By Pam Marrone
We live in a community of enormous potential. As Davis residents, we live next to one of the best research universities in the world — the School of Veterinary Medicine is No. 1 in the world and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is No. 2.
As a community at the intersection of major highways, like Interstates 80 and 5, we have easy access to almost every major market in the Western United States. As a city with a major rail line, we have easy access to ports perfect for the export of products.
Sandwiched between the political power brokers in Sacramento and the innovative entrepreneurs in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, we have tremendous access to talent, capital and influence. We are blessed.
However, the Davis I know and love is missing a critical element needed to capitalize on these advantages: sufficient research and development space. In my 26 years here, I’ve seen many motivated business leaders take a close look at Davis and determine that we simply aren’t equipped to allow their businesses to grow here.
As a consequence, businesses that are a natural fit to take root near UC Davis go elsewhere, depriving our city of needed tax revenue, taking away job opportunities for Davis residents and students, reducing sustainability through longer commutes, and making it harder for existing small business to develop a suitable customer base.
Just this last year, UCD nurtured 13 new startups, but nine of them have already left the city in search of R&D space elsewhere.
The proposed Nishi Gateway project, which would be built between the campus and downtown, near the Arboretum, brings us a lot closer to the balance needed to see our city reach its true potential. Nishi would establish 325,000 square feet of research and development space at a location perfectly suited to convert research conducted at UCD into small businesses headquartered in Davis.
It will bring our city between 1,500 to 1,800 jobs, up to $385 million in economic activity, and revenue to support city services. A total of $12 million eventually will go to Davis Joint Unified School District, and the developers have pledged to invest $30 million in road and park infrastructure improvements.
I believe a project like Nishi is absolutely necessary to allow small and medium-sized businesses a chance to do business here in Davis. The recent announcement that Sierra Energy has agreed to partner with Nishi to help shape the innovation center and build its headquarters on the site is big news. This is exactly the kind of partnership that is necessary to retain our top intellectual capital from UCD and grow them into game-changing companies right here in Davis.
I am proud that a prominent member of our business community is willing to extend its resources to help other companies flourish here in Davis.
I say this as someone who has watched this project evolve and improve over time. Over the past eight years, every relevant institution, organization and community leader has had an opportunity to influence the Nishi project.
When community members expressed concern about the problem of traffic congestion on Richards Boulevard, the Nishi team committed to a second access point to campus and pledged that Nishi wouldn’t be built until all improvements in that corridor are completed.
In addition to all the public improvements paid for by Nishi, the project also will add revenue to our general fund annually to maintain service levels at community parks.
For all these reasons, more than a dozen former elected officials, council members, mayors and supervisors have embraced the Nishi Gateway project. They are joined by the Davis Chamber of Commerce, the Davis Downtown business association and nearly 100 small business owners.
This project has gone through eight years of negotiations and collaboration and received the unanimous approval of the Davis City Council. I urge Davis voters to vote yes on Measure A and make Davis a place where small business can flourish.
— Pam Marrone is founder and CEO of Marrone Bio Innovations Inc.