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

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Britley Pabst (center) mixes a vial while taking part in a lab experiment with classmates Max Josephson (left) and Dustin Miranda. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter) Posted by Hello

Exploring new frontiers

Vaca High offers biotech course

By David Henson/Staff Writer

Lately it seems all economic roads in Vacaville lead to the entrances of big biotech companies like Genentech. Those roads, civic leaders hope, will be lined with green, if not gold. Similarly, city leaders cheer with unabashed enthusiasm biotech companies who expand their economic influence in Vacaville, hoping the city will become a hub for an industry boom.

Even Vacaville High School is doing its part to tap the market through its new biotechnology vocational program and perhaps give companies one more reason - an educated, enthusiastic young work force - to call Vacaville home.

After the program was delayed somewhat by modernization

projects at Vacaville High, some 30 students are finally decoding the up-and-coming world of biotechnology, delving into DNA and genetic manipulation.

"My goal is that by the time my students get out of here, they can work in any biotech lab," said Yen Verhoeven, the program's petite, but animated instructor.

During a lab this week, Ver-hoeven guided students through an experiment in genetic engineering. Through a process called "heat-shocking," students forced E. coli bacteria cells to incorporate bioluminescent DNA from jellyfish.

If the novice lab technicians were successful, their samples would glow in the dark.

"This is the very start of the genetically-modified products we use every day," Verhoeven said.

The in-class lab assignment was a scaled-down version of genetic-modification experiments students observed last week at the University of California, Davis. From those types of experiments come disease-resistant vegetables and other enhanced products.

When Verhoeven's students finish the class, she said, they will have learned not only the basic techniques needed to work in biotech labs, but also the theories behind them.

That experience puts them ahead of many seeking to break into the competitive and potentially lucrative job market.

"A lot of these students have skills a college undergrad doesn't have," said Verhoeven, who worked in a biotech lab for three years before becoming a teacher. "A lot of the techniques they are learning are things I did in the field every day."

Students like Nathan Golwitzer, 17, said he hoped the class will translate into a biotech job after graduation.

"Genentech is right there. It's convenient and something interesting,"

Golwitzer, a senior, said.

Other students had not made up their mind about post-secondary careers or education, but were equally enthusiastic about the biotechnology class.

"We do a lot of labs and it's more hands-on," said senior Jacob Smith, 17, when asked why he enjoyed the class. "We learn more about medicine and how to make it."

The program is part of the Solano County Office of Education's regional occupation program and includes the potential for students to earn internships. In addition, it operates off a $50,000 grant from Genentech and is in its second year.

However, the biotech program was hampered during the 2003-04 school year by ongoing modernization projects at Vacaville High. Instead of hands-on labs, students were forced to watch computer simulations.

Now, students conduct labs three or four days a week, research college-level journal articles and develop their skills as would-be lab techs.

"By the time they get out of here, they will have plenty of stuff to put on their resumes," Verhoeven said.

David Henson can be reached at

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Jelly Belly chairman going on Japan trip with governor

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

Jelly Belly's chairman is among dozens of California cabinet secretaries, business executives, state agriculture leaders and tourism officials accompanying Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to Japan this week to promote the state and its products.

Herman Rowland said he's not sure how he got on the list of delegates, but plans to take full advantage of the opportunity.

"We've supported the governor when he was first talking about running," Rowland said. "I've been to some events and somehow I got on a list.

"We are a California manufacturer and it was an opportunity for us to support California," he added.

Rowland said he plans to promote Jelly Belly jelly beans in particular and California in general on the trip.

"We're taking along some little packets of jelly beans that say invest, buy and visit California', in English and in traditional Japanese lettering, that we'll hand out at the different functions as a California product and as a thank you."

Schwarzenegger's focus is a little broader.

"I'm going to Japan to market and sell California, as I said I would. On the trip, I will promote California products, California-grown produce and tourism," Schwarzenegger said in a prepared statement. "One of the important things is to go out and to sell California, because we have so much to offer, and to let Japan and the rest of the world know that we are open for business and that this is a new California. We are going to promote California as pro-business, pro-environment and pro-workers."

Delegation members will encourage Japanese consumers and businesses to buy California grown produce and products, visit California as tourists and bring more jobs to the state, the statement said.

