In January, I had the opportunity to travel to Silicon Valley with representatives from the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, the University of Florida, Plum Creek and Avalanche Consulting. There was a dual objective for the trip: to work with multiple regional stakeholders as they continue envisioning and planning for Alachua County’s future while simultaneously beginning outreach for what we dubbed the region’s “Year of Marketing.” It was a good experience, much was learned and I came back convinced that our collective vision for the future is strong.
I believe most area residents have heard the Chamber and the Council for Economic Outreach (CEO) message of creating opportunities through three key activities: growing new companies, retaining and expanding those currently existing and attracting new businesses to our region to enhance the local base. When the activities and programs that generate these opportunities take place in a unified, leveraged and systematic approach, we experience progress that is measured in new jobs and an increased capital investment for the region. The jobs are diverse, crossing multiple skill sets as well as industry sectors and providing the foundation for a strong, growing economy.
The Chamber, CEO, iG advocates, the University of Florida, Santa Fe College, Career Source and Plum Creek are but a handful of players in a much larger group of regional organizations and entities working to ensure our economic future. Through strong partnerships, we’re moving forward. The puzzle pieces we believe are critical for the next five years have now been identified in a smart, succinct and well-directed strategy to guide our efforts. New business attraction with the corresponding development and infrastructure this requires as well as national and international marketing are big keys for our growth. And connecting the companies this region so skillfully grew on its own to the necessary capital needed for their future is our own regional “game changer” within itself.
Silicon Valley, in my opinion, is a great lab from which to study, and it offered wonderful opportunities to see best practices and begin the dialogue about the assets of greater Gainesville. We spent an entire day discussing how best to market and leverage the assets we currently possess as well as those underway. Our small team undertook tours and presentations regarding key development and redevelopment areas within the Valley; namely, the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Mission Bay Campus, City of Mountain View, City of San Jose and the City of Emeryville. As one example, UCSF Mission Bay was launched as San Francisco’s largest urban development since the building of the Golden Gate Park when it commenced in 1999. It now covers 303 acres of land between the San Francisco Bay and Interstate 280. This area, once occupied by old warehouses and rail yards, is now home to approximately 2,900 UCSF employees, 300 students and 1,000 employees in numerous companies. By all accounts the success is staggering. As with all success, it began with a vision and a plan.
With greater Gainesville’s strategy in place and laser-focused on opportunities in human life sciences, software and IT, agricultural life sciences, advanced materials and advanced logistics as well as a greater depth of understanding about what manufacturing means to all these sectors, we’re moving forward. We understand that developments and progress like that in San Francisco require deliberation and focus on public policy, talent and workforce training, international trade, small business and regional collaboration. I was fortunate to have opportunities to test the strength of our message with several entities in the Valley and came away convinced that we are heading in the right direction.
As always, we encourage all our regional businesses and residents to get involved, stay involved and bring others to the table. Our Chamber team has worked diligently for the past year to create an “organization of opportunity” for everyone in this area. Please look for more reports such as this as we begin visiting outside regions and cities each quarter to share the story you so brilliantly created. I’m so impressed with what you accomplished to date and so proud to take part in sharing your story.
Susan Davenport is Vice President of Economic Development, Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce & Council for Economic Outreach.