ALAMEDA, Calif. — Seeing an environment favorable to smaller firms, San Francisco-based Nollenberger Capital Partners Inc. last week announced the hiring of two California municipal market veterans in what the firm described as a “re-launch” of its public finance unit.

The investment management and advisory firm appointed John Solarczyk as managing director and head of public finance and appointed James Woolley as managing director and co-head of municipal sales and trading.

The two most recently worked together at Chilton and Associates; prior to 2008 they were both at De La Rosa & Co. They will be based at NCPI’s Newport Beach office.

Nollenberger advises clients on about $1.4 billion in assets, about a quarter of which are in municipal bonds, said Douglas Heske, the firm’s president.

“We have made a slow entry into the municipal finance business,” he said. “We have underwritten a number of deals over the last couple years, but we have taken it slowly.”

Now the firm plans to expand that side of the business.

“Our retail customers who buy munis primarily buy on the secondary market,” Solarczyk said. “We want to give

them the opportunity to buy on the primary market.”

Woolley will join NCPI veteran Mark Wren on the firm’s trading desk.

“We realize to continue to attract public finance people like John, we need a very senior trading desk,” Wren said. “We can’t do it with just one trader.”

Woolley, who has more than 30 years experience, says the recent sea changes in the municipal market have made such experience more valuable, and the ­demise of most bond insurers has reemphasized the value of knowing the underlying credits.

“We can take the time to educate people why the spreads are there and what the risks are,” he said.

“We see a big advantage to being in a smaller firm now,” Wren said.

Having two senior traders gives the firm access to institutional orders that will mesh with its already strong retail base, according to Solarczyk.

“It’s very hard to get deals done in middle of the curve and that’s what we’ll be able to do,” he said.

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