What Does Nevada County Have to Offer?

I regret missing the December ERC Board Meeting, so I will have to rely an article in The Union for some insight into the discussion HERE.[maybe paywalled]  Lynn Wilson, owner of Pilot Peak Vineyard and Winery will become the new Chair, following Lisa Swarthout. In addition to being a local business owner, Wilson claims to have and extensive high-tech background. He wants to focus on marketing Nevada County in the coming year, with the creation of a new marketing committee.

“Marketing is going to play a much bigger role,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be important to get the word out so that the folks that are outside of Nevada County, per se, understand what we have to offer. The way we market the county is a combination of everything that we have to offer. That sets us aside from the other counties in the foothill region.”

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Board members also touched upon the importance of highlighting county traditions, such as the local Cornish and Victorian Christmas celebrations, as a tool to lure tourists.

The real question is what does Nevada County have to offer other than Christmas Fairs? In the quality of life category we do have a lot to offer, but is that enough to encourage local business to move here? One of the prime reasons that companies move to a new location is to take advantage of a trained work force or reduce cost of doing business. Given California’s growing legislative and environmental regulation nightmare, companies are not moving to California. So, let’s focus on what kind of trained work force do we have in Nevada County that a California company could be interested in?

Rising energy cost due to environmental regulations make hauling in raw material and returning finished products to the market is a major impediment to manufacturing in Nevada County. Companies are moving hardware manufacturing offshore or to low cost energy states with a transportation hub. On the other hand, shipping of bits and bytes over a broadband pipe is a more cost effective business model. But, we would need a plethora of software engineers to create a robust cluster of digital businesses.

Unfortunately our schools are not producing students that would attract high-tech digital companies. Our schools do not teach computer programing, or basic entreprenural business skill sets, for example how to organize data using a spreadsheet. In the UK and Estonia schools are introducing computer programing and problems solving skills at all levels, starting in the first grade.

These European educational leaders recognize that we are living and working in a digital age and there is a growing need for programers, systems analysts, data analysts, and project leaders. They are committed to growing them, starting at the entry level, and hone the students digital skills through out their education. In a networked world, these students with digital skills sets are going to be our competitors.

While growing talent is a long term strategy the ERC is looking at some short term solutions to creating an educated work force locally.

Gregory reported that the ERC’s new Tech Talent and Development task force plans to meet with officials from Chico State University and the local high-tech industry on Dec. 10, to further discuss methods of drawing a professional talent pool from Chico into Nevada County.

One of the issues with this strategy was outline by Dan Castles, Telestream CEO. Most often college graduates are single and after a hard day at the office they are looking for some excitement in their social life. This one of the major attractions to the Bay Area, it has an exciting social scene filled with highly intelligent young people. According to Dan, young single engineers hired at Telestream found the Western Nevada County social scene wanting, and often moved on from Telestream.

I encourage the ERC’s new Tech Talent and Development to look more closely at the digital education deficiencies in out local schools. In addition, it maybe more effective to grow a digital work force, than import it from outside the community. There is a plethora of digital education resources online, but one of the limitations of online education is the lack of social interaction with other students.

One solution would be for the ERC to sponsor programing courses, using free online resources from top level universities, but sponsore weekly, or bi-monthly study sessions, where students can discuss the challenges and problems they are having. Perhaps this could be done in conjunction with Sierra College. Then follow up with coffee, beer or glass of wine to promote some social interaction. This would help to quickly expand the local pool of digitally educated talent, which could attract a company to move here, or open a satellite office.

Nevada County needs more than pine trees, rivers, recreation, cultural events and Christmas Fairs to attract business to our community, we need a trained and educated work force surplus to current business needs. The ERC needs to focus on how we create or capture that work force,and then market those skills to other California companies.

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About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
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