The following article was originally printed on July 31, 20015 in Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Redefining What it Means to be a Silicon Valley City Advertising Supplement. This was the moment of reckoning. It was 11 am on April 15, 2011. The Fre…
The following article was originally printed on July 31, 20015 in Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Redefining What it Means to be a Silicon Valley City Advertising Supplement.
This was the moment of reckoning.
It was 11 am on April 15, 2011.
The Fremont contingent led by City Manager Fred Diaz sat in the Union Pacific headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, ready to make their case for community over railroad tracks.
“Of course, it was nerve racking,” recalled Diaz. “Our vision for Fremont was at stake.”
Specifically, after the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont closed in 2010, Toyota sold most of the land — 167 acres to be exact — to Union Pacific to be converted to a rail yard. If Fremont were to deliver on its vision to redefine what it means to be a Silicon Valley city, that land needed to be part of the City’s master plan to create an urban environment and what would be the country’s first advanced manufacturing-based innovation district with mixed land uses.
So Diaz and his colleagues, requisite water bottles in hand, stood in front of the Union Pacific executives, including CEO James R. Young, and delivered a presentation that articulated the “why” behind their trek from Fremont to Omaha. Three hours later, the Fremont team walked out the door with their answer.
Yes, Union Pacific would support Fremont’s vision and would in fact make an unprecedented move to sell the land for commercial development.
To borrow from Silicon Valley vernacular, this “disruptive event” forever changed Fremont’s trajectory. And that’s the reason why the 97th largest city in the country has gained such a high profile — not only in the Bay Area, but across the rest of the country as well. However, before jumping into Fremont today, a little bit of historical context is in order.
What Do Charlie Chaplin and the Apple Macintosh Have in Common?
On January 23, 1956, five individual townships – Centerville, Irvington, Mission San Jose, Niles and Warm Springs – came together to form what we now know to be the City of Fremont.
One of these townships — Niles — was the earliest home of California’s motion picture industry, thanks in large part to The King of Slapstick Humor (aka Mr. Charlie Chaplin). Chaplin filmed several movies in Fremont, most notably “The Tramp.”
But Charlie Chaplin’s film work isn’t all that originated in Fremont.
Ever heard of a little something called a Mac computer? Apple’s first Macintosh was created in a 160,000-square-foot factory, located on Warm Springs Blvd. in Fremont. The factory site was designed by none other than Steve Jobs himself.
At the time, this Apple factory was recognized as one of the nation’s most automated plants, utilizing manufacturing methods that were ahead of its time (robotics, just-in-time materials delivery, a linear assembly line). These techniques enabled the factory to produce a new Mac every 27 seconds.
Robotics? Automation? You might even call this foreshadowing for Tesla’s factory, which today churns out about 1000 cars a week.
As you can see, there’s always been a history of “making stuff” in Fremont.
In the Spirit of Silicon Valley, Deviating from the Status Quo
While Fremont does have a rich history in advanced manufacturing, that’s not to say that the City hasn’t had its fair share of set-backs. NUMMI’s closure in April 2010, followed shortly by Solyndra’s bankruptcy in August 2011, was a punch to the mid-section. But rather than dwell on the past, Fremont’s City Council picked itself up and started thinking strategically about its long-term vision. From that moment forward, the City made a conscious decision to invest in urban planning.
The first step was engaging with the Urban Land Institute (ULI), a national education and research institute. In 2012, representatives from the ULI carefully analyzed an 850-acre parcel of land in the Warm Springs/South Fremont area and confirmed what Fremont officials had known for years — the City has tremendous assets from which to build, including climate, location, community demographics, and access to freeways and BART.
“You’ve got such a great potential here, and the market is ready for it,” reported Victor Karen, chairman of the ULI advisory panel and principal of Citybuilding Enterprises in Boston. “The economy, in some areas, is on the upswing. Development is all about timing.”
So, Fremont decided to strike while the iron was hot and push forward with its vision of transforming the Warm Springs/South Fremont area into a 21st century employment center.
