By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – In sports, it is at times better to be lucky than good. That’s what happened here with the announcement this week that Schilling would be staying in Davis after all.
Tim Keller of Inventopia said it best.
“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.”
The opportunity happened because DMG Mori decided to unload over 70,000 square feet of space at their Davis facility—some noted that space on the market was snatched up in an instant.
The details are not finalized, but FMC Corporation would move into that space and then Dan Ramos, presumably, would build out the space in front of DMG Mori to provide the rest of the space needed for the expansion plans of FMC.
“But after that, there’s no more land, man. We’re out,” Ramos said.
If opponents want to be concerned with traffic along Mace, that’s understandable. I tend to believe that the traffic along that corridor is going to be a problem with or without the development of DiSC, and that with roadway improvements it could improve—whereas without them, it almost certainly will get worse. But that’s at least subject to dispute.
The FMC move shatters a number of myths that have been spun out by the no forces.
First of all, it shows that companies really do want to stay if they can.
“I just think it reinforces the uniqueness 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 and also landlord for the DMG site.
He explained, “They didn’t want to leave Davis. But they didn’t have options for them to expand. Fortunately, the building became available and were able to lock them down.”
Barry Broome of Greater Sacramento agrees as well. There are many great companies that want to be in Davis and near the University, but Davis lacks the space to accommodate them, he told me this week.
He said, “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.”
Broome went onto explain that Davis lacks the space to accommodate a lot of these companies.
That’s another myth that I just pointed out last week with another column. People see all sorts of listings and say, see, there is plenty of space. But most of it—as we showed last week—is not suitable for the type of companies we are talking about here.
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 that “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.”
“We got lucky with it—absolutely,” Mayor Partida 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.
Not only do you need proper HVAC and ventilation, you need water systems and proper electrical power.
As Tim Keller pointed out, a lot of landlords simply don’t want to rent their office space for labs and don’t want to invest in the money needed to upgrade their facilities.
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-built 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.”
These are the points we have been saying for a long time. Is there a possibility that the downtown or URP (University Research Park) could redevelop some of their buildings to accommodate some of these companies? Absolutely. But right now the best bet is the 100 acres at DiSC that would be specifically designed to accommodate high tech and advanced manufacturing that can really help Davis with the revenue.
As Mayor Partida pointed out, “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.”
At the end of the day, this is perhaps the last opportunity Davis will have to do something like this for some time. The university has already decided to look elsewhere for a lot of their expansion plans. That could change with the passage of DiSC and the willingness of the Davis voters to take a chance on some bigger and something better.