A Good Weekend for Innovation, Startups and Economic Development

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By Michael Bisch

“This means that the city will have to maintain strong fiscal discipline lest the dramatic recent improvements in its fiscal condition be allowed to unravel. Moreover, the city must continue to be entrepreneurial and search out opportunities to gain additional revenues to support needed public services. This includes pursuing its aggressive efforts for economic development and conducting a rigorous review of what city assets are needed and could be leveraged through sales, leases or concessions for the benefit of the taxpayers.” –Dan Carson, Finance & Budget Commission, November 16th, 2014

This past weekend was a remarkable moment for Davis innovation, startups and economic development. Granted, I missed a significant amount of the Davis City Council’s Strategic Planning and Goal Setting retreat as I was assisting with the Innovation Booth at Farmers’ Market*. Nevertheless, it was quite clear from what I witnessed on Saturday that the City Council and City staff had a forewarning that Dan Carson intended to opine the very next day.

I have posted previously in the Vanguard that the Davis Chamber of Commerce, the Yolo County Visitors Bureau, Davis Downtown and City staff annually develop economic development “Shared Objectives” to be achieved and/or pursued over the following twelve months. I’m pleased to report that the City Council on Saturday adopted 10 of the 11 Objectives either as “Goals”, “Objectives”, “Tasks” or “Whatchamacallits” (you’ll have to ask the retreat moderator for the distinction between these terms). The only “Shared Objective” to fall by the wayside was Objective 11, RDA Successor Agency: Monitor and provide input.

The ten Shared Objectives adopted by the City Council this weekend were:

Objective 1

Nishi/Solano Park: Entitle the Nishi/Solano Park/Gateway/Downtown as part of a mixed-use, innovation district providing space for start-ups and tech businesses, as well as much-needed high-density housing in close proximity to UC Davis and downtown.

Objective 2

Downtown Parking: Better manage the supply of downtown parking by installing way-finding signs and phased implementation of the Downtown Parking Management Plan. Support City Council actions to authorize the staff time and financial resources necessary to implement the Council-approved action items. Furthermore, City Council action required includes formal direction for staff to contract a professional to collect parking occupancy, utilization, and turnover data on a quarterly basis.

Objective 3

Infrastructure Deferred Maintenance: Failure to maintain critical infrastructure and amenities is harming commercial activity, economic development efforts, and is negatively impacting quality of life.

Objective 4

Densification: Develop and adopt policies to encourage densification, especially in the Core Area and in existing business parks, as foreseen in the General Plan and Business Park Landing Strategy, providing for more commercial space, additional mixed- use development and accessory dwelling units. This work should clarify any inconsistencies that exist between the various and often conflicting design guidelines and zoning.

Objective 5

Shop Davis: Continue to develop and execute a program to shift 10% of community purchasing power to local businesses, with an emphasis on locally owned businesses. The business organizations have developed and initiated roll-out of a local shopping promotional program. Program is in initial stage.

Lead Organization: Davis Downtown
Support: Davis Chamber of Commerce

Proposed Next Steps:

Objective 6

Hotel/Conference Center: Support the rapid entitlement and construction of a conference center with hotel and ample parking in Downtown.

Objective 7

Cultivate a Culture of Entrepreneurship: Improve City business license application and processes and the physical environment in the Community Development Dept. to enhance and improve the experience for new and growing businesses and entrepreneurs in Davis.

Objective 8

Richards Tunnel Gateway/Welcome Arch: Meet critical deadlines as described by project MOUs.

Objective 9

Innovation Park: Support entitlement of land for an Innovation Center to provide opportunities for tech, advanced manufacturing and R&D company retention, attraction and growth.

Objective 10

Arts Alliance: Continue to support the creation and formation of a private/public partnership that supports and coordinates local artists and arts organizations, promotes and celebrates the uniqueness of Davis cultural resources and attracts regional, national and global recognition and visitors.

That’s not to say that the City Council didn’t adopt goals in other areas of community sustainability, such as environmental and social sustainability, because they most certainly did. But it’s truly remarkable that the business community, City staff and the City Council are resolute in pursuing strategies to create and foster a resilient, diversified local economy.

