VACAVILLE — Last year was the “Year of Recovery” for Vacaville and 2014 will be the year of “moving forward.”
Vacaville leaders touted a positive economic forecast for the city during the annual State of the City address Friday morning in the community room at Travis Credit Union.
“Things look much better this year,” Mayor Steve Hardy said. “For the first time in five years there are no layoffs. The last five years have been pretty awful.”
Hardy and City Manager Laura Kuhn, through prepared speeches, a video presentation and a question-and-answer period, gave an audience of about 100 the lowdown on what will keep the city moving forward in 2014. Items touched on included an increased general fund reserve of 16 percent up from a low of 4 or 5 percent – only marred by a $3.8 million “clawback” figure that the state said the city needs to give back to its dissolved redevelopment agency.
It’s forecasted to affect the 2014-15 reserve.
Measures I and M – a renewed excise tax and a sales tax increase, respectively – figured prominently in giving Vacaville a boost of money to help the local economy.
“A great deal of that credit goes to you, the citizens (in) passing I and M,” Hardy said. “If not, we would probably have been in bankruptcy by now.”
The video presentation gave an overview of the then-newly formed Economic Development Committee and touched on the movement of the biotech industry as it embeds itself further into Vacaville with increased jobs going hand-in-hand with the Genentech expansion; Janssen, a pharmaceutical company of Johnson & Johnson, adding new jobs; and current talks with Novartis in an effort to bring that pharmaceutical giant to town.
The city is also moving forward with plans to have Icon Aircraft move into town, and with closing escrow on some land near the Nut Tree Airport, the dream of the Jimmy Doolittle Museum and Center for Patriotism is that much closer. Those behind the center envision a theater, exhibits, educational facilities, a hotel and the relocation of Solano Community College’s aviation program to the property.
On the video, the city’s public information officer, Mark Mazzaferro, said the city is starting “to awaken from its five-year slumber” and said the city is moving forward with guarded optimism.
“The future of our city is a bright one,” he said.
Numerous audience members gave their kudos to the city and also voiced concerns over parking downtown, and bringing in some larger chain restaurants, such as P.F. Changs, to keep the residents eating local.
Kuhn said that before the economic downturn, the city was courting the likes of Black Angus and Elephant Bar but those establishments “dialed way back” during the Great Recession. Kuhn said the city also tried to attract The Cheesecake Factory, but didn’t fit in with the demographic population density required. She encouraged residents to let the restaurants know they are wanted in Vacaville.
Jay Yerkes, a native Vacaville resident, former school board member and current city treasurer for Vacaville, said after the meeting that the city is in “great economic shape” and that this year’s message was a boost from previous years. He also applauded the local residents.
“‘I’m encouraged we have a good core group of longtime residents who care about the vibrancy of downtown,” he said.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.