Current Research on Innovation Parks

innovation-parkBy Rob White

The community has had a fair amount of public dialogue over the last few years about the characteristics of an innovation/research park. Topics like what an innovation park might look like, where might it be located and what companies might be located in the park are all being explored. And I suspect there will be many more months and years of discussion as the community makes decisions about the what, where, who, why and how of an innovation park.

This discussion has ramped up in the most recent months due to the recognition that there is a dramatic need to increase the amount of revenues coming in to the City to pay for maintenance and upgrade to existing amenities. Things like parks, bike paths, streets, pools and public facilities. I am not going to take too much time in this article to explain the major reasons why Davis finds itself still in a budget deficit while many cities are experiencing revenue growths once again.

Suffice it to say that in comparison to similar California cities, Davis on a per capita basis has 1) sales tax that is about half the comparable amount due to a lack of diversity and number of businesses and 2) property tax that is much lower because Davis has not experienced significant resetting of values over the last few decades and has not built new stock. The situation is much more complicated than I am making it, but these are two of the most significant drivers. And I am not trying to debate these points now and would happily discuss in a future article if it is worthwhile.

These lower than comparable per capita revenues mean that Davis has not experience the kind of economic recovery that it yearns for and that major decisions on the future of public service delivery are more pressing than in surrounding cities. The citizenry resoundingly approved a revenue enhancement through an additional 0.5% sales tax increase for the next six years, but I think it did so with the understanding that the City leadership would identify opportunities for fiscal sustainability. And one of these items was the potential of a peripheral innovation park.

To that end, the one thing that Davis most certainly controls about the future of its fiscal health is the dialogue on this subject. By expressing views and opinions on this very topic, we create the opportunity to determine what (if any) a research park might be in context with the Davis community.

As such, it is most certainly a Davis value that the community become educated about this topic so that a healthy, constructive and productive dialogue can ensue. Conjecture and fear have little to add to the discussion and most certainly will not result in an outcome that supports the community’s future. To be fair, preferences should be voiced, but also noted as such. And an involved citizenry like Davis should most certainly strive to include a large variety of voices and views.

To help inform the dialogue, the City has taken the action of releasing a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) on innovation centers. We specifically chose that term to include the potential for a peripheral innovation/research park as well as smaller facilities in existing commercial areas and in downtown. It does not include the Downtown-University Gateway District (also referred to as Nishi) as that effort has its own ongoing process and outreach. Responses to the RFEI are due to the City on June 23rd and are tentatively planned to be discussed at the City Council meeting on July 1st. You can review the RFEI here.

City staff also invited representatives from the Association of University Research Parks (AURP) and The University Financing Foundation (TUFF) to speak at a public meeting in Davis in late May. This was a last minute opportunity and as such many people were not able to attend, but the City did record the presentation and you can watch it and review the PowerPoint here.

I also wanted to highlight several more resources that the community can begin to review and assess for applicability to Davis. These information sources are listed below and I highly encourage each of you to take a least a few minutes to glance through the information as I think you will find it very relevant to our community dialogue.

AURP/Battelle 2013 Study titled “Driving Regional Innovation and Growth”. Synopsis from the website: As national and regional economies recover from the most severe global recession since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, there is a growing emphasis on the importance of innovation for sustained economic growth and competitiveness in today’s global, fast-paced, knowledge-based economy. Not only is innovation critical for industry development, it directly impacts the standard of living found in a nation and its regions. University research parks are a successful way to advance innovation and create economic growth in regions across North America, according to a new report, “Driving Regional Innovation and Growth,” prepared by Battelle’s Technology Partnership Practice (TPP) in partnership with AURP. Further, university research parks are an effective way to create new employment opportunities for existing technology companies, according to the report.

Brookings Institute study titled “The Rise of the Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America”. Synopsis from the Brookings website:

Innovation districts “supercharge the innovation economy,” said Bruce Katz during an event today on the rise of a new geography of innovation in America. Katz , vice president and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, and Julie Wagner, a nonresident senior fellow in Metro, are co-authors of report, “The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America,” that was released today. (See here and here).

Article titled Younger Residents Driving Development Decisions on EfficientGov website that discusses the changes to new development as a result of Millennials (and the creative class). Excerpt from the EfficientGov website:

Because many Millennials are tech-savvy and in-tune with the latest trends, the Atlantic Cities argues this generation wants to invest in more efficient land use, green technology and clean energy transportation. The cities listening to and attracting the most Millennials include New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boulder and Austin.

Many other resources can be found on the internet by simply Googling “innovation park” and you will also see a long list of university towns and cities that have built, are building, or are now planning to build a research park. And in most cases, these parks were meant to take advantage of the symbiotic nature of university research and technology startups.

In a future article, I will start to discuss the economic drivers that make an innovation research park a potential opportunity for Davis, including; revenues to local government (City and County); revenues to the school district; job creation; fiscal impacts; and corporate philanthropy.

Lastly, I will be unable to respond to comments and questions until Monday as I am with family and without internet access. Your thoughts are always welcome and I will happily answer questions in a follow-on article. My email is if you choose to email me directly.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Frankly

    Good stuff Rob.

    One thing that keeps coming up is the estimated economic benefit of an innovation park. You and I both know that there are a tremendous number of variables making it impossible to come to a certain figure. However, there has to be some previous work/studies that can help with this. I think we can help move this discussion, and hopefully the effort, along with a cost-benefit model for a Davis innovation park. There are people in this town that feel like they would be allowing some negative impacts voting to approve a future innovation park. I think they are completely off their rocker… but then who can successfully argue against feelings? I think by taking the conversation to one of the benefits… primarily the primary and tangible ones, but also the secondary and intangible ones… we can maybe move some of these people to at least acceptance that the good outweighs their concerns.

  2. Davis Progressive

    on tuesday, rob white seemed to put that number at $12 million, on the other hand, sue greenwald in the enterprise posted there was little that the city would get in taxes, is there a way to quantify that?

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