Reinventing Fremont with Warm Springs
Given a little more context, you can see why Fremont was so intent on making sure Union Pacific didn’t convert this piece of land into a rail yard. The City had much bigger plans in mind for this land parcel. It would become the site of the nation’s first advanced manufacturing-based innovation district.
And this is not your father’s Innovation District. Fremont is leading the way to revitalize the outdated industrial park, demonstrating that a new prototype, anchored by advanced manufacturing, is indeed possible.
The new Warm Springs/South Fremont BART station opening in December 2015 will serve as the connector between Fremont’s Innovation District and the rest of Silicon Valley, enabling people to easily travel to and from existing employment centers, such as Tesla and Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Just recently, the last piece of the puzzle for the Warm Springs plan fell into place. Lennar Corporation bought a 112-acre parcel of land from Union Pacific Railroad, and committed to developing a mix of 2,214 apartments and houses, and 1.4 million square feet of research and development and Class A office space — all a stone’s throw away from the new BART station.
“Hockey great Wayne Gretsky said: ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been,’” offered Fremont’s Mayor Bill Harrison. “That’s essentially what we’re doing in the design of Warm Springs, anticipating how to shape an urban environment looking out 10, 20 or even 30 years from now.”
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Beginning a new Startup Grind Chapter is a startup enterprise unto itself. So why would local entrepreneur Shilpi Sharma tackle this challenge in addition to her duties as COO of Kvantum Inc.? Well, if you’ve heard the term “serial entrepreneur,” then you…
Beginning a new Startup Grind Chapter is a startup enterprise unto itself. So why would local entrepreneur Shilpi Sharma tackle this challenge in addition to her duties as COO of Kvantum Inc.? Well, if you’ve heard the term “serial entrepreneur,” then you’ll understand what makes people like Shilpi tick. When life presents a problem, it is second nature for her to solve it. When Shilpi found her East Bay home of Fremont lacking in networking resources for startups, she did the only natural thing — she jumped into the solution head-first! As Shilpi’s partner in this particular enterprise, we’d like to share her vision and goals for the new Fremont Chapter.
City of Fremont: What was the impetus for Startup Grind Fremont?
Shilpi Sharma: Two years ago when I was starting a company, I’d meet many entrepreneurs in Fremont. While we all had gone through the similar challenges, the main differentiator that made us survive appeared to be mentorship and network. I had mentors, but not everyone was so lucky. You can have a great idea, but without support it can be difficult to deliver. Fremont is my home, and it’s also the home for many other startups, so it made sense to start something here. I am passionate about connecting people to resources, and as chapter director, I am now in the position to help others tap into an existing network. Eventually, this network will integrate key people, industries and local initiatives into a broader public/private discussion to spur innovation. It’s important that we are all connected and know what’s going on first-hand.
Fremont: What is the value for attendees beyond the obvious networking opportunities?
SS: There are many places to go to connect with other entrepreneurs, but few places that also connect you with your local community. East Bay attendees will feel at home in our chapter. Let’s face it, proximity is important when looking for partners, be it co-working spaces, co-founders, mentors or angel investors. There will also be more synergy between participants and speakers when they share a personal base.
Fremont: Speaking of speakers, what can we expect for next year’s lineup? (This year’s speakers are top notch!)
SS: For next year, we will add local leaders, in addition to founders, to more broadly highlight great work that’s going on whether in a startup or a corporate environment. Maybe we’ll even tap leaders from the public sector! The main focus will be on sharing experiences and important decisions from the early stages of a venture, and the challenges that were overcome across different industry verticals. Entrepreneurs often have multiple ideas they are pursuing at once, so it’s helpful to hear from many different avenues to enhance decision making in these different domains.
Fremont: What kind of sponsors are you looking for to support Startup Grind Fremont?
SS: I expect our sponsors to mostly fall into two categories — companies that provide basic services for young companies (legal, accounting, banking, etc.) as well as companies that provide services for the growing enterprise (marketing, consulting, and other tools). I also think there are opportunities for companies that are looking to increase “intrapreneurship” — nurturing their existing employee base to harness innovation.
Fremont: What does a typical event look like?
