Biz Buzz: Economy going gangbusters in Vallejo, Mare Island

Vallejo Times-Herald
by Rachel Raskin-Zrihen
6/14/2017

Vallejo’s economic fortunes have turned a corner and are moving full steam ahead, speakers at a Wednesday economic development luncheon said.

The speakers, which included local business and city leaders, did not say if the city is taking the former Naval Shipyard at Mare Island along for the ride, or if the good economic news is being driven by development on the island. It is likely some of both.

In any case, the Mare Island Museum was filled with some 75 business and civic leaders, who not only enjoyed Gracie’s Family Barbecue-catered lunch and were hosted by Lennar Mare Island, but were also treated to a litany of positive developments already under way or in the works citywide.

The one piece of possible bad news came when the city’s new economic development manager Ron Gerber, in answer to a question, admitted that the hoped-for Faraday Future electric car company facility is a bust and won’t be coming to the north part of Mare Island, after all. The upside to that information, he said, is that as part of its agreement with the city, Faraday must fork over some funds along with the due-diligence information it developed, which city officials will be able to use in re-marketing the 157-acre area.

Marketing efforts are expected to move forward this summer, he said.

Also, the most derelict buildings in that area will be demolished with help from a $4.7 million HUD loan, to help make that entrance to Vallejo more presentable, Gerber said.

Brian Nagy of BNC, a consulting and management firm working with Lennar Mare Island, said the island “is an exciting place on the leasing side,” and that “a renaissance” has been under way there over the last 12 months.

Homes are being built on the island again, he said, and work is underway on buildings 45 and 65, where Savage & Cooke Distillery is creating a facility and tasting room. This is a nice compliment to the Mare Island Brewing Company, which recently began brewing its beer in its new site in the island’s Coal Sheds, Nagy said. 

“The first batch was made this week,” and will be delivered soon, he said.

The U.S. Coast Guard ice-breaker ship the Polar Star is in the Mare Island Dry Docks for repair for the third time, the new ferry facility on the island is operational as of March and there’s a plan for a winery to go in to Building 101, on the water, by year’s end, Nagy said.

Another new business on the island, Moose Boats, “is growing like wildfire,” he said.

That firm’s vice president of sales, Mark Stott, said the company builds aluminum boats for the military, law enforcement and fire departments across the country. Founded in 2000, Moose Boats merged with Lind Marine and moved to Mare Island where it is now able to build larger, 75-foot boats, Stott said.

The company sports a long and impressive client list including the New York and Oakland Police Departments, the New Orleans and San Francisco Fire Departments, the Port Authority of New York and the United States Navy, according to its website.

“We’re excited to be here,” Stott said.

Factory OS, a pre-fabricated house-building company, is going into building 680 — the large structure that had contained Blu Homes, which manufactures a similar product.

“Google is one of (Factory OS’) first clients,” Nagy said.

“There are more than 100 business out there,” he said of Mare Island. “There are people out here who still think it’s just a closed Navy base, but there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on here.”

City Hall’s Annette Taylor said the economic development department is again fully staffed and doing well, and that the new city budget is balanced and newly approved parking fees should start rolling in July 1, when they kick in for real.

Visit Vallejo’s Mike Browne said tourism is up for the third year running and generating record high revenues.

Touro University spokeswoman Andrea Garcia said the school just graduated 400 students and is expanding, requiring it to lease more space from Lennar Mare Island. The school celebrates its 20th anniversary in California this year — 17 of those on Mare Island, she said.

Also, a search for a new provost is under way as Marilyn Hopkins is retiring after some 7 ½ years in the position.

Vallejo Chamber of Commerce President and CEO James Cooper introduced those still unfamiliar with it, to a relatively new online tool, called ChooseVallejo.com, that employes a “wide-ranging marketing program” that’s “part of the evolution of economic development in the city.”

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