UC Davis: Economic powerhouse ‘entering its brightest chapter yet’

February 01 2018

By Richard Bammer, The Reporter, Vacaville


Posted: 01/31/18, 6:25 PM PST | Updated: 7 hrs ago




The University of California, Davis, is not only an economic powerhouse in Northern California but it is also “entering its brightest chapter yet,” the campus leader said Wednesday in Fairfield.


Newly named as seventh chancellor of the Davis campus, Gary S. May said the 38,000-student school he oversees is the place where 14 start-up companies have had their genesis, and he wants to enhance “engagement” with regional communities, including Solano County.


The keynote speaker at the Solano Economic Development Corporation annual luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn, he began his remarks by saying the university, noted for its veterinary school and agriculture programs, has earned a reputation for graduating highly trained people.


He quickly noted some particularly telling numbers, some of them perhaps surprising to the 240-member audience of area business owners, educators, elected officials, and members of the EDC, a public-private nonprofit firm dedicated to the economic growth of Solano County.


May, 53, said UC Davis generates $8 billion annually for the California economy and accounts for 72,000 jobs between the campus and the school’s medical center in Sacramento.


At one point, he asked the audience to “imagine UC Davis 10 years from now.”


As campus leader, May, who earned a doctoral degree in electrical engineering from UC Berkeley, wants to do two things during his tenure: enhance research and “create a more diverse community.”


During a brief question-and-answer period, he said that he wants the campus to be a “resource” for expertise.


Responding to another question, he predicted tuition, after steep increases in previous years, would rise by 2.7 percent in the coming academic year. And enrollments of international and out-of-state students (who pay higher tuition costs) would be capped at 18 percent.


After all, the mission of the University of California is to educate California residents, added May, who most recently served as the chair of the School of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, and, in 2015, received the Presidential Award for Excellence in STEM Mentoring from President Obama.


The reason international and out-of-state students are attracted to UC Davis is the reputation of the UC system as the premier public university in the United States and the world, the St. Louis native and father of two noted.


Additionally, a goal is to make sure one-third of students come from community colleges, said May, who has written more than 200 technical articles and contributed to 15 books.


The university should “help build up communities,” he said in response to a question, adding that he seeks “more engagement” with regional communities.


Robert Burris, the newly appointed Solano EDC president, succeeding Sandy Person, spoke briefly before introducing May.


Formerly an employee in the economic development department for the city of Fairfield, he said that he wants Solano to “become more competitive” and to increase “the retention rate” of Solano-based companies.


Burris, who earned an MBA from Sacramento State University, said he will focus on keeping track of county-based economic data, issue reports regularly that indicate “what’s happening here and where we’re going,” and increase the corporation’s engagement.


“Economic development is really a team sport,” said Burris, who called Solano “a destination” and Northern California “one of the most desirable regions in the United States.”


“We have it all,” he said, adding that another of his goals will be to “support your organization, city government and companies.”