By Doby Fleeman
Even as a relatively new member of a family with 100-plus-year-old roots in the Davis business community, I tend to take the long view. Having investments and a business in Davis bring with them certain responsibilities to family, employees, customers, fellow business owners, neighbors and vendors.
With a personal background in finance, and a keen interest in the long-term health of our personal business and the community at large, I have the motivation and the basic tools required to take a look under the hood — at what drives our local economy and pays for our city services.
Fellow contributor Rob White, chief innovation officer for the city of Davis, and I will be exploring the many ways a growing, knowledge-based economy can help create positive outcomes for Davis.
Over the horizon, our community faces some serious financial challenges. When the final numbers are tallied and reviewed by our City Council later this fall, a lot of people are going to be shocked by the magnitude of the city’s accumulated fiscal deficit. While Davis clearly is not alone among California cities, it seems appropriate to squarely face the challenge and create a collaborative community plan to address the issues.
If there is a silver lining from the fiscal challenges, it is the confidence that our community — together with the university — has the means, the resources and the skills to address them. Together, we can create long-term opportunities for the entire community.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have any simple solutions, nor do I profess to have the keen insights to know what is best for the community or what is our best way forward. I do, however, take it as a given that change is inevitable.
The distinguishing character of this community will be measured by how successful we are in addressing, exploring, resolving and directing the process of change to ensure that our future will be every bit as interesting, charming and unique as we are today.
In my opinion, the Davis community both deserves and demands this type of citizen engagement if it is to be plotting a course forward. Marshaling the civic and private financial resources to undertake this type of progressive, forward-visioning process is something that this community should take seriously.
Current efforts underway at the Nishi Gateway and the proposed innovation centers (research parks) are reflective of this community’s potential to emerge as a leading center for technology employment, one that is focused on meeting global demands for safe and secure food production, food processing and associated resource management.
The professional and creative efforts of these projects will go a long way toward helping us to envision how the future might translate in terms of new creative and productive spaces for our community. I hope these efforts can serve as an impetus and dovetail into a more comprehensive, parallel overview showing how such enhancements might contribute to achieving the larger visions and longer-term goals of the community.
With or without our support, UC Davis and the research that it has ignited are moving forward in fulfillment of the mission to feed the world. This community has benefited greatly in the past from being a host to the university, and the potential gains by fostering and embracing the research and development is there for the asking.
What Davis chooses to do with that opportunity and how the community chooses to leverage that relationship to foster a better, stronger and healthier local economy will — in large measure — determine the future social and economic direction for the community.
In future columns, I will be exploring the linkage between a community’s economic activity, and its ability to afford not only essential municipal services, but more importantly those special amenities — community parks, pools, recreation centers, bike paths, greenbelts and school facilities — that together help shape our quality of life and character of the community.
Doby Fleeman is a co-owner of Davis Ace Hardware. This editorial originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise and was submitted to the Vanguard by its author.