City manager: Tech talk good ‘curveball’
by Jon Mendelson
Apr 05, 2013 | 3574 views | 4 4 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Technology expert Vivek Wadhwa “threw us a curveball” when he delivered the keynote address at the March 27 State of the City event, according to Tracy City Manager Leon Churchill.

But Churchill hopes the city has what it takes to knock the pitch out of the park.

Wadhwa, vice president of Innovation and Research at Singularity University, told the crowd gathered in the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Theatre that the right investments in infrastructure and marketing could make Tracy a hub for what he predicts will be a renaissance in technology, including robotics, DNA sequencing and artificial intelligence.

Wadhwa believes that Tracy’s location and relatively cheap real estate prices make it attractive as a host for what he said would be “exponential growth” in human technology over the next few years.

“I don’t see what’s holding it up. You can transform this place incredibly fast,” he said. “This could be a satellite of Silicon Valley.”

Churchill said Tuesday, April 2, that Wadhwa’s vision of Tracy was unexpected, and it could change the path the city takes to attract companies and create jobs.

“We’ve been thinking

in a linear fashion,” Churchill said. “Because once you go from distribution to fulfillment (centers), then your next step is to go to the manufacturing phase. And we are well poised for that. But if you think exponentially…. He said, Why can’t Tracy be a high-technology hub to attract the entrepreneurs?”

Wadhwa suggested the city could make itself even more attractive to the young thinkers who will drive the next leap in technology by expanding its housing stock, aggressively marketing in the Bay Area and offering free office space with high-speed Internet access to tech start-ups.

Churchill said Wadhwa’s approach was “much more aggressive” than the business incubator project he hoped to unveil at the April 16 City Council meeting, and that the expert’s ideas were something to “seriously” consider.

The final form of the incubator, in development

for a year as a city experiment for fostering local entrepreneurship, will “slant more toward the high tech than originally

planned” thanks in part to Wadhwa’s ideas, according to Churchill.

“We’re not going to bring someone in like that and ignore him,” the city manager said. “He has genuine credentials because he’s been there. He’s lived it.”

The next step, Churchill said, is to lay out a plan. The city might use the example Wadhwa has built in founding technology hubs in the South American countries of Chile and Uruguay.

He said following Wadhwa’s advice “at an appropriate scale” would continue the city’s recent effort to diversify its economic base and create more high-income jobs.

“It’s worth giving serious thought about. We should not dismiss it, we should not jump into it. But I think in our typically very thoughtful, analytical way … we can be effectively innovative in this area too,” Churchill said. “I think deep down, as a community, we long to be the community that Vivek gave us a glimpse into.”

• Contact Jon Mendelson at 830-4231 or

Comments-icon Post a Comment
April 10, 2013
Agreed! This was not a curveball at all. The city manager was also provided / pitched information from a resident about Tracy being a tech hub back in December 2012. Real examples of other cities recruiting tech initiatives was provided as well. Seriously not a curve ball. I am surprised that Mr. Churchill posits this as new insightful information. Dishonesty is not an attractive trait at all.
April 05, 2013
Mr. Churchill,

News Flash......We have been talking about attracting high tech industry to Tracy for about 15 years now. Remember that big development Gateway Project that the two mayors of this city have been touting for about 15 years as the answer to all our employment problems. Oh that's right the Gateway Developers just went bankrupt.
April 05, 2013
While the Gateway project was certainly a failure it is still good to see the city thinking about something beyond more and more warehouses and retail with nothing but entry level, dead-end jobs. I would rather see them try again than give up and just accept the current sad state of the Tracy job market.
April 06, 2013
You are 100% right jarbuckle. Gateway was promised by Ives before his "last" (thank goodness) campaign.

Hopefully we can get some kind of job growth in Tracy before everyone moves away and we end up like Stockton.

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