American City Business Journals Inc.

Monday, December 13, 2004

A machine operator at Tronex Technologies goes through the 40 steps necessary to make their precision tools. The company makes 500,000 tools a year. (Judith Sagami/DAILY REPUBLIC) Posted by Hello

Manufacturing success: Fairfield-based Tronex making cutting-edge tools

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - When Tronex Technologies Inc. almost collapsed a few years ago, owner Arne Salvesen realized its future hinged on branching out - both internationally and to new industries.

So he started traveling to places such as Shanghai, China, and various cities in Japan to convince business leaders that Tronex makes the best precision cutting tools in the world. Next year he plans to stump for Tronex in Germany.

The international push has allowed Tronex, which had to close several times during the dot-bomb years of 2001 and 2002, to emerge stronger than before the tech bubble burst. Exports now account for about 25 percent of the company's overall sales.

Not only that, but Salvesen discovered Tronex tools appealed to manufacturers in several different industries. Instead of selling mostly to computer engineers who need precision tools to work on circuit boards, Salvesen convinced jewelry makers, defense electronics specialists and medical professionals they also needed his tools.

Now, only two years after the whole operation almost shut down permanently, Tronex seems to have fully rebounded.

The company now makes about 50,000 tools annually, many of which sell for upwards of $60 each, and generates annual revenue of about $1.5 million, he said.

"Now business is very strong," Salvesen said in an interview at the Tronex headquarters in Fairfield Corporate Park. "There's high demand for our products all over the world."

Even though Tronex is a leader in precision tool manufacturing, many people who use the tools don't know they're made by Tronex. Rather than direct sales, most Tronex products are sold in bulk to distributors who put their names on the tools.

"You might be using our tools and not even know it," Salvesen said.

But success hasn't erased vivid memories of more trying times.

"It wasn't long ago that I was concerned about our survival," Salvesen said. "Those were some tough times."

But Salvesen, who holds a masters in business administration from Harvard Business School, and Tronex have moved on.

To complete the turnaround, Salvesen uprooted Tronex from Napa, where it was founded in 1982, and planted it in Fairfield in August. The move gave Tronex more room to grow, nearly doubling the square footage of the Napa facility.

Now positioned for growth, Salvesen knows he can't sit back on his heels. He's actively trying to expand Tronex influence in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia and South America - places he sees as untapped markets for high-quality precision tools.

Right now, though, most of the tools - which basically look like fancy pliers that keep their edge much longer than the hardware store variety - go to North American companies. But for a small manufacturing company with 10 full-time workers, in addition to sales representatives in more than a dozen countries, export sales are stronger than many would expect.

"There's a lot of international potential," Salvesen said. "If we can compete worldwide, we'll be all right."

The challenge for Tronex will be to convince buyers they would be better off using tools that keep their edge through half a million cuts rather than use a throw-away tool, like those made in China.

The process

Made from durable carbon steel, each Tronex tool goes through 30 steps in the manufacturing process. The blades are hardened to two times the strength of the rest of the tool to make sure it keeps an edge.

"It's a simple product, but complicated to make," Salvesen said as he gave a tour of the machine shop behind the Tronex offices and lobby. "Because the company is small, we have more control over every tool."

Employee expertise is perhaps the most important aspect of making a Tronex tool, and many of the employees have been with the company since Salvesen took it over in 1996. In fact, four machinists on staff come from the same family.

Salvesen encourages his workers to go through the machining program at Napa College, where Salvesen serves on the advisory board. He said employee education is a company goal.

"Many of our workers are Mexican Americans who at one time held seasonal positions, mostly in the fields," he said. "Over the years they've become some of the top operators, and we try to keep them as long as we can."

As long as the operation runs smoothly at home, Salvesen and his wife and business partner, Karin Salvesen, can ply their wares overseas.

A native of Germany, Karin Salvesen might be a big help next year when Tronex tries to open up trade routes in that country.

"We do well in Japan, and we just started in China," Arne Salvesen said. "Next up is Germany, which could be a challenge because they all think American products are inferior. But we have a lot of customers who say there's no better tool in all of Germany."

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Visit Tronex Technologies Inc. on the web at

Monday, November 29, 2004

Robert Cicornio and his business partner Karen Ruffini will be opening Saltato's in downtown Vacaville soon. (Brad Zweerink/The Reporter) Posted by Hello

Downtown looking up

Vacaville's revamped city center emerging as planned

By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

After years of planning, the heart of Vacaville's historic downtown is emerging as envisioned: an inviting haven reminiscent of yesteryear, blended with the style of a modern day world.
From Saltato's Italian restaurant to the Town Square Candy Co., a mix of speciality shops, offices and restaurants around the much celebrated Town Square Plaza on Main Street promise visitors a potpourri of shopping and dining choices in which the city and entrepreneurs invested millions.

Consider, for example, Robert Cicornio and Karen Ruffini, who are planning to open Saltato's Italian restaurant before mid-January. While the opening of Saltato's is behind schedule, the intricacies of the design and detail to create the feel of an Italian village can't be rushed, said Cicornio.

"It's not just putting up four walls and a picture. We're trying to create a little Italy," Cicornio said. "An atmosphere of good, old rustic Italian cuisine like you would have in one of my grandmother's homes."