Rowland said he's looking forward to what will be his third trip to Japan.

"This is a great mission for the governor," Rowland said. "He reaches out to people - he touches people. I've seen him in action. And I'm sure this will help promote California and the state's tourism."

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

Monday, November 08, 2004

Travis well positioned for expanded missions

by Bud Ross - Daily Republic

People often ask how Travis Air Force Base will likely fare in the current round of Base Realignment and Closure Commission deliberations.

There are criteria changes in this round of BRAC that place added emphasis on the ability of bases to support "joint" (Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force) war fighting, training and readiness. This is driven by the transformation of our Armed Forces toward jointness and rapid response.

Military value and flexibility will drive the decision during this process..

While no one can say for certain how Travis will be affected by the BRAC, there are several positive factors in the base's favor:

Infrastructure improvements: Deteriorating and difficult-to-maintain buildings have been replaced by newer, energy efficient ones.

A modern control tower and radar approach control facility have been built along with new aircraft operations and maintenance facilities. The underground petroleum refueling system is being upgraded. Modern on-base housing has been built and older substandard houses razed. More than one million square feet of obsolete temporary buildings have been removed, enabling siting and construction for new missions.

New Missions: The newest airlifter, the C-17, will soon call Travis home. Important Navy and Army units are located here and there is the possibility of a Coast Guard presence.

Unimpeded Operations: Air space and training routes are unencumbered. A portion of the land east of the base, formerly known as the Wilcox Ranch, was purchased by the county and Fairfield from the Nature Conservatory through negotiations. The land will continue to be used for agriculture until such time as needed for base expansion.

Land-use restrictions around the base are in place to ensure there is no incompatible development to jeopardize operations. Moreover, there is adequate expansion capability in the "Travis Reserve" to accommodate additional base housing and administrative/logistics facilities, if needed.

With the Bay Area's recent improvement in air quality, there should be little difficulty getting additional air emission credits for new missions.

Strategic Location: Travis remains at the center of inter-modal transportation hubs like the ports of Oakland and Stockton, has ready access to Interstate 80, is near major intercontinental rail heads and is near international passenger and cargo airfields in San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento. It can quickly support the movement of West Coast military and homeland defense units including National Guard and Reserve.

Homeland Security: After 911, the base became the platform for fighter aircraft protecting the skies over the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and the Silicon Valley. State and federal relief efforts for Northern California such as earthquake or man-made disaster will likely focus on Travis. Its emergency response capability is well known. Unlike many California hospitals, David Grant Medical Facility was built to withstand earthquakes.

Additional Missions Capacity: Travis is well-suited to accommodate additional DOD and DHS missions which are natural fits. Rapid mobility capability makes Travis a perfect location to house fast-response teams like FEMA, and Army and Air Force Guard and Reserve units.

There are also great opportunities to combine Defense Logistic Agency operations closer to the where the "rubber meets the ramp". Ample munitions storage areas formerly used to support Fort Ord can readily accommodate combat-arms units.

Community Support: Commander after commander say that community support for Travis is unsurpassed. The TRAFC, comprised of civic leaders, Solano County chambers of commerce, elected officials at city, county, state and federal level, meets monthly to exchange information. TRAFC also hosts a number of events for Travis military personnel throughout the year.

Members of TRAFC have gone to Washington, D.C. to champion new military construction and new missions for the base. Members of Congress have been well-positioned and very supportive in keeping Travis well-financed. Members of TRAFC and other community groups have worked successfully to make affordable off-base rental housing available to Travis personnel. They have also gone to bat for more equitable housing allowances.

Travis is truly a gem in our National Defense System. However, the decision of which bases remain open is ultimately political. One can never be certain the decisions will be driven by "facts" so much as by the "factions" within the process.

That is why TRAFC, Solano County, all the cities within the county, Solano Community College and the Solano Economic Development Corporation have joined forces in an organization called the Travis Community Consortium. This group funds lobbying efforts to keep Travis viable.

Both groups will work hard with our Congressional representatives to ensure Travis remains essential and relevant in our nation's defense. Together we will get those new missions and evolve beyond what was yesterday's mode of operations.

