Reporting

March 15, 2013 by Cheryl Getuiza

What does a Chief Innovation Officer do exactly? City of Davis to find out


The red tape may meet its match in the form of a new CIO in Davis. (Photo Credit: y x l)

The city of Davis means business. It's cutting through its own red tape by removing barriers, both real and perceived, that hinder business growth. How, do you ask? One way is by becoming the first municipality to create a Chief Innovation Officer in the Sacramento region.

"Adding a CIO to city staff will provide the crucial link between the city and prospective businesses looking to move to Davis, and will help develop Davis as the innovation hub in the region," said Steve Pinkerton, city manager.

The man chosen for the job is Rob White. White is no rookie when it comes to innovation and economic development. He is currently the CEO of the i-GATE Innovation Hub Initiative and the Director of Economic Development for the city of Livermore.

"The idea is that innovation, in its purest and core sense, is really about taking two things that we already know and combining them in ways to come up with something that's a little different, a little new, often driven towards efficiencies and using it in a municipal sense to drive forward new policy opportunities and new service opportunities," said White.

With White the newest member of the city, essentially, he will be responsible for improving the city's tech portfolio and as well as working on economic development. He said they will have a focus on helping tech startups and attracting businesses.

"In the past, Davis was really driven towards wanting to have some key things like sustainability and open space and they've been perceived as unfriendly to businesses because of that. But the reality of it is they are friendly—friendly to businesses that are going to drive forward their economy."

"What I see, and the reason why I took this job, is Davis, like Livermore, is an attractive place to do business. Sustainability and quality of life are what raises your profile the quickest. That's what created Palo Alto, Mountain View and Morgan Hill."

In these tough budget times, you might be asking how the city could justify spending so much money for this new position? Thanks to a private-public partnership with techDAVIS, a local business association, the funding will be shared.

"We are very excited to enter into this important partnership with the city of Davis," said David Morris, Interim Managing Director, techDAVIS. "As Davis strives to expand its technology sector, the newly created CIO position will significantly enhance the City's economic development capabilities. More importantly, we believe Rob White will be a game changer throughout the region, catalyzing new synergies between the private sector, the University, and the City to accelerate the emergence of a significant innovation economy anchored by UC Davis."

White begins his new post March 25th and he already has plans to hit the ground running.

"I'm most excited about bringing the University of Davis and the labs in Livermore closer together in partnership, in administrative and research discussions. I believe there is a lot of strong synergy with the Livermore Labs and UC Davis. One of the things I was good at in Livermore was breaking down those communication barriers—helping the labs communicate more broadly with industry, with its own community, and maybe most importantly with the entrepreneurial community," said White. "Being able to help Davis create stronger relationships with the labs and move along that same arc is probably one of the things that I'm going to be putting my nose to the grindstone as my very first action."

Davis mayor Joe Krovoza said, "With more than 50 technology-based businesses, an emerging entrepreneurial sector, and an unparalleled research university in agriculture, energy and medical technologies, Davis will now aggressively extend its national example of a vital, knowledge-based economy."

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