Vacaville enters 2nd phase of its Biotech Attraction Initiative

May 01 2020

Daily Republic By Todd R. Hansen

VACAVILLE — The City Council has hired a consultant to construct the second phase of its Biotech Attraction Initiative and created an Economic Development Services director position to further develop the biotech and advanced manufacturing sectors.

“The opportunity exists for Vacaville to take advantage of our unique position in these two sectors,” Mayor Ron Rowlett said in a statement released Thursday. The City Council approved the personnel moves Tuesday.

“I feel we now have the team, knowledge and experience in place to make this happen. We’re poised to be a world leader, and we’re anxious to get started,” the mayor said.

Matt Gardner, with Innovation Counselors LLC, is the consultant hired.

His task will be “setting up a nonprofit organization; creating a life science advisory board comprised of local and regional industry leaders; establishing new zoning opportunities that promote life science uses and (facilitate) a streamlined approval process; hosting multiple familiarization tours with biotech real estate developers and brokers; and participating electronically at Bio International 2020 to promote and market Vacaville’s new strategy,” the statement said.

The initial efforts will focus on the biotechnology/medical device technology industry.

The city noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has ignited the greater need for manufacturing of pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices, and city officials believe Vacaville is well-positioned to take advantage of that industry growth.

“Vacaville has been a global leader in life sciences since Alza invested in the city in 1984,” Gardner said in the statement. “Now home to a deep biomanufacturing complex and talent base, the city sees numerous ways to grow from strength.”

Alza Corp. is a pharmaceutical delivery company that was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 2001. It was reported last April, however, that the Vacaville plant was closing in 2022.

The city also will look to expand its existing agriculture technologies, aerospace and transportation, food and beverage and robotics industry base.

The first phase of the initiative was approved by the council Feb. 25, and identified biotech and advanced manufacturing as target industries for Vacaville. That was consistent with the strategy developed by the Solano Economic Development Corp. as well.

The second phase is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2021.

The next step would be “to install an infrastructure system capable of establishing and supporting Vacaville as a major life science industry leader,” the statement said.

“We want to find every possible avenue to facilitate biotech investment and generally be prepared to make Vacaville the place that biotech companies want to be, and need to be,” interim City Manager Aaron Busch said. in the statement ”Our city has the land, building space, infrastructure and skilled workforce that these industries require.”

The city will begin recruiting for the economic services director in the near future.

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