Commentary: Chamber Creates Ambitious Plan Foreshadowing Community Innovation Park Discussions

Matt Yancey discusses the 2020 Prosperity Plan at the Chamber Luncheon

At Tuesday’s Chamber of Commerce luncheon, newly-installed Chamber CEO Matt Yancey unveiled a very ambitious plan. Matt Yancey told Chamber membership today that if they achieve the objectives detailed, the Chamber believes Davis can grow 6000 new jobs over the next six years.

That figure was quickly met with skepticism by Jennifer Anderson who asked the question that was probably on everyone’s mind – how are you going to add 6000 in the next six years? Mr. Yancey noted that, as economic developers, “we don’t create a whole lot of jobs directly ourselves. What we do as economic developers is we create the environment in which jobs can be created.”

So he said that they believe, if they hit the marks of the 2020 Prosperity Plan, “we will set the environment where all of you… will be in the position to create combined 6000 net new jobs over six years.”

Fair enough. There is plenty to be excited about by this plan, including the fact that Mr. Yancey was hired in part because of his regional reputation, and his ability to integrate Davis’ efforts with that of the community by linking the 2020 Prosperity Plan to the Next Economy Capital Region Prosperity Plan.

“It serves as the Capital region’s framework for transforming our $97 billion annual regional economy into one that is well-connected to global marks and possesses a vibrant environment for entrepreneurism and investment, world class talent, a diverse economic base, and a business climate geared for economic growth,” the Chamber release stated.

“As the epicenter of the Capital region’s innovation economy, Davis’ economic performance significantly impacts that of the whole region. But, we’re one city in a region of 2.3 million people,” said 2014 Board Chair Jennifer Nitzkowski, of Carbahal & Company. “That means we’re also heavily impacted by the economic health of the entire region. In developing this plan, we knew we had to ensure it didn’t place us in a vacuum.”

Davis is no longer in an isolated bubble and, while the plan takes advantage of its own unique circumstances, it is very much a plan that looks regionally.

The 2020 Prosperity Plan follows two weeks after the Chamber released its policy position, coming out in favor of peripheral innovation parks.

Both yesterday and in the Chamber’s press release two weeks ago, the need to distinguish business park from innovation park is apparent.

In July of 2012, the City of Davis’ Innovation Park Task Force released a report prepared by Studio 30 that “evaluated the characteristics, benefits, and initial feasibility of Innovation Parks in Davis. As defined, a “university research park” (Innovation Park) is a property-based venture that includes the following characteristics:

  1. Master-planned property and buildings designed primarily for private-public R/D facilities, high-technology and science-based companies, and support services;
  2. A contractual, formal, or operational relationship with one or more science-research institutions;
  3. A role in promoting the university’s R&D through industry partnerships, assisting in the growth of new ventures and promoting economic development; and
  4. A role in aiding the transfer of technology and business skills between university and industry teams.

The Chamber writes, “In short, this is not the typical commercial and/or industrial ‘business park.’ Innovation Parks are typically within a few miles of a major university.” Furthermore, “Successful Innovation Parks work collaboratively with the community and affiliated university to apply for research and development funding.

“These facilities attract highly innovative companies that are at the cutting edge of their respective industries. As such, they tend to pay higher-than-average salaries for regions in which they are located,” the Chamber writes. “These higher-than average salaries typically translate into additional wealth circulating within their local market areas. In turn, that creates more money in the community to generate tax revenue at current rates; and, the taxes paid by the businesses themselves provide additional revenue streams to support and bolster the infrastructure and community amenities currently enjoyed in the City of Davis.”

Despite the ambitious nature of the Chamber 2020 Prosperity Plan, obstacles remain. There is uncertainty about whether the city’s voters will be willing to approve peripheral development.

Right now we have two proposed peripheral innovation parks, in addition to Nishi, which has an innovation park component. Applications have been submitted and the planning process continues.

There is some indication that the university has slowed their work on Nishi due to concerns about the Solano Park controversy. But there is a looming question – will the city put out potentially two or three Measure R votes in the spring of 2016? Many feel that putting that many proposals before the voters means that the voters will vote them all down.

That might mean the best strategy is to put forth one proposal. But if it is one proposal – which proposal goes first, who decides, and will this process lead to dissension in the ranks and pit one project and its proponents against another?

These are increasingly serious concerns.

In addition, there is some sense – and it’s not clear how deep this sense goes – that the improving economy will result in the reduced need for and therefore the slowing down of efforts to develop peripheral innovation parks. How will that potential change the discussion that has focused on the need for new revenue and a new stable revenue base, rather than more traditional considerations of land use and development?

Finally, where does the city stand in terms of a parcel tax proposal? It is now December – no discussion has occurred either in the city or the community. While the parcel tax is separate from the innovation park discussion, it is part and parcel to the short-term piece of revenue needs.

Some of this is inevitable with a new city manager just now coming aboard, but last night we had a full city council meeting that had one item on the agenda and it was a very minor item.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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. Davis Progressive

    the chamber is definitely being ambitious – is there a real sense that will the economy improving we don’t need an innovation park, is that the drift i’m getting here?

  2. Anon

    “In addition, there is some sense – and it’s not clear how deep this sense goes – that the improving economy will result in the reduced need for and therefore the slowing down of efforts to develop peripheral innovation parks.”

    Huh?  Backlogged unmet needs such as road and infrastructure repairs is so great, not to mention ever increasing PERS/OPEB obligations, that an improving economy cannot even remotely address these unmet needs.  This city has not done its homework, over the years failing to set aside reserves for road and facilities repairs, instead dumping these inconvenient fiscal truths in the unmet need category and declaring a “balanced budget”.  This longstanding festering wound will not be healed without some sort of drastic plan of gaining additional tax revenues.  If not from innovation parks, then the only other place to look is increasing taxes/cutting services, which are not popular alternatives.

    1. Davis Progressive

      and the city hired a non-fiscal guy to be city manager.  so what does that tell you?  in fact, they hired a guy without either a fiscal or planning background and who has no experience running cities.

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