A Golden State Treasure
Located halfway between Sacramento and San Francisco and just 15 minutes from the Napa Valley, Fairfield, California is ideally situated. “We are one of the only cities where you can get to the snow, beach, and wine country in one day,” says City Manager David White. “It is a pretty amazing location.”
This “amazing” location puts the city of close to 110,000 in the middle of it all. “Because we are so close to so many different major business centers – and the transportation network is the quality that it is – it is very easy for businesses to get to major distribution centers, retail centers, and commercial centers from Fairfield,” Mr. White points out.
This centralization continues to woo major companies, and a number of businesses have recently relocated to Fairfield from nearby cities. “It is such an easy move because they have access to a great workforce, they have access to a lower cost of living and, from a transportation perspective, they are not adding much time to their commute.”
These incoming companies enjoy the benefits of a business-friendly local government. “Fairfield is a very pro-business community and has been for a number of years,” says Mayor Harry Price. Mr. White adds, “It is just a wonderful place to do business.”
Fairfield’s clean energy potential is another business draw, as the city’s climate is sunny enough for solar power and windy enough for wind power. “We have the ability to really leverage some important environmental assets,” Mr. White points out. “That is important to a lot of businesses when they look to expand or establish a new operation. They want to have the capacity to be off the grid and we really have the environment that can support that.” Anheuser-Busch has already successfully harnessed these assets. “Our Anheuser-Busch facility is fantastic,” Mr. White remarks. “They have installed two wind turbines and solar panels.”
Perhaps most importantly, Fairfield boasts access to plenty of high-quality water, despite California’s crippling drought. “When you see headlines about California you hear a lot about the drought,” says Mr. White. “What can be frustrating is that you can get this broad-brush perspective about the drought; but you have to look at each city, each region, each area within the state differently. With Fairfield, we have plenty of water because of the way that we get our water. We are well prepared for heavy users of water.”
This abundance of high-quality water combined with the ability of the City’s sewer treatment system to accept salts and other constituents which are common in food processing that create issues in other areas of California, are attracting California manufacturers like a magnet, particularly those in the food and beverage sectors. Traditionally an agricultural center, the city’s farming infrastructure also helps draw in food and beverage manufacturers. “We have a very vibrant agricultural community and a booming wine industry in the Fairfield area,” Mr. Price says. The city’s food and beverage cluster includes manufacturing facilities and/or headquarters for Anheuser-Busch, Jelly Belly Candy Co., Critelli Olive Oil, Calbee America Inc., Guittard Chocolate Co., Heretic Brewing Company, Engelhart Gourmet Foods, Formaggi Di Ferrante, Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company, and Just Desserts, to name a few.
Already an established center for the sector, Fairfield has the infrastructure and available land needed to draw in even more food and beverage manufacturers. “Food and beverage continues to be an area where we see continued growth and expansion,” Mr. White predicts. “We have the capacity, which is unique.”
The United States military is another active participant in Fairfield’s economy. The Air Force chose to build Travis Air Force base there in 1942, and the city has been enjoying the benefits that come with being home to a major military base ever since.
Quality of life
Fairfield’s urban amenities are balanced with a small town feel and plenty of green space. “What is really special about Fairfield and the cities in Solano County is that we all have an agreement where we have maintained a greenbelt,” Mr. White explains. Unlike many urban centers on the west coast and in the northeast, “where neighborhoods and cities blend into each other,” Solano County is full of wide-open spaces. As a result, residents have easy access to a full range of outdoor recreational opportunities, including top-notch hiking and biking trails.
Residents also enjoy access to two premier golf courses and a range of cultural opportunities, from Broadway shows to an active community arts program and annual art show. Much loved local events include the city’s annual Tomato Festival, annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, and seasonal farmers market. A thriving town center, million square foot mall, and an outlet shopping center deliver plenty of retail. “We have wonderful shopping opportunities,” says Mr. White.
Youth programs include “a very active scouting program” for both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. The city’s youth also enjoy top-notch educational opportunities. In addition to a highly rated K-12 program, the community is home to Solano Community College, Brandman University, Trinity Biblical University, and University of Phoenix, while the University of California, Davis is just down the road.
An assortment of affordable housing makes it feasible to move to Fairfield and enjoy its assets. “When you look around the Bay area, this is one of the few bastions where you can find housing that is relatively affordable,” Mr. White points out. “And the range of houses that we have is phenomenal. We have everything from starter homes to executive estates,” and this is a boon to businesses as well as individuals. “It is great for business because it allows them to cater to their entire workforce. For them it is an opportunity for the entire workforce to be close to where they work.” Fairfield also offers plenty of housing for the 55+ crowd, including a retirement community that caters to retired military officers.
Fairfield is busy building for the future. “We are in the thick of a really wonderful building boom,” Mr. White remarks. “We have a number of different things on the horizon. Right now, we are looking at the future of our downtown and working really closely with the community to plan for a downtown that is going to be a vibrant mixed-use corridor.”
At the forefront of this development plan is a new train station that will make commuting even easier. “That train station is going to connect Fairfield along the capital corridor, which means you can commute from Sacramento all the way to San Jose from Fairfield,” Mr. White reports. “We are really excited to bring that to our community. As congestion becomes a factor, people are looking for alternative ways to get to San Francisco, to Sacramento; they are looking for different ways to get to work and we are going to offer that here.”
The train station is expected to attract even more professionals to Fairfield, particularly those who already commute along the capital corridor. “With the increasing activity in the biotech field we are seeing scientists and technicians from all over the Bay area, as well as the foothills, coming through Fairfield – and many are choosing to live here,” Mr. Price reports.
Set to open in spring of 2017, the train station will be at the center of a wide range of new, residential development that will include approximately 5,000 housing units. “We are going to build a really special place around this train station,” says Mr. White.
Competitive land prices, fast track approval processes, and “enthusiastic support from a very pro-business city council,” make Fairfield a winning location for development projects, Mr. Price explains. No wonder the city had approximately 662 residential building permits issued last year and a million square feet of industrial development initiated.
“We have a lot of development going on around town,” Mr. White remarks. “A lot of developers are excited about building in this city.” The end of Fairfield’s building boom – and ongoing business success – is nowhere in sight. In fact, an additional 1 million square feet of industrial space is in plan review currently, with groundbreaking estimated to take place in 2016. “We are very proud of what’s happening here,” Mr. Price summarizes, “and there is room to keep growing.”