Solano economic organization’s presentation shows promise of partnership with WintersJuly 23 2019
Winters Express July 23, 2019 by Brandon McCapes
in City, City Hall, News, Regional, Solano County
Robert Burris, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, takes branding so seriously he put a curse jar on his podium and demanded five dollars any time someone referred to the Solano region as “the Corridor.”
At the July 16 City Council meeting, Burris gave a presentation on how he and his organization have taken strides to revitalize the region west of Sacramento and east of the Bay Area, including tips for economic growth in Winters as well as an invitation to partner with the Solano EDC.
“I’ve always looked at Winters as a very close partner of Solano’s and very similar in economics and desirable industries. We’d like to find a way to work together and maybe the synergy will benefit the economies of Winters and Solano as well,” Burris said.
Burris said his organization relaunched with the “Moving Solano Forward” initiative three years go, and has grown in terms of both staff and resources and has been successful promoting economic interests in the region.
“We came together to find how the EDC should operate, what should be our priorities, what industries are most important to this larger region and how we focus our efforts and the resources we have,” Burris said.
The corporation, whose financial resources approach $1 million after years of increased public and private investment, has focused on business retention, enhancing the region’s competitiveness, rebranding through marketing campaigns, and becoming a resource hub for current and prospective businesses.
Staff members have been attending conferences and paying for advertisements in trade publications to enhance Solano County’s regional, statewide and even international appeal. Burris juxtaposed photos of the I-80 freeway with off-ramp signs pictures of sunflowers and vineyards silhouetting the distant coastal ranges to illustrate the problem of how most commuters experience Solano compared to what the region really has to offer.
Burris said the EDC has increased its number of prospective businesses by a factor of seven, created 400-450 new jobs in the area and an estimated $125 million in investment. The corporation focuses on the region’s strengths, including its proximity to Travis Air Force Base and UC Davis as well as the larger Bay Area and Sacramento regions. Winters, Burris advised, could focus on these connections in efforts to grow economically.
Solano EDC focuses on three main industries: agriculture and agricultural technology, bio-tech and advanced materials production. Winters could take further advantage of these regional specialization in growth.
Burris advised Winters to take advantage of its proximity to UC Davis by developing relationships with multiple UCD departments and administrators, as ag-tech and bio-tech companies want to be near UC Davis and the Sacramento and Bay Area regions. Partnerships with Sacramento and Bay Area companies that could develop in Winters is also advisable, especially due to difficulties building in other Yolo County cities and skyrocketing cost of living in the Bay Area.
Since the Solano EDC began its new initiative, larger technology companies have been looking at Solano as an alternative to the expensive Bay Area. Two major companies have relocated or expanded there. Thistle, a tech-based organic food delivery company, moved from the South Bay to Vacaville, and Leafy Green, a Brooklyn-based company that grows greens in enclosed warehouses expanded to Vacaville as well. Burris said this illustrates the appeal of Solano—and Winters—which are near economic and agricultural hotspots but offer lower costs of living for employees.
Mayor Bill Biasi, who sat on Winters Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC), said it was important to form local partnerships with groups like the Solano EDC. “One of the top recommendations in that report was getting some connections with other economies in the area like yours and seeing where we can work together,” Biasi said.
City Manager John Donlevey thanked Burris for coming and echoed the close relationship between Winters and Solano. He also said economic development through business attraction in the fashion of Solano EDC is necessary due to the number of Winters residents who want to work in town, but have to commute to work in neighboring localities.
“The ability to generate jobs locally is so important,” Donlevy said. “The reality for us is so many of our residents who work drive out of town and make a right-hand turn on the 505. They head south and head right into Solano County. There’s certainly a tremendous amount of opportunity.”
City staff are currently promoting the EDAC report published in March, which was once again discussed by the Planning Commission July 23 and will go before the City Council in August.