Bud Ross is chairman of the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

State Farm building opens for business

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

State Farm Insurance officially opens its Vallejo Operations Center on Monday, following the first phase of a two-phase move, a company spokeswoman said.

Marie Parks of Benicia, a State Farm claims manager for 23 years, said the first phase of the move takes place Friday and the second phase will begin next Friday and be completed Monday, Nov. 15.

"People are moving in from three locations," Parks said. "We're doing the move in two phases to ensure uninterrupted customer service."

Located on the waterfront at 400 Mare Island Way near Capitol Street, the new center will initially employ about 200 people, a number that's expected to rise in the future, according to an official statement.

Several State Farm employees like Parks, who have been commuting from Vallejo, Benicia and other nearby towns, have been transferred to the new facility, and other locals have been hired to replace those who chose not to move or commute, Parks said. Several have moved to Vallejo and nearby cities, Parks said, adding that "between transferees and new hires, at least 50 employees have been hired, and even more support staff has been hired."

"The hiring process began about a year ago," Parks said. "In California, State Farm consolidated quite a few of our offices to become more efficient. The primary object is to keep insurance premiums down for our customers. Vallejo's office is the last element in a reorganization plan."

Last month, State Farm held a Safety Fair at the new center, which included a car seat clinic with visits by California Highway Patrol and Vallejo Fire Department members.

As the largest insurer of cars and homes in the United States, State Farm has 25 operations centers in 13 zones with staffs that underwrite insurance policies, process claims and oversee the company's business in their areas. The company has more than 79,000 employees and 16,000 agents and their employees throughout the United States and parts of Canada, according to an official statement.

Work on the Capitol Street extension next to the State Farm building is also nearly completed. The remaining work, including landscaping, installation of street lights and a traffic signal is expected to be completed by January. The newly resurfaced ferry parking lot adjacent to State Farm has been striped and is open for public use.

"We're very much looking forward to being in Vallejo," Parks said. "In the 23 years I've been with the company, I've commuted all over, for the past 18 years, from Benicia. For the past seven years, I commuted to Rohnert Park. The community, the city and the Chamber of Commerce have been very welcoming and we're looking forward to being part of the business community in Vallejo."

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

Friday, November 05, 2004

WITH GOLD SHOVELS at the ready, local dignataries prepare to turn the first shovels of dirt at groundbreaking ceremonies for the Sutter Solano Medical Center Cancer Center on Thursday. Photo: J.L. Sousa/Times-Herald
 Posted by Hello

Ladies and gentlemen, start your shovels

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

Arctic-like temperatures Thursday morning failed to chill the enthusiasm of those attending a groundbreaking ceremony for Vallejo's Sutter Solano Medical Center's new Cancer Center and Medical Office Building.
The three-story, 58,000-square-foot facility is going up at a projected cost of $24 million. It is expected to be completed by September 2005.

"We waited three years for this as we expanded our cancer program and reached out to the community and this is very exciting," said Sutter Solano spokeswoman Janice Hoss. The new building is being billed as the only comprehensive, state-of-the-art cancer treatment center in Vallejo and its immediate vicinity.

"Focus groups and surveys showed people here don't want to have to leave the area for treatment," Hoss said.

Everything about the center - from the services offered to the building's design - will be geared to addressing "the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of patients," according to an official Sutter statement. Craig Mulford of the Sacramento and Colorado-based architectural firm of Boulder Associates who designed the center, said he had all those elements in mind as he and others worked out the building's details.

"It's located on a corner, and had to be a very prominent building to announced entry (into the medical complex)," Mulford said. "We needed to enhance landscaping to help create a sense of a special place where healing can begin."

The center's ground floor will offer radiation, medical oncology, chemotherapy suites, a resource center and library, support services, clinical trials, complimentary medicine, cancer support groups and other cancer services. "Healing environmental elements" like waterfalls, gardens and massage therapy, will be incorporated into the facility, the statement says. A fireplace in the library will add a touch of warmth, Hoss said. Medical offices will occupy the two upper floors, and there will be 243 dedicated parking spaces, as well.

An estimated 100 local dignitaries and others crowded the white tent set up in the parking lot near the center's construction site Thursday where, warmed by a free-standing pole heater, they listened to a series of speakers, and enjoyed the music of "Healing Muses."