Saltato's will be a 2,000 square-foot full dinner house with a Tuscan Roman theme seating up to 55 and eventually an additional 25 outdoors, he said.

The partners brought in 100-year-old bricks from a historic San Francisco building to give the eatery an old world look. Diners will see arches and pillars to give part of the restaurant the look of a Roman ruin. They have installed imported Italian marble counters at an exhibition kitchen.

"All of the people in the dining room will be able to see our fires flare up and all of the smells of garlic, onions sauteing with veal, Italian mushrooms, wine - all that good stuff."

Down a brick corridor from Saltato's is Hot Porridge, a specialty toy store owned by Scott and Gina Witmer. An oversized bright yellow hobby horse draws the eye toward the shop.

Scott Witmer said he and his wife are anxious for the opening of the new Vacaville Public Library Town Square and the completion of the Town Square Plaza. They hope the new tenants in the buildings under construction will bring in more business, he said.

"The lack of foot traffic has really impacted us, so we are definitely looking forward to the opening," he said. "But it looks like its moving along. I'm hoping."

The Town Square Plaza itself is roughly 15,000-square-feet, and will include a 39-foot clock tower, trees, water features and a stage. Two multi-level Italian Villa-style buildings flank the plaza, created by the Guido Addiego family.

Michael Miethe, co-owner of Pure Grain Bakery, has already leased space in one of the buildings. He said he is also anxious to be open soon.

Miethe said he's disappointed by the delays, but they were unavoidable.

"It's unpredictable in construction if everything is custom made," he said.

Meanwhile, the administrative offices of Vacaville Sanitary Service have moved into second floor offices of the library building. The Town Square Candy Co. is open for business as well. Lessees in the Addiego buildings include a title company, mortgage company and a Thai restaurant.

The posh Fire Falls restaurant and lounge, which has been considered a cornerstone of the downtown renaissance, is within sight of the new, two-level building under construction on East Main Street by the John Vasquez family. Vasquez Deli will move from its McClellan Street locale into the building, which will have apartments on the top floor.

Also, Joe Murdaca, owner of Pietro's No. 1, is working with the city on his Don Carmello's Bistro on the corner of Dobbins and Monte Vista Avenue.

While rainy weather and other construction-related problems have delayed the opening of many new businesses and the construction of the Town Square Plaza, work is picking up, said Kevin Smith, project coordinator for the Vacaville Redevelopment Agency.

Smith pointed out that 2-foot wide concrete borders running on either side of the Addiego buildings have been laid, and a beehive of activity will happen soon. The Town Square and plaza are the culmination of about a $5 million project, he said, noting that construction of the library cost about $3.5 million. The redevelopment agency paid roughly $1.5 million for the parking lot and the Town Square Plaza.

"The plaza is going to be a great gathering place for the public, but also an access to complement the restaurant, bakeries and Addiego buildings, and also folks using the library," Smith said. "This is a comfortable, central gathering place, kind of the heart of the community."

What sets Vacaville apart from other downtown revitalization ventures in California is the area has a lot of historic buildings the city committed to preserve, as well as provide incentives to spark private investment, he said.

Since 1982, the redevelopment agency has invested millions in downtown parking, land acquisitions and improvement projects, major street and infrastructure improvements. The redevelopment district is roughly 12 city blocks.

Even if it's a new building, it has to be constructed using certain materials and have design components to complement the history of downtown.

"It couldn't be a steel and glass three-story building," Smith said. "It needs to have natural toned finishes and so on to meet the guidelines for buildings in the downtown."

As far as the economic impact on businesses in the historic district, investors and merchants will likely realize a "tremendous bang for the buck."

"With Vacaville, we have a concentrated area here where we can truly make a difference, and I think we have," he said.

Thus far, the city has completed the revitalization of the old Basic plant, built the popular CreekWalk, brought a library back downtown and completed the entryway project on Davis street in the summer.

"There are a lot of things going on to make it a really interesting place to be," Smith said. "It ripples out - the support of the community at large, the support of the downtown businesses and the vision, direction and support from the council to show us the way and give us the tools to make all of this happen."

Real estate agent Mary Ann Rollison handled the leasing of the building that houses Saltato's, the toy store and candy company. She is currently offering an additional 2,000 square feet for $1.50 per square foot.

Rollison said lease rates continue to climb steadily due to the rising construction costs, and the market demand for retail space.

"They're hand in hand," she said. "They're going to need to achieve a certain lease rate in order to compensate for the construction costs."

However, the owners of the older buildings will benefit from the rise in lease costs because of the new construction.

Mayor Len Augustine said he finds great pride in Vacaville's downtown.

"I've always been bullish about Vacaville, but now the downtown is particularly coming to life, we really can't say enough about all the people who invested downtown," he said.

He said he considers the architecture of the Addiego buildings magnificent, and he's sure the new library will be a boon the new businesses.

Augustine said sometimes when he's walking through the area he imagines the people who worked and shopped there in the 1800s.

"The downtown has always been special, it goes back to 1850, and even before. It was the first commercial area that we had, and it has kind of a sense of place, it just feels good to be there," he said. "I don't think we could have pictured or imagined how nice things have turned out."

Barbara Smith can be reached at

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Fairfield-Vallejo SMSA, ranked 17th last year among the 200 best-performing large urban areas in the U.S

Article Last Updated: Tuesday, Nov 23, 2004 - 09:18:31 am PST

Salary growth drops in Fairfield area

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - Job and salary growth in the Fairfield-Vallejo corridor has fallen off a bit during the past year compared to other large cities across America, according to a study by an independent economic think tank.

