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Davis, California

Friday, September 24, 2021

UC Davis, city officials advocate economic growth at Capitol-to-Capitol

April 10 marked the start of the weeklong 43rd Capitol-to-Capitol trip, a lobbying effort in which participants discuss initiatives that affect the Sacramento region with representatives in Washington, D.C.

This year’s trip included representatives from the City of Davis, Yolo County, UC Davis, local businesses, Davis Chamber of Commerce and recent UC Davis graduates.

“The legislative folks and the agencies — when they see elected officials take time to come and talk with them directly, it really sends a strong message,” said Rob White, chief innovation officer for the City of Davis.

White said that the Capitol-to-Capitol trip gives elected officials the opportunity to interact with other regional representatives to see what they are doing in their areas as well as see how representatives in Washington, D.C. are acting on issues that affect Davis.

“There really is no other environment [in which] we are able to interact with elected officials in a systematic and organized way,” White said. “You get to meet with all those folks that are going to have influence on things that are important to you.”

Some of the topics of interest were immigration, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and Startup Act 3.0.

According to the Startup Act 3.0’s text, the bill aims “to jump-start economic recovery through the formation and growth of new businesses, and for other purposes.”

“Just our team hit somewhere around 12 agencies and close to 20 elected officials. It’s a very different environment when you see these things working their way through the system, and being able to have that direct influence and interaction on the policy that’s happening; that’s pretty invaluable,” White said.

According to White, the most effective day of the week spent in Washington, D.C. was a meeting at the White House with the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. They discussed projects that are currently happening in Davis and Davis officials were reaffirmed that what is happening in the City of Davis is in line with federal policy and where officials see federal policy going.

“We are sitting at a precipice and we have the opportunity as a country and maybe more importantly, we, Davis, have an opportunity to lead in moving this system forward again,” White said.

Rochelle Swanson, honorary co-chair and councilmember of the City of Davis, said that much of the trip was geared at discussing initiatives that could leverage Davis in the global economy.

“What can we do with our assets that we have here: a world-class university, some of the top soils in the world [and] a highly educated populace?” Swanson said.

Davis-Yolo teams were encouraging elected officials in Washington, D.C. to make applied and basic research a top priority and to highly consider the amount of money they give to UC Davis, especially when it comes to sequestration, according to Swanson.

Swanson said one of the most valuable things about Capitol-to-Capitol was interacting with other representatives from the Sacramento area.

“It was valuable for other parts of our region to see that we do have venture capital interest here in Davis and understanding that we do have a very powerful public-private relationship between our city and our business community, and that we have a great relationship with the university,” Swanson said.

Swanson was the only representative from the City of Davis at last year’s Capitol-to-Capitol trip. She said that she found it to be meaningful to connect with other groups from the Sacramento area to learn about local initiatives and to also show the surrounding community what Davis has to offer.

Gina Banks, director of federal government relations at UC Davis, said that her main drive for going on the Capitol-to-Capitol trip was to advocate for higher education and more specifically, for student aid programs.

“[These] are a high priority because we are training the next generation of workers for the region,” Banks said.

While she was in Washington, D.C., Banks also emphasized the importance of federal funding in basic research and how innovation drives the economy.

“We are looking at policy to get research off of the campus and into the marketplace,” Banks said.

One of the more important issues discussed, according to Banks, was immigration reform. She said this issue is particularly of interest to UC Davis because it could ease the lives of foreign-born researchers.

“We [want to attract] the best and brightest talents, and that the best and brightest talents can stay in the United States because the worst thing we can do is to educate someone and then kick them out. We’re working on making sure that the really important people we have on campus are able to stay in the country,” Banks said.

Two recent UC Davis graduates also joined the Davis-Yolo team. Catherine Hawe and Laura McCollough, research fellows who paid their own way to get to Washington, D.C. Their purpose was to advocate for policy that will help promote initiatives in Davis.

“The entire week was a very intense learning experience,” Hawe said.

McCollough said she was struck by how informed the representatives they met with were about a budget proposal that had been publicized hours before their meeting, and more specifically, how those changes pertained to Davis.

“Everyone was incredibly well-informed and knowledgeable about all the issues we were talking about, which really impressed me,” McCollough said.

SYDNEY COHEN can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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