Vallejo Mayor Tony Intintoli, Jr. expressed his gratitude to the Sutter organization for selecting Vallejo as the site for the new center. Pointing to the "huge need" for such a facility in the area, Intintoli said, "we are blessed in this community with wonderful medical facilities. This is a glorious day."

Cancer Center Building Committee member Dale Welsh echoed that sentiment, calling the groundbreaking "a banner day - a day of celebration and profound appreciation that cancer patients and their families who struggle bravely won't have to leave the community to get treatment."

Having cancer treatment available nearby is the biggest issue for cancer survivor Rev. Carolyn Dyson, whose daughter's breast cancer diagnosis came only four months after her own.

"I remember having to commute to our chemotherapy and radiation treatments," Dyson said. "I remember holding my left breast so my stitches wouldn't pop and looking for a place to sit and wait for my daughter to finish her treatment, and there was no place. I had to lay in the back seat of my car to rest and wait.

"I'm envisioning a place where patients' spiritual and emotional needs, as well as their medical ones, will be addressed," Dyson added. "This project is a godsend for patients and their families."

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

Chamber of Commerce chooses CEO

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - After a four-month executive search, the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce chose an Arizona candidate as its next chief executive officer.

David Sommer, of Prescott, Ariz., will succeed interim CEO Bud Ross in December. Ross had filled in for Mark Essman, who left the chamber's top spot in June for a position with the Marin County Visitors and Convention Center.

Prior to working for the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, where he spent the past eight years, Sommer served as chamber manager for the city of Whitefish, Mont., and as executive director of the chamber in Spearfish, S.D.

Sommer was chosen for his proven leadership ability and for his knack for recruiting new chamber members, said Mac McManigal, one of seven chamber executive board members who unanimously chose Sommer over 14 other candidates.

"We chose him for a number of reasons," McManigal said of Sommer. "First, the Prescott chamber was in very good shape financially.

"Second, he was very much involved with membership recruitment."

While in Prescott, Sommer helped grow the chamber's business membership from 600 to more than 1,100. Plus, all of the other chambers he's worked for have consistently exceeded membership totals compared to the national average, according to a statement by the Fairfield-Suisun chamber.

"He's exactly what we need to carry out the work of the chamber," McManigal said. "His leadership should help us to continue to grow."

During the past five years, McManigal watched the chamber's membership increase from 500 to about 750. But he said there's more potential for growth.

Sommer, who first set foot in Fairfield when he arrived for the interview, said it appears to be a "progressive" community. It has all the elements he was looking for, he said.

"I was impressed with the industrial parks in Fairfield and the Suisun waterfront," he said. "From what I saw, it looked like a challenge and a really good fit for me."

To quench the chamber's thirst for greater membership, Sommer plans to help "brand" the chamber through marketing and other promotions. While chambers typically spend loads of time promoting their members, they often overlook the importance of increasing their own visibility, he said.

"You have to show the value of belonging to the chamber," he said.

But Sommer, who holds degrees from the University of Montana and Montana State University, was quick to point out that he will need a solid support staff to achieve all of the board's goals.

"It starts with a good staff, a forward-looking board and solid membership," he said. "Those are the most critical elements of a chamber's success."

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Sun Microsystems, Inc. Selects University of California, Davis for Center Of Excellence in Public Health and Safety Informatics

Press Release Source: Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Sun Microsystems, Inc. Selects University of California, Davis as Sun Center Of Excellence in Public Health and Safety Informatics
Monday November 1, 5:44 pm ET
First Sun Center of Excellence in University of California System

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Nov. 1 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Recognizing University of California, Davis, for its contribution to health and safety research and technology, Sun Microsystems, Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW - News) announced its selection of this University as a Center of Excellence (COE) in Public Health and Safety. The COE utilizes Sun's grid computing environment to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of computing resources and enable collaboration among four key research centers to advance experiments and programs.
Sun unveiled the new Center of Excellence during UC Davis' Annual Corporate Sponsor Day for the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), of which Sun is a founding member. Sun recognized UC Davis' contribution to science and research and highlighted its commitment to the COE in order to help educational institutions share ideas and resources to advance research and technologies in the areas of public health and safety.

