Roger Niello

Another View: Cordova Hills a good match for region's goals

Published: Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2E

In approving Cordova Hills, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors demonstrated the kind of leadership that is necessary to guide growth in a way that benefits the economy and environment, charting the course to the capital region's Next Economy ("County should say 'no' to unripe Cordova Hills"; editorials, Jan. 29 and "Is this our region's future?"; editorials, Feb. 3). It is the kind of leadership that pursues a catalytic economic opportunity that aligns with our region's economic development goals, when that opportunity presents itself.

Cordova Hills is in an area of the county that has been identified for growth. It is within Sacramento County's "urban services boundary." As such, this site was identified for growth through a very public general planning process.

Furthermore, Cordova Hills is committed to bringing another world-class university to the region, demonstrating a commitment to helping us all attain our economic goals. It is true that a university has not committed to the site. It is also true that none will until somebody invests in preparing the site to house a university.

Enter the developers for Cordova Hills, who will make those investments. Not only will they make those investments, if the developers are unable to attract a university themselves, they will turn the land back over to the county for the purpose of bringing in a university. That commitment typifies the kind of financial risk the region will be asking of developers as we pursue the goals of the Next Economy Capital Region Prosperity Plan.

Next Economy sets five goals for the capital region's economic development:

• Foster a strong innovation environment.

• Amplify the region's global market transactions.

• Diversify the economy through growth and support of core business clusters.

• Grow and maintain a world-class talent base.

• Improve the regional business climate for economic growth.

The Cordova Hills development directly aligns with not one, not two, but three of these five goals.

To create the kind of environment where innovation will flourish, we need more universities – period. Striking the balance between economic and environmental benefits requires innovation. University-industry led research centers are the key. The more of those you have in your region, the more successful you will be in striking that balance.

For the capital region, universities don't just create a highly educated population. They create jobs and spin off new companies as the next great innovation goes from an idea on the white board to a real-world invention. We call this the "education and knowledge creation" industry cluster. A university at Cordova Hills will grow this vital cluster for our region.

Growing and maintaining the kind of world-class talent base we need requires physical lab space where tomorrow's engineers and scientists can gain hands-on experience. You don't want to be operated on by a surgeon who has never held a scalpel. You certainly don't want a scientist researching the next clean energy technology if he or she has never held a beaker. You can't hold a beaker through the Internet.

Indirectly, Cordova Hills supports the other two goals as well. The best and most innovative products don't just get sold domestically. The world wants access to them. And smart and talented labor is fundamental to a strong business climate. The more smart and talented our labor is, the more our business climate will support economic growth for all.

It's easy to talk about aligning economic and environmental objectives. It's not nearly so easy to actually align them. Cordova Hills and the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors have proved themselves up to the task. It's now up to the rest of us.

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