I have been reviewing the ERC’s Economic Development Plan titled: ERC Business Plan and Economic Development Scorecard.
The Scorecard process outlined in the plan identifies five impediments that are inhibiting the ability of Nevada County to maximize its economic development potential.
The 5 Major Impediments affecting Economic Development:
1.Lack of pervasive high speed Internet Service
2.Under developed skilled, technical workforce
3.Lack of available land
4.Lack of spousal employment opportunities
5.Under developed entrepreneurship programs
Let’s look at some of the solutions to these impediments:
1) High Speed Internet: Wireless companies like Smarter Broadband are building out their infrastructure to serve more of the County, Spiral Internet is planning a fiber optic network, and some business in Whispering Pines and Loma Rica have secured connections to AT&T fiber networks. While this is progress, there is still room for improvement, especially in rural neighborhoods where people have small home business that need advanced communications. As more large business join the computing Cloud, they are expecting suppliers to follow suite. Freelancers working for larger corporations in the Cloud, will also be asked to participate. All these economic activities require more bandwidth that is being provided over DSL connections. The near term solution is wireless, access to Comcast Business and when available fiber optics. One major issue for years was no fiber redundancy, that issue has been resolved. Call centers and service desks need redundant communications.
2) Under developed technical work force: The focus here should be on our schools that are not even teaching the basics needed by a skilled work force. The majority of our schools do not teach spreadsheets which are need to organize data for processing. Schools do not teach computers programming skills allowing students to develop the technical skills needed by industry. Our high school math programs, cannot produce students skilled in basic numeracy. One high school does not even emphasis math as a desired life skill.
3) Lack of available land: This is a government problem. Multiple developers have been come to Nevada County for years and were finally driven off by the inability of government agencies to make decisions that would produce the needed business parks and industrial areas. When I was on the Transportation Commission one of the City representative clued me in “we just keep demanding more and more studies until they run out of money and leave town.” We have seen this scenario played out multiple times in the last 20 years. Over the years the community has produced studies, task forces and tiger team to solve this problem and nothing gets done. There is a very high probability that nothing will be done now, with all the environmental wackos organizing against economic development. Have you ever wondered why we have an Economic Resource Council instead of an Economic Development Council. The lefty segment of our population could not support economic development, it was a dirty word, so Resource was the compromise. However, the powers that made the compromise necessary are still lurking about, ready to pounce on anyone willing to risk proposing “development” in western Nevada County. Just look at the little purple cows being discharged by the former editor of The Union and his lefty minions comment on his blog over the proposed shopping center at the new highway interchange.
4) Lack of spousal employment: This issue has been going on for year and result from the lack of employment diversity, which can be traced back to the lack of land for business development, and the high cost of homes. When the supply is limited by the lack of housing development the price of existing dwelling goes up. The high price of homes requires a two family income, thus spouses have to work. But, government action has resulted in high priced homes and limited job opportunities. No near term solution is on the horizon.
5) Under developed entrepreneurship programs: We are back to our schools again, students are not even taught the basics of business development. They are never exposed to the “nuts and bolts” of business ownership, nor have any lessons from a world-class entrepreneurs even though Nevada County has many retired entrepreneurs who would love to share their knowledge. Anyone trying to bring that knowledge to a high school campus would be confronted by the teachers union.
Nevada County could generate solutions to these impediments with some projective action, though it is highly unlikely given our past history. It would take some strong dedicated government leadership, with the support of a charismatic economic development leader who can convince citizens the ERC has the right solution for economic development. It has been tried in the past and failed. There were too many organized tribes, each with a convergent vision of what the community should be in ten years.
I would like to be wrong, but 30 years of experience is behind my assessment.