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« The Jobs of Texas | Main | Entrepreneurship 2011 »

10 June 2011

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Russ Steele

The Union has an article: Supes look at how to spend tourism, economic development dollars here.

George Rebane

I should also point out the NC Media Watch has a post and lively discussion on Nevada County economic development here -
http://ncwatch.typepad.com/media/2011/06/calling-the-tribes-to-an-economic-summit.html

Russ Steele

It does not look like Mr Pelline is stepping up to the challenge of leading his proposed Economic Summit. He writes in response to George's commentary:

“In this regard the former editor of The Union, Jeff Pelline, has recently proposed that Nevada County hold another economic summit,” George Rebane spews on KVMR, who has handed George (a self-admitted $$$ donor to the radio station) a platform.

“Mr Pelline is a leftwing blogger who maintains a prominent voice in the county. He has attracted a halo of fellow progressives of similar mind to his proposal.”

No, I’m not a “leftwing” blogger. I have voted for Democrats and Republicans over the years and am as “middle as the road” as you can get. A family member remains a registered GOP. [ So what, we are guided more by the words and ideas that he papers his blog with, not by how is wife is registered, or for that matter how he voted. If he and his kindred spirits were middle of the roaders, we would see more middle of road people commenting on his blog.]

The trouble with George, and his ilk, is that he’s so far to the right than anybody in the middle is considered “leftwing.” It’s a real problem in our provincial little community — labeling moderates as leftists.

The reason that Sierra Foothills Report has “attracted a halo of progressives” is because The Union and KNCO — the dominant media — has shut them out. [Really?] I celebrate a diversity of opinion. If being different than George makes me “leftwing,” I celebrate that. [ He admits to being a left winger, awsome!]

Many of our up-and-coming community leaders are in total agreement with my opinion. [Really? A list of those up and comming leader would be nice, so we could ask them in person if they agree with Mr Pelline.]

I rather hoped that Mr. Pelline would have put forth some ideas on his Economic Summit, rather than attack George for agreeing with him that we need Summit, and that he should step up and an lead the effort.

Greg Goodknight

Yes, Jeffie blew a fuse on that one.

Michael Anderson

George,

I'm just coming in at the end of your suggestion. A great one, I might add. I think you are on to something, nothing like vetting the opposition. After all, this is how Obama got elected (-;

I posted the following comment at Jeff's blog just a bit ago. I'd like to add it here, so here goes:

-----------------------------


No one here is asking for another economic summit. All we want is an operations plan, and then we would like for it to be implemented. This is the same request going on two decades in this county, at least since the GHW Bush presidency!

I still need to answer Steve F. and Peter Van Z.’s comments regarding the ERC, but I will reiterate my own opinion about that organization, which is that if the BOS is going to half-a$$ that organization, why do it all? Close it and be done with it.

My thanks to a close friend for pointing out yesterday’s Union article on page A8 entitled “Supes to study use of tourism, economic development dollars.” What a hoot! Most of what I read was simply unbelievable: a one-time “infusion” of $10K for Truckee Tomorrow? That’s not enough money to even bother doing an ROI analysis, so what’s the point? And after Scofield stated “It’s just kind of a confusing time at the ERC, we are assessing what its mission is,” (which has also been going on for at least a decade) the article continues by reporting that the new ERC Executive Director Ron Moser could not be reached for comment all day Wednesday.

Umm, seriously? Do they not allow cell phones in the “soft-retirement” zone? The Union story is about economic development in Nevada County and the head of the ERC is unavailable for comment? I feel like I’m getting the vapors here.

Look, the BOS should either get serious about an economic development operations plan with scheduled deliverables and an ROI they can bless, or they should just get out of the business altogether. Tourism and retirement are key pieces of the economic puzzle in this county, but they should not be in the Top Three.

What are my Top Three?

1. Technology (which is an uber category)
2. Medical
3. Water & Energy

My Next Six?

4. Retirement
5. Tourism
6. Agriculture
7. Arts
8. Specialized manufacturing (that which can’t be done in China)
9. Extraction (mining, timber, biomass)

My last Two?