UC Davis has established a reputation as a premier research university in areas including computational science and engineering, physics, chemistry, and bioinformatics, and they turned to Sun to help continue its advancement as a leading research institution. The Sun solution at UC Davis consists of 57 SunFire(TM) V20z servers based on the AMD Opteron processor, and an annual subscription to Sun's Education Software Portfolio. This software portfolio includes software products including Sun(TM) Grid Engine Enterprise Edition and the Sun Java(TM) Enterprise System. UC Davis is deploying Sun's grid computing solutions, based on the Sun Grid Infrastructure Reference Architecture, to gain more compute power, better utilize its current compute resources, simplify manageability, and improve collaboration among its researchers.

"UC Davis is making amazing contributions to education and research," said Enrique Lavernia, dean of the UC Davis engineering department. "Our selection as a Sun COE will serve as a model to the industry for best practices in the area of technology and research in public health and safety."

"The Sun solution allows UC Davis and its research colleagues to run applications on remote servers, sharing memory subsystems and externalizing graphic cards regardless of the physical location of their systems. They are enabled to maximize the availability and utilization of the computing environment through this approach," said Kim Jones, vice president of global education and research at Sun. "The Sun Center makes it transparent to the user where the computer resides, so it really helps budget-conscious institutions leverage an affordable and versatile computing infrastructure -- something that is key to keeping universities on the cutting edge of research and development."

"We are building a premier public health and safety research program, and that requires an expanded network of technology and resources. Sun's grid environment is allowing UC Davis to put that network in place," Dean Lavernia added.

One of the key users of the Sun Center of Excellence at UC Davis is the Computational Science and Engineering Center. The focus of this Center is to use computer computation to better understand complex systems by using inter-disciplinary science and engineering. UC Davis is now able to run applications much faster and also run new numeric intensive applications. Another project underway at the Center of Computational Science and Engineering is QuakeSim. The NASA-sponsored initiative is developing computer models to forecast earthquakes with accuracy similar to that of current forecasts for hurricane paths.

Sun's Center of Excellence program includes more than 75 centers worldwide in the areas of high performance computing, computational biology, digital libraries and e-learning.

About Sun Microsystems, Inc.

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Source: Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Monday, November 01, 2004


University of California, Davis
October 29, 2004


UC Davis researchers received $420.7 million in extramural funding in 2003-04. The figure represents a slight decrease over the previous year's record total of $426.3 million. The decline reflects a reduction in state funding of $24.8 million, but was offset by increases in federal and business funding of $14 million and $11.7 million respectively.

"It is good news that our federal and business funding continue to increase. State funding is a particularly large component of our campus research portfolio, and this has made us vulnerable to cutbacks in state spending. Hopefully, California's economic recovery will restore some of our cuts, and we remain optimistic about high-profile major research initiatives that are under way, several of which have been submitted for support," said Vice Chancellor for Research Barry Klein.

Federal and state agencies remain the primary sponsors of research, accounting for over 71 percent of funds received. However, non-state and non-federal sources contributed a record $121 million.

The federal government provided 1,095 research awards, with almost half of that number, 448 awards totaling $140.2 million, from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The National Science Foundation provided the next largest source of federal funds, awarding $45 million in 290 grants. Other federal agencies providing funding include the U.S. departments of:
Agriculture ($18.2 million), Energy ($13.7 million), Defense ($10 million), State ($3.5 million), Education ($3.2 million), and Interior ($3.2 million).

The School of Medicine, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the School of Veterinary Medicine were the top three funding recipients.

The strengths of campus research programs are also evident in the latest National Science Foundation rankings for research and development expenditures, where UC Davis placed 14th overall in total R&D expenditures for fiscal year 2002-03, moving up one place from the previous year. Individual areas where the campus ranked exceptionally well in R&D expenditures include: first in agriculture; third in non-federal funding expenditures; seventh in biological sciences; 13th in life sciences, including medicine, agriculture and biological sciences.

Media contact(s):
* Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-4533,

Our full UC Davis directory of media services and 24-hour contact information is available at <>.
Need information from campus news archives? The UC Davis News Service database contains past (and current) UC Davis news stories dating to 1991. Go to <>.
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UC Davis News Service
One Shields Avenue
Davis, California 95616-8687
Phone: (530) 752-1930; Fax: (530) 752-4068

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