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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, September 17, 2012, 5:40 am

Solano companies expand, cut energy use, attract capital

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    Anheuser-Busch

    Anheuser-Bush’s round-the-clock Fairfield brewery has cut energy usage by 30 percent since 2003, aided by enhancements such as a 340-foot windmill installed last year in collaboration with San Francisco’s Foundation Wind Power.

    Anheuser BuschThe turbine is part among the latest wave of larger, slower-spinning turbines in Solano County to take advantage of conditions favorable for electricity generation.

    By buying power from turbine operators, the beverage company expects to pay off the installation in five or six years and reap returns afterward, according to Kevin Finger, brewery general manager.

    The company also installed a seven-acre, 6,400-panel solar array, offsetting 3 percent of annual electricity usage.

    “We had the insight to modernize this plant before the 2008 and 2009 downturn,” Mr. Finger said. “Our first goal is always to reduce our overall usage.”

    The plant also transforms into methane the leftovers from production of about 20 brands of beer. That supplies 15 percent of the facility’s natural gas needs, Mr. Finger said.

    Blu Homes

    Investment in California- and Massachusetts-based Blu Homes doubled in March with a $25 million infusion from Netherlands-based Skagen Group and Brightpath Capital Partners.

    Blu HomesThe new funding will help the 4-year-old developer and manufacturer of prefabricated energy-efficient homes to further develop proprietary manufacturing technologies and expand its single-family and developer sales teams, according to the company.

    Blu Homes has built structures in a 250,000-square-foot Vallejo factory since 2011. Model sizes range from 430 square feet studios to two-story, 1,000-plus-square-foot homes. Units are sold nationwide as primary residences, additions and schools.

    As of July, the company had 205 employees in Vallejo, San Francisco, Michigan and Massachusetts. 

    Coda Automotive

    Three years after first announcing its plan to develop a new all-electric vehicle in California, Coda Automotive’s first five-seat sedan rolled off of the final assembly line in Solano County in March.

    Coda AutomotiveFive California dealers have begun offering Coda cars to consumers. The first fleet vehicle arrived in May.

    Amports Inc., an auto processor in Benicia, entered into an agreement with Coda last year to complete assembly of the sedan’s China-made parts. The companies projected initial joint hiring of 50 more employees for the work, starting with 10,000 to 14,000 cars the first year.

    Also a developer of battery technologies, the company expects to more than double its staff to 650 in the coming years.

    Partnership HealthPlan

    Partnership HealthPlanFairfield-based Partnership HealthPlan of California is expanding significantly, planning to grow its workforce of 280 by up to 30 percent through 2014. It created 60-plus jobs in 2011.

    The nonprofit managed Medi-Cal provider increased enrollment by nearly 40,000 through expansion in Marin and Mendocino counties in 2011. Recently, it expanded into Lake County.

    The quasipublic health plan administers benefits for some 200,000 members seven counties, also including Sonoma, Solano, Napa and Yolo. Its 2011—2012 budget is $910 million.

    Travis Credit Union

    Vacaville-based Travis Credit Union has increased business-lending efforts, creating a new vice president position to guide the $1.9 billion institution’s commercial banking strategy.

    Travis Credit UnionThe appointment of Francine Boards as vice president of business lending is the latest step in an expansion of commercial offerings that first began in 2004.

    Previously, the 60-year-old credit union focused primarily on retail lending. Today, about 10 percent of the $1 billion loan portfolio is connected to commercial lending, according to Barry Nelson, senior vice president and chief operating officer.

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