10. Service
11. Retail

There are several more categories, and diversity is extremely important. The more sectors the merrier, and since we probably will never have large industrial corporations locating here creating 10s of thousands of jobs, we have to be a lot more nimble and very flexible and dynamic. The main thing going for us is our quality of life. People want to live here like crazy, but they don’t want to have to be on the road half the year in order to make it work.

Dear BOS…I was hoping for Ron Moser or another BOS leader to comment here about all of this since last Tuesday, but I guess if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Please, I implore you: Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way. Thanks.

Michael A.

Russ Steele

Michael,

I agree, fund the ERC or get rid of it. The ERC has never been properly funded. The County gave it enough funding for a one economic developer and half a staff. There was never money for programs. I was a volunteer staff member for several years and we wrote grants for the programs and to pay for web site development. PG&E and AT&T gave some grants and we were getting grant money from CA Trade and Commerce, Rural Development Program until Arnold killed Trade and Commerce. It was the first and last "box" he blew up until he became California'a Supreme RINO.

There has always be a turf war between the ERC and Chambers as to who should get the economic development money. Several attempts to combine the organizations evolved into turf wars, and finally the BoS took the initiative to spend the money on a tourism web site.

Here is what Alexa had to say about the County web page:

Statistics Summary for gonevadacounty.com

Gonevadacounty.com has a three-month global Alexa traffic rank of 1,299,528. This site's visitors view an average of 4.9 unique pages per day. Visitors to the site spend about seven minutes per visit to the site and 59 seconds per pageview. Approximately 33% of visits to Gonevadacounty.com consist of only one pageview (i.e., are bounces), and the site is relatively popular among users in the city of Reno (where it is ranked #1,177).

[For comparison, NC Media Watch traffic rank is 484,113 and 108 other we sites are liked to my page.]

In other words the County site is most popular with the developers in Truckee. There are only 4 other sites linked to http://gonevadacounty.com/.

Quantcast another site traffic monitoring site cannot even find any traffic data for http://gonevadacounty.com/ it is so popular.

The problem with economic development in Nevada County is that we never have been serious about it. There was no yard sticks for measuring success of failure, and there we no tools for demonstrating an ROI for the investors.

I hope that we can have a lively debate on this issue here and on NC Media Watch. Maybe our local leaders will argue their point of view.

Barry Pruett

Mr. Anderson! Great suggestions and comments.

wmartin

Just a list of non-related thoughts.

. Just what is everyone after? Mere economic growth will likely bring greater numbers and a somewhat torn-up place. Are these plans intended to help local residents? local businessmen? the people who will move here? Just wanting 'more' is a primal need, not a well thought out concept.

. A have to wonder about whether Chambers of Commerce, the ERC, the various non-profit booster societies, really do a bit of good. Their primary function appears to be to pay a full time staffer a decent salary, followed by taking the little money that's left and using it to buy a few ads (Rooney to Garland: 'Let's put on a website!'). Chambers of Commerce have that added magic that they are always dominated by some guy with a downtown dress store.

. Corollary to the prior paragraph, those organizations probably aren't particularly powerful until they have buy-in (not just a few dollars extracted) from the largest local businesses.

. Does top down economic planning itself do any good? I can't say that any of this kind of thing has had obvious results to my knowledge. Businesses and tourists end up in places for a lot of weird reasons, least of which is someone's committee coming up with reports and plans.

Want to encourage ready-made businesses to move to a small town? Here's my list:

. Do whatever it takes to plumb the area with as fast a web connections as possible.
. Do whatever it takes to streamline the approval process for zoning changes, construction, etc. Someone will always find a reason to not do something new. Ignore them.
. Make these towns hobo-free zones. Nothing will scotch the start of a new top double secret semiconductor design lab like having the executive's wife deal with ragamuffins. The top sell for this area is that it looks 'safe'. Yes, that's partly a code word for 'very white', but it also means you have to hide your crazy people.
. Hate to say it, but a decent web site.
. Get lucky.

