My adopted hometown Davis, CA. (population 65,000) is doing well post-dip. The 5,000 acre UC Davis campus is officially outside the city limits, but it’s been growing fast in size (now 34,000 students) and in prestige (now an “Ivy League” public university). UC Davis is engine of our economy:
- Generating direct employment at many levels from janitors, to skilled trades, to professors and administrators,
- Providing lots of young customers for the shops, bars, banks and restaurants, and
- Spinning-off a number of new tech businesses in rapidly expanding areas like robotics and genetics.
Unfortunately we have not planned enough research/industrial space to retain all these start-ups as they grow. So when they need more space they often move to nearby towns like Vacaville, Woodland or West Sacramento. A lot of the employees stay here and commute, even though housing is more expensive, in large part because Davis public schools have a great reputation.
Me, well I’m a hydrologist who graduated UC Davis 40-years ago, back when the university was about a third its current size, much cheaper and far less prestigious. Fact is that they probably wouldn’t admit me today if I were applying just out of high school. I’m certain I could no longer work my way through college without acquiring debt. I’m about to retire from the State of California and start enjoying life as a retiree in college town. Fortunately our home in Davis is paid for, because we probably couldn’t afford to buy it today.
I’m pretty sure our local economy would look different to me if we were just starting out, again. But then again the economic opportunities of today for young with the right education, skills and motivation are staggering compared to the mid-1970’s.