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Economic benefit of bringing university to county ‘major’

Griffin Rogers
griffin@tahoedailytribune.com

The economic benefit of bringing a UC Davis branch campus to El Dorado County could be nearly two times that of the university’s revenues, according to research provided to county leaders Tuesday.

Cherie Raffety, the county’s treasurer-tax collector, presented the new findings to the Board of Supervisors, saying that one $700 million grant provided from outside sources to UC Davis would mean over a billion dollars to the local community through a trickle-down effect.

“I believe this will bring a major economic benefit,” Raffety told supervisors. “Probably more than all of the other economic development plans we could possibly imagine.”

She added that the obtainment of a $700 million grant isn’t unusual for the university.

The desire to bring a university branch campus to the county hasn’t been a secret in recent weeks. An El Dorado County UC Davis Steering Committee was formed in February to help move the process forward, and the Lake Tahoe Community College in South Lake Tahoe has publicly supported the concept of a university branch — particularly at its own campus.

The county has already begun the process of gathering support from potential sponsors for the project. On Tuesday, supervisors were asked to allow staff to collaboratively work toward that goal as well.

However, El Dorado County isn’t the only place competing for UC Davis’ attention. Old Sacramento is also a contender, along with West Sacramento — both of which are closer to the state legislature.

Supervisor Ron Mikulaco said to beat out the competition, the county may need to do something to attract the university. But he didn’t know what that might be.

“I think that just saying, ‘hey, come here.’ It may be enough. It may not be enough,” he said.

Raffety has done research to identify UC Davis’s goals and how the county can form its proposals around them, to have a better chance of bringing one or more university branches over.

The county has also asked UC Davis what size a potential campus might be if one were to be developed there, but the university didn’t have an answer, according to Raffety.

She did, however, say that the university’s leaders are willing to listen to proposals.

“This isn’t an easy task,” Raffety explained. “I want you to know that. Because it’s not just facts and figures that need to be accumulated.”

Supervisors unanimously supported the plan at the meeting, where District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel said she’d love to see a UC in the county, especially at Lake Tahoe.

“We have incredible resources up there, and people studying our lake all the time,” she said. “So I think it would be just an incredible match for us to be able to bring it up to Lake Tahoe.”

Supervisor Michael Ranalli said the arrival of a university branch could address the “very serious challenge” of an aging population.

“Not only is it an economic game-changer, it’s a demographic situational opportunity for this county that cannot be understated,” he said. “So I enthusiastically support.”

The concept also received support from a few community members at the meeting, including Lake Tahoe’s Betty “B” Gorman, president and CEO of TahoeChamber.

UC Davis will be visiting LTCC’s campus on March 17.


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