I am please to hear that the Nevada County Economic Resource Council has an Economic Development Plan, at least according to an article in The Union. I have not had an opportunity to see the final product, which was approved by the ERC Board of Directors last week. I could not find the plan on the ERC Web page, the last update to the web site was January 2014. So, let me comment on The Union article and I will see if I can get the plan posted to the web site for distribution.
“Through a combination of initiatives and activities designed to encourage existing business growth that position the organization as the hub of economic development, the ERC will work to establish a positive operating environment for entrepreneurial start-ups and existing Nevada County businesses, and as a new location for businesses that possess shared alignment with Nevada County’s attributes.
“Simply put,” Gregory wrote, “the ERC goal is to grow the county’s economic pie.”
The problem with all past attempts to come up with an economic development plans was the turf wars among all the other organizations who viewed themselves as the “hub of economic growth” in the community. There is a telling quote in The Union article:
“When California Association for Local Economic Development’s President and CEO Gurbax Sahota asked the leaders during an October round table if all of Nevada County’s leaders and stakeholders were “solidly” behind the ERC, a chorus of “No” was echoed around the room at Grass Valley City Hall.”
“I am not totally convinced,” said Nevada County Supervisor Ed Scofield, who also sits on the ERC executive board. “If we were really the leaders, we would have the membership much stronger than it is.”
For even a targeted economic development plan to succeed, requires the whole community to buy into and supporting the plan, to put aside the turf wars and function as a unified community. The underlying issue has always been the community cannot come up with a common shared vision of what it wants the economic engines to be over the next 10 years”
- The Greenies want sustainable agriculture and green manufacturing.
- The Chambers, and to a large part the Board of Supervisors, want to increase tourism, thus the Go Nevada County Website. A web site that only now is becoming mobile device friendly, making it more usable by smartphone users, the primary information device for travelers.
- Some insightful people think that Nevada County could be come the “Brentwood of the Foothills” attracting retired folks and their wealth, but that would require building the infrastructures and shopping that wealthy people want. But, there has been little understanding or enthusiasm for this approach by economic leaders.
- Those wedded to the past want to bring back manufacturing, but the manufacturing world has moved offshore where labor cost are lower. Plus, California has erected multiple regulatory barriers to new business development, thus the probability of expanding manufacturing in Nevada County is almost nil.
As you can see, there are multiple turfs challenges that make coming up with a successful economic development plan extremely difficult. Without a total community buy in, the success of the ERC plan is at risk.
“The plan also proposes to convince growth-oriented businesses to move their companies to Nevada County. The final initiative aims to find 10 businesses outside Nevada County and have them vie each year for a prize — a combination of cash and services if they relocate to Nevada County.”
Reality Check! Companies are morning out of California and the cost of energy and environmental regulations are raising the cost of business in the state to uncompetitive levels. If a company is looking to expand they are expanding outside of California. Nevada County would be competing with states like Texas that have more cash and more services than Nevada County could ever come up with.
On the other hand, the new ERC Executive Director John Gregory seem to understand the challenges:
But there are hurdles in the path to pulling off that plan, as Gregory outlined a lack of pervasive high-speed Internet service, an underdeveloped skilled and technical work force, lack of available land, lack of spousal employment opportunities and an underdevelopment of entrepreneurial programs as potential pitfalls.
We could solve some of those problems if our schools would focus more on math, science, business administration and entrepreneurship. Our schools do not even teach the basics, like the use of spreadsheets or computer programing. They spend to much student time on soft subjects that have no relationship to employment, such diversity, cultural studies and climate change. The implement of Common Core in the schools is not going to solve the problem. In fact, it will make it worse, by focusing on the evils of commerce and the bastardization of science in the support of anthropogenic global warming.
Fiber optic broadband, the gold standard of internet communications, is still 2-3 years away, but Western Nevada County business parks have access to wireless broadband today. The bigger challenge is universal broadband in all neighborhoods in the community. Those with cable have broadband access, those with DSL are underserved and in many cases the only options in some neighborhoods are dial-up and satellite access. These options are not conducive to economic expanding development.
Infrastructure for land development is a government responsibility, which has lagged or failed outright. There have been numerous commercial land surveys conducted and the need is known. However, when ever a developer steps forward the environmentalist in the community challenge the projects, demanding more and more studies until the developer runs out of money, or stamina, and leaves. When a developer leaves, the wackos celebrate another victory dancing around the mulberry bush beating their drums and economic development suffers. The ERC is not equipped to overcome this opposition. There will be no more land for business development until we have a generational change in the community, which brings about a cultural change. By then the ERC will be footnote in the economic history of the community.
A ERC plan has little value until it is executed and, the probability that the ERC can execute this plan is slim to none. The turf wars have killed all the past plans and will most like do in this one.
Stay tuned, this is going to an interesting year, with an election on the horizon, and a struggling local economy. it is sure to be an election issue, especially with the big box stores opening up on the southern border of the County this summer. And, you thought $200 million in leakage was huge, you have not seen anything yet.
I am looking forward to reading the detailed plan. It many modify some of my views, but having been a party to all the past planning and failed execution, I think my insight maybe relevant.