Vacaville rolls out economic growth plan that builds on history with Genentech, other biotech firms

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The city along the corridor of growth in Solano County has stepped up efforts this year to attract biotech and advanced manufacturing firms, a proposal 35 years in the making.

The Vacaville City Council approved last month a few initiatives that retain its consultant to review and evaluate options as well as create a staff position designed to make it a reality. The strategy in the first stage is intended to analyze the plan that may involve a rebranding and rezoning of the city nestled between Vallejo and Davis. It came before the council on Feb. 25.

Deemed a city with a mature market in both life science and advanced manufacturing, “the city is seeking to build from that strength with proposed diversification into related industries in a manner that will appeal to global industry leaders and create more career jobs for our community,” Assistant City Manager Aaron Busch wrote in the staff report.

The second phase discussed April 28 asked for the formation of a life science advisory board consisting of industry leaders.

Since Alza Pharmaceuticals made the scene along Interstate 80 in 1984, city officials have long seen the light at the end of the tax revenue tunnel. The Pakistani company with U.S. company headquarters situated in Mountain View has moved out recently since forming its partnership with medical giant Johnson & Johnson, but not before the city got a glimpse of an attractive industry to woo.

Biotech leader Genentech built its plant in Vacaville in 1997. Company officials including development facilitator Joaquin Castaneda failed to respond to requests for comment from the Business Journal by press time.

“Over the years, there’s been a biotech community in Vacaville,” Economic Development Director Tim Padden told the Business Journal. “It’s just starting to grow. We’ve been planting the seeds, now we’re watering them.”

Padden has determined Vacaville has adequate space for such a business initiative.

According to PitchBook Data, the warehousing and fulfillment sectors alone represent a market greater than $400 billion. Robotics is leading the charge with “explosive growth that may impact every industry from logistics to precision manufacturing,” the city exploratory study reports.

The attraction for Vacaville to get on the innovation bandwagon revolves around direct income and property tax revenue. The employees who fill these plants and offices also spend money, so the indirect benefit of increased sales tax potential is also there.

“These jobs tend to bring more disposable income into the community,” Padden said.

The plan also helps Vacaville establish an identity that its community neighbors enjoy. Think Napa for wine and Davis for cycling.

Vacaville has a unique benefit to becoming a biotech hub. Solano College offers a four-year degree in biomanufacturing.

“We’re so fortunate to have that educational (venue) in Vacaville,” he said.

In the last few months, two interested parties have come forward, Padden hinted without providing names.

“Anything’s possible. All it takes is one company to dictate the future of the community and forge a path to prosperity,” he said.

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