By David M. Greenwald
Sacramento, CA – Barry Broome from the Greater Sacramento Economic Council recently joined Studio Sacramento KVIE host Scott Syphax for a conversation about his insights on the future of the capital region—and of course the conversation quickly turned Davis and UC Davis.
He talked about the work of Chancellor Gary May leveraging the university’s potential, with UC Davis being one of only ten R1 universities in the nation doing $1 billion in research.
“Getting them shoulder to shoulder, leaning into this market was a critical achievement,” he said. “Especially UC Davis, in 2015 I met with the Mayor of Davis and I met with UC Davis officials and they told me that they were more of a Bay Area university than a Sacramento University.”
He noted that at the time it was Chancellor Katehi, and the Deans all came out of Berkeley or Stanford, grew up on the Peninsula and all had Bay Area ties, so the tech transfer office was located in San Francisco and all of the contracts went out to the Bay Area automatically.
Moreover, faculty and career counselors “all encouraged the students to migrate to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley.
“Now that’s been completely reverse engineered,” he said. “Now UC Davis is shouldering the Sacramento region’s economy as part of its mission along with Sac State.”
He called this a total shift from “a very insular UC Davis” where they would “[s]tay on the Davis campus, operate in an Ivory Tower.” He said, “I think what Gary May has done at UC Davis has probably been as profound as any leader in the history of our community.”
Broome noted that Woodland has come out with an approximately 250-acre research park and that “Davis’ number one mindset as a city is to get the Mace Road research park off the ground. How different is that than Davis five or six years ago?”
The host, Syphax, noted that for years Sacramento was a region “that couldn’t get out of its own way” and at the same time, “this is a government town” and “we can’t think big enough to do some of these mega ideas” like an Aggie Square or a research park in Woodland.
Barry Broome noted that seven years ago there was only SARTA (Sacramento Area Regional Technology Allilance) as a regional accelerator.
Now you have the Cambridge Innovation Center taking 100,000 square feet at Aggie Square, the Carlson Center at Sacramento State, Raley’s Food and Agricultural accelerator in Woodland, and the Growth Factory is going to have a presence in Roseville, having worked with other communities as well.
“There’s a much different appetite to do economic development than there was before,” he said. “All these communities have economic development incentives.”
Broome said overall “we’re getting the people and we’re starting to get the companies.
“What we haven’t gotten so far is the high profile (companies) investment,” he said, like Google or Salesforce or the like. “I think we still have a good shot of doing that. A lot of people are overlooking these compelling companies that are funding six-figure jobs and doing excited things.”
Syphax noted the overall problem in California, losing high profile companies. Broome responded, “We’re a negative business climate with a high value business proposition. We’re a double-edged sword.
“If you want to create and design and build a product, no one’s as good as California,” Broome explained. “Not Austin. Not Seattle. Not even close.”
He added, “I think we can catch Seattle and Austin as an emerging early stage technology player, especially in the life sciences.”
Housing costs a problem, but Broome noted that that’s “out of whack everywhere.
“When I look at housing, it’s really not cheap in Phoenix any longer,” he noted. “These cities and these metros where all the opportunity exists is just drawing people—and whether you’re Salt Lake, Denver, Phoenix, your housing market ends up being lopsided.”
He added, “Our community is really doing a good job of building housing right now.”
Broome noted, “From a scientific standpoint, Austin is nowhere near a scientific center the way our region is—with our food, agricultural, biomedical, and veterinarian science expertise.” Though he acknowledged, “Software, you’d probably choose Austin headquarters because of the zero-income tax and the less liability.”
“So, it’s really about understanding our market position and how we differentiate it,” he said.
Broome said, “I thought we would see more in food and ag” in the region when he came to Sacramento.
He noted the Food and Ag Center (World Food Center) that Chancellor Katehi was attempting to develop.
“The industry went through a big a transformation in terms of technology and then kind of stalled,” he said.
On the other hand, “When Aggie Square gets operational, I really see that life science center, especially around cell therapies, really exploding here and being a big industry driver.”