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Sacramento region’s can-do spirit underscores FIRA

A’s move brings community swagger I haven’t seen since the ‘80s.

Tim Hearden, Western Farm Press

May 23, 2024

2 Min Read
Robot demonstration
People view robotics demonstrations at a FIRA USA press event in Woodland, Calif.Tim Hearden

When the dignitaries of California agriculture and business gathered in Woodland in mid-May to preview this year’s FIRA USA tech show coming in October, one of those sharing their sense of excitement was Barry Broome, the first president and chief executive officer of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council.

Like other attendees, including California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, Broome extolled the potential of technology’s positive impact on agriculture, noting that “the driving force behind our success is the science community.”

He noted the site of the third FIRA gathering on Oct. 22-24 – the Yolo County Fairgrounds – is near the planned Woodland Research and Technology Park, which earlier this year won final approval to be annexed into the city so it can be developed. Proposed in 2017, the 350-acre park is intended to serve an array of research and technology companies interested in being near the University of California, Davis and other area institutions, according to the city.

If Broome’s name sounds familiar, he made news recently for being among Sacramento area leaders welcoming the Oakland Athletics to their new temporary home at Sutter Health Park in West Sacramento. Major League Baseball’s A’s are slated to spend three or four seasons playing on the minor-league field a mile away from the state Capitol before eventually relocating (we think) to Las Vegas.

Related:Tech to shine at third FIRA USA gathering

When we spoke at the FIRA press event, Broome told me the same thing he told local media in early spring – that baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has said MLB plans to expand by two teams within a few years, and big fan support for the A’s could put Sacramento in the discussion to get one of the teams. He acknowledged a new ballpark would be needed to make such a team a reality.

But the can-do spirit exhibited by Broome and others in suggesting that Sacramento could become a permanent home for an MLB team reminds me of the community swagger we used to see in the capital city in the 1980s, when a group of businesspeople succeeded in bringing the National Basketball Association’s Kings to town from Kansas City. A concrete foundation was built for a multipurpose stadium in Natomas, north of downtown, and there was open talk of attracting the A’s and pro football’s Raiders (then in Los Angeles) to the city.

I felt that same community spirit at the FIRA preview, where people touted the Sacramento region’s potential as an ag-tech hub, with UC Davis providing the research muscle. Organizers are expecting more than 80 exhibitors and 2,500 attendees at the three-day show, which will feature an expanded range of robots for specialty crops.

In ag-tech as in baseball, if you build it, they will come.

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