This morning’s Other Voices (‘Let’s create a local economy around green jobs’) by Don Pelton in The Union is another example of why economic development in our county is so difficult – muddle-headed thinking. The author’s proposal to spend money to make Nevada County a hub of green technology companies is not only silly, but to the extent that it diverts our very limited resources from more productive economic goals, it is also destructive to our collective future during this deepening recession.
This remote foothills county has almost nothing to offer but a wonderful living environment and a tourist destination. Unfortunately, to many people seeking to be helpful, this is all that is needed to attract high tech enterprises. The reality is very different. Technology companies are tightening their belts and looking to locate elsewhere, starting with the high hard one – ‘How do we get out of California?’ This week a greatly relieved Intel announced the closing of its hallmark Santa Clara chip making plant, instead of investing to modernize it. The excuse of the recession was a welcome reason for Intel to remove one more connection with the state that has now become the leading anti-business environment in the country (cf AB32 et.al.).
The insane rush to government subsidized green businesses is no more than the next act in the national tragi-comedy that started on the country’s great plains. There every county with a cornfield had dollar signs in their eyes, and many wound up building ethanol processing and refining plants that are now prominent derelicts on their skylines.
Mr. Pelton proposes undertaking a “Green Rush” as some centralized and locally funded long-term effort to make the county into the state’s (nation’s?!) green hub –
The key to making the Green Rush a reality in our community is precisely this long-term planning, because it requires a kind of synergy consisting of mutually reinforcing civic organizations dedicated to green jobs training, green master planning, recruitment, grant funding and administration, liaison with state agencies, and so on.
Once all these groups are in place and focused on a common goal, and once the larger economic tide begins to rise again, a vibrant green economy would become a reality in
The incredible news in Nevada County is that much of the necessary infrastructure is already in place, thanks to the good work of many years by business-minded government and private organizations. This existing structure needs only to be focused on a common green goal.
Yes indeed, the county is a hotbed of left-liberal environmental organizations that are very busy writing grant proposals, and acting as conduits for government and foundation monies going elsewhere. In short, what is in place is a collection of proposal boutiques populated by people educated in the humanities, people who on the whole are innumerate and scientifically illiterate. These clip and paste artists are anything but “business-minded”, and most also belong to NIMBY organizations that have a history of successfully repelling businesses. The availability of people with quantitative analytical skills is almost non-existent, all technically capable people would have to be imported with all the much-recounted and unsolved problems that this brings to bear.
Whatever business development monies our county can scrape together should be devoted to attracting more of the already in place and ‘natural’ cash importers – the retireds and hospitality/tourism enterprises – to our mountain hideaway. The infrastructure to support such an initiative is already in place and today has spare capacity. Additional service and support businesses, as needed, will follow the money. We must pick and play our strong suits. Spraying pittance amounts over too many politically easy recipients, will impact nothing and waste it all.
Any remaining economic development monies should be devoted to keeping existing IT businesses here, and expanding the county’s broadband connectivity coverage. It is the latter that will ultimately determine the suitability of Nevada County as a place to live and work – and that might even include a new tranche of liberals busily writing Green Rush grant proposals.
[update] Russ Steele on NC Media Watch also comments on this Other Voices piece and focuses on RESCO (here). I was recently asked by a local elected official about my thoughts on Nevada City’s contemplated response to RESCO. I may have been a bit too forthright in spelling out why the proposal wasn’t appropriate, and upon reviewing the email, I find that it’s not suitable for posting here on a family-oriented blog.