Why 3 appliance, food companies made big commitments to Solano County
Economic-development boosters for Solano County are touting their role in helping three businesses secure sizable footprints in Solano County.
Solano Economic Development Corporation said the arrival of GE Appliances, Gotham Greens and Thistle in the past two years has the collective potential to create 300 to 350 jobs and provide an estimated $120 million in new investment.
Robert Burris, president and CEO of the business development group, said five other companies are having confidential discussions about doing the same.
“In addition to interest from a number of food-related companies, we are investing more time working with life science enterprises looking at Solano County, with Vacaville having a unique competitive advantage,” Burris said during Solano EDC’s virtual annual meeting March 25. “As a result, we are ramping up efforts to attract new firms for the nonprofit California Biotechnology Center developed by city of Vacaville. The overall economic impact of new biotech developments in this region is estimated to be 10,000 to 20,000 new jobs and several billion dollars in output.”
Burris noted that 1,000 acres of land zoned for industrial agriculture use are close to the UC Davis, which opens up opportunities for firms doing research in agriculture and food.
By locating in Solano, unique food producers can reduce time spent transporting perishable vegetables from farms to consumers by shortening the supply chain — especially in the wake of food supply disruptions and fragmentation caused by COVID-19. Consequently, Solano is fast becoming a food innovation hub as well as a regional distribution center for kitchen and home appliances, said Burris.
The Business Journal recently reported on Gotham Greens’ timetable for opening its 100,000-square-foot indoor vegetable greenhouse later this year. It’s the New York-based company’s first West Coast facility, intended to supply grocery stores, restaurants and other food service businesses.
Following similar moves by firms wishing to be closer to Bay Area customers, GE Appliances, a Haier company, chose Dixon over Sacramento due to the availability of labor and adequate real estate, according to Burris. About 501,000 square feet of build-to-suit space has been leased at 250 E. Dorset Drive in Dixon for GE Appliances’ Solano County distribution center.
Construction began in January 2021 and completion is targeted for the first quarter of 2022. This center will serve Northern California and parts of Oregon and Nevada, according to Julie Wood, senior director of corporate communications.
“This will be our newest appliance distribution center,” Wood said. “It integrates smart technologies designed to improve product lifecycle, making it possible to deliver products to 90% of the U.S. population in one day from our nine manufacturing plants, 11 ADCs and 170 local delivery locations staffed by 13,600 employees.”
Over the last two years, GE Appliances, with headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, has increased its workforce by more than 2,000 employees in the U.S. and invested more than $740 million. The Solano plant is the company’s first appliance distribution center on the West Coast and one expected to provide between 50 and 100 jobs.
Wood said the company uses a digital thread and a sophisticated data base that tracks where each appliance is going, the customer who ordered it, when it is scheduled to arrive and what happens to it on its way to the customer.
Inspired by advances in the auto industry, the company’s warehouse product movers have Basiloid Lift-A-Pliance attachments equipped with sensors, variable-speed controls, navigation lights and cameras to enable operators to move products efficiently and reduce damage. Each appliance is moved only once, and symmetrical warehousing techniques reduce product handling by 50%. Interactive virtual reality instruction cuts training time in half by providing a computer generated, total immersion experience that closely resembles each job.
Thistle Health Inc.
Thistle has been preparing organic, gluten and dairy-free plant-based meals since 2014, along with cold-pressed juices, desserts and wellness shots for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Based in San Francisco’s Mission District, Thistle was established by co-founders Ashwin Cheriyan and his wife Shiri Avnery.
After a few years, the founders realized that growth depended on having enough affordable real estate to scale, while retaining a percentage of its San Francisco and East Bay workforce, leading to the decision to move to Vacaville enabling it to retain connectivity with surrounding markets, Burris said.