Monday Morning Thoughts: Davis and Regional Economic Development

UCD Long Range Development Plan

LDRP

Last week, we noted that on Tuesday Night, UC Davis Assistant Vice Chancellor for Campus Planning and Community Resources Bob Segar presented to the Davis City Council a report on UC Davis’s LRDP (Long Range Development Plan), which is a comprehensive land-use plan to guide physical development of the campus, akin to a city’s General Plan.

On the south end of campus, southwest of Nishi and into Solano County, the area was previously designated as Research Park in the 2003-15 plan. Mr. Segar announced that that area is no longer being considered for a Research Park

The Vanguard was previously aware of fairly high level talks between UC officials and local economic development interests and developers about the possibility of a large innovation center going into Solano County.

In a follow-up email, Mr. Segar explained, “The current LRDP (2003-2015) shows a total of 38 acres of land designated as Research Park at the intersection of Old Davis Road and Interstate 80 (27 acres south of the freeway and 11 acres north of the freeway). I did mention Tuesday night that my expectation is that we will not be designating this land as Research Park in this 2027 LRDP update.”

In large part, he explained this was due “to the positive energy in Davis around the pursuit of local innovation activity.”

While interesting, there are still some holes. According to what the Vanguard heard earlier this year, the discussions evolved around an innovation park far larger than the 76 acres that Mr. Segar identifies. Second, these talks occurred after plans for innovation parks were well underway at the city of Davis, and before the pull-out of the Davis Innovation Center.

Clearly, this is not the full story – although at this point it seems relatively safe to assume that talks of a bigger innovation park are off the table.

One of the originators of these talks was Barry Broome. As we noted in last week’s article, the Sacramento Business Journal gave a sobering view of the progress that Barry Broome, CEO of the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council, has made in pitching the Sacramento region for moving San Francisco-based technology companies.

The Business Journal writes, “Broome still gave his investors a sobering outlook Wednesday on the long-term challenge of recruiting business from the Bay Area.”

They said about Mr. Broome, “He focused on economic data that shows Sacramento has an abundance of young, professional workers, many of whom commute three hours to the Bay Area each day because they can earn up to 50 percent more income. The data also showed the Sacramento region has a lower median age and far lower real estate costs than the Bay Area and Seattle.”

Right now, the region’s biggest assets are two major higher learning institutions – Sac State and UC Davis. “Executives were also interested in research occurring at University of California Davis,” they wrote.

This weekend, Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton had a fascinating piece on the work of Mr. Broome since he arrived back in February to lead the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council.

Writes Mr. Breton, “It’s always been easy to diagnose why Sacramento had a weak economy. The state capital was too dependent on government jobs and real estate sales. The region had no discernible identity except a negative one held by too many people in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.”

As Mr. Breton explains, Barry Broome “came to Sacramento to be the answer.” He adds, “When you meet the man trying to remake Sacramento’s economic ecosystem, he’ll tell you that neither he nor his mission are political.”

“If you haven’t heard of Broome, or don’t know why he left a thriving career in Phoenix for Sacramento,” Mr. Breton continues, “Broome arrived in February to lead a new public-private partnership called the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council. That’s hardly a sexy name. But the forces that brought Broome to Sacramento, coupled with his personal story and track record as rainmaker for cities, set his story apart…”

Mr. Broome “was brought here to change the economic image of Sacramento by the biggest CEOs in the region – a group flexing their muscles like never before.” “Broome already has regional support in that 17 local cities and 30 CEOs are members of the Greater Sacramento council. He is pushing those cities to establish a regionwide business permitting process that never takes more than 90 days. The council works to benefit El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties.”

Mr. Breton notes, “According to the Arizona Republic, Broome was credited with bringing more than 260 companies and more than 50,000 jobs to the Phoenix area in his decade there.” He is a data person, mining data “to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the cities that hire him. He then uses his powerful personality to sell the upside. He also persuades the cities that hire him to change the way they look at themselves.”

So far, a lot of regional people are skeptical of Mr. Broome – believing him more talk than action.

So why should we in Davis care about all of this? Because it becomes clear that the key to this puzzle is UC Davis.

Mr. Broome said, “I want people to see the next cool city in the western United States.” Part of that messaging is the research centers and the health care market centering around UC Davis.

Mr. Breton writes, “Broome believes Sacramento has been selling itself short for years. The region is the home of one of the great research universities in America – UC Davis.”

A lot of the focus will be around the railyard, which is on the verge of development. But if Sacramento is hoping to remake itself around a “vibrant downtown (that) will help Broome recast Sacramento as a place for entrepreneurs developing robotics, medical devices or working in renewable energy,” there is no reason we can’t look to do the same.

—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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11 Comments

  1. Frankly

    “Broome believes Sacramento has been selling itself short for years. The region is the home of one of the great research universities in America – UC Davis.”

    I think he is correct.  And I think Sacramento is poised for a decade or two of significant revitalization.

    Basically, like Davis, Sacramento has had a long history of lazy public and political support of economic development because it was living off the soft money of government.  But politicians spent more than they took in year after year, and that track was never sustainable to begin with.   Then the recession hit and Sacramento leaders started to get it.  And they are moving forward.

    I am not convinced that Davis gets it and is moving forward.

    I think there is a strong likelihood that Sacramento will reap most of the reward for this recognition of the benefits of UCD and the regional attraction for business.  Davis will most likely dither and dally and end up on the short end of the stick… eventually being financially insolvent as well as quirky.