Fairfield-Vallejo, which ranked 17th last year among the 200 best-performing large urban areas in the U.S., fell six spots to No. 23 in 2004, according to the annual study by the Milken Institute.

Although the Fairfield-Vallejo area ranked among the top-10 for job and salary growth over the past five years, statistics based on growth over one year show lagging progress in both categories.

Sixth in 5-year wages growth and eighth in 5-year jobs growth, the area falls to 72nd and 49th in the same categories when considering progress during the past year.

Many of the top-performing California areas fell lower this year, as Florida claimed five of the top 10 rankings. Fort Myers-Cape Coral, Fla., was No. 1 for the second straight year.

Fairfield-Vallejo was outperformed by three California areas - Sacramento, 22nd; San Diego, 15th; and Riverside-San Bernadino, 8th.

It beat out places such as Merced, 25th; Ventura, 30th; and Lodi-Stockton, 40th.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Solano County a growth engine

Posted on Sun, Nov. 21, 2004

Solano County a growth engine

By George Avalos

Even as the Bay Area has been cursed with an employment meltdown, Solano County has quietly been counting its economic blessings.

To be sure, it might be going too far to refer to growth in the area as The Solano Miracle. Still, it's plain that Solano County, which includes the cities of Fairfield, Vallejo, Benicia and Vacaville, has enjoyed an employment boomlet that stands in stark contrast to the severe job cuts that have ravaged most of the Bay Area.

In recent years, a number of companies have moved operations to Solano, or decided to expand their offices in the county. Large and small firms, cutting-edge and traditional industries, have set up shop in Solano.

"We have been in a high-growth state since 1998, and we outgrew our facility in Concord," said Bobbie White, president of the Meta Health division of CytoSport Inc. "We were looking for space to expand our manufacturing."

CytoSport, a maker of nutrition supplements, moved in 2003 to a site in Benicia where it has more than 50 employees, up from the 30 it had in Concord.

How did Solano County do it? In part, Solano bucked the nose-dive in much of the rest of the Bay Area through an economic approach similar to what's happened in the East Bay. Like the Alameda-Contra Costa region, Solano simply doesn't depend on high-growth and high-risk industries to bolster its economy, in contrast to Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

"Solano County isn't as exposed to the high-tech manufacturing that has been through the biggest declines in the Bay Area," said Scott Anderson, a senior economist with Wells Fargo Bank.

Officials in Solano are well aware the county's broad-based economy, which might not grow as quickly in good times such as the late 1990s, also is unlikely to plummet when times sour.

"We're not as dependent on the boom-and-bust cycles within the tech-oriented counties," said Michael Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp., a consortium of companies and developers active in the county.

Since October 2001, the Bay Area has been staggered by a loss of more than 212,000 payroll jobs. About 121,000 of those were in Santa Clara County and another 71,000 in the San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin area. The East Bay has lost nearly 17,000 jobs.

Then there's Solano County. Solano over the same three-year period has gained 7,000 jobs. That's roughly a 6 percent increase in Solano's work force. In contrast, the Bay Area's work force has dwindled by 6 percent, and Santa Clara County's work force has shrunk 13 percent.

Yet the strong employment growth has produced an expanding set of challenges for Solano County.

Traffic is becoming a bigger problem, with the Interstate 80-680 interchange a prominent headache. And the influx of residents has fueled housing costs so much that home prices in Solano County are rising more quickly than the overall Bay Area, according to an analysis of median home prices compiled by Dataquick Information Systems.

Solano's good fortune lately is due in great measure to its location. The county is served by Interstate 80, and also connects to Interstate 680. What's more, it is nestled between the Bay Area and Sacramento.

"We are located between millions of people in the Bay Area and a million people in Sacramento," Ammann said. "That allows us to continually grow."

Solano's location also helps the area capture the diverse economic base it prizes. Because the county straddles the great east-west route of I-80, it has been able to capture some distribution centers and warehouses, as well as companies that need to ship products a great distance. And the proximity to the Bay Area and Sacramento makes Solano a viable site for companies that want access to an affordable labor pool and relatively inexpensive housing in an area that's not a prohibitive distance from the big urban centers to the north and south.

County business and development leaders also frequently network with each other to gauge how quickly Solano is growing. They conduct an annual formal get-together and also have informal meetings.

"It's a close-knit community," Ammann said. "We try to manage market demand and expectations. That way you don't over-build and you don't over-extend."

Though not known for its high-tech firms, Solano County has landed some high-profile companies with advanced technologies. A number of biotech companies have launched major operations in the county, primarily in Vacaville. Chiron Corp., Alza Corp., Large Scale Biology Corp. and Genentech Inc. are the principal components of a biotech cluster that has emerged in Solano County. In addition, Hercules-based medical and scientific devices maker Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc. has a large operation in Benicia.

South San Francisco-based Genentech began construction in 1998 on what will eventually evolve into a 10-building complex in Vacaville. When finished, it is expected have nearly 1,200 employees and be operating one of the world's largest biotech manufacturing sites. About 600 employees work in the seven buildings that have been operating since 2000, said Caroline Pecquet, a Genentech spokeswoman. Another 575 are expected to be working at the facility by 2009 after the other three buildings are licensed to operate.