SS: These are three-hour events (6 – 9 p.m.). They start and end with networking, and have an interactive fireside chat in the middle. There will be time for questions and answers, and the dialogue is also enhanced through Twitter. After the formal program, speakers are often available to answer more questions from guests.
Fremont: What has the initial response been so far?
SS: Initially, I was very encouraged by the City of Fremont being willing to partner with me on this endeavor. The City’s attitude toward innovation initiatives is important for the community. Since going public, we’ve generated a lot of excitement. People want to be a part of the local startup community, and they understand that meeting new people brings new perspectives.
Fremont: In addition to attending events, how else can people get involved?
SS: We have several volunteer roles on our leadership team that we are looking to fill, including outreach/social media manager and events manager. We also need “ambassadors” to help connect with participants and bring back ideas.
Fremont: Any final thoughts?
SS: Having regular events is the first step in building an innovation ecosystem. I’m hoping that more opportunities for education and training will evolve as the network grows. But in the meantime, we can’t wait for our first event in September. I would love to have more people join this initiative. Send your thoughts and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org
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On August 5, 2015, The Silicon Valley Business Journal held an event focused on the Business of Fremont. Hosted by ThermoFisher at their new Warm Springs campus, over two hundred business leaders, developers, brokers, and interested members of the commun…
On August 5, 2015, The Silicon Valley Business Journal held an event focused on the Business of Fremont. Hosted by ThermoFisher at their new Warm Springs campus, over two hundred business leaders, developers, brokers, and interested members of the community gathered to learn more about Fremont’s ongoing urban initiatives in Downtown and Warm Springs.
Business Journal subscribers received a magazine with an overview of Fremont’s role in Silicon Valley. In case you missed it, Takes From Silicon Valley East will be posting articles from the supplement over the next two months.
The following letter was originally printed on July 31, 20015 in Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Redefining What it Means to be a Silicon Valley City Advertising Supplement.
A Letter from Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison
Fremont is on a roll.
Sure, I have a biased viewpoint, but so many indicators show Fremont emerging as an advanced manufacturing powerhouse. Think of us as Silicon Valley East.
What’s enabled Fremont to become an economic force in Silicon Valley?
It starts with a forward-thinking City Council that isn’t afraid to deviate from the status quo. During tough times, our Council took a long-term view, even if it meant short-term sacrifice.
Fremont has a precious commodity in Silicon Valley — underdeveloped land. As companies increasingly manufacture their inventions in the U.S., Fremont has become a notable hub for hardware.
Our location doesn’t hurt either. Between easy interstate access, BART extending to our Innovation District, and the Port of Oakland just 26.3 miles away, there’s a lot to like about our location.
I could go on and on. It all adds up to the shaping of our city for the 21st century in a mold we call “strategically urban.”
My pride in Fremont goes deeper than serving as mayor. I’ve lived in Fremont for 46 years. I played football at Washington High School (though it’s been a “few” years since I was in a three-point stance). I run a business in Fremont that has sustained growth over two generations.
To look at where Fremont stands currently is a reminder of the Silicon Valley mantra that anything is possible. Like a startup disrupting a market, we’re disrupting what it means to be a city government.
One final comment —
When you choose to do business in Fremont, you’ll find a team that listens and takes on the heavy lifting.
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If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be priceless. Fremont’s transition from an auto-oriented suburb to a strategically urban community is perhaps best told through a series of videos produced last year. Happy viewing, and stay …
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be priceless. Fremont’s transition from an auto-oriented suburb to a strategically urban community is perhaps best told through a series of videos produced last year. Happy viewing, and stay tuned for more moving pictures in the year ahead.
This three-minute video shows the demolition of a three-story office building on Fremont Boulevard, which sets the stage for Fremont’s new “Main Street.” See the new Downtown rising from the debris.
This 10-minute video chronicles the City’s progress toward creating a new Downtown. More than bricks and mortar, this new gathering place for the City is all about creating a space where people connect, confer, and collaborate.
This three-minute video showcases Fremont’s success in implementing plans for an Innovation District around the new Warm Springs BART station.
