The Solano County Economic Development Corporation is launching a new strategy to attract new businesses to the area, and is also saying goodbye to its long-time president and CEO, Sandy Person.
In May, the Board of Directors will be asked to endorse a new $500,000 budget to fund enhanced business attraction efforts, including a website that gives companies looking to relocate or expand a comprehensive description of developable sites available in Solano cities. It features extensive demographics of the county, its capable workforce, the quality of life and other promotional messages.
“To achieve these goals we need new financial support from business members, public sector partners in cities and county government, and anywhere else we can find it,” said Steve Huddleston, immediate past chairman of the board.
Strategic targets include the biotech industry, biomed, logistics, advanced materials, and food and beverage industries.
Solano has attracted a lot of interest from the wine industry, and craft brewing is growing, said Louise Walker, EDC board chairwoman
In 2015, Solano experience a 3 percent job growth, with 4,300 new jobs, led by non-durable manufacturing and wholesale positions, according to the latest figures from the EDC, and the county generates $19.6 billion in annual gross regional product.
Along with business attraction, the new strategy will continue to address business retention.
“While gaining jobs and new employers are the top priority, Solano EDC will not ignore business retention, support for Travis Air Force Base and legislative advocacy on behalf of local employers. I hope we might find there’s a role for Sandy in those efforts in conjunction with us. She is so strong in those areas,” said Huddleston.
Person has been an active staff member of the EDC for 16 years, and an active member since 1987.
“I wholeheartedly support this key endeavor. It’s best for the community. It’s what Solano EDC should be doing,” Person said. “But it’s a serious change in focus for the CEO and some different skills are essential. The organization is embarking on a rigorous new path, in a better economy, with an emphasis on business recruitment, which means the CEO will do a great deal of travel throughout the region and state. While I want to be on a path with challenges and opportunities, I do not feel I can commit to such a long-term obligation.”
Huddleston said the Board of Directors is currently working to recruit a “business recruitment guru,” with a target hiring date of late summer.
During difficult economic times, Person said, success came in retaining existing businesses and ensuring the viability of Travis Air Force Base amid periodic threats of federal budget cutting leading to military base closures.
“Those became my passion and my strengths,” she said.
Travis’ workforce consists of more than 13,000 military members and civilian employees, and the base contributes more than $1.6 billion to Solano County annually.
Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at Cynthia.Sweeney@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4259.