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California Forever Says 12 Start-Ups Will Open Workplaces in Its New City

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A billboard for California Forever sits on top of an apartment building along I-80 in Vallejo on May 2, 2024. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The billionaire-backed company seeking to build a city from scratch in eastern Solano County took its first steps toward bringing jobs there, announcing partnerships on Thursday with 12 companies that have pledged to open new offices, factories and farms in the proposed city.

California Forever has publicly promised to bring some 15,000 new jobs to the county. But it’s unclear how many new jobs the 12 partner companies would provide.

Representatives for California Forever and the companies involved declined to provide specific details about whether they would bring their existing employees or add new ones. If voters approve the plan, there are also no binding financial or legal agreements compelling them to do so.

All of the companies are start-ups, mostly based in California, and their industries include aerospace engineering, self-driving robotics, indoor vertical farming and internet infrastructure. They are Hadrian, Living Carbon, Plenty, Serve Robotics, Meter, Motive, BREX, Cover, Build Casa, Zipline, Freethink and Instant Teams.

“These employers have committed publicly that they’re interested in bringing jobs to the new community if Solano County voters approve the project this November,” California Forever’s Director of Partnerships Michael Fortney said in a statement to KQED. “Even though we’re a few years away from breaking ground, some of them have already started negotiating terms for acquiring space to operate in the new community.”


Some groups, however, remain skeptical about California Forever’s promises. Sadie Wilson, director of planning and research with the Greenbelt Alliance, said this news is still “devoid of substance and lacking transparency.” She is particularly concerned that all the potential employers are start-ups.

“There are certain questions about if and how these budding companies and ventures will look in 10 years or so,” when the city is eventually built, she said in a statement to KQED. “As November approaches, Solano County voters need real information, not more hypothetical plans.”

The county lacks enough jobs for its residents. Almost half of those who live in Solano County commute outside of it to work, according to a 2015 study from the state’s Employment Development Department.

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Included in its pledge to bring 15,000 new jobs, California Forever has said it would create nearly 1,400 construction-related jobs for a solar farm it is proposing to build near the site of its new city. After the solar farm is completed, it would employ roughly 300 people to maintain and operate the facility in Solano County, while about 130 jobs would be located elsewhere throughout California, company representatives said.

The proposed solar farm could potentially generate enough power for 1.5 million homes, according to an economic impact report created by Blue Sky Consulting and paid for by California Forever.

Some of the companies have released details on what they plan to build in the new city if it is approved. Chris Power, founder and CEO of the aerospace and defense manufacturing start-up Hadrian, said his company would be looking to acquire space for a new factory “if the East Solano Plan was shovel-ready today.”

“We are excited by the vision of amazing neighborhoods located next to a manufacturing zone designed to accelerate innovation in California,” he said in a statement. “Hadrian is building a series of factories across America to enable space and defense manufacturers to get parts 10 times faster and halve the cost of making rockets, satellites, jets and drones.”

Travis Air Force Base did not immediately return a request for comment about whether the proposed companies would compete with its operations.

Earlier this month, California Forever submitted signatures for its petition to appear on the November ballot. A representative from the Solano County Registrar’s Office said it completed its raw count of the roughly 20,000 signatures submitted last week, but is now verifying those signatures to make sure at least 13,062 came from registered Solano County voters.

To make it on the ballot, the initiative will then need a vote of the Solano County Board of Supervisors.

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