Cap to Cap Advocacy Trip – Davis as an Incubator


by Rob White

Wednesday was the last day (and one of the busiest) of the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s annual Capital-to-Capital (Cap to Cap) Advocacy Trip. Many of the delegates from around the region flew home on Wednesday afternoon or are flying home this morning.

The Innovation Team had a meeting with US Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Cap-to-Cap leadership team (of which I was included) had meetings with Congressman McNerney and the Chief of Staff for Congressman Garamendi.

A contingent from Davis (including Council member Rochelle Swanson, city staff, a representative from techDAVIS, and a venture capitalist that works with Davis-based AgTech companies) met with Congressmen Garamendi and Swalwell. To be able to meet directly with the congressional representative is an uncommon occurrence, especially since activities in the House of Representatives for the day made direct meetings very difficult.

It was impactful that Rep. Garamendi took the time to hear about the successes and needs in Davis and he offered a good summary statement that “the City of Davis will be the incubator of innovation for the region.” The Congressman was very quick to point out the needed leadership by the community of Davis, coupled with that of UC Davis, to help lead the Sacramento Region to economic success and recognition as a leader in innovation. He discussed the need for Davis (as a knowledge node) to help other surrounding communities by creating companies and jobs, which would in turn attract even more investment nationally and globally. This in turn leads to more opportunity for Davis and the region.

The meeting with Rep. Swalwell discussed the strong linkages between UC Davis and the Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Labs (both located in his district). There is over a 50-year shared research history between the institutions, and there have been far more robust periods of partnership in the past that resulted in increased research and jobs. At one point a decade ago, there was a robust partnership of shared teaching and degree programs located at the labs. And currently, the UC Davis Graduate School of Management has a location in San Ramon that serves the East Bay and the labs.

Both Congressmen are very supportive of UC Davis and their efforts to maintain prominence as the # 1 agriculture research university in the world. They are also aware that UC Davis serves the largest geographical area for California, stretching from the East Bay, to Marin and the North Coast, over to the Central Valley and Stockton, and to the Oregon and Nevada borders. This service geography gives UC Davis the strongest opportunity to be at the center of Ag and AgTech research across many different economies and regions.

The meeting with the US EDA was with Jay Williams, the new Assistant Secretary for Economic Development at the US Department of Commerce, and Melinda Matson, US EDA Congressional Affairs Specialist. Discussion topics from the meeting included our innovation efforts in Davis and the region, the continued efforts on the AgStart i6 Challenge grant by UC Davis and SARTA, best practices from other programs/regions around the US, and potential areas of funding interest to the EDA. It was a good discussion and the staff of EDA gave the team longer than scheduled for the meeting, which is an example of how engaged the EDA was with the team.

There is much more to share over the coming days and weeks and there is a long list of follow-up from the trip and the meetings. We made many new connections, continued to cement some long-time relationships, and demonstrated a positive leadership example from Davis. Though we did not send as many delegates as some of our surrounding communities (Woodland and West Sacramento each sent four council members), the Davis representation on a key team (Innovation) and the inclusion on the leadership team as a Priority Policy area demonstrates just how key Davis can be in the regional dialogue.

I look forward to beginning to hear your thoughts and questions when I get back home on Friday. I will plan to have a wrap-up article for early next week. You can also see efforts by many of the delegates and teams on Twitter at hashtag #Cap2Cap14 and twitter account @Metro_Chamber.

About The Author

Rob White is the Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Davis and was selected as a 2012 White House Champion of Change for Local Innovation. He serves as an ex-officio Board Member for techDAVIS (a local tech entrepreneur industry group), as an executive Board Member for the Innovate North State iHub, and as a Board Member for Hacker Lab and the California Network for Manufacturing Innovation. He is a candidate for the Doctorate in Policy, Planning and Development from the University of Southern California and has a Masters from USC in Planning and Development and a Bachelors of Science in Geology from Chico State.

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