"There is a good labor pool in Vacaville," Pecquet said. "It has the proximity to the technical talent in South San Francisco. And it also has a good labor pool from UC Davis."

The Davis campus, not far from the Solano-Yolo county line, produces more life sciences graduates than the other schools in the University of California system.

That labor pool in the Solano-Napa area commands an average annual wage of about $37,800, according to an Employment Development Department survey. That's 17 percent below the Bay Area average wage of $45,700.

Those attractive labor costs in Solano are underpinned partly by the affordable home prices in the county, relative to the Bay Area. The median price of a home in Solano County was $394,000 in September, 24 percent below the eye-popping Bay Area median home price of $516,000, according to a Dataquick survey.

Perhaps because of these factors, the Vacaville complex operated by Genentech has turned into the type of large business Solano County covets. The plant not only has hundreds of workers and is expanding, but about two-thirds of the company's Vacaville employees live in Solano County.

"If companies find that half of their employees are in Solano County, they can reduce their operating costs, and buy a building, or buy some land for expansion," said J. Brooks Peder, a managing partner with Colliers International, a commercial realty firm active in the Bay Area. "You can bet that a lot of people commuting from Solano County to the Bay Area are constantly pushing their employers to shorten that commute."

Home Sausage Co. had been in San Francisco's Mission District for about 45 years but simply needed more room. When the company moved in 2003 to Fairfield, the sausage maker didn't have a problem getting employees at the new site, despite the distance, said John Englehart, president of Englehart Gourmet Foods, the parent company of Home Sausage.

"About 70 percent of our labor force came with us, and the rest came from around here in Solano," Englehart said. The company has about 75 employees.

A number of smaller employers have moved their entire operations to Solano County. Some, like Pilgrim Fireplace Equipment Inc., were chased from the urbanized Bay Area largely because of the technology boom.

"In 1999, the East Bay tech frenzy was in full bloom and housing costs were through the roof," recalled Mark Bergeron, general manager of Fairfield-based Pilgrim Fireplace, which makes fireplace accessories.

Pilgrim owned a facility in Point Richmond, but the East Bay's housing prices had hurt employees. So the company moved to Fairfield and hasn't looked back. Pilgrim is renting the building it owns in Richmond to another company.

Companies also like the kind of facilities they can obtain in Solano. Sam Sarkissian, principal executive with S&S Supply, a pet supplies company, said his firm's new Fairfield digs were a marked improvement over its old Richmond operations.

"It's not that crowded where we are now, there is very nice landscaping around the building," Sarkissian said. "In Richmond, we were right on the street. It's a better atmosphere now for our employees."

Yet Solano's success could erode some of the region's advantages. No question, home prices are much cheaper in the county. But while home prices in Solano were 24 percent lower than Bay Area prices in September, during September 2000 the price gap was 42 percent. During the past four years, Solano County median home prices have risen by an average of 18 percent per year, while Bay Area housing costs have risen an average of 10 percent a year.

Even worse, the transportation bottlenecks won't vanish soon and are likely to worsen as more employees arrive. Voters earlier this month rejected a proposed increase in the county's sales tax that would have gone a long way to remedy problems such as the daily gridlock at the 80-680 interchange near Cordelia.

Nevertheless, Solano leaders remain optimistic that the county will continue its transformation into an economic dynamo.

"The area has made a decision to convert from a bedroom community into a mixed-used community, and lo and behold, it's happened," commercial realty executive Peder said. "Companies move into Solano County, but they never leave."

George Avalos covers the economy. Reach him at 925-977-8477 or


© 2004 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Suisun City lures 3 franchise firms

By Reporter Staff

Suisun City's Main Street West redevelopment project has recruited a Starbucks Coffee and two new restaurants in the Highway 12 and Sunset Avenue area.
Starbucks, which will feature a drive-through window and outdoor seating, will be the first tenant to occupy a new 6,750-square-foot building under construction in the Sunset Shopping Center.

Pick Up Stix Fresh Asian Kitchen plans to move Dec. 20 into a recently completed 4,300-square-foot building in the Heritage Park Shopping Center, currently home to Raley's. The 2,700-square-foot restaurant will feature made-to-order wok-style Asian cuisine.

Quiznos, which offers oven-toasted, deli-style sub sandwiches will move into the new retail building on Anderson Drive in the Lawler Commercial Center, currently home to fast-food retailers Popeye's, Burger King and Jack in the Box.

Randy Starbuck, Suisun City's economic development director, said that the sales tax revenue is just one welcome benefit in the city's efforts to recruit retailers to the three areas.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Armando Avalos, 8, of Suisun City, pushes a shopping cart as his mom, Kenya, scans the shelves at the new WinCo Foods store in Vacaville. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter) Posted by Hello

To market, to market...

WinCo opening marks latest move in revitalization effort

By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

Gleaming white floors and the scent of fresh paint greeted throngs of Vacaville shoppers when WinCo Foods Inc. opened its discount retail grocery store this week on Davis Street.

Some 1,000 shoppers had checked their purchases through the mega market's 18 stations just less than three hours after the store opened, said Richard Bustillos, store manager.

"We're doing as well as we expected, and it's going to get better," Bustillos said confidently.

