FAIRFIELD — Wind turbines, CarMax and Walmart could all make local business news during 2013.
Congress on Tuesday passed “fiscal cliff” legislation that includes extending wind energy tax credits to cover wind farms constructed by year’s end. Solano County already has about 800 such turbines in the Montezuma Hills and more construction is envisioned.
The wind energy tax credit extension could make a difference. Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan’s 5th District includes the Montezuma Hills. One energy developer put plans on hold pending the outcome of the tax credit extension, he said.
No wind turbine developer has an application before the county at the moment. Solano County Planning Manager Mike Yankovich said it would be possible to apply, win county approvals and get construction started this year.
“It would be a tight squeeze, but they’ve done it before,” he said.
NextEra runs the Montezuma I and II wind turbine farms. Company spokesman Steve Stengel said it’s uncertain whether the tax credit extension will spur further building in Solano County.
“We’re still looking at our pipeline of projects and trying to determine what we can actually get done in the next year or so,” Stengel said. “At this point, I don’t really have any update.”
Critics called the wind energy tax credit extension “pork.” The American Wind Energy Association in a press release said the credit extension will save 37,000 jobs nationwide.
Fairfield in 2013 may see a long-awaited business event. The city announced in February 2011 that used car giant CarMax planned to open a store in the Fairfield Auto Mall. The company will use the 13-acre site that was once home to Chrysler and Dodge and plans to keep the Chrysler building.
CarMax could open by summer, Fairfield Senior Economic Development Project Manager Karl Dumas said.
City officials are hopeful that CarMax will spur even more economic activity in a revitalized auto mall that still has a few vacancies.
“There’s definitely room for other users and we’re actively pursuing them,” Dumas said. “But there’s none in the pipeline yet.”
The proposal to build a Walmart in Suisun City at Walters Road and Highway 12 has sparked controversy for years. But the lawsuits and battles over permits have apparently played out and Walmart in recent months began grading the site.
Suisun City Manager Suzanne Bragdon said Walmart should break ground on the store building this spring. If it takes a year to construct – and she hopes it takes less than a year – Walmart should open in spring 2014, she said.
For Suisun City’s general fund, Walmart will mean tax money, perhaps as much as $1 million a year.
“It’s very important,” Bragdon said. “Right now, we’re structurally off 10 percent and this will fill that hole.”
Solano Town Center Mall could see some new tenants in 2013, though the identities remain a mystery. General Manager Monty Stephens said some leases are close to being finalized.
The mall will put up new interior directional signs and will install new chairs and other seating. It could bring in a lighting consultant to look at different lighting options.
“The future is very bright for the mall,” Stephens said as 2012 neared its close. “Next year (2013) is going to be very exciting for us.”
Meanwhile, house building remains in low gear in Fairfield-Suisun. That has a trickle-down effect on the local economy, from title companies to furniture companies.
Fairfield Community Development Director Erin Beavers expects to see more homes go up in Seeno’s Garibaldi and Paradise Crest subdivisions and Richmond American’s Gold Ridge subdivision during 2013. But he foresees gradual growth in homebuilding, rather than a sudden return to pre-recession levels.
“I don’t see where in one year, all of a sudden the faucet is going to just be opened,” Beavers said.
The next large-scale subdivision in Fairfield could be Villages at Fairfield near Cement Hill Road. This proposed 1,960-home development has been stalled since the housing market crashed five years ago.
Lewis Planned Communities is waiting for the day a rebounding housing market will support the infrastructure construction that is needed for Villages at Fairfield. Doug Mull of the company sees improvement in the housing market, but with a catch.
“We haven’t seen as much improvement in Solano County, in Fairfield and Vacaville, as we have in other parts of the state,” Mull said. “We’re sort of scratching our heads on that.”
For now, the waiting to start building Villages at Fairfield continues.
Sandy Person, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp., sees some good signs for 2013.
“I feel absolutely that market activity is back in some of our more industrial-type sectors,” Person said. “But office is still probably going to be lagging for 2013 and beyond. Retail has rebounded, it has come back.”
California faces economic challenges, Person said, but she chooses to take an optimistic view.
“My perspective is the cup is definitely half-full,” she said.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.