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 firstname.lastname@example.org.