Solano economic group names new chief executive

October 19 2017

By Todd R. Hansen From page A1 | October 19, 2017

FAIRFIELD — The Solano Economic Development Corp. stayed inside the county to find its new executive director – but one with a regional resume.

Robert Burris, the economic development director for Fairfield, has been selected to replace Sandy Person as the new chief executive officer for the countywide agency.

“My economic philosophy has always been to do a few things really good rather than try to do too much,” Burris said in a phone interview Wednesday.

He said the Bay Area and Sacramento regions are primed to expand and grow and Solano is in the perfect location to absorb that growth.

“And we have a tremendous foothold in two industries: biotech and food and beverage,” said Burris, who added that he knows a number of companies linked to those business clusters are interested in the area.

Burris begins his new duties on Jan. 1, the Economic Development Corporation announced Wednesday morning.

“We are ecstatic that we were able to find someone with the skills, experience and local knowledge we were looking to acquire,” Louise A. Walker, president and CEO of First Northern Bank and chairwoman of the agency’s board of directors, said in a statement.

“Our organization is at a pivotal juncture,” Walker said. “We are refocusing our mission to attract new enterprises that bring well-paying jobs, that diversify our local economy and that are innovative and looking to grow with us.”

“This is my passion, this is what I’m wired to do,” Burris said as part of the announcement. “I really do eat and breathe marketing, economic development and strategic partnerships.”

Prior to coming to Fairfield, Burris spent 15 years with the Sacramento Area Commerce & Trade Organization, serving at the time of his departure as deputy director and executive vice president. He led the marketing and business attraction team for the capital region.

Burris began his career as an associate with EPS, an economic and planning consultant group, before joining the real estate brokerage firm Grubb & Ellis Co.

The new executive will steer the Solano agency’s $500,000 “Solano Means Business” campaign, which officials said is focused on building the economy through job creation. While much of the attention has been on recruiting new companies to the area – and particularly those industries that fit into the area’s economic profile, such as biotech and food, beverage and agricultural processing – Walker said supporting existing businesses is also critical.

“While we are out there recruiting, we will not ignore business retention which includes support for Travis Air Force Base,” Walker said in the statement.

Burris, who has been part of the Solano Economic Development Corporation’s task force building the new campaign, said he has gotten to know the area businesses in his nearly two years in Fairfield and has a solid idea of what they need and want.

Burris was hired by Fairfield in March 2016. He lives in Sacramento with his wife, Stacy, and their 11-year-old daughter. He said they will look to move to Solano County in the near future.

Person has been on the Economic Development Corporation staff for 17 years and was promoted to chief executive in 2011. Prior to coming on staff, she served on the board of directors and was a volunteer before that.

She said she would like to continue working with Travis Air Force Base and the area manufacturers in some capacity, but is not sure what that might be.

“At this time, I don’t have anything firm lined up, but I am super excited about (Burris) coming on board. He is a super talent,” Person said.