The important role of Merced and UC Merced in the growing Northern California megaregion was the focus of a recent trip the Bay Area Council made to that Central Valley city to hear from Mayor Mike Murphy and Chancellor Dorothy Leland about some of the incredible changes taking shape there. CEO Jim Wunderman led the Council delegation, which heard from Murphy as he outlined the city’s many assets and plans for growth. Leland described progress on the university’s massive Project 2020 expansion, the nation’s largest and most impactful public-private partnership (P3) to deliver civic infrastructure.

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute under the leadership of Senior Director Sean Randolph provided the early research into public private partnerships that was instrumental in guiding the development of UC Merced’s bold Project 2020 plan, which includes 13 new buildings. She credited the Economic Institute’s work for focusing the campus on the P3 option when others proved unavailable, informed its strategy, and has enabled the current buildout. Against that backdrop, Wunderman talked about growing population in Merced and the broader Central Valley, the relatively affordable home prices and the role that stronger rail connections could play in linking the city more closely to the Bay Area and integrating it with the emerging megaregion.

UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland

“Today we are focusing on the economic potential of building greater interconnectedness, which would have major benefits to both regions,” Leland said. “It’s not just about creating a bedroom community here. We will be attracting businesses and industries that will help lift Merced, the Valley and the state.”

Merced Mayor Mike Murphy

“This has been a fantastic thing for us,” Murphy said. “We’ve had a real public interest with UC Merced, and there has been an increase in private interest because of it.”

Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman

“When you look at the Central Valley and the Bay Area, you think of separate places that are far away. Once that transportation connection is complete, the game is going to change.”