The new innovation officer position is the result of a public-private partnership between Davis, Calif., and technology leadership group techDAVIS.
Davis, Calif., just 15 miles west of the state's capital city of Sacramento, is hiring a new chief innovation officer -- a position that is funded equally by both the city and technology leadership nonprofit techDAVIS as outlined in a three-year agreement that was finalized on March 5.
And on March 25, Rob White will begin as the city's chief innovation officer, reporting directly to City Manager Steve Pinkerton and leading the city’s technological innovation efforts, focusing directly developing the local economy through technology projects and partnerships with local organizations.
“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 for the region,” Pinkerton stated in a press release.
White's top priority will be creating a unified approach to economic development in Davis, he said. By drawing on his past experience as a director of economic development for Livermore, Calif., and working with the Davis Chamber of Commerce; techDAVIS; University of California, Davis; and other community groups, White will be the spoon that stirs the pot of technological innovation in Davis, so to speak.
And David Morris, interim managing director of techDAVIS, will work with White on these economic development and public outreach efforts.
“As Davis strives to expand its technology sector, the newly created CIO position will significantly enhance the city’s economic development capabilities," Morris said in the press release. "More importantly, we believe that 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.”
One of the things the city hopes to get out of this, White said, is an improved “innovation ecosystem” that will lead to more entrepreneurs and technology startups moving to the region. In the long term, he said, the city hopes to create more technology and research positions, which will in turn continue the cycle of even more entreprenurial and startup success.
It was in part White’s strong connection to this tech community that led the city of Davis to ask him to take on the chief innovation officer position.
“The position of chief innovation officer was discussed as an emerging role for cities and a good way for Davis to make a very bold statement that it was going to take on a definitive leadership role in the Sacramento region in technology-driven economic development,” he said.
In the near term, White said he plans to work with the city manager and staff to "identify internal city efficiencies that will lead to innovative and definable processes that support job creation and technology-related facilities development.”
This will be accomplished partially by identifying and using best practices from other cities, White said, while Davis keeps an eye on creating better service for citizens, and improving both the quality of life and the overall relationship with the public.
“Collaborations are the hardest types of partnerships to manage, but by bringing people together in a common, sectoral roundtable, it allows people to really divulge their true drivers,” White said, adding that if people can open up, comonalities can be identified -- and that’s when everyone starts to benefit.
“Having a large institution -- in the case of Davis, it’s the university -- allows you to start to drive the system in a different way,” he said. “Not every city is blessed with those resources, but the reality for Davis is [that], because there is some linkage already, those opportunities to strengthen and increase those linkages, and then use those to catalyze more, is something we’re going to focus on pretty quickly.”
Immediately upon taking his new position, White said he plans to have identifiable actions for the city within 30-, 60- and 90-day timeframes. The partnership between the city and outside agencies won’t just benefit Davis, but neighboring cities, too, he said. “It truly is the case in these kinds of scenarios where you can bring up a city like Davis, the region starts to come up, as well."