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David Cates: Why I’m a ‘yes’ on California Forever

Fri Jun 14 2024

Originally published in The Vacaville Reporter

Editor’s note: The author is the former Chair of the Vallejo Economic Development Commission.

Solano County residents have endured long, exhausting commutes to the Bay Area or Sacramento for jobs with higher wages for too long. Many of us travel 1-2 hours each way. I commuted to San Francisco for two hours each day for over eight years. In a car, this time is wasted time full of frustration and only adds to our stress. This constant back and forth on the roads drains Solano County of its skilled labor pool and contributes to other counties’ economies.

As the former chair of the Vallejo Economic Development Commission, I spent years reviewing proposals promising to alleviate this drain by spurring economic growth and expanding the number of jobs that provide a good standard of living for our communities. Cement plants on the water front and liquid natural gas (LNG) facilities on Mare Island end up being a net reduction in our quality of life. This is why I said no to these proposed investments in our community.

Imagine my excitement when the East Solano Plan included a guarantee to bring 15,000 new jobs to Solano County paying more than 125% of Solano’s average wage ($88,000) per year. When this was announced in January, many of us were skeptical of another investment proposed by billionaires making promises that we believe will disappear like a mirage in the desert when we approve it.

This is a long-term investment proposal and in only three months, they are delivering. They have recruited and announced a dozen fast-growing companies that would like to invest in our community and bring quality jobs to Solanoans. This includes companies like Hadrian (manufacturing for aerospace and defense), Zipline (drone delivery and logistics), Living Carbon (carbon capture technology), and Plenty (vertical agricultural farms). Some of these companies have stated they already started negotiating terms for acquiring space to operate in East Solano and are very excited about the opportunities our county offers for their business development.

Additionally, California Forever has made significant progress toward building the largest solar farm in California, along with a regional battery storage facility. This project alone is expected to create another 1,300 full-time jobs for 10 years. When the build out period is completed, it would provide long-term high-quality employment for nearly 300 others. The economic kick start to our community from these jobs is expected to generate at least $281 million in tax revenue annually and position Solano County as a leader in sustainable energy.

Clearly, this is the single biggest vote of confidence in our community I have ever seen in my 20 years of living here. Our ability to embrace this exciting proposal depends on us embracing change to realize a bold future vision of what we want for our communities.

This is just the beginning. These initial companies that are first adopters will attract even more dynamic, fast-growing businesses to Solano County to multiply the economic development effect and add to our economy’s engine of job creation.

As we approach November, and we’re all thinking about the future, I want you to join me for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a difference in Solano County and vote yes to this bold vision of our future.

— David Cates/Vallejo