    1. Davis Progressive

      this is really my concern.  davis doesn’t need to compete for all of the pie, it just needs a portion of the pie to come to davis rather than elsewhere in the region.

      1. Mark West

        ‘davis doesn’t need to compete for all of the pie, it just needs a portion of the pie’

        This is absolutely right, but unless we create space for business all we will get are the pie crumbs.

        1. Davis Progressive

          yes – space is part of the equation.  hopefully we will approve space.

          but that’s not the end of the story.  we need people to get businesses into those spaces.  we once had rob white who knew the industry well.  now we have someone with less experience asked to compete with the big boys like barry broome and company and i think we are selling OURSELVES short.

      2. CalAg

        davis doesn’t need to compete for all of the pie, it just needs a portion of the pie to come to davis rather than elsewhere in the region @Davis Progressive

        Davis already has a big piece of a small pie. For example, there is not much happening in Sacramento to rival the acquisitions of Agraquest and Schilling Robotics (both about $500M transactions) and the IPOs of MBI and Arcadia.

        We’re not competing with Sacramento, we’re competing with ourselves around the issue of whether or not Davis is going to continue to squander its economic potential.

    2. Doby Fleeman

      Frankly,

      I grow weary with your insistent harping on the singular importance of “soft money” from government spending.  Your comments really miss the larger point in David’s retelling of Breton’s comments, namely:

      “The state capital was too dependent on government jobs and real estate sales.”

      It’s that second half of the sentence “real estate sales” that holds the key to understanding what really was “the industry” (outside the university) in Davis from the 1960’s through the decade of the 1990’s – and that industry was “homebuilding”.

      It was homebuilding activity that was largely responsible for the many wonderful amenities that have come to define Davis – bike trails, public parks, green belts, and great schools.  By and large, those amenities came with the development and the associated new taxes accrued to the “new residents”.

      Since 2005, or the past decade, that piece of the pie has largely been absent from the community’s “economic development” base, and as a community, we have done little to make up for that strategic loss of “economic activity”.

      All of which brings us back the discussion of “what might the future hold for Davis?”  If we’re basically “done with new homebuilding” as major driver of economic activity then what?

      Taxes and more taxes – otherwise known as “Club Davis”.  Hope I’m wrong.  Hope that there still exists some appetite to welcome new employers and their families to Davis.

      In closing, I just wanted to make the point that it wasn’t like there wasn’t anything going on in Davis for the past 50 years – all you have to do is look around to see what was going on.

      Today, the question should be “What might be going on here in Davis over the next 25-50 years?”  – a topic it seems like nobody here in Davis really has an appetite to discuss or explore.

      1. Davis Progressive

        you’re suggesting that one of the reasons amenities are failing in davis is the lack of new homes and therefore the lack of developer purchased amenities?  on the other hand, if we grew at the rate we did the previous twenty years, we’d be over 100,000 people heading to 150,000 and at some point the amenities would fail anyway like they have in most larger cities.

        1. Doby Fleeman

          DP,

          Partly correct, but you may have missed the thrust of all my previous commentary – specifically with respect to the need and the opportunity for Davis to grow its base of Technology Employers.

          Likewise, your qualification of “most larger cities” is not lost on me.   Perhaps it is those few larger cities where the amenities have not fallen away to which we might look for guidance and inspiration.

          The reason for pointing out our “father’s businesses” was simply to emphasize the point that Davis, from 1960-2000, did have “an industry” (besides the university) – albeit the “homebuilding industry” with all that comes with it.   It’s just that sometimes we like to conveniently forget this aspect of the community’s economic development history.   Bottom line, every community needs a sustainable, economic development model if it is to prosper and improve.

          Today, we need a new paradigm – that’s the whole point of my challenge to Frankly and the community.   What will that new paradigm be?   It could simply be “Enough – no more of anything thank you.  I’ll take my higher taxes any day over growth.”     But if so, then my corollary question:  “What does that look like 25-40 years down the line?”   How high would taxes need to rise, and will that approach still allow us to build more affordable housing, increase funding for our network of social programs, address new challenges for an ageing population, while still maintaining our existing amenities (something we are failing at even today).

          How does all than pan out in terms of “keeping up the amenities, keeping our schools filled, finding investment dollars to meet growing demands of the growing senior population”?

          The challenge, and the opportunity – whether described by Barry Broome, Kevin Johnson or other leading economic development leaders in the region – lies with our recognizing the region’s anemic technology employment base and the opportunities thus presented, and then planning and executing a development plan that leverages and manages the outcomes to the best advantage of the community.

  2. CalAg

    I think there is a strong likelihood that Sacramento will reap most of the reward for this recognition of the benefits of UCD and the regional attraction for business. @Frankly

    They already do – and have for many years. The Sacramento-based economic development organizations routinely claim credit for all the wins in Davis. This is negative for both Davis and Sacramento. Davis never really escapes from their shadow, and the fact that their business case relies so heavily on podunk little Davis underscores how insignificant the Sacramento metro region is in the world-wide technology universe.

  3. CalAg

    David Greenwald: To paraphrase one of the intriguing parts of your article – you are reporting that Broome (CEO of the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council) was in discussions with UC Davis regarding their proposed innovation park in Solano county. You are also saying that the size of the project was much bigger than the 38 acres in the LRDP. In addition, you are insinuating that Segar is not being transparent.

    All this begs the question of whether GSAEC was lobbying UCD to move forward or to stand down.

    1. Davis Progressive

      interesting points.  one thing i might suggest not knowing either way is perhaps segar simply didn’t know because the decisions were occurring over his head.

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