Want more? Here is a 30-minute video of Mayor Harrison’s 2015 State of the City Address.Read less x
At last weekend’s Festival of the Arts event — a street fair extravaganza spanning two days, 700 booths, and more than 300,000 people — the City of Fremont teamed up with BART to highlight the upcoming opening of the Warm Springs/South Fremont Station. …
At last weekend’s Festival of the Arts event — a street fair extravaganza spanning two days, 700 booths, and more than 300,000 people — the City of Fremont teamed up with BART to highlight the upcoming opening of the Warm Springs/South Fremont Station.
Warm weather and good food attracted the usual crush of festival-goers in Fremont last weekend.
Over 50 volunteers talked to hundreds of residents about the changes that are on tap as a result of BART’s expansion toward Santa Clara County.
Here are some common questions we heard throughout the weekend.
“It’s going to be completed when??”
Give or take a few weeks, BART is scheduled to pull into the Warm Springs station this December — a fact that astounded visitors stopping by the joint City/BART booth. We’re in the home stretch, and the public couldn’t be more pleased. BART is already well-utilized by Fremont residents, and now employees who work in South Fremont can arrive in the heart of the Innovation District.
“When can I live in Downtown or Warm Springs?”
We all know that housing opportunities connected to transit are hot commodities. Even more popular are housing options that are connected to transit AND have pedestrian-friendly public amenities, active public spaces, and yes — jobs. The lifestyle shift to more urban living interests everyone from all ages and walks of life.
Music acts were well-attended, showing community support of the arts in all forms
“When will BART connect with San Jose?”
People understand the importance of BART reaching San Jose and the rest of Silicon Valley. Both the Milpitas and Berryessa stations are currently under construction, and completion could happen as soon as 2017/18. With the Warm Springs station offering a mid-point connection to a major employment center, Fremont provides the opportunity for BART to function as a real two-way system by being able to draw riders to and from in both directions.
Overall, the community is enthusiastic that it will soon be even easier to get around. There was a general sense of appreciation on local efforts concentrating on quality development at transit nodes. We look forward to sharing the evolving story at future festivals.
A few more festival factoids courtesy of the Fremont Chamber:
Did you know that “coworking” — a flexible, drop-in space where entrepreneurs can collaborate, create, and connect — started in the San Francisco Bay Area 10 years ago by Brad Neuberg, an independent worker? In the past decade, coworking has grown to an…
Did you know that “coworking” — a flexible, drop-in space where entrepreneurs can collaborate, create, and connect — started in the San Francisco Bay Area 10 years ago by Brad Neuberg, an independent worker?
In the past decade, coworking has grown to an international phenomenon with an estimated 1,500 coworking spaces thriving worldwide. In our blog last year, we highlighted several coworking spaces in Fremont. Now a year later, these coworking spaces are flourishing, adding networking events and programs for startups at their facilities to help connect entrepreneurs to specialized resources.
In addition to work spaces, coworking facilities generally provide rent-by-the-hour conference rooms, and in some cases, “maker” equipment such as 3D printers, wood cutting machines, and welding machines. The environments foster entrepreneurship by allowing for casual interaction in eating or lounging areas whether that’s a foosball table or a coffee bar.
The City of Fremont plans to provide additional support to entrepreneurs through the Alameda County Small Business Development Center (Alameda County SBDC) that will offer free workshops addressing new business topics ranging from business plans to advanced social media marketing. To learn more about these workshops go to the Alameda County SBDC website.
As the demand for entrepreneurship services grow, the City of Fremont will continue to help meet the needs of the local startup community, including its support of a new Startup Grind chapter in Fremont. (More on that in next week’s blog post!)
So hat’s off to a decade of coworking! We look forward to seeing this work style grow and evolve. Click here for more information on events celebrating the anniversary of coworking in the Bay Area.
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This recently released 5 minute video explains Economic Development and its role in supporting Silicon Valley Businesses. With help from people in business, real estate, and local government, the video provides answers on how to leverage Economic Develop…
This recently released 5 minute video explains Economic Development and its role in supporting Silicon Valley Businesses.
With help from people in business, real estate, and local government, the video provides answers on how to leverage Economic Development resources in your community.
