Where in the World is Davis?


by Rob White

Last night at the Davis Farmer’s Market I had the distinct pleasure of talking with several executives and representatives from HM Clause, the 2nd largest seed research company in the world.

Specifically, HM Clause is a portion of the farmer-based group in France named Limagrain (www.limagrain.com) and was created in 2008 from Harris Moran Seed Company (USA) and Clause (France). According to the HM Clause website (www.hmclause.com), they now have 17 subsidiaries in 15 countries and operate on all continents, with almost 1500 culturally diverse employees working worldwide. The company has a rapidly expanding Davis-based facilities of 2 major research centers and some executive offices.

HM Clause specializes in the breeding, production and commercialization of vegetable seed varieties for professional growers. They have 23 species of vegetables and specialize in breeding activities for 20 major crops (ranging from indoor to outdoor crops able to be grown in temperate to tropical conditions). Main crops include tomato, melon, pepper, cauliflower and other brassicas, summer squash, bean, sweet corn, fennel, corn salad.

With over 250 employees visiting Davis from all over the world, the Farmer’s Market had the sounds of an international bazaar, with languages from many countries being heard over the music and festivities. The HM Clause representatives have been staying in Davis since Sunday and have visited our downtown hotels, restaurants, shops, parks and the university. Many of them depart on Saturday and Sunday, heading back to their office locations around the globe.

What I found to be most interesting was that while I was talking with the HM Clause employees, one of the executives that had recently relocated to Davis from France made the comment that ‘Davis is a lot like a European university town’ with its trees, walkability, large public squares and vibrant student population. He went on to say that he was really able to identify with the community due to its strong similarities with parts of France.

This was an interesting comparison. Especially since many of us have been recently mulling over what might be reasonable comparison cities to Davis as we look towards other successful economic development and business attraction models in cities of similar size and demographics.

As we have worked through this comparison effort over the last few weeks, we have landed on obvious candidates. A few examples and their most obvious reasons for comparability include:

  • San Luis Obispo due to its growth restrictions and similar population size;
  • Claremont due to the academic achievements of its universities and similar community demographics; and
  • Chico due to its agricultural setting and similarities in academic programs.

But none of these examples is a complete match and each of these examples has a significant set of factors that make it a bad comparison. San Luis Obispo is a tourism town and gets significant economic retail draw as a center of commerce. Claremont sits within a larger population and is therefore not isolated from a major metropolitan area. And Chico is the largest city in that region of the state and acts as a cultural and economic center.

So, the comments by the HM Clause executive got me to thinking that maybe the best way to get at a robust dialogue about comparison cities would be to query the readership of the Vanguard. Many of you are well travelled and have seen many university towns that could be great comparisons. You’ve probably worked there, taught there, or visited on extended stays. And as pointed out so readily by the HM Clause executive, these comparisons need not be in California or the US.

To keep this effort within some sort of reasonable parameters, I would ask that any comparison cities you offer include the following information:

1.      The town or city must be of similar size to Davis – about 60,000 population, about 33,000 enrolled students.

2.      Land size of the town or city should be about 10 square miles and it should be geographically located about 15 miles from the major population center.

3.      List the most significant 3 to 5 reasons why the town or city would be considered similar.

4.      Compare the most significant differences between the comparison city and Davis.

Any other information about demographics, etc. would also be helpful if you can provide them. Websites and resource links are also helpful. This may seem like an exercise in futility, but I suspect that many of you can add significantly to this conversation. And the information will be very informative as we research those comparison cities and their programs and metrics for success.

Thank you in advance for any assistance. I look forward to reading your responses.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome and I am always open to suggestions on future topics. Email me at rwhite@cityofdavis.org.

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  1. Davis Progressive

    those are tough parameters. even san luis obispo is about 20k smaller with a smaller university and that might be most similar. i don’t think claremont is that similar. chico no. having a similar size with similar student enrollment is tough. maybe we can ease the parameters a bit?

  2. David M. Greenwald

    I just suggested that to Rob White, we’ll see what he says. Because I think that towns like SLO, Arcata in the north, and a few others might be similar to Davis, but they have different population sizes.

  3. Rob White


    Let’s relax all of the parameters to say “be as similar as possible”… including significant derivation on town and student population parameters. I know there are good examples, and would rather have the input than be restrictive.

    Though, it would be helpful to tell me what those values are (if you have them) so I can try to zero in on comparability, but let’s not limit ourselves in anyway if we can find good examples.

    Thanks again for all of your help.

  4. Mr.Toad

    Columbia MO. Home town of our City Manager.

    Land Grant University with a Vet School. Less than an hour to the state capitol, Jefferson City and the Missouri River.

    Big differences are the climate and land use. Columbia annexed everything around for miles so they could grow as needed. Property values therefore are much lower.