George Rebane

Michael Anderson’s observations and recommendations are well thought out and on the mark. The recent Union article on the BoS’s tourism deliberations underlines what the ArPac lawsuit has spotlighted about the competency of the Board. As a long time supporter of the BoS, I have no idea what is now going at the Rood Center. These pages have echoed sentiments casting doubt on the continuing competency of that elected body – they seem to be wandering in circles.

My own big three areas of economic emphasis for the county have long been –

Information Industries – These are technology intensive businesses that range from R&D through specialty software/systems/components to information intensive services (financial, management consulting, architectural, website design, ‘skunk works’, …). All require increase in connectivity bandwidth (landline and wireless).

Tourism – Because of its natural beauty, cultural events and venues, location, and ease of access from major regional population centers, Nevada County should promote itself as both a weekend getaway and a destination resort, attracting additional infrastructure as necessary.

Retirement – Viewed as an ‘industry’, the county’s large retirement population is arguably the biggest clean cash importer in our community. This revolving population (as they age and die, more move in) is the main local support of retail, services (medical, financial, education, maintenance), and the cultural events. These people tread very softly on our environment and government services. Nevada County can and should make a case for becoming the ‘Brentwood of the Sierra’.

I believe that agriculture, timber, and mining have a secondary level of importance to the county’s economic development. This does not mean that they should be opposed, only that they should receive public development resources as lower priority.

However the three primary economic areas outlined require a considerable support level of shops, eateries, hospitality services, maintenance services, schools, etc giving employment to a large middle class population of families from all walks of life with children of all ages. In short, a vibrant community.

RL Crabb

Hope everyone can sheath their knives long enough to make this an all-inclusive effort. Lots of good ideas out there, and yes, a lot of it is just luck. Go to it, folks!

stevenfrisch

I am with Bob, sheath the knives, stop putting each other in liberal and conservative boxes, and get to work on operationalizing the strategies. This is the most important issue in our community. Lets have one thread that is an attack free zone.

I agree with wmartin that it may be too much to ask to have the established entities sing Kumbaya, they don't have it in them. Fine. Let them take a piece of the strategy and get good at it. A distributed model of economic development, with a multitude of entities playing an important role but no predetermined collaboratively created 'unified vision' might be fine.

By the way, I agree with George on the big 3. 1) Bandwidth hungry intellectual capital industries 2) place based tourism, and 3) professional and medical services leveraging the aging demographic.

The strategy SBC has taken is to find 3-4 things we can be really good at and specialize in those. We are good at energy/energy efficiency, tourism and developing ecosystem services marketplaces. To support that we do policy analysis. We really don't need everyone else to agree that these are the right strategies, or where they fit in a unified vision, we trust that others will see the opportunities in other areas and fill the space. We support them when they do.

By the way, I completely agree with George that timber, mining, ranching and resource management have an important place to play in our economy.

stevenfrisch

Ooops....that should read "if they do not have it in them".

stevenfrisch

Of course the whole big 3 idea may be a little arcane as well. It is going to take more than 3 and many are important.

wmartin

"Retirement – Viewed as an ‘industry’, the county’s large retirement population is arguably the biggest clean cash importer in our community."

Good point. I didn't think of them.

There's definitely going to be a burst of old people with money who are in motion. It's a combination of people who rode the DOW from 1k to 10k+, sold a $50k house for $1M, and/or have a public pension. Honestly, I don't think that it's a sustainable wave in those numbers, but it definitely is a factor for the next decade or more.

So, what do they want really? Here's my ordered guess:

. 'Safe' looking area. See post above. Very white, filled with well-mannered people. Hey, somebody has to say it.
. Lots of health services for that trip to the doctor every week or so. A good hospital. Lots of drug stores for those 200 pills / month.
. Boutique shopping for the masses. Things like Starbucks, Trader Joe's, probably a Costco within driving distance for the husband to buy stuff for cheap that's 'JUST AS GOOD AS THOSE FANCY BRANDS'.
. Nice views from the house, but not that much need for trails. A plowing service for those silly enough to buy a house in the summer.
. A junior college that's more than a set of buildings plus classes on beginning keyboarding and 'how to use Microsoft Excel'.