Lifelong Vacaville resident Virginia Kloppenburg perused the full service deli, meat and seafood selections with her husband, Lee, who quipped that the roughly 110,000-square-foot store was "great, but I need roller skates."

"It's kind of fun; it's wonderful," Virginia Kloppenburg added.

However, a lone protester with an American flag stationed on Davis Street in front of the store held a sign protesting the nonunion enterprise - a reminder that there were some who didn't believe the store would be a good addition to Vacaville.

Last year, six homeowners living in proximity to the store as well as the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 373 attempted to derail its construction.

The group filed a lawsuit, challenging the city's approval of a single "big box" tenant at the newly developed Davis Street Plaza - formerly the site of the old Vacaville Fruit and Nut Co.

The Vacaville City Council first approved the Davis Street Plaza in February 2002. Ten months later, the Vacaville Planning Commission approved the final design of the project with WinCo Foods as the sole tenant.

At issue with the homeowners was that the anchor tenant to the plaza contradicted the city's and community's vision for a neighborhood shopping plaza. At issue with the union was that WinCo Foods does not hire union workers. But the suit was ultimately rejected by Solano County Superior Court Judge Scott Kays.

Then in March, the City Council placed a moratorium on the construction of any other new, large supermarkets for up to three years. The ban blocks construction of new stores of more than 20,000 square feet on vacant land inside city limits until 2007. The logic behind the moratorium is to support the continued vitality of existing shopping centers and encourage occupancy of stores that have been shuttered - like the old Food Max on Alamo Drive.

The decision to locate the Boise-based WinCo in Vacaville was well studied, said Dave Strausborger, vice president of marketing.

"The survey said this would be a very good site for us," Strausborger said. "We cater to a certain niche of customer and that's basically the soccer mom. A little larger family, medium income."

Strausborger boasted that his store has the lowest food prices in the area, and customers will save anywhere from 20 to 40 percent, "depending on the mix of the basket they get."

The WinCo store employees 212, Bustillos said. The sprawling brick building with blue and red highlights blends with the modernization and improvements of Davis Street south of I-80. Traveling northbound, the thoroughfare finds its way to the historic downtown.

In recent years, dilapidated, vacant structures have been razed to make room for the recently completed Bella Vista Road-Davis Street intersection realignment, park-and-ride project, new traffic signals and major storm drain upgrades. New, modern buildings are taking the place of cluttered strip malls with weather worn, boxy buildings and crumbling, blacktop parking lots.

Motorists today can navigate the area without frustrating delays, including traveling east to the Costco wholesale store at the crest of Hume Way, which connects to Peabody Road. And to the west of the new WinCo Foods is the Bella Vista Center, which boasts furniture, carpet stores and more.

The actual costs of the road construction was about $2 million. And if there is demand, widening of Davis Street will occur in the next five years, city officials have said.

According to its Web site, WinCo is today the largest employee owned company in the Pacific Northwest, with 80 percent of its company stock owned by the employees. WinCo has more than 43 stores in Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California and Oregon.

Originally a chain of discount grocery stores operating under the names Waremart and Cub Foods, the company changed its name to WinCo Foods in 1998.

Meanwhile in Vacaville, WinCo officials said they hope to draw shoppers with its bottom line: low prices.

Bustillos said that's possible because the store buys directly from the manufacturer and eliminates the middle man.

"The concept is not new but, in my opinion, we have perfected it," Bustillos said. "We try to eliminate the nickel and dime out of the grocery business."

Then, there's the popular draw of the bakery, deli and freshly baked or take home pizza.

"You can even grind your own peanut butter here," he said.

Barbara Smith can be reached at

Thursday, November 18, 2004

AFB firefighters triumph in world competition

By Ian Thompson

TRAVIS AFB - A team of Travis Air Force Base firefighters became the first Department of Defense team to win the World Firefighter Combat Challenge held in Las Vegas last week.

The eight-person team faced 21 crews from both military and civilian fire departments from the U.S., Canada and Europe in five days of competition.

Travis was only the second American team to win since 1997, according to a press release from the Air Mobility Command News Service.

The teams compete against each other in timed events, which include carrying fire hose up the stairs of a six-story tower, hoisting a 42-pound roll of hose up the tower, hammering a 160-pound steel beam 5 feet, weaving through a 140-foot obstacle course of cones, carrying a 175-pound dummy 100 feet and dragging a fire hose 75 feet before turning it on to hit a target with a stream of water.

Travis' team of active-duty military, Air Force Reserve and civilian firefighters was one of 80 teams which competed in several earlier competitions to try to be one of the 21 that went to the finals.

"I'm proud of the team," Travis team captain Tech. Sgt. Mike Melton said in the press release. "They worked hard. It's been a six-year journey to get where we are today."

Travis team members got ready for the competitions by practicing up to six hours a day, several days a week whenever they weren't on duty.

In addition to Melton, the team was Staff Sgt. Harry Myers, David Chiodo, Shenah Flores, Staff Sgt. Frank Abreu, Staff Sgt. Jelani Brooks, Senior Airman Brendan O'Neil and Adam Groom.

The Travis firefighters will even get some air time when the World Combat Challenge finals air on ESPN at 4 p.m. Dec. 19, Dec. 22 and Jan. 22, 2005.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or

Monday, November 15, 2004

Driving local economies--Are commuters taking their business outside the county?

