Reporter article: Solano EDC hosts annual breakfast in Fairfield

March 21 2023

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March 21, 2023 at 3:59 p.m.

The Solano Economic Development Corporation held its annual breakfast on Tuesday morning at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield.

This was the 40th annual meeting held by Solano EDC and the second back in-person following the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the hotel’s conference center, close to 300 dignitaries from across Solano County ate a plated breakfast of quiche, potatoes, and fruit as Solano EDC President and CEO Chris Rico hosted a panel of three special guests including Vice Chairman of Global Strategy at Newmark Robert Hess, President of Economic Forensics and Analytics, Inc. Dr. Robert Eyler, and Managing Director at Newmark Gabriel Dion.

Eyler began the panel with a presentation on how Solano County is recovering post-pandemic. According to Eyler, the last two years are the only years in recorded history in which California as a whole has lost population.

Employment levels rising since 2020 have begun to slow down in terms of growth. Housing prices increasing from early 2020 to July 2022 have slowly faded due to rising interest rates and a slowing economy.

“2022 was the first year that Solano County had its median wage level exceed the median wage level of California,” said Eyler.

Dion’s presentation focused on the important assets we have surrounding us in Solano County.

The top 10 competitive assets we have according to Dion include the cost of living relative to the Bay, proximity to three commercial airports, logistical access, proximity to two major markets and economies, racial and ethnic diversity, a strong community college, high-quality public schools, well-positioned for redevelopment, a high-quality healthcare system, and a strong university presence.

He also highlighted the top 10 challenges we face as a county including the cost of living relative to the rest of the United States, a high public-sector turnover, few sites available for development, red tape, and regulatory processes, lack of collaboration between cities, NIMBYism, power and gas provider reputations, lack of a clear, shared vision and goals, natural disaster risks, plus rising crime and homelessness.

Dion mentioned that being surrounded by Sacramento, Oakland, and San Francisco is a huge advantage. Having several universities within our reach, such as UC Davis, Stanford, Sacramento State, Sonoma State, and Cal Berkeley is also vital for our future growth as a county.

Other colleges noted for their importance to our county included Cal Maritime Academy and Solano Community College. SCC has a biomanufacturing bachelor’s degree program that Rico says is crucial for our community as well.

“Cal Maritime is an incredible institution,” said Rico. “They were very helpful in the COVID response and partnered with Kaiser a lot. They are one of three institutions that educate on osteopathy and the only one in Northern California. They have Masters programs in public health and nursing. The student population is very diverse and most of them stay. That is critical because nationally we are going to face a massive shortage of healthcare providers. If we can get diverse talent that is educated here to stay here, we will have a huge competitive advantage.”

According to Dion, primary target industries that attract, expand, and retain a workforce and supply-chain strengths include fruit and vegetable preserving and specialty food manufacturing, beverage manufacturing, support activities for crop production, architectural and structural metals manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and medicine manufacturing.

Next, Hess focused on site selection. His 69 total recommendations were highlighted through five key priorities including marketing, quality of life, dedicated EDC staff, recruitment readiness for universities, plus retention and expansion of cluster networks.

“Cost, quality, and risk are the determinant variables of further investment and development of your unique assets and ecosystems in Solano County,” said Hess. “Orchestrating and delivering the right narrative around each of these variables, and with consistent tone, the County and cities together will set the stage for success however you measure it. You are well underway, stick with it.”

Rico began the breakfast with an African proverb to summarize the purpose of having this meeting each year.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

Article in The Reporter