Paul Emery

All of you have ignored the biggest influx of cash in Nevada County and that's Marijuana farming. The price per pound of the leafy stuff is the single most important economic indicator in our economic near future. It is our biggest industry and employer. The Green Rush may have peaked however as long as it's illegal and is a "manageable risk" thanks to our federal and state laws and ineffective enforcement the cash will keep rolling in and mortgages will be met. It's hard to imagine that the state of things would be without it. To quote an unnamed restaurant owner "You can always tell it's harvest season when the $100 bills start rolling in. All cash, no credit cards."

stevenfrisch

Can we count pot as a value added agricultural product? I agree, it is a big driver, but without legalization and no clear mechanism to measure results, we will need to count on the underground economy being governed by a different set of rules.

By the way, I did a series of community forums on the update of the Humboldt County General Plan a couple of years ago. I was part of a team looking at rural policies from around the country, so was not in the lead role. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the crowd when in response to a question about the underground economy I answered, "there are only two ways to control and track it; either ruthlessly stamp it out or legalize it, there is no in-between."

I had several growers coming up to me at the forums and telling me, "you don't understand, we can't legalize marijuana because the price would collapse, that would ruin our local economy!".

Russ Steele

Paul,

You make a good point. As we travel around the county, we are often asked, "Where are you from?" When we say Nevada County, there is oten instant recognition by the under 30 group. If you dig a little more, you discover that Nevada County is recognized as the producer of some of the finest Marijuana on the West Coast. We stopped a service station in Oregon and the attendent admitted that his friends were on a trip to Nevada County to being back a stash. I asked why not Medocino County or Humbolt Count, they were much closer. In his opinion, these County producers were not up to Nevada County standards.

wmartin

"The Green Rush may have peaked however as long as it's illegal and is a "manageable risk" thanks to our federal and state laws "

That's a funny thing, isn't it? An entire industry built on poor law enforcement. Significantly crank up the enforcement, the local growers get pushed out by the cops, remove enforcement, local growers get pushed out by agribusiness.

Even the din for tax money, and everybody loves them those sin taxes, isn't enough to nudge the stability of that system.

It's a lovely area for inconsistencies. The freedom loving right doesn't want you using drugs on yourself. The cops daren't get rid of something that is a primary raison d'etre. Lotta people with bad backs who need to smoke dope or they'll keel right over. The tax loving left is in favor of a cash-based industry. Law is ignored for the sake of money.

Let loose the Dogs of Irony.

George Rebane

Lots of good thoughts here. So how do we go forward at what appears to be an apparent ‘grass roots level’, since the same old same old with the previous groups hasn’t got us anywhere? I think that a crawl/walk/run approach is best, because as we learn the art of the possible in these difficult economic times, we should be ready to make course changes as opportunities arise. But the tribe I come from firmly believes that job one is to take these over-arching observations and assessments, and come up with a definite objective for phase one (some call it the Normandy project, ‘hit the beach’) the achievement of which can be measured. Then take what is learned and pick the next, perhaps, larger objective which still gets us toward the acknowledged big picture. This, of course, is not rocket science, but just a systematic phased approach all of us have run into in previous work.

But before we step out smartly, my nagging question is ‘who is the WE?’ Is there a critical mass of energetic and motivated people who could form the nucleus of this ad hoc local economic development movement. And I do mean ad hoc; if we are to join, let’s join only for the purpose and duration of achieving an objective and not starting yet another organization with a name, defined turfs, and no accomplishments. If something works, I venture there will be one or two established outfits in the county who are more than willing to take the working template and push it to the next level.

My druthers would be that Steve Frisch with his SBC convenes a planning meeting or two (with not too many people) in front of a whiteboard to see if the assembled can adopt an agreeable direction and working M.O. At such a gathering all kinds of questions can arise and people can give answers, and everyone can take the measure of the other to see if and how a working group can coagulate. Then if the group needs to grow, it will.

stevenfrisch

I would be happy to host an initial meeting to at least discuss a 'crawl, walk, run strategy'. I am sure we could recruit an impartial facilitator and recorder if there are future meetings; we work with several. For a first meeting we could use a couple of our staff members, almost all of whom are trained in facilitation.

