By Dan Ramos
As one of the partners behind the Aggie Research Campus (ARC), I’ve been proud since its inception of our vision for the project and the benefits it would provide for Davis, but we always knew it was just the beginning of an important citywide conversation. We’ve sought continually to make the project better, and with the City of Davis’s release of the updated fiscal and economic impact analysis by the respected independent firm Economic and Planning System, Inc. (EPS), we have the clearest picture yet of the hugely positive financial benefits that the ARC brings to Davis.
What the analysis shows is that after several years of refinement and improvement, our project is a big financial winner for Davis. It’s clear that providing state-of-the-art facilities for companies focused on innovation and sustainability is critically important in enabling Davis to continue providing the high quality of life that its residents expect. The positive economic and City-budget impacts that the report highlights are especially important now given the significant economic downturn we’re experiencing and can potentially expect for years to come.
Our project will start generating an annual $1 million surplus for the City’s general fund in the first phase, ramping up to $5.44 million at full buildout. Largely due to the housing for workers that we added to the project in response to feedback from the community and after studying successful innovation centers elsewhere in the country, the annual surplus is almost 1.5 times larger than previously projected. That’s money that can support our social safety net, parks, infrastructure, services for those at risk of becoming unhoused, and other needed City investments.
We’ll also be paying impact fees to the City totaling $113 million for a variety of services and infrastructure, $4.35 million to the Davis Joint Unified School District and $4.47 million to Yolo County. These investments add up when our City budget is falling into the red and new revenue will be hard to come by.
With a total annual economic output estimated at $1.71 billion for Davis and $2.20 billion for Yolo County, existing small businesses will find a new customer base as ARC serves as an economic development engine during what will likely be a challenging several years for our City and region.
As the independent analysis says, our goal is “to leverage the economic potential of the University of California and create high-quality jobs in the City. Often the University’s economic spinoff potential is not realized because of a lack of adequate spaces to meet the needs of emerging businesses that then locate to other parts of the region or to the Bay Area. … This revised plan incorporates a residential component that significantly improves the development economics while also responding to the pressing need for more housing.”
Here’s the bottom line: Davis has lost numerous businesses over the years, and many of the businesses that started or tried to start in Davis found the existing opportunities for expansion too limited. We can’t afford to lose any more, especially now. Each business that locates somewhere else means jobs denied and revenue lost for the City. That’s the cold truth, and ARC is Davis’s best chance to reverse the trend, make our economy more resilient and improve the City’s financial health.
We face an uncertain future, but ARC gives Davis a strategic economic advantage that many other cities in California or elsewhere wish they had. The creative talent at UC Davis and our unique geographic positioning between the Bay Area and Sacramento makes business expansion at ARC very attractive. . That’s good news at a time when it’s sorely needed.
So it’s up to us. ARC has gone through an extensive public process and will soon be ready for City approval. Will we create something extraordinary together? If there’s ever a time for big thinking, this is it.
Dan Ramos is the Project Manager for Aggie Research Campus and Vice President of Ramco Enterprises, a development and farming company based in Yolo County, and a former 15-year Davis resident.