The reality is that Tyler Schilling warned us – he warned us back in 2014 that they were going to need more space. He warned the council, “We’re going to need a sizable parcel to build a new facility and I would dearly love to be able to do it here in Davis.”
We got a temporary reprieve as the oil market softened, but five years after he got in front of the council – time ran out.
This is about space – we don’t have it. When we have the space, we can sell this community to prospective companies. When we don’t have space – as Danielle Casey pointed out this August – we don’t even get a look.
This wasn’t about saving Schilling anymore. We knew they were gone. We knew they were gone in December. We knew they were gone in June when ARC (Aggie Research Campus) announced itself. It was effectively lost when we couldn’t get MRIC (Mace Ranch Innovation Center) to the ballot five years ago. That’s when the clock started. The only thing that changed now is that the clock has struck midnight.
This is about saving the next Schilling. And, just as importantly, it is about creating space so that the city can start becoming creative and working to bring high tech companies to Davis, rather than crossing their fingers to keep what we have.
This is not a good week. It doesn’t feel good. There is no silver lining – except and unless it inspires us to action.
We have run through these numbers before – the city simply lacks larger options for companies to move into. We can now put this into perspective. Schilling Robotics is moving into about 21 acres. The city currently has no available land at that size.
Mori Seiki moved into a spot that was just under 15 acres. Right now there is exactly one parcel that is vacant at that size. That is the parcel at Cowell and Chiles. That is the parcel that Jim Gray told us likely is not going to be available in the foreseeable future.
That’s it. The 124.5 acres of commercially zoned land that the city identified in January remains misleading and elusive. The reality is about 30 of those acres are already owned and purposed for expansion of Sutter and Kaiser. Another 25 to 30 of those acres, which actually could become valuable land at some point, remain unavailable as part of the Frontier Fertilizer Superfund size.
That means, instead of 124.5 acres, it is more like 60 acres, and three-quarters of that is in parcels of seven acres or less. Someone from the city told me there might be no parcels on the market at this time larger than two acres.
That’s the reality that we face.
None of this is actually new. This was the reality that we learned of back in 2012 when the Studio 30 report came out.
They wrote, “The current isolated and dispersed sites that are available and appropriately zoned are not adequate in terms of size, location, or configuration (and related constraints) to address the emerging market need of an Innovation Center.”
The study continues, “With available reasonably priced land and effective marketing to innovative high tech companies, Studio 30 estimates Davis could absorb up to 10 percent or around 100,000 square feet of the 1-1.5 million industrial/office square footage absorbed annually in the Sacramento region. Because of this Studio 30 estimates Davis needs at least 200 acres for business development and expansion over a 20 +/- year time horizon.”
That is why the Studio 30 report recommended the city in the intermediate term look at Nishi – which eventually was defeated as a 300,000 square foot R&D center with housing and approved as rental housing only – and one of two peripheral sites, which right now is the form of the Aggie Research Center.
It was a blow six years ago when we lost homegrown company AgraQuest which was bought out by Bayer and moved to West Sacramento. This is even a bigger blow – in part because we were warned five years ago it was coming.
Some have said, well, someone else will move into there. Yes, at some point in the future, someone else will likely be able to move into there. But, let’s look at what we lose.
First, we lose the certainty of that spot being filled now. Unfortunately we don’t have tax figures as to how much revenue per year that is. We are losing the jobs there. We are losing the community support that Schilling has provided over the years.
Will a full-fledged company move in with the all the employees and tax revenue of Schilling? And how long will it be?
But we lose more than that. Because if we had had 20 to 30 acres available for a move up, we get the new company and the move up. We are losing out on 21 acres and 400,000 square feet of projected growth from Schilling. To put that into perspective, Nishi was creating 300,000 square feet of R&D space, Schilling is creating up to 400,000.
But it is not just Schilling we are losing. It is the opportunity to get other companies to move into here. Right now, most larger companies needing space are not even looking in this direction. Heck, it is questionable that, if another Mori Seiki were looking to move here, we could accommodate that.
Aggie Research Center is the most likely solution to this problem. This is really not a huge risk for the city. We are creating entitled land that a company could move into. If they don’t come, the land stays as it is now.
But by creating the capacity for 185 acres and 2.6 million square feet of R&D space, we give ourselves a chance in the future – a chance to keep the next Schilling Robotics. A chance to attract a new company to replace their loss.
—David M. Greenwald reporting