I agree with George that trying to create something new would be a huge mistake, the whole issue with the 'gathering of the tribes' as Russ described it is that the tribes have existing strategies and investments they are vested in. We should be leveraging the core competencies of the existing rather than creating bureaucracy.

What if a first meeting was focused on identifying overlapping goals and strategies?

To be clear, SBC has already made some pretty substantial investments in our own economic development strategies and we would need to be direct about our market niches. I can't change my direction based on a meeting; I have a strategic plan, business plan, funding plan, existing core competencies on staff and a board of directors that I answer too.

Scott Obermuller

The first thing this county needs to do is get high speed broadband available in all neighborhoods and rural areas. I realize it won't be cheap or easy, but there are hundreds of homes that won't sell or will be sold at a far lower price because they have no high band width internet. Also lots of folks looking to work from home or rural areas will look elsewhere if there is no broadband available. It is as important as building roads in rural areas. It's a tough nut to crack as a lot of older folks don't want anything to do with it and won't pay for it. Some of the new wireless high speed tech looks promising, but it seems it's promises never quite pencil out. Suggestions?

stevenfrisch

Scott, I could not agree more that broadband is a critical thing all of us probably could agree on. So how do we pay for it? The lions hare of the funding should come from private industry with a profit motive. Here is a pretty amazing success story:

http://www.dailyyonder.com/big-broadband-success-small-town-wyoming/2011/06/07/3364

But the private sector may not cover all of the cost. I think broadband is 'basic infrastructure' in the new economy. It is no different than providing power. I would at least consider bonding a part of the cost in partnership with a private entity. The public funding could be paid back over time with a surcharge on the private users. At least under this model public funding goes to services that the users pay for.

Paul Emery

Does anyone have examples of how other rural communities have have done this?

George Rebane

I believe there is a broad consensus here on 'bandwidth to the boonies' (BW2B), we have not even begun to run out of all the benefits derived therefrom. Such an iniative is as important as building all weather roads around the turn of the last century, and as rural electrification (phones soon to follow) was in the 1920s and 30s.

We have enough of a consensus on BW2B to get things started. SteveF, I believe you've got the con.

stevenfrisch

Paul, done what? Organize to do economic development? Man there are hundreds of examples---but one could start here:

http://www.sbcouncil.org/pdf/Investing%20for%20Prosperity.pdf

Mikey McD

I'm usually "Mr. Optimistic" but I can't imagine anything productive coming out of another economic summit. They are photo ops for politicians, nothing more.

Paul Emery

steven

I was talking about rural broadband.

Todd Juvinall

25% of the county workforce leaves the county every day. They usually hit the stores in Roseville before they come home at night. Those jobs are mostly white collar. It is not likely that will change much no matter what we do. In the county General Plan are some proposals which would kick in if the population got to a certain level which will not happen for a generation or two. If you don't figure out a friendly GP with job loving policies there is only a wheel spinning. But, as we all have seen, GP updates or overhauls degenerate into political battles and there are no winners. Unless we have a agreement on these basic plans required for every jurisdiction, we will simply plod along where only the folks with money to burn will try and create anything. And there is not much money to burn. So, I say let us try and get the broadband for the internet folks, resource extraction for the middle class folks and maybe a new industrial park with a connection to highway 65 for a place e to start up for the entrepreneurs. There are more.

stevenfrisch

Sure Paul. Please see attached project description for Digital 395. (Other that pluralizing Sierra, which is never done since it is already plural, they are really smart people) We are implementing a program in the community to link small business, who has had declining per capita income for the last 25 years, to opportunities for web based marketing and sales to leverage Digital 395 to open then to new markets.

http://digital395.com/

stevenfrisch

Here is another example of a project being implemented in our region:

http://www.psrec.coop/fiber_project.php

stevenfrisch

Another rural California example--by the way we are in regular contact with all three of these efforts and trying to use them to leverage new economic development in the Sierra Nevada projects.

http://www.humboldt.edu/rcc/docs/RCC_Report_Final_04282009.pdf

stevenfrisch

Ooops...I forgot the Central Sierra example, who we are not working with right now:

http://centralsierraconnect.org/

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