Solano EDC president says his new role comes at right time in his lifeMarch 07 2022
Solano EDC president says his new role comes at right time in his life
By Matt Miller
Chris Rico is the new president and CEO of the Solano Economic Development Corporation. (Matt Miller/Daily Republic)
FAIRFIELD — Chris Rico said it’s kismet that landed him the role of a lifetime as the new president and CEO of the Solano Economic Development Corporation.
The 51-year-old Hollywood native said his life has been scripted to take on this new adventure after many years of varied experiences. His resume includes work as a music promotor, a career in film and television development and production, spending time assisting political campaigns and serving a stint as a special needs educator.
He jokes his back now hurts after becoming 51, but he also says, “I’m more comfortable in my skin.” There are things in his life he once cared about and they don’t bother him anymore, and he is more apt to just “go with the flow.”
“Doing so many different things I have learned how they are all interconnected,” Rico said. “I think it has made me more of a pragmatist with a need to solve problems. We’re in the business of prosperity and I now think I can help businesses and people prosper.”
Rico started his new job Jan. 18. Sean Quinn, the retired Fairfield city manager, had served as the interim president/CEO since last summer during the search for a full-time leader. Bob Burris had the role previously before becoming the economic development officer at Rural County Representatives of California last year.
Rico caught the attention of the Solano search committee with his work at the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation. That’s where he built Innovate LA, a multiple-week, countywide festival in Los Angeles that celebrates the innovations of those in Southern California. There were more than 150 different events as part of that program.
Innovate LA was recognized as the grand prize winner for economic development programs by the California Association for Local Economic Development in 2018. He also led the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation’s work with the digital media and entertainment industries.
“Chris has a diverse background which we think is a real asset,” Celia Esposito-Noy said in a press release.
Esposito-Noy is the chairwoman of the Solano Economic Development Corporation board of directors and the president of Solano Community College.
“He is creative, innovative and understands the role of economic development in providing economic opportunities for businesses and residents of our county,” Esposito-Noy said in the release. “I know he is excited to work and live in Solano.”
Rico grew up in Ohio and graduated from Duke University in North Carolina. He’s visited San Francisco a couple of times but knew little of Solano County and its seven often very different cities.
“I think many people who drive through here are ignorant of what the area has to offer,” Rico said. “They may know Jelly Belly, or have memories of the Nut Tree, know about the Budweiser plant and are familiar with Travis Air Force Base because they see the signs. But that may be the extent of their knowledge.”
The ongoing role of Rico and his staff is to market the region and show what it has to prospective businesses and employees. He mentioned statistics like the 144,000 who live in Solano County and commute outside of the county for work. That’s something he’d like to see changed.
“I think they would appreciate more how their quality of life would change if there were more good jobs available to them, closer to home,” Rico said. “It would also be a way to support local businesses. That’s a lot of lost revenue.”
Rico currently lives in Napa but has plans to eventually move into Solano County. He and his partner Rafa have really taken to the area. They love to ride bikes, explore music, art and culture and take in the geography.
“It’s amazing,” Rico said. “The geography is spectacular. There are so many interesting things here. When it’s green like this, it reminds me of Ireland or New Zealand.”
He’s ready for the new challenge, after finally leaving the Los Angeles lifestyle.
“The challenge is in marketing cities like Dixon and Vallejo,” he said. “They couldn’t be much more different. There is so much opportunity here. It’s so good for me to come in here with a fresh set of eyes. I don’t have the baggage of what hasn’t happened here and I can look at what the opportunities are.”