I’m also pleased to report that the City Council and City staff on Saturday repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to executing a “Diversified Innovation Strategy” or as Rob White more aptly posted on the Vanguard recently, a “Citywide Innovation Strategy.” So, despite some Vanguard posters declarations to the contrary, execution of a diversified/citywide innovation strategy is most definitely the strategy that the City Manager, Dirk Brazil, and his staff have been tasked with by the City Council. And the business community has committed to partnering with the City to achieve these goals and objectives. Together with the Innovation and Economic Vitality Work Plan developed by Rob White and adopted by the City Council in April, the City has committed to significant economic development initiatives over the next 24 months. Dan Carson and his colleagues on Finance & Budget have reason to celebrate!

While I have your attention, I’d like to remind Vanguard readers of two more events scheduled for this week intended to focus community attention on innovation, startups and economic development:

  • On November 19th, at 6:30pm, Sophia’s Thai Kitchen will be hosting the first “JumpStart Davis Cocktail Hour” networking event, a monthly mixer designed to strengthen and encourage the local startup community. The event will bring together entrepreneurs from all walks of life as well as startup supporters from the general community. The event is free to everyone. Details can be found here facebook.com/events/1508331572763622/?ref=br_tf

It is likely I missed some critical details from the Council Goal Setting retreat, no doubt Rob and/or individual Council members will jump in to correct and/or complete the record.

–Michael Bisch, Davis Downtown Prez

*Many thanks to Michelle, Chris, Mimi, Daniel, Alex and Matt for manning the innovation booth. Many thanks to Nina, Bill and Matt for event preparation. And thanks to everyone else for spreading the word!

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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7 thoughts on “A Good Weekend for Innovation, Startups and Economic Development”

  1. sisterhood

    “…contract a professional to collect parking occupancy, utilization, and turnover data on a quarterly basis.”

    A UCD or community college student interested in urban planning and government could do this job for free, as an intern.

    1. Frankly

      It is common.  Make friends and stakeholders out of people that might otherwise be opponents, and business people tend to like art.  And when you mix art with commercial development people tend to view the commercial development as more attractive and appealing.

      And lastly, art is business.

      Pasadena for example has very strong art-related policy tied to economic development.

      1. Davis Progressive

        the danger is you end up spreading your efforts too thin.  do you really want rob white, for example, working on art when he could be working to get the next big thing into town?

  2. Daniel Parrella

    I am so excited to see the progress that has been made in just a few weeks. None of this would have happened without the support of the Downtown Business Association, they have provided money, contacts and leadership for the bulk of these initiatives.  Our downtown has great leadership!

  3. Miwok

    I laugh when I see a few of these:

    Shooting from the hip:

    Objective 1: Everyone was not in favor of the Nishi last month when I started reading about these Innovation Parks.
    Objective 2: Studying and more signs do not equate to MORE parking. They collect no data now?
    Objective 3: This must be all the Off Budget costs that suddenly were on their way to be solved? $100 M?
    Objective 4: So with lack of parking and lack of infrastructure, let’s make the Downtown more dense? I hope these are on order.
    Objective 5: Can’t complain about this, but apart from pizzas and a hardware store, there is not much else except copies and art/antiques.
    Objective 6: Since the University built a Hotel/Conference Center years back and now have plans to double it, what is the City going to do to compete or supplant it?
    Objective 7: Fluff
    Objective 8: A new sign? oooh goody. That entrance to the City is screwed without moving existing buildings, and they built the now Whole Foods to really block it up, not that more traffic on that street would do anything but back up more. Get another Gateway into the DownTown or eliminate half the traffic. Would take massive culture change and shock.
    Objective 9: Topic well under discussion
    Objective 10: Because? Seems the City has a pretty thriving bunch of, artists.

    Where’s Frankly when I need him? Tia? DP?

    1. Anon

      Ouch – kinda’ cynical?  I understand why you might be, but if citizens pay attention, the future could be quite an improvement with appropriate economic development and fiscal restraint – some things that have been needed for a long time.  I suppose I am ever the optimist. I would rather ask “How can we make this work” than wring my hands and say “Oh nothing ever works!”.

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