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FAIRFIELD -- Critical factors driving economic recovery and growth in Solano County and the surrounding region as well as opportunities for fostering that activity will be the focus of the Impact Solano conference on Friday.

There are several major new business deals in the works, including sizable activity in the manufacturing arena as well as in the build-to-suit construction sector and the wine industry in Solano, according to Sandy Person, president of Solano Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

"Overall, there is healthy but cautious optimism in Solano after a five- to six-year great recession," she said. "The public sector is still recovering from budget cuts, but the private sector is growing and showing new strength."

[caption id="attachment_71267" align="alignleft" width="258"] Sandy Person and Robert Eyler[/caption]

Co-sponsored by the Business Journal and the Travis Credit Union, the Impact Solano conference will explore what the EDC and others are doing -- in collaboration with private and public partners -- to attract new firms to the area and support existing business clusters.

Businesses are filling up available industrial space in Solano and Napa counties, according to Colliers International's Fairfield office. The commercial real estate brokerage's latest report estimated that the vacancy rate for warehouses and manufacturing space dropped to 8.1 percent in the third quarter from 9.4 percent at mid-year and 12.0 percent a year before.

The report also showed that Solano is enjoying the benefits of wine’s ever increasing popularity as glass and other packaging companies are moving into the county.

In Fairfield, the office vacancy rate has also moved downward. Three of the four largest leases took place there, including Intercoast College’s lease of 11,374 square feet of class A space in the Westside Professional Center.

Yet, the downward pace of office vacancy in Solano and Napa counties earlier in the year stalled in the third quarter, remaining at a very high level of 22.9 percent with only three leases of 5,000 or more square feet in the quarter and 2,100 square feet more square feet taken off the market than made available, according to Colliers.'Moving Solano Forward'

The EDC sought a $369,860 economic-development grant through the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment to conduct a comprehensive study and recommended courses of action. The county of Solano later obtained the grant.

Now, the EDC is collaborating with local government and community stakeholders on a economic-diversification study, called "Moving Solano Forward." The intent is to stimulate industry growth.

"Our mission goes beyond attracting new businesses," Ms. Person said. "We are equally concerned about retaining the ones we have. We have established on ongoing program designed to help us achieve this goal."

For example, a North Bay Bio/Life Science Cluster Alliance has been formed to help strengthen and grow the region’s biotechnology and life-science industry as well as to brand, market, recruit and retain the many such companies already in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties.

Along those lines, Jon Reed, vice president and general manager for manufacturing operations at Genentech in Vacaville, will provide details of the $135 million expansion plan for this facility, including 200-plus new technicians, scientists and engineers.

A key feature of the Impact Solano conference will be a review of results of the first-ever State of the Solano County Business Climate survey by Ms. Person and EDC board Chairperson Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, president of the Travis Credit Union. The survey was conducted by the Business Journal and the credit union.Economic outlook

Robert Eyler, PhD, professor and Frank Howard Allen Research Scholar in the Department of Economics at Sonoma State University, at the conference will provide an economic outlook for the region and explore the county’s most promising opportunities.

In his talk, titled "Solano 2014 Economy: Considerations and Caveats," he will talk about the current global economic conditions and those in the U.S., California and Solano County as well as what is driving growth locally.

His presentation includes GDP growth components in the U.S. along with residential and nonresidential investment data through second quarter of 2013.

Dr. Eyler will also address the issue of excess cash reserves -- loanable funds not lent -- at U.S. depository institutions and what this means for anti-inflationary policies and interest rates.

A significant portion of his talk will focus on Solano’s economy, job growth, housing prices and global/national markets for wine, manufactured goods, biotech/life sciences and other industry sector products and services.

He plans to zero-in on emerging trends and business sectors to watch in 2014 for either continued growth, maintaining the status quo or poised for a potential slowdown.

Dr. Eyler has been working with a solar company, an aircraft manufacturing firm and other businesses seeking to locate in Solano County, and will provide his unique perspectives on why businesses find this area attractive.Rising wine business

Roger King, president of the Suisun Valley Vintners and Growers Association, will address both the growth in the Solano grape crop values and the total wine economics of the region.

The recent announcement by Napa winemaker Caymus Vineyards that it had acquired a 178-acre parcel in Solano County to build a five million-gallon winery and warehouse facilities has drawn increased attention to Solano and the region’s substantial wine support services.

The conference will be held on Friday, Nov. 8, 7:30--10 a.m. at Fairfield Hilton Garden Inn, located at 2200 Gateway Ct. To register, visit  NorthBayBusinessJournal.com or call 707-521-5264.