  5. medwoman

    Having lived there for two years, I see both some similarities and differences from Claremont that might be worth looking at.
    1) Town largely focused around presence of Claremont Colleges with similar student demographic to UCD
    albeit on smaller scale
    2) Similar core configuration with campuses and funky adjacent downtown
    3) Relatively large proportion of seniors “aging in place” in retired missionary community
    4) High walkability index within the core area
    5) Town surrounded on three sides by contiguous communities ( I guess this could also be considered a difference since there is no agricultural buffer between communities there – a distinct down side in my opinion)
    6) Strong emphasis on families and education
    7) Similar ethnic composition
    8) Trees, Parks and recreational spaces valued
    9) Same form of council/manager local government

    1) Significantly smaller
    2) Urban setting with contiguous communities on three sides
    3) Not bike and alternative transportation oriented
    4) Claremont has significantly higher median income

  6. Matt Williams

    I would be totally disloyal if I didn’t throw Ithaca New York into the mix. While the population of the City in 2010 was 30,014 the Ithaca metropolitan area had a population of 101,564. So the numbers are remarkably similar, just distributed a bit differently. Ithaca has two universities, Cornell (with a 21,000 student body of nearly 14,000 undergraduate and 7,000 graduate students from all 50 American states and 122 countries) and Ithaca College (with a 6,500 student body of 6,000 undergraduates and 500 postgraduates)

    Cornell’s Ag School is the Eastern equivalent of UCD’s and the back-and-forth between the programs of the two campuses is robust.

    The geography of both is remarkably similar with the valley in which each is located being ” long with a north-south orientation” The only difference being that Ithaca’s valley is full of water and Davis’ is full of crops.

    Otherwise they are identical.

  7. Matt Williams

    Indeed Don, the climate is quite a bit different. One night when I came home to my home in the country outside Ithaca the wind chill factor was minus 65 degrees F.

    When my wife was choosing a graduate program for her Viticulture Masters studies, the choices were Cornell, Texas A&M and UCD. Climate made the choice between those three very easy.

  8. Matt Williams

    From [url]http://www.bestplaces.net/cost-of-living/ithaca-ny/davis-ca/50000[/url]

    Cost of Living Comparison:
    Ithaca, New York – Davis, California

    A salary of $50,000 in Ithaca, New York should increase to $72,786 in Davis, California

    Cost of Living
    Overall_______ 108 _ 158
    Food_________ 101 _ 111
    Housing______ 122 _ 281
    Utilities_______ 114 _ 109
    Transportation 106 _ 113
    Health________ 110 _ 113
    Miscellaneous__ 98 _ 108
    100=national average

    Davis is46% more expensive than Ithaca.
    Housingis the biggest factor in the cost of living difference.
    Housing is 130% more expensive in Davis.

  9. Matt Williams

    Other possibilities would be:

    Athens, GA
    Amherst, MA
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Boulder, CO
    Iowa City, IA

    Eugene, OR and Madison, WI are both too big to qualify, but have a lot of similarities

  10. brianriley429

    Well, Boulder is a “satellite city” to Denver, very similar to the way Davis is near Sacramento. One difference is the high elevation. Walking around downtown Boulder, you could easily feel like you’re in downtown Davis, though it’s larger. Also, Boulder is a county seat. People in Davis and Boulder seem to share many general philosophical viewpoints.

  11. Davis Progressive

    boulder isn’t really a satellite city, it’s actually further from denver than davis is to sacramento. boulder is similar to davis except for the climate.

  12. Davis Progressive

    Fairly recent article that captures your question:


  13. Matt Williams

    Interesting article DP. That’s a great title, “How innovation lifted Boulder, but left Detroit”

    Some interesting quotes that definitely pertain to the discussions we have been having over the recent weeks.
    [quote]The startup scene can thrive in any part of the country where there are skilled workers and innovators. High-tech startup areas are popping up in smaller places outside the Silicon Valley, like Boulder, Colorado because of it. But sometimes the tricky part is maintaining the sense of innovation.[/quote] and [quote]After adjusting for city size, Boulder has a rate of high-tech business formation that is more than six times the U.S. average. In addition, college towns like Fort-Collins, Colorado, and Corvallis, Oregon, and smaller cities with a defense presence such as Colorado Springs, Colorado and Huntsville, Alabama, are among the nation’s leaders in high-tech startup density.

    Top 10 Metro Areas for High-Tech Startups, by Density:

    1. Boulder, CO
    2. Fort Collins-Loveland, CO
    3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
    4. Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, MA
    5. Seattle, WA
    6. Denver, CO
    7. San Francisco, CA
    8. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD
    9. Colorado Springs, CO
    10. Cheyenne, WY[/quote]

  14. Matt Williams

    [quote]“In the case of Boulder, a startup community whose evolution I’ve observed closely over the past many years, the cultural and economic transformation has been extraordinary,” said Brad Feld, Foundry Group founder and Engine advisory board member. “While there isn’t one, definitive blueprint to building a technology industry, this research can hopefully inspire communities and policymakers to work together to ensure that the spread of high-tech entrepreneurship isn’t just a trend, but a long-term phenomenon.”

    There is unfortunately no easy solution to fostering, but part of the responsibility falls in the hands of entrepreneurs themselves to create local ecosystems where risk-taking, innovation, and the simultaneous existence of collaboration and competition are encouraged and supported. And for the other part, policy makers should endeavor to understand these high-growth businesses and formulate policy to help, not hurt.[/quote]

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