Solano EDC receives CARES Act grant to begin next phase of economic development strategy

May 18 2021

Organization was the recipient of CARES Act Funding funds will go toward launching the third phase of Moving Solano Forward


PUBLISHED: May 17, 2021 at 8:00 a.m. | UPDATED: May 17, 2021 at 5:38 p.m.

The Solano Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is on track to begin the next phase of its Moving Solano Forward initiative to identify and build upon economic development strategies within the county.

The organization was the recipient of CARES Act Funding through the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), an agency within the federal Department of Commerce, to the tune of $480,000. With $110,000 in matching funds from Solano Transportation Authority (STA), the county and all seven cities, the funds will go toward launching the third phase of Moving Solano Forward.

Robert Burris, Solano EDC’s president and CEO, said the agency has been in discussions with EDA over the last three years, but the process was stalled when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Fortunately, an opportunity came up.

“With the availability of CARES Act funds through EDA, we thought the timing was right to move forward,” he said. “What that provided to us was not only funding but the ability to get the funding with less of a match requirement.”

Usually, Burris said, grants have a 50 percent matching requirement. However, the CARES Act only requires a 20 percent match. This allowed Solano EDC to receive matching funds from STA and the various municipalities it serves. A grant proposal was submitted in the first week of July, with preliminary approval granted in October and final approval the first week of April.

The first phase of Moving Solano Forward was presented in 2014, aimed at further expanding and diversifying the county’s economic base. The second phase, completed in 2017, provided market analysis. The third phase aims to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the county’s economy while also evaluating the economic impacts of COVID-19 by business sector and cluster. It also seeks to review the recommendations of the previous phase and develop a work plan for tasks that have not been started yet.

Burris said the work was anticipated to be completed over the next 18 months to two years, but each item will have its own set of deliverables due by a certain date.

The first item is an overview of the process, which is due Aug. 20.

The second item, due Oct. 15, is a written report and presentation on the economic challenges and opportunities resulting from the pandemic. The report will include an analysis of changes to the workforce, evaluation of opportunities due to employees working at home and potential for shared workspace, an analysis of supply chain obstacles and a development of key strategies to restart key sectors.

The third item, due Jan. 28, is a short-term triage that aims to evaluate current retention and expansion efforts in the county and use best practices to develop a strategy by sector, develop specific recommended programs to support existing businesses, determine demand and capacity for business financing programs and analyze obstacles for growth in high-opportunity clusters while also developing recommendations to decrease these obstacles.

The fourth item — due May, 27, 2022 — is a report on opportunity sites for the federal Opportunity Zones program, which invests in low-income neighborhoods. The work includes updating the countywide industrial site inventory by tiers, identifying programs and funding options to finance new infrastructure or upgrade existing ones, and developing specific strategies to market and attract investment and development within Opportunity Zones.

The fifth item — due Sept. 23, 2022 — seeks to review current business attraction efforts and make recommendations on subjects like diversification strategies, potential for expansion and increased competitivness.

The sixth and final item is a long-term resiliency plan aimed at identifying opportunities or restrictions in priority development and production areas to facilitate job growth and expansion, while also developing a strategy to tie economic development, job growth, housing and transportation goals countywide. It is due Dec. 30, 2022.

Burris said several specialists and consultants will be brought in to go through the scope of the project. He also said the deliverables within each item would allow for actions to take place before reports come out.

“We won’t be waiting 18 months to two years for a report to come out that we can all utilize,” he said. “It will be specific action items springing out from each one of our items.”

Burris said he was excited to begin the next phase of Moving Solano Forward, which he said would launch within the next month.

“It is going to be, we think, a game-changer for the region,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to really prioritize potential areas of development that we think could bring entirely new industries to our region.”

Article in The Reporter.