Driving local economies--Are commuters taking their business outside the county?

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - As more than 40 percent of workers in Solano County leave every day to work in various hubs across Northern California, it raises the question: How much money made by Solano residents is spent elsewhere as a direct result of commuting?

With an estimated 14 million people working in a community other than where they live, commuting clearly impacts local economies all across California. From individual car repairs to the added road congestion that delays the shipment of goods, commuting has long burdened Californian residents and businesses.

The wasted time and fuel costs state residents roughly $20.7 billion annually, according to the California Commuters Alliance. And that doesn't include a bigger, intangible cost.

"Consider the fact that 75 percent of freight in the state is transported by truck and it becomes clear that the true economic impact of congestion is incalculable," the alliance stated on its Web site.

But in the fight among business communities to lure consumer spending, it appears that places with a high number of resident commuters might leak money via commuter spending to the places with most of the jobs.

In interviews with more than a dozen people who travel outside the county to their jobs, the Daily Republic found that they all spend some money while away. Some spend more, some less - but no matter how it stacks up, money trickles out when workers have to commute.

"When I first moved here, I spent almost all of my money in San Francisco," said Rita Hobson, a Suisun City resident who works as a bus driver in San Francisco. "Now it varies for me. But if I need to go shopping and the store is right there, then I'll do it before I go home."

Solano County's mobile workforce

The question of whether bedroom communities lose out becomes even more relevant in Solano County, which has the lowest percentage of residents who live and work inside the county, according to U.S. Census figures. And historical census data show the situation has gotten worse.

From 1990 to 2000, the percentage of Solano County's workforce living and working in the county decreased slightly, while the percentage of the workforce commuting out increased from 39 percent to 43 percent.

Compared with peers in the Bay Area, Solano County also stands out because its traveling workforce tallies more miles on an average day en route than any of the other eight counties in a region long known as a home to commuters, according to Rideshare, a nonprofit that compiles annual commuter statistics.

This added time on the road increases the potential for spending away from home.

"If I've got a long drive home, I'll sometimes get fast food, a Jamba Juice or coffee," Hobson said.

Hobson and other commuters spend 15-20 percent of their income outside of the community as a direct result of their commutes, they said.

"Lunch three times a week in San Ramon," said Alisha Marshall, a Solano County resident and engineer for SBC Communications in San Ramon. "I spend maybe 20 percent outside of my community - very little because all I want to do after work is go home."

Under the academic radar?

The issue of economic impact of commuters has received very little attention from university academics and government economists. The lack of information on the subject is ironic because researchers otherwise are enamored with tracking commuter behaviors.

Past studies provided insight into where commuters work, what types of jobs they hold, how they get to work, their impact on roads, as well as what they do to entertain themselves on the ride to work. But there's an information void when it comes to consumer spending patterns.

Economists at the University of California, Davis, and their counterparts at Berkeley, haven't ever seen a study on the economic impacts of commuters on local economies.

"I'm not aware of any data like that," said Patricia Mokhtarian, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis.

Several professors agreed, however, such a study could be valuable for communities such as Fairfield, which provide housing for business centers in nearby metro areas. But as it turns out, the most sensible way to find out the impacts would be to ask commuters, said John Landis, professor of city and regional planning at UC Berkeley.

"I would say that, outside of a few destinations such as downtown San Francisco that have tried to capture that kind of mid-day spending, most haven't had much luck in doing so," Landis said. "But I haven't seen many studies on that."

What does it mean?

Fairfield economic developers say it's good to be a mainly residential community getting housing overflow from areas such as San Francisco because a greater number of residents widens the base of businesses that might consider moving here. It also provides a cheap labor force because people would rather work at home if they could find a job that fit their needs.

Fairfield benefits from its role as a home to those who work around the Bay Area, said Karl Dumas, a city economic development specialist. And that dynamic won't change anytime soon, he said.

"There will continue to be an imbalance of jobs and housing in the neighboring metro areas," Dumas said, "and our area will be looked upon to help solve the housing part of the equation."

Commuters don't especially like to hear those kinds of statements from city officials responsible for business recruitment.

"First of all, we go outside the county to work because there's nothing here to do," said Michael Hunt, a Fairfield resident who works at the airport in San Francisco. "A lot of people spend a lot of money outside the county because there's no work here."

Not so fast, said Mike Ammann, director of the Solano Economic Development Corp. It all comes down to perspective, he said.

"There's always a yin and a yang," Ammann said. "The reason people commute is to get a higher income, and that comes back to this community."

Not only that, Ammann said, but some people commute to Solano County. So, in theory, they offset in a limited way the amount of money spent by commuters going out, he said.

According to the census, 24,155 Bay Area workers commuted to Solano County in 2000, while 75,340 commuted out. Using those figures, along with an average worker's salary of $35,000 and the 20 percent commuters say they spend away from home, Solano County businesses might be giving up as much as $358.3 million annually.

If even only somewhat accurate, that kind of loss in consumer spending could disrupt the business structure of a city, said Cynthia Solorio, a labor market analyst for the state Employment Development Department. But Solorio, too, hadn't seen any studies on the matter and questioned whether commuters actually spend that much during the workday.

"People are more likely to shop out of their local area when buying something like a car," she said. "But not so much for groceries and things like that. Usually they do most spending close to home."

