by Rob White
An article titled “Rancho Cordova Looks Into Innovation Center Idea” ran in the Sacramento Business Journal on August 25th. The author, Ben van der Meer, outlined that officials in Rancho Cordova “are trying to figure out who the [entrepreneurs] are, and the best way to help them.”
This article caught my attention because Davis is also considering several innovation centers and I wondered what our regional neighbors to the east might be up to.
The author goes on to describe that “although early in the process, the city of Rancho Cordova is exploring the concept of establishing an innovation center to give those entrepreneurs a hand up to the next level, either by creating a place they can accelerate their expansion or just providing a forum to get them off the ground.”
From that description, it became clear that Rancho Cordova officials were not ‘exploring’ something akin to what Davis is considering, but it still piqued my interest. They are looking to build a community of entrepreneurs, while Davis has a thriving community of entrepreneurs and is trying to figure out a way to build space to keep their growth activities in Davis.
Amanda Norton, the Rancho Cordova economic development manager stated in the article that “we don’t know if it will be virtual or be brick and mortar. It’s all still to be imagined.’ And to do this, van der Meer describes that Rancho Cordova is holding a public workshop on September 23rd where concepts and ideas will be discussed.
And that is what really inspired me. Rancho Cordova has just the beginning of an idea. They are more than aware of what is going on in the area of innovation in the region, the state and globally and they want to figure out how their city can accommodate some of that activity.
As Norton describes it, entrepreneurs “need for a place where creative types can pursue their idea, and a high-tech component is almost certain to be part of what emerges.”
So this simple article, without a lot of substance other than a long way to announce that Rancho Cordova is trying to figure out how to increase its economic development opportunities with respect to entrepreneurs and is holding a public ‘imagining’ workshop, was really all about creating a positive image in the business community (as this article was posted in the Sacramento Business Journal web feed).
Rancho Cordova leaders wanted to make sure that entrepreneurs, creative types and those involved in the innovation sector were aware that their city was also were interested in being the home to their business. And on a more subliminal level, these leaders were sending the message that they are open to new ideas and that the city wants to attract these innovation businesses and the investments that come with them.
We in Davis have recently experienced what these investments look like… they are the kind of investments that Bayer makes to take a small agtech company in Davis called AgraQuest and invest almost $500 million to make it a new agtech powerhouse. Which in turn will cause the company to seek out about quadruple the amount of square feet that it had in mid-2012 and will lead to a tripling of the workforce.
They are the kind of investments that lead FMC Corporation to make a multi-$100 million investment in Davis-based Schilling Robotics that are now causing that company to also need to quadruple its available space and about triple its workforce in the coming decade.
And they are the kind of investments that lead small agtech startup Marrone Bio Innovations to be the first initial public offering in the Sacramento Region in almost 8 years, leading to a $60 million IPO and a second round of stock netting $40 million just several months later.
But so what? Why should you care?
Well, as voices and leaders in the community, you have a direct impact on the view of these same entrepreneurs, innovators and investors. When the news about Davis is centered on such things as toad tunnels, peaceful student protest gone awry or a controversial city acquisition (such as an armored personnel vehicle), it’s not the object of the controversy that is the issue. It’s most certainly not the right of Davis citizens to voice their opinion that is of issue. And it is not the way that the community requires the utmost transparency in our daily transactions.
But it is the way we handle these things that is very important. Civil discourse, based on facts that seek understanding and common ground, is a tenet of many great societies through history and I think it is a strong (and attractive) tenet of Davis.
When our leaders and voices in this city decide to take that civil discourse into areas of badgering, belittlement and outright lambasting of others in a public forum, we lose credibility as a place of knowledge and civility. And we are better than that… so much so, that we even have a coffee shop named after the high road of civil discourse!
And maybe most importantly, by showing kindness and restraint in our disagreements and creating opportunities for all Davis citizens to have a voice, we can start to achieve the best of all possible situations. Because the world is watching, constantly (and sometimes unforgivingly), and the investment opportunities for our Davis-based startups and business are just as tied to how we act as a citizenry, as we are to them for revenue that funds our pools, parks and public amenities.
Because each of our financial futures is literally tied to how others perceive Davis (businesses, investors and tourists to name a few), my simple request is that we learn to disagree humbly. We don’t need to gloat when we are on the ‘winning side’ of a controversial item, and we most certainly get no value as a community of displaying that lack of humility in a public forum.
So when the next public controversy comes up, I am hopeful that the best parts of Davis are on public display and that we not settle for the low threshold of angry argument and accusations. These are not our best nature and certainly do not display our most valuable asset – community.
Thanks for considering my thoughts. Your reactions and questions are always welcome. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you choose to email me directly.