By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – A few years ago Schilling Robotics was another homegrown company that had been born and developed in Davis and about to be lost because there was not enough space. Davis got a massive break when DMG Mori decided to unload over 70,000 square feet of space at their Davis facility making it possible for FMC to remain in Davis.
“I just think it reinforces the uniques of Davis to draw great companies that really realize the potential of the university and all that it means, said Dan Ramos who is the project manager for DiSC 2022 but also landlord for this site.
But the problem for Davis is this is about it for land. They’re hoping to be able to accommodate their expansion needs as well.
“But after that, there’s no more land, man. We’re out,” Ramos said. He did note they might be able to move a few of the test wells around on the Frontier site, but that’s it as far as they are concerned for land and development possibilities on existing land.
He noted that they started this whole thing hoping to accommodate Schilling expansion plans when Tyler Schilling was still involved in the company and they wanted to do a larger 300,000 square foot building.
He noted overall, “The market that Davis has, has been really good at this advanced manufacturing.” He noted that the “barrier is so expensive for these companies to get out of their R&D and put any manufacturing together with it. And Davis, we can kind of accommodate that.”
He noted that Davis is not quite as expensive with the land prices as places like the Silicon Valley. “There are actually advanced manufacturing companies that are already down in the Silicon Valley that are kind of getting priced out too, that we can maybe accommodate up here.”
Tim Keller of Invetopia said, “I think it’s a great thing for Davis and for all the Schilling Robotics people who live in Davis and for the tax base of Davis, which benefits from Schilling being here in town.”
From his perspective, Davis was very fortunate.
“I think we dodged a bullet, right?” he said. “I mean, when Schilling was trying to move out of Davis, was considering moving to West Sac, this building wasn’t available. So it’s like we get to retain an incredibly valuable company despite having failed to provide any alternatives.”
Keller pushed back against the notion that there was plenty of space in Davis.
He explained one of the first tenants at Inventopia has been waiting for a phase two grant from NIH, which is for $2 million. She’s developing a cardiac patch which would help with heart valve replacement.
“She has $2 million to spend to develop this thing and she needs to start right now,” he said. “She’s looking for lab space.”
There is one lab available but it’s 12,000 square feet and they would require her to take out a five year lease to build it out.
“Doesn’t apply to her. It’s not a match. The business model isn’t there,” Keller said. “There are smaller lab spaces that are coming on the market.” But most of those “aren’t really going to work for her either.” He said, “There’s nothing pre-build and ready to go.”
He said, “When you have grant funding like that, that’s what you need. You need available capacity. That’s ready to go. Davis just doesn’t have that.”
He later added with respect to Schilling. “It’s great for us, but it’s not like we earned it. We’re just lucky that that property became available and they could move into it.”
Mayor Partida agreed.
“We got lucky with it – absolutely,” she said. “There’s not a whole lot. I know that people keep talking about all the empty spaces, but all space is not created equal. All space doesn’t fit everything that we need.”
She noted that with specialized industries “there are things that people don’t think about.”
“You can’t stick laboratories into space that doesn’t have the good air quality exchange,” she said.
The mayor noted, “We have a lot of amenities. We have trees that are dying. We got roads that need to be fixed. We have all these amenities that people stay here for and come here for and are very proud of, but we need ways to pay for them.”
Ultimately she said this shows that companies want to stay in Davis – if they can and companies want to come to Davis if they can.
“I know that when I was on campus, there are tons of people that are wanting to stat up companies, that want to raise their family here, if they could, they would.” She said, “They want to have their patents be their own and not have to share them with the university.”
For Barry Broome of Greater Sacramento “it’s exciting news to keep a company. The biggest economic opportunity and challenge that we’ve had is we don’t keep these companies that are UC Davis-centric. They come out of UC Davis, they want to sail, they’re incredibly compelling and there’s no place for them to go in Davis.”
He said that’s why DiSC is so important to us.
“We need to put in more research facilities in Davis to keep these companies. So a company like this that has a hard engineering base, a big innovator, a company that has a chance to go global, keeping that in Davis is really exciting for us.”
Broome explained, “Davis is the most attractive city in the region for novel companies. I mean, they want to be near the university and the challenge has always been, you know, Davis is a beautiful community and it appropriately raises concerns over development, but you’ve got to have a smart balance between that to make sure you don’t lose great companies.”
For Broome, there are many great companies that want to be in Davis and near the University, but Davis lacks the space to accommodate them.
While many have pointed out that Davis has many commercial space listings, Broome pointed out “it’s also type of space.
“If you look at UC Davis, it’s a science school, it’s a science and engineering school, so in order to capture the economic advantages of a science school and an engineering school, you have to have real estate that works for science enterprises.”
He added “all of the employers prefer to be over the Causeway now between Davis and Woodland. Davis gives people not only access to UC Davis, but you’re 60 miles from Berkeley. So that entire corridor is very attractive. And we always consider the city of Davis like the front porch of the region.”