Solano EDC breakfast highlights county, Travis economic impacts

August 08 2019

The Reporter By Nick Sestanovich | |

PUBLISHED: August 7, 2019 at 4:47 pm |


With a new decade on the horizon, the Solano Economic Development Corporation held a breakfast summit Wednesday at Fairfield’s Hilton Garden Inn to discuss strategies for not only the county but also Travis Air Force Base — the county’s top employer.

Solano EDC President and CEO Bob Burris spoke about Solano’s recent successes as well as goals. In 2016, the organization’s funding was just under $400,000.

“(It) kept the organization going,” he said. “It allowed us to implement some programs.”

However, with the Moving Solano Forward study, the county needed more capacity to implement its vision. Since 2016, Burris said, Solano EDC has come close to doubling its budget and capacity.

“Part of that is a great commitment by all of our jurisdictions to up their level of investment to what is the national standard of about 40 cents per capita,” he said.

Furthermore, Burris said a bulk of those investments came from large companies operating within the county such as Sutter Solano, Kaiser Permanente, NorthBay Healthcare, Valero Benicia Refinery and Genentech.

“(They) all decided to jump in … and become bigger partners of our organization and join our board as well,” he said.

Among Solano’s recent successes Burris noted were bringing in companies like Thistle, Gotham Greens and Haier. The three companies, Burris said, would bring in between 400 and 450 jobs and an estimated $120 million in new investment.

The four primary objectives highlighted by Burris were business retention and expansion, business attraction being a resource hub of information and improving the competitiveness of the region.

Burris also said there was the potential for long-term opportunities to help grow its food and beverage production, advanced manufacturing, and biotechnology and life science industries. In particular, he said there were 1,000 acres of land zoned for agricultural or industrial use within eyesight of the University of California, Davis.

“What we’re working on doing is finding those high-priority sites that we can potentially add infrastructure to and make available to large companies that don’t necessarily want to be partners to UC Davis but want to be near UC Davis for the talent,” he said. “They might actually be coming out of UC Davis and looking for space.”

Shifting gears to Travis AFB, Col. Zachery Jiron, vice commander of the 60th Air Mobility Wing, spoke. He said that America was going through “one of the most dangerous global security environments that we’ve been in” and cited five national security threats: terrorist extremist groups and the governments of North Korea, Iran, Russia and China.

“A 24-hour news cycle won’t go by without one of those five threats popping up,” he said.

Jiron cited the summary of the National Defense Strategy, authored by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, which states that “The surest way to prevent a war is to be prepared to win one.”

To that end, Jiron said the role of the Air Force was to present the federal government with options, whether diplomatic, informational, economical or military options.

“We give the president options they can execute now and we can deliver effects anywhere in the world probably within about 24 hours,” he said. “That’s what sets us apart from our fighting services.”

At Travis, 479 airmen are deployed throughout the world, and the base itself sits on 6,300 acres. Jiron said that accomplishing Travis’ mission is highly dependent on the support of the community.

“When you see folks out in the community wearing the uniform, it’s usually important that we have a massively strong partnership with people,” he said. “We project power from our extensions, and these airmen that these men and women lead are out there trying to get those missions done every day, so we appreciate the partnership that we have.”

To help strengthen those partnerships even further, the base recently unveiled its Travis 100 plan. The plan, which began in 2018, outlines development at the base over the next 25 years leading into Travis’ 100th anniversary in 2043. The vision includes constructing airmen dormitories and multi-family living quarters in the northwest area, moving the Heritage Center, building a parallel taxiway and relocating the ammunition dumps.

Jiron said a goal is to have the community involved.

“It has to be a symbiotic relationship,” he said. “We realize we’re not gonna do this in isolation. It benefits us to partner with you, and it benefits you guys to partner with us to keep Travis growing going forward.”

Sandy Person of the Travis Community Consortium goes over Travis Air Force Base’s economic impact. (Nick Sestanovich– The Reporter)

Sandy Person of the Travis Community Consortium closed out the presentations by talking about the base’s economic impact. She said it had an annual economic output of $1.69 billion, made up 10 percent of Solano’s gross domestic product and was the county’s top employer and a significant contributor to its tax base.

“Its (Travis’) protection is paramount,” she said.Person further said that employing military spouses was one of the county’s key quality of life priorities.

“These spouses tend to be amongst the best and most qualified trained people in the world,” she said. “They say the Air Force is the best of the best. Guess what? They marry the best.”

Person noted that the current U.S. unemployment rate was 3.6 percent.

“Take a look at a spouse and try to take that into fold,” she said.

Other key quality of life priorities she highlighted were the quality of schools near bases, affordable housing and California’s military retiree taxation.