“Take the high road.”
That’s the motto of Joby Aviation, a flying taxi startup that, in the coming weeks, is moving much of its operation to the Marina Municipal Airport.
And this is only the beginning: The company, which was founded in 2009 and has raised $130 million in venture capital funding to date, including a $100 million investment round led by Intel this past winter, is trying to transform the future of urban transportation, and is planning to make the Marina Airport its home.
On Aug. 21, Marina City Council approved two leases for Joby to move into two buildings at the airport, where they will set about designing and building prototypes of small, electric planes that take off and land vertically, travel faster and more quietly than a helicopter and, according to Joby, do it more safely.
It’s the vision of a future where, if one wanted to travel from San Francisco to San Jose, one could do it aboard an air taxi for an affordable price.
“This is a wonderful, Jetsonian vision,” said Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado, after hearing Joby’s Scott Berry present to the council Aug. 21.
The idea could hardly be more ambitious: At the outset, Joby will be leasing two buildings at the Marina Airport – a total of about 74,000 square feet – but the company’s plan in the next few years is to expand to a larger space at the airport, and operate a manufacturing facility of between 1.5 million to 2 million square feet where flying taxis would be built.
“We have a big vision: A goal of trying to save a billion people an hour of driving every day,” Berry told the council. “So it’s all about space for us right now.”
And in order for that vision to have any chance at materializing, time is of the essence.
“We really are in a hurry, there’s incredible competition,” Berry said. “It really does make or break our case if we can’t get to market quickly… We have to have the space to build what we need to build.”
Joby now employs about 170 people in Bonny Doon, in Santa Cruz County. The company has been in talks with Marina for more than a year about moving to the airport, while also exploring the option of moving to the shuttered Cemex cement plant in Davenport, which Joby recently decided against.
“We’ve got to move on to an airport or a facility where we can really expand and grow,” Berry told the council.
Reportedly, Joby is a highly secretive company – Berry said the company was in “stealth mode” about its latest prototype design – and no one from the company responded to multiple requests for comment.
The two leases amount to about $25,000 in monthly rent to Marina, but the bigger potential benefit is jobs.
“This could potentially create thousands of jobs for our region,” says City Manager Layne Long, adding that tourist industry jobs typically don’t come with high wages. “We need to get good technology jobs. Joby gives us the opportunity to maybe create that.”
Joby’s initial leases are for three years, with an option to extend three years, and Long says a longer-term deal is in the works.