Panel shares insight on Solano economic, community growth
FAIRFIELD — A three-member panel shared insight on economic and community growth in Solano County during the Solano Economic Development Corporation’s 33rd annual meeting luncheon Friday.
Robert Eyler, Don Schjeldahl and Audrey Taylor spoke on the theme of We’re Moving Solano Forward, before an audience of more than 300 who gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn.
The trio is part of the team recently contracted through the Solano Economic Development Corporation to develop the knowledge and tools to position the county economy for growth.
Eyler started off by saying 2015 was robust for Solano County, with 4,300 new jobs – the most since 2005.
“There’s been a lot of good news about Solano County and what’s been going on,” he said.
Many people question what’s next, Eyler said. Interest rates look like they’re going to start rising, the Chinese economy is showing some issues and there is uncertainty in politics, he said.
There are points to consider in moving ahead, Eyler said. There is a need to be mindful of the global, national and regional economic context, he stressed.
It’s important to build businesses looking at the future, not so much looking at the past, he said.
“We want economic diversity and we also want to be bulletproof against the next recession, which we know is going to come,” he said.
“You’re never going to be totally bulletproof, no matter how economically diverse your communities are,” he said, however.
There will still be some exposure to a recession, he said.
Eyler also pointed to the need for balance.
One of the other challenges here is to identify what businesses export beyond Solano County, because about 25,000 people leave the county every day to do a job someplace else, he said.
He also spoke of opportunities that are ahead.
“The bottom line is that businesses are going to want to migrate when prices start to rise. And the Bay Area is a great example of this,” he said. “Are you ready for that migration? Our project is going to have some of the answers to that.”
Corporate site selection is much different now than in the past, Schjeldahl said in his presentation. The world is much more complex, he said. The markets are rapidly changing, he said.
A successful business today must be flexible and adaptable, he said. You need to know where you sit in the global economy, he said.
Schjeldahl also spoke of the younger workforce. They have a different view of quality of life, he said.
Businesses need to have a vision to train the workforce of tomorrow, he said.
Schjeldahl also talked of changes in Solano County. The county was isolated 20 years ago, he said. That isolation is going away, he said.
There is a choice of what to do, he said. There is a need to figure out what to do to attract a diversified economy, he said.
Taylor, meanwhile, said she was impressed with the county and its long-term planning. What you have here is distinct, she said.
She talked of the need to be ready for opportunities. In a global context, the speed of a business is critical, she said.
Businesses must also know their surroundings. Economic development has to understand what growth is taking place, she said.
Taylor also focused on workforce development. It’s important that the skill set matches the economy you want, she said.
Businesses must be prepared for disruptive changes as well, she said. We have to adjust to those, she said.
Taylor pointed to the need for sound city government as an attraction. Businesses also look at fiscal management of cities, she said.
Among the points she made, Taylor said there is a need to share value and vision. Typically there is a vision of what sectors you want to grow, she said.
Eyler is president of Economic Forensics and Analytics Inc. and professor of economics at Sonoma State University. Schjeldahl, principal at DSG Advisors, is a corporate site consultant. Taylor is president of the economic development consulting firm, Chabin Concepts.