One big expenditure for commuters - and one they say has to be done locally - is car repairs. It seems Fairfield has more auto repair shops than normal, said Hunt, who estimates his annual spending on transportation at roughly $5,000.

"I know for a fact that commuters spend way more money on car repairs, so that's one type of business that isn't hurt by commuter spending."

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

$82 million from the NSF for Earthquake Simulation Network Launched at UC Davis

University of California, Davis
November 15, 2004


The University of California, Davis', Center for Geotechnical Modeling joins a national effort in earthquake simulation with the launch of the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) today, Nov. 15.

Created with $82 million from the National Science Foundation, NEES includes 15 equipment sites, including centrifuges, large-scale shake tables and a tsunami-simulation wave basin, distributed across 10 states and linked via high-speed Internet2 grid connections. Through the network, researchers can share equipment and participate in experiments either physically or virtually.

"The College of Engineering is looking forward to the appreciable contributions we can make to the NEES effort," said Enrique J.
Lavernia, dean of engineering at UC Davis. "Our long tradition of collaborative and interdisciplinary research, in combination with recent dramatic growth in faculty and students, provides an ideal platform for this new approach to work on complex problems that are relevant to our nation."

$5.1 million of NEES funding has paid for upgrades and new equipment at the UC Davis Center for Geotechnical Modeling, based around a 30-foot radius centrifuge, the largest of its type in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world. The forces created by the centrifuge allow researchers to increase the stresses in scale models of soils and structures, simulating pressures deep in the ground. The platform at the end of the centrifuge arm is equipped with a shaking table to simulate earthquake motion in the models built on it.

Researchers collect data through video cameras, robotic inspection tools, and arrays of wired and wireless sensors buried in the model.
The machine has been used for studying problems such as why some soils liquefy in earthquakes and methods to improve seismic design of building and bridge foundations.

The NSF grant awarded in 2000 funded a number of upgrades to the centrifuge, including: raising its maximum force from 40 g to 75 g; installing a new shaking table capable of vertical as well as horizontal movement; increasing the number of sensors used and the amount of data that can be collected in an experiment; and adding a robot that can work on the platform in flight. Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology helped develop in-flight geophysical testing tools for the machine as part of the NSF program.

To accommodate the upgraded equipment, and the remote researchers who will be attracted to it, UC Davis also constructed a new building to house the center.

"The upgrades allow us to collect much more data and much higher resolution information from experiments. We can carry out more accurate, more realistic simulations of construction and loading sequences," said Bruce Kutter, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis and director of the Center for Geotechnical Modeling.

The equipment will enable engineers to get a much clearer understanding of the effects of ground shaking on buildings, bridges, and other civil infrastructure, he said.

Remote collaboration tools added through the NEES program allow researchers across the country to participate in experiments and share data generated by the centrifuge. UC Davis engineers could also work on experiments at the other facilities in the network.

The center represents a collaboration between many groups of engineers and computer scientists on campus. Earthquake researchers from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering use the machine for experiments. Robotics engineers from the Advanced Highway Maintenance and Construction Technology center at the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering are collaborating on the design and construction of the robot. Computer scientists from the Institute for Data Analysis and Visualization are developing methods to handle and visualize the large amounts of data collected during experiments. Electrical engineers are working on high-performance networking.

Other institutions with NEES equipment sites are: the University at Buffalo, State University of New York; University of Nevada, Reno; UC Berkeley; UC San Diego; UC Santa Barbara; UCLA; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Oregon State University; University of Colorado, Boulder; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Lehigh University; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Cornell University; University of Texas, Austin; and Brigham Young University.

The national NEES project is named in memory of the late George E.
Brown Jr., former chairman of the House Science Committee and a champion of engineering and science in Congress for more than 30 years. Representative Brown authored the legislation creating the interagency National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program in 1977, which in turn, led to the creation of the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation.

Additional information:
UC Davis Center for Geotechnical Modeling NSF NEES launch site <>
NEES site <>

Solano County salaries growing

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - It appears salaries in Solano County have grown much faster than in the rest of the state during the past five years, while the county has lagged behind California in terms of new business growth.

Since 1998, business payrolls in the county rose 48 percent, almost double that of California's 22 percent payroll growth, according to a state Employment Development Department study released last week.

Payrolls in Solano County topped $1.1 billion in the third quarter of last year, up from $756.8 million in the third quarter of 1998, it stated.

But, despite that surge, the average salary of a worker in Solano County still trailed the state. Real per-capita income in Solano County in 2002 was $31,902, according to a different payroll study by the state Office of Transportation Economics.

Since the third quarter of 1998, Solano County has attracted a net total of 751 new businesses for growth of about 9 percent. It now has 9,140 businesses, most of them small companies with fewer than five employees, the EDD report stated.

Statewide, there were roughly 1.16 million businesses in the third quarter of 2003. That was 12 percent more than the 1.04 million operating five years ago.

According to the studies, average Solano County workers could be on track to make as much as their peers across the state, which historically have made considerably more money. While that might be good news to some, salary growth isn't the whole picture.

A healthy local economy also depends on a mix of service and goods-producing industries, as well as overall business size, said Dennis Mullins, a state labor market consultant for Northern California. Judging past trends, Mullins said Solano County appears to be headed in the right direction.

"With diversification of industry, you don't get the seasonal highs and lows in terms of unemployment," he said.