The video was created by Silicon Valley Economic Development Alliance.Read less x
You may recall a recent post from Bruce Katz and Kelly Kline analyzing the Innovation District prototype, and how it relates to advanced manufacturing districts such as Fremont and Sheffield, England. The resounding conclusion was that “there is a strong…
You may recall a recent post from Bruce Katz and Kelly Kline analyzing the Innovation District prototype, and how it relates to advanced manufacturing districts such as Fremont and Sheffield, England. The resounding conclusion was that “there is a strong base for a globally significant innovation economy and a strong rationale for spatially organizing that economy in ways that recognize the common attributes of innovation districts—integration, proximity, density, connectivity, and quality place-making.” Katz and Kline have expanded on this analysis, further fueled by the “Internet of things” (IOT), in a piece originally posted on the Fortune Magazine website on July 21, 2015.
Fremont, California is reinventing what it means to live in a factory town, and the electric car giant has joined in what could be a new era of U.S. manufacturing.
Manufacturing may conjure up images of smokestacks and smelters, but two former industrial towns are seeking to change what it means—and what it looks like—to make things. By locating large companies near small entrepreneurs, research scientists, and young apprentices, Fremont, Calif. and the Sheffield urban area in the U.K. are embracing the innovation district—new industrial neighborhoods that harness the latest ideas in technology and place-making. The result is smarter products for the global market and the ability to keep and grow manufacturing close to home.
Innovation districts mix corporations, start-up ventures, and advanced research institutions in dense urban areas rich with housing, public transit, and amenities. Think Kendall Square in Cambridge, Mass., University City in Philadelphia, or the new urban vision for Research Triangle Park outside Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Innovation districts cater to high-value research as well as creative endeavors such as industrial design and architecture. Companies benefit from their close proximity to universities and the talented workers and research ideas these anchor institutions generate.
But can these dynamics exist when overlaid on former industrial centers? Two mid-sized cities Fremont and Sheffield are in different parts of the world but share long legacies in manufacturing. In Fremont, a former General Motors plant is now home to electric car manufacturer Tesla, a company that embodies the shift to advanced manufacturing processes and connections between hardware and software. The factory is steps away from a new Bay Area Rapid Transit station and hundreds of acres of land on which there are plans to develop a more urban, amenity-rich environment.In Sheffield’s neighboring town of Rotherham, a former coal mine now houses the Advanced Manufacturing Research Park, where the University of Sheffield collaborates with over 100 leading research and development (R&D) and production companies including Boeing , Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, Hitachi, and Tata. Sheffield and Rotherham show how R&D benefits from concentrated districts that take advantage of open, networked innovation.
Fremont and Sheffield are two cities to watch as they transform their historic production hubs into integrated innovation districts. These cities are challenging the idea that industry should be isolated from other uses and are working to end the bifurcation between idea development and product delivery. In response to the demands of a corporate mix of companies like Seagate, Western Digital, and Lam Research, Fremont is adding a high-density residential neighborhood to its innovation district. Sheffield is bringing production and technological problem-solving closer together with early research efforts that will ultimately influence the factory floor. Because their urbanization is nascent, these cities are perfectly positioned to capitalize on this convergence. It is easier for industrial cities to embrace software companies than for white-collar cities to incorporate new industrial uses.
A lot is riding on the success of hardware-software hubs like Fremont and the Sheffield urban area because advanced manufacturing and services are vitally important to modern economies. A recent Brookings report shows that the sector produced 17% ($2.7 trillion) of U.S. GDP and indirectly supported 27 million jobs even though it directly employed just 9% (12.3 million) of U.S. workers. Advanced industry jobs are also high paying—an average salary of $90,000, nearly twice as much as the average in other industries)—and broadly accessible—the average worker has less than a bachelor’s degree.
The common thread for Fremont and Sheffield is the opportunity to leverage new growth opportunities fueled by the “Internet of things” (IOT)—the integration of hardware and software. The efficiencies that come from the mingling of industries is perhaps most pronounced in manufacturing, where closely aligned design and production processes are improving cost, quality, and overall competitiveness. In Fremont, Tesla’s electric vehicle supply chain orbits its factory, allowing changes to be made on a dime. And a related but much smaller company called Gridscape Solutions is demonstrating the value of microgrids for critical infrastructure through partnerships with local companies, including Delta Electronics.
