Commentary: Marrone Relocating Corporate to Raleigh – A Modest Blow to Davis

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – When Marrone Bio Innovations, a home-grown company developed by Pam Marrone in Davis, announced on Thursday that it would be relocating its corporate headquarters from Davis to Raleigh, NC, in the Research Triangle, it was not the best news the city of Davis could receive in the new year.

If there is good news, this is not like AgraQuest where the company is fully moving out of town, but it’s not great news either.

In a release, CEO Kevin Helash explained that the move “predominantly affects corporate executive positions” and this was done to “support the company’s growing presence in markets outside the United States.”

Most importantly, “Davis will continue to be the hub for the company’s research and development operations, along with a number of support functions.”

But this is another company moving out of Davis and out of California.  That reflects the reality of the moment.

“International expansion is a key element of our long-term growth plans, and this move provides us greater proximity to global markets,” said Helash. “We’re delighted to be part of the rich agricultural technology community in the Research Triangle area, and look forward to deepening our relationships with partners and customers based in the area. Given the region’s extensive agricultural focus, we also anticipate tapping into a talent pool of individuals who will be attracted to the growth opportunities Marrone Bio has to offer.”

“Never good to see a headline like that,” Ashley Feeney, the city of Davis’ Assistant City Manager told the Vanguard on Thursday.

“Their C-suite is leaving for the Research Park Triangle while keeping an R&D presence in Davis,” he said.  “I think it demonstrates that research parks and innovation centers create a critical mass that is attractive to growing companies that want to be associated with other companies in a given sector.”

He added, “Davis has an opportunity to build a foundation for that type of presence in our region through the DISC project.”

Talking with industry people, the sense I got was that this was not “terrible” news.  This is not a situation where Bayer or Schilling Robotics are completely leaving the community.

This reflects market reality.  Marrone is positioning itself for the international market and sales, and that is better done from the Research Triangle than Davis.  On the other hand, Davis is still where you go for science and technology development and the highly skilled workforce.

Some pointed out that what Davis will lose out on is growth potential and philanthropy.

Michelle Willard, the Chief Public Affairs Officer for the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, told the Vanguard, “I think the bottom line is, although this company is leaving, our life science industry and biotech industries are just booming in Greater Sacramento.”

TurtleTree, a food tech start-up, just launched an R&D facility in West Sacramento, a 24,000 square foot building that will house a research hub.

Fengru Lin, CEO and co-founder, noted, “Establishing this R&D facility in Greater Sacramento, marks the first step towards bringing our unique products from development to market – one that we’re very glad will help unlock new opportunities within the local community.”

The COO of the company, Willard noted, is a UCD grad.

In addition, in November Aggie Square announced collaboration with AWS (Amazon Web Services) to create an academic medical center on its Sacramento campus.

“The UC Davis Health CIC [Cloud Innovation Center], focused on digital health equity, will use Amazon’s Working Backwards principles and methodologies to improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities. The CIC will allow clinicians or clinical care providers, patients, and developers to exchange ideas, as well as prototype and validate open-source solutions focused on making digital health more equitable and accessible worldwide,” a press release noted.

“Digital health equity has become a front-and-center issue, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health. “Many of our underserved communities have struggled even more to receive the care they need, and the digital divide has only widened. Together with AWS, we are committed to finding innovative ways to make healthcare more accessible to every patient, no matter who they are or where they live.”

“There’s no shortage of—right now we have 558 life science companies in our region,” Willard pointed out.  She noted currently 26 percent of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council’s active business projects are food and ag, bio life sciences, and ag tech.

“I honestly think that number is larger,” she said.

The sense I got speaking to Willard is that the life sciences industry in the Sacramento region remains strong.  This move is not a disaster for Davis either, in that it keeps the research and development hub in Davis.

But, while it is great that TurtleTree, for instance, is landing in the region, that’s a 24,000 square foot building with an average compensation for its employees at $95,000 that, instead of landing in Davis, landed in West Sacramento.

That’s the kind of business with its tax revenue that could land in town and help the local revenue base if we have the facilities that are being proposed in places like DiSC.

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. Alan Pryor

    “Davis has an opportunity to build a foundation for that type of presence in our region through the DISC project.”

    If only the Developers could figure out how to build DiSC without 1) gridlocking Mace Blvd with 11,000+ car trips per day, 2) without adding 50,000,000+ lbs per year of CO2e to the atmosphere, 3) without cannabalizing tens of thousands of sq ft of retail space from downtown, and 4) to do without costing the City untold millions dollars later in costs in excess of income…

     

    1. David Greenwald

      “without adding 50,000,000+ lbs per year of CO2e to the atmosphere,”

      Can you demonstrate that they are actually *adding* in the global sense that CO2 to the atmosphere.

  2. Ron Glick

    “That’s the kind of business with its tax revenue that could land in town and help the local revenue base if we have the facilities that are being proposed in places like DiSC.”

    Once again David hypocritically laments the the ordinance he supports.

    1. David Greenwald

      I lament the fact that the voters didn’t support DISC in 2020, not that they got to vote on it.  Just as I lament the fact that the voters voted for Trump in 2016, not that they got to vote on it.

  3. PhillipColeman

    My hope with this “glass-half-empty” story is that Pam, herself, is staying in Davis. Her creativity, boldness, and willingness to take corporate risk are values much needed in our evolving business culture.

  4. Alan Miller

    it was not the best news the city of Davis could receive in the new year.

     

    If there is good news, this is not like AgraQuest where the company is fully moving out of town, but it’s not great news either.

     

    That reflects the reality of the moment.

     

    “Never good to see a headline like that”

     

    Talking with industry people, the sense I got was that this was not “terrible” news.

     

    This reflects market reality.

     

    This move is not a disaster for Davis either

    Why, in reading this article, do I feel like I’m being beaten viciously by an assailant with a Nerf bat?  ‘This is such moderate news for Davis!’, ‘It’s bad but not too bad!’, ‘The sky fell, but just a tiny bit, so don’t worry!’

  5. Alan Miller

    TurtleTree, a food tech start-up, just launched an R&D facility in West Sacramento, a 24,000 square foot building that will house a research hub.

    Bully for them.  But what does that have to do with Davis?

    The COO of the company . . . is a UCD grad.

    Go ags  😐

    while it is great that TurtleTree . . . that’s a 24,000 square foot building with an average compensation for its employees at $95,000 that, instead of landing in Davis, landed in West Sacramento.

    I sense it coming . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . .

    That’s the kind of business with its tax revenue that could land in town and help the local revenue base if we have the facilities that are being proposed in places like DiSC.

    Zing Zowie!

  6. Ron Oertel

    The image at the top of this article doesn’t seem too far off, regarding the pursuit of “Frankenmeat”.

    https://turtletree.com/

    There appears to be a significant effort behind this, that the public is not fully-aware of.  Similar to what occurred with other genetically-modified foods.

    In other words: Rather than dealing with the fact that the earth can’t support the level of population it has (especially as populations emulate the West), they’ll continue trying to find ways around that. We’re supposed to be excited about that, I guess.

    Regardless, West Sacramento will always be better-suited for startups, due to difference in real estate costs alone. If I’m understanding it correctly, Turtle Tree is building its own facility, there. (No doubt – without encroaching on farmland, as would be the case at DiSC.)

    DiSC is the camel’s nose under the tent, regarding additional development beyond Covell/Mace Curve.

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