It's also desirable to have a wide range in business sizes because that helps create jobs for workers of all training levels, he said.

Of Solano County's 9,140 businesses, 500 of them employed more than 50 workers. Only eight businesses in the county had more than 1,000 employees.

Those numbers are fairly comparable to statewide, and eight very large businesses is pretty good for a county of Solano's demographic makeup, Mullins said.

"Eight businesses with more than 1,000 workers strikes me as a substantial number," he said. "And the rest of the businesses in the county seem to be relatively spread out in terms of size."

The Napa-Solano labor market was the only subregion in the Bay Area to create new jobs in 2002, a year in which jobs disappeared en masse across all many parts of the state. Non-farm employment grew 1.9 percent in Solano County in 2002, according to the OTE study.

One challenge facing Solano County, though, will be to continue growth in manufacturing businesses and employment as service industries have grown at a much faster pace in the past five years.

Service businesses have grown three times faster than goods-producing industries since 1998, according to the OTE study.

The real money-makers will be goods-producing businesses, Mullins said. Those industries tend to bring in more outside revenue than ones that provide services, he said.

"Some areas are headed toward all service producing," Mullins said. "And they've lost a lot of outside revenue from the loss of manufacturing."

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Ground broken for $11.5 million Vallejo campus

By SARAH ROHRS, Times-Herald staff writer

"Pride" is the word Rosemary Thurston used to describe what her late husband, Bill Thurston of Vallejo, would feel had he lived long enough for Wednesday's groundbreaking of the new Solano Community College satellite campus in Vallejo.

"He worked so hard to accomplish this and to help get this accomplished," said Thurston's widow after a ceremony that drew at least 100 educational and civic leaders from all levels of government, including Congressman George Miller, D-Martinez.

Thurston died in July, just a few months before the project he worked on reached its first significant milestone. He served three consecutive terms on the college board and taught political science and history at the school from 1972 to 1992.

Construction should start on the 46,000-square-foot campus in the fall of 2005 after the school secures all the necessary approvals and permits. Students will likely begin attending classes there in late 2006 or early 2007.

"We are growing and we are very exciting about the partnerships we are forming," said college president Paulette Perfumo.

The new satellite campus will be 4.5 times bigger than the campus at JFK Library in downtown Vallejo. New courses will be offered, and a partnership with Sonoma State University will make it possible for students to earn bachelor's degrees.

"This is an incredible opportunity for the students in this part of the county to take advance of what the college has to offer," said student board member Lisa La Farga of Fairfield, who is majoring in English.

Built on a 10-acre site along Columbus Parkway, east of St. John Mine's Road, the $11.5 million Vallejo Center will consist of two main buildings.

Named after Thurston, the larger building will include classrooms, science laboratories, computer laboratories, learning laboratory, and offices. The other will house an art classroom, auditorium and multiuse room serving the physical education, dance and theater programs.

Recent heavy rain forced the college to move the ceremonial event to the nearby parking lot of the Hyde Park offices, a Mandarich Development that includes homes, and retail centers.

The setting seemed appropriate, however, since the new satellite campus will be part of an area of Vallejo that is growing with more retail and residential areas.

"The college will be such an important part of that," said Mayor Tony Intintoli. He thanked voters for passing Measure G, a $124.5 million bond that will finance the new campus.

Congressman Miller said the new facility is testament to the college's philosophy, which is that education should be accessible and responsive to the community. He said satellite campuses will be more critical as the Bay Area grows.

"The biggest investment is in educational resources. That's why families decide to locate here and why businesses move here," Miller said.

- Sarah Rohrs can be reached at 553-6832 or

SCC gains approval for Vacaville campus

By Audrey Wong

VACAVILLE - Solano Community College officials received state approval Monday to move forward with building a new Vacaville satellite campus.

The college plans to develop the Vacaville center on a 60-acre site in the North Village Development off Vaca Valley Parkway. The center is expected to be completed by 2007, SCC spokeswoman Nancy Hopkins said Wednesday.

Currently, SCC holds its Vacaville classes at an eight-classroom facility by Vaca Valley Parkway across from the Genetech Inc. office, said Leslie Roda, coordinator of the Vacaville center. The future campus will provide more space and opportunities for students, she said.

"At night we're totally maxed out," Roda said. "We don't have enough room to meet our current needs at night. We're more full during the day. . . We definitely need more space. By the time the new center is built we'll be bursting at the seams."

The Vacaville campus will share some similarities to the future satellite site in Vallejo. Like Vallejo, it will offer a large lecture hall and "smart" classrooms that have Internet access, equipment for Power Point presentations and other amenities, Roda said. The center will also have science labs and classes where students can learn dance or other physical education activities, she said.

The present campus offers yoga, but doesn't have enough room for other physical education classes. Students must also travel to the Rockville campus for science lab classes.

The new Vacaville center will save students the drive to Fairfield for a number of classes, Roda said. SCC will partner with St. Mary's College to offer some programs from the four-year institution. College officials are also talking with California State University officials about holding some of the university's programs there.

Last year, there were questions as to the proposed site met state law because it is close to the landing approach for the Nut Tree airport. The college found documentation which proves that the landing approach in question has been changed and doesn't affect the proposed campus, Hopkins said.

Money from the $124.5 million Measure G bond will fund construction of the new Vacaville campus.

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or at

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