Rob White: Davis tech businesses are taking off

By From page A10 | September 07, 2014

Since starting at the city of Davis about 18 months ago, I have had the pleasure of leading the city’s efforts in economic development. In conducting that work, there has been special emphasis on support for entrepreneurs, innovation and technology businesses.

These most certainly are not the only businesses in Davis, but they are part of a strategy that will help us to diversify the economy and are traditionally underrepresented in our other business groups.

Having more technology jobs translates into career opportunities and typically higher disposable incomes. This in turn will help support our service businesses and retailers in downtown and other parts of the city. That in turn can create more sales tax revenue that can be used for community services like parks, pathways, open space and roadways.

There are many activities happening in Davis in the areas of innovation and technology, but I have found there are very few ways to effectively deliver this information to our community. To those ends, The Davis Enterprise has agreed to provide a forum for discussion of these topics in this weekly column.

My fellow contributor Doby Fleeman, co-owner of Davis Ace Hardware, and I will focus on news surrounding tech businesses, innovation originating from UC Davis and the many ways that a growing knowledge-based economy may help the city’s financial outcomes.

This is not a total accounting of all innovation or technology activities, and we certainly encourage you to contact us or post accordingly to draw our attention to events, actions or achievements that you think may have merit.

To kick off this inaugural week, I want to focus on two things: 1) some recent news from some of our local tech companies, and 2) provide you a very brief description of what the city’s actions are in helping to grow tech businesses.

First, there have been several announcements about tech businesses building new facilities in Davis or receiving substantial investments. Some of the names you likely will recognize, but some are new companies to Davis.

In April, BioConsortia Inc., a Davis agricultural biotechnology company, raised a $15 million round of funding from Khosla Ventures and Otter Capital, LLC.

Davis-based Arcadia Biosciences Inc. announced in May that it closed a $33 million round of equity financing.

In June, Marrone Bio Innovations announced it raised about $40 million with its second stock offering. This is in addition to the almost $60 million raised in its initial offering last fall.

In August, global ag tech firm Agrinos Inc. announced it would be opening a research and development facility in East Davis.

And just a few days ago, BioConsortia opened its new facility off of Research Park Drive in South Davis.

These activities amount to almost $100 million in investments and facilities over the past six months. Over the past 12 months, Davis has led the Sacramento region on a per-capita basis in the number of new tech startups, attraction of research-based companies and the resultant investments in funding and facilities.

The city has launched an economic development initiative to specifically focus on facilitating these activities. The initiative will help grow and attract a variety of jobs to Davis, including high-wage technologists, professionals, technical and skilled labor, and services.

The city’s plan is centered on five primary focus areas: 1) facilitating technology and business development; 2) increased engagement with UC Davis; 3) expanding the network for local business success; 4) strategic branding and marketing of Davis; and 5) regional leadership.

If you would like to read the city’s work program you can find it on the city’s website by going to the City Council agendas section and looking for May 13, 2014. Under item 08, you will find the Innovation and Economic Vitality 2014-16 Work Program, which outlines each of these focus areas in greater detail.

Future article will provide more detail on each focus area and discuss the objectives of the work program. The over-arching goal is to create a diversified economic base and fiscal sustainability through embracing the research, technology and innovation pervasive in Davis. To those ends, we look forward to sharing more each week.

— Rob White is the city of Davis’ chief innovation officer. This column will be published weekly.

Rob White

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