SOLANO COUNTY -- A new non-profit group is focussed on helping Solano’s small businesses grow revenues with an eye toward creating jobs.

[caption id="attachment_40552" align="alignleft" width="176" caption="Charles Rieger has launched a non-profit to help grow Solano businesses"][/caption]

Charles Rieger, formerly with IBM and now owner of a construction business, is the guiding force behind the Solano Center for Business Innovation.

“I looked around to see what we could do to help the 15,000 small companies that are operating, and often struggling, here in the county,” he said.

Mr. Rieger has talked with 60 local businesses and laid out a series of programs designed to address their concerns.

“They didn’t want handouts, but they did want help adjusting to new, competitive ways of doing business,” he said.

Part mentoring, part educational and part hands-on job creation, the center is not an incubator, but an effort to provide resources and contacts to both working companies and the out-of-work, including about 78,000 idled construction workers.

Anyone is welcome to gather with the group on the second Wednesday of each month at the Solano EDC, where subjects such as business technology and how to put it to use, and entreprenuership for the experienced worker are addressed.

A Pathways to Innovations program offers special mentoring to individuals or companies who want to grow or change, and the center is soon to launch a series of breakfast meetings where speakers of note will hold forth on pertinent topics.

“We want to get Rep. John Garamendi speaking on ‘Buy American’ for example,” said Mr. Reiger.

Melissa Percivalle, whose event planning and fund raising startup Event Savvy is benefiting from the Pathways program, is now putting her new business skills to work for the center.

“I get so involved in helping my clients develop their ideas I tend to let other things go,” she said. “Charles helps me back up my ideas with solid business practices. So in return I’m helping him develop the breakfast series and other events.”

The most ambitious of the center’s programs piggybacks on the California Energy Upgrade initiative to create jobs. Mr. Reiger calls it Energy Upgrade California Solano Plus.

Working with partners such as Solar City and Green Environmental Technologies, the center’s goal is to make 500 Solano County homes 40 percent more efficient while putting construction workers back in action.

“We persuade homeowners to avail themselves of the state energy rebates, which work out to $2,500 for every 25 percent reduction in energy use through solar and other alternative energy, roof and window improvements, more efficient appliances.

“Then, if they’re willing to pass the rebate on to us, we’ll install a complete energy monitoring system, an energy management system, and LED lighting throughout the home.”

Just launched, the Solano Plus program has already signed up three homeowners. Mr. Reiger hopes to double enrollment each month.

“We think we have a winner. The homeowner gains far more energy efficiency and several small businesses benefit from the work,” he said.

The next Center for Business Innovation meeting is on September 21 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For more information call 707-861-0724.