Panel Talk: Industrial Jack London
Jack London’s Role in Oakland’s Industrial Future: Savior or “Sayonara”?
Jack London thanks guest blogger Evan Reeves of the Center for Creative Land Recycling, (CCLR), who attended the event and shares his perspective. CCLR is a nonprofit organization founded on the belief that intelligent, innovative land use is the key to ensuring a healthy future for both our communities and our environment. Evan manages CCLR’s Policy and Practices Program, promoting policy-oriented solutions to the obstacles facing brownfield redevelopment at the federal, state, and regional levels.
On April 7 the Jack London Improvement District convened the latest installment of their Panel Talk Series; this evening the subject was how to support and maintain a thriving industrial sector in Jack London. As noted in the SPUR report, A Downtown for Everyone, “Preserving land zoned for industrial uses ensures a diverse supply of jobs downtown. Industrial enterprises in downtown Oakland and adjacent areas benefit from proximity to the Port of Oakland, Northern California’s major port, and are a significant source of middle-wage jobs for workers without a four year degree.”
Yet the challenges to preserving Jack London’s industry are many. As SPUR’s Egon Terplan - the panel moderator - pointed out, industrial tenants are facing the same pressure of recent rent spikes as commercial and residential renters are. In fact, panelist Steven Shaffer admitted that if he was renewing his winery’s lease in today’s market he would not be able to remain in Jack London. Never-the-less, Steven was also quick to point out the many benefits that Jack London holds for his and many other local industries: proximity to both suppliers and consumers being chief among them.
Panelist Gurmeet Naroola expanded on this point, noting that Oakland has, in near measure, the same four ingredients that make Silicon Valley such a thriving hub of industrial innovation. He would classify [name]’s location benefit as a form of Social Capital, which also includes infrastructure. The other three ingredients are Intellectual Capital (good schools/talent pool), Venture Capital (money, experience, customers), and Cultural Capital (entrepreneurial mindset).
One common challenge that these assets can help address is the “1-10 gap”. As explained by panelist Jeff Williams, it’s relatively easy for an enterprising industrial startup to create a prototype, and also pretty straight forward to scale up from producing dozens of a product to hundreds. But where many enterprises fail is getting “from one to ten”. Nevertheless, he sees low-volume, high-value production as the future of the U.S. industrial revolution.
So what can Jack Londoners do to make sure this revolution doesn’t pass them by? Panelists and audience members discussed the pros and cons of a number of interesting ideas, including an industrial inclusionary ordinance, using zoning to protect a contiguous industrial-only area, allowing mixed industrial-residential developments, and establishing a lobbying organization dedicated to supporting local industry. While opinions on how to get there varied, there was broad consensus on one point: a thriving industrial sector was key to a vibrant and sustainable future for Jack London and Oakland.