I have been asked by several community members over the last few weeks to give a detailed reporting on what is being done in Economic Development by the City of Davis. More specifically, I have been asked to enumerate what have been the tangible results of the work of the Chief Innovation Officer over the past year and what are the goals over the coming year.
I will start by noting that City staff are actually in the process of delivering a more detailed report on this information to City Council. The report was scheduled to be heard by Council on April 22nd, but the meeting ran long and Council asked staff to move the report to the next Council meeting (May 13th).
Though the information still needs to be heard by City Council and finalized, the proposed final Innovation and Economic Vitality Work Program and the companion Action Plan that details the specific actions, desired outcomes, and measures is available on the City website here.
A summary of the information that was cursorily presented by staff on April 22nd can be found in the presentation linked here.
And if you are interested in gaining more information about the proposed activities or providing comment to the City Council, you are invited to attend the Council meeting on May 13th at 6:30 pm in the Community Chambers (which is also broadcast on community access television and live webcast).
To focus more specifically on the proposed final Innovation and Economic Vitality Work Program, staff has asked Council to direct city efforts in to five Focus Areas. These are:
Focus Area 1 – Facilitate Technology and Business Development
Focus Area 2 – Increased University Engagement
Focus Area 3 – Expand Support Network for Local Business
Focus Area 4 – Strategic Branding and Marketing
Focus Area 5 – Leadership
Though I won’t go in to detail of each Focus Area in this article, your own review of the documents linked above will hopefully demonstrate that these five areas are specifically meant to work cohesively together. Each one is dependent on the other and is intended to create a holistic approach to developing the innovation economy in Davis. And though parts of the economy have been developing due to others efforts (such as the university and local technology companies), it is through coordinated and consistent efforts that a complete economic system will emerge for Davis.
All of the materials and the reports have been prepared by staff at City Hall. To be more specific, the work referenced above (including the proposed final Work Program and Action Plan) were not created by a consultant or other external support, but instead by staff of the Office of Innovation and Economic Vitality (which is part of the City Manager’s Office) and consists of the Chief Innovation Officer (me) and Deputy Innovation Officer (Sarah Worley).
I note this because one answer to the question of what has been going on in Economic Development over the last year is to gather information from the community, read through previous reports, assimilate the information, and then produce an effective and clear Work Program and Action Plan for the next two years (Fiscal Years 2014-2016).
Having worked for other local governments and previously as a Board member on the California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED), I can say with some confidence that this work alone typically takes a year or longer and usually involves at least a few consultants assisting staff. And though the Work Program and Action Plan are living documents and can always benefit from revision and addition over time, they represent a significant and detailed reorientation for the City as we turn traditional economic development activities in to activities that build an innovation economy and embrace our largest asset, the University of California Davis and its resultant research and development.
What you will hopefully also surmise through your review of the documents, from the weekly articles and discussions on this blog and from past interaction by staff with the community is that this is not the only work product from the last year. We have also been assisting businesses one on one, helping to build the local technology business ecosystem, working with several property owners to bring forward a proposal on an innovation center, establishing stronger links with the university, working to increase the regional brand of Davis, outreaching to potential investment and businesses in the region and globally and assisting other city departments with large projects and programs (like the hotel conference center, the Cannery housing development, open space and conservation, sustainability and budget and fiscal analysis).
Innovation and Economic Vitality staff have also facilitated and been involved in regional efforts like the Yolo Rail Realignment discussions, Yolo Broadband assessment (including preparing and now executing a Davis-centric request for expressions of interest, which was approved by City Council on April 22nd) and active support for innovation in the regional Next Economy Plan. Based on my 12 years of working in local economic development and over 20 years of experience in branding and marketing, it has been clear to me over and over that the best way to attract investment and gain interest of new companies is to support and provide leadership in the regional efforts.
Davis is most certainly one of few communities who has been blessed with a university that is vital to solving the world’s food and health issues. And as the host community, we have an opportunity to help facilitate that research and development and work to bring regional, national and global attention to our city. This translates in to investment in our quality of life, ecotourism of our cherished open space and conservation attributes and global recognition as a preeminent location for modern examples of sustainability, agriculture, arts, technology, community values and holistic systems.
In all of this discussion, one thing should recognized. Previous efforts to bring economic development forward as an important activity to the community have helped to pave the way to where we are now. The City’s efforts through the City Council, the Business and Economic Development Commission and staff; the Chamber’s efforts through their Board, Economic Development Committee and DSIDE; the Downtown Business Association’s efforts in areas like ‘shop local’, community events and parking solutions; the Yolo Convention and Visitors Bureau for their efforts in tourism and arts; and techDAVIS for supporting the City’s economic development program with a substantive public-private partnership that provides needed funding for this effort. There are of course many other groups that can be named and it is the consistent efforts of these groups and the community that have helped pave the way for the City’s current efforts to gain traction.
I trust that this gives you some insight in to our year long journey of evolving the City’s efforts. There is much more to do and many challenges along the way. And there are many people actively supporting this current effort to help us achieve success. Please join me in thanking them and I encourage you to get involved and provide your insights so that we can truly craft a community-based program that will achieve our objectives.
Thanks for considering these thoughts. I look forward to your comments and questions. My email is email@example.com if you choose to email me directly.