Already, best practices are emerging from Sheffield and Fremont that can guide other cities with an advanced manufacturing focus. As with all innovation districts, there are several critical characteristics: local government support, education and research anchors, corporate investment, and skills development. Both cities note the need for high-profile champions, a solid development plan, and a commitment to foster a real mix of uses and a lively atmosphere.
Sheffield and Fremont are changing perceptions about what a factory town looks like and what it can be. Ironically, it may not mean fully shedding their outdated blue-collar, “Full Monty” image but rather, embracing the new maker movement. Advanced manufacturing, it turns out, is the vanguard of the innovative economy.Read less x
The most attended solar exhibition in the U.S., InterSolar North America, touch down last week in the Bay Area. With solar still being one of Fremont’s most prominent sectors, several local companies were showing off the latest advancements in this spac…
The most attended solar exhibition in the U.S., InterSolar North America, touch down last week in the Bay Area. With solar still being one of Fremont’s most prominent sectors, several local companies were showing off the latest advancements in this space. Less dominant was the presence of solar panel or module makers. Instead, there was an increased emphasis on high-value optimization technology in the balance of systems. For those wondering what this means, it’s everything from system inverters to tracking mechanics.
Here is just a sampling of the Fremont-based innovation that was on display.
NEXTracker offers a significant breakthrough in horizontal tracking, with lower costs, better performance, and more flexibility for solar power plants of all sizes.
The SolarEdge system consists of power optimizers, inverters, and a cloud-based monitoring platform that addresses a broad range of solar market segments, from residential solar installations to commercial and small utility-scale solar installations.
Delta Products provides best-in-class, high efficiency solar and wind energy systems and products, including PV inverters and converters for wind turbines. Its PV inverter delivers the world’s highest power efficiency of up to 98.7 percent.
What else is percolating in the solar industry? Other themes included advocating for the extension of the solar investment tax credit, promoting streamlined permitting, and protecting the concept of true net metering. All of these themes signal a rapidly maturing industry and reassurance that solar is here to stay.Read less x
The importance of the so-called “MakerEd” phenomenon, as it relates to nurturing the next generation workforce, is something we’re passionate about in Fremont. You may recall a recent blog post by Fremont parent, Grace Karr, which defines the movement and…
The importance of the so-called “MakerEd” phenomenon, as it relates to nurturing the next generation workforce, is something we’re passionate about in Fremont. You may recall a recent blog post by Fremont parent, Grace Karr, which defines the movement and why it’s important to our innovation ecosystem.
We’re happy to report that together the City and Fremont Unified School District have initiated a conversation about how to bring this idea to life in our K-12 classrooms. Last month, over 30 education and community stakeholders gathered at the “FlexLab” classroom at Hopkins Junior High to discuss the possibilities. Participants included parents, teachers, school district staff, principals, education experts, community-based organizations, and yes, even students!
The initial discussion focused on a few central questions:
There was no shortage of great ideas coming out of this exercise. Here’s a snapshot of a few of those ideas:
Perhaps the most interesting was a discussion about whether “MakerEd” best captures our thinking about this movement. Many different labels could work beyond “Maker”, including: “Inventor,” “Imagineer,” “Solutionary,” “Actioneer,” or “Techie.”
Regardless of the label, the commitment to working on this effort is strong. Perhaps you’d like to join us! And if you need more inspiration, check out this “Kid President” video that is charming, funny, and the embodiment of the end goal — curious kids, empowered to create solutions to real-life problems.
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Welcome to our blog – Takes from Silicon Valley East! Our view is slightly different here on the east side of the bay – from the Mission Peak backdrop to the advanced manufacturing companies that dot our boulevards. As we become more urban and strive to interpret the business issues affecting our innovation economy, we want to share with you our observations, insights, photos, arguments, agreements, inspirations and CEO interviews – and here on our blog is exactly where we plan to do this.