You can never go wrong in today's media making fun of a white, anglo-saxon businessman.
The economy and economic development is on everyone’s lips these days. The Left continues to conjure the vision of an ephemeral Obama recovery from the ongoing ‘Great Recession’. The Right points to the fabricated and pretzellated statistics the administration uses to describe what isn’t happening in the realworld. Meanwhile, our county’s population is declining, the exodus fostered by both local factors and the butt stupid statewide mandates issuing from a post-socialist Sacramento. Let me start with a positive tidbit.
Speaking of the county’s economic development, I want to remind readers that tomorrow ERC holds an economic summit (more here) to introduce its revitalized Green Screen Institute that will be structured to capitalize on the new growth in virtual and augmented reality technologies and markets, the latter hopefully soon to follow (more on Sierra Foothills Commentary here). The summit is supposed to promote “regional” growth, but is really focused on Nevada County and specifically its western part. We have long pointed out the indigenous headwinds that companies encounter when planning to relocate a business or launch a start-up in these parts.
When planning our 2002 move here, I sought to relocate the entire Bizrate Advanced Products Group (my company’s skunkworks) to these foothills from Marina del Rey in LA. At first everyone was excited about the possibility. But upon closer examination our team members began to discover the risks to locating in these remote foothills. Several also had children in school, and the county’s offerings there did not help. The bottom line is that since then, the best we can say is that things have not gotten better.
More recently we faced similar questions when starting Riskalyze that now has 100+ employees (it’s hard to keep current), with an engineering group making up about half of these young people with families. Any objective analysis pointed elsewhere in the I-80 corridor.
According to my lights our county has a lot of work to do to attract the kinds of high tech businesses that will bring the right kind of new residents to our community. Today we have an obviously liberal artsy-fartsy culture dependent wholly on the cash imported by our retirees and tourists, along with a kumbayah culture that celebrates political correctness, pot, and duns profits. There is a huge gap in the mindsets of our leftwing eco-purists who believe that capitalism is the root of all the world’s evil, and those who seek to invite capitalists to join us in these foothills.
[8apr16 update] Jo Ann and I were part of the 300+ attendees at ERC’s Economic Summit yesterday, which for another hundred or so ended with a well prepared dinner and another panel discussion at the Holiday Inn Express last night. Today’s Union has a front page story on the affair (here).
I am not going to hipshoot what we heard and saw at the summit, and instead let things settle and sort out a bit before composing my take on it. Overall, we thought the event was well organized and came off very smoothly – Jon Gregory and his team are to be congratulated for good planning and execution.
Departing Union publisher Jim Hemig was master of ceremonies, to whom I had a chance to express my regrets about his leaving the newspaper. Supervisors Ed Scofield, Dan Miller, and Hank Weston were in the audience. We heard from two keynote speakers, Messrs Michael Carmichael of Livability.com and Scott Lenet of Touchdown Ventures. Mr Carmichael was imported for the event, and Mr Lenet has been working for some time with ERC on economic development planning, and was material in selecting the augmented and virtual reality technologies as the focus for the newly launched Green Screen Institute. (Full disclosure, Jo Ann and I are longtime friends of Scott Lenet, but are not investors in Touchdown Ventures.)
The mayors of three cities – Rosalynn Bliss of Grand Rapids MI, Georgia Tuttle of Lebanon NH, Paul Soglin of Madison WI - were invited to describe how their communities operated viz economic development and community participation. After the GV Veterans Center part ended, we had a chance to have extended private conversations individually with Mayors Bliss and Tuttle, both very impressive heads-up women. Missed the opportunity to talk with Mayor Soglin who declared in his panel exposition that it was government that creates jobs in our economy. He used an example of government funded infrastructure that attracted private industry to locate nearby. It was obvious that this mayor was no fan of Governor Walker.
It’s difficult to find an economic success story of a community that is a close fit to what we have here in Nevada County, and the more so due to the glacial pace of Obama’s ‘recovery’. Madison and Grand Rapids are big cities, and even little Lebanon (pop 13,000) is a hard fit due to its location at the crossroads of two interstate highways and proximity to Boston. But at least Grand Rapids and Lebanon aggressively invite and facilitate businesses locating in their downtowns.
Have to also mention the great talk given by our own Mary Owens, CPA and economist, who reviewed America’s post-WW2 economic history especially as it affected employment and job creation. Had a brief conversation with her in which we agreed to continue wherein I hope to convince her to include in that presentation some aspects of accelerating technology and its impact on the growth of systemic unemployment.
Had a chance to chat with Jon Gregory who does know the Riskalyze story and CEO Aaron Klein. The Auburn company’s absence was due to the fact that the advertised “regional” development really meant only the region of Nevada County.
During the day session Scott Lenet’s keynote talk included a long and detailed presentation on the rationale and plan for founding the Green Screen Institute that emphasized its fit with our community’s existing technology companies and established cultural activities. Later at the dinner Mr Lenet moderated a panel of “digital media thought leaders” who are also on the Global Advisory Board of the (former?) Sierra Digital Media Campus. I was most impressed by the remarks of Telestream’s president Dan Castles re not chasing the most recent flash-in-the-pan technology.
At dinner we sat next to the first tenant in GSI’s new digs on New Mohawk Road who is president of a start-up developing a novel security app for smartphones. OK, so his company doesn’t do AVR stuff, but at this stage of our economic development, anyone with a check is on strategy. Also at our table was an angel investor from Chico who ‘consults’ to technology start-ups and early stage companies. Great conversations with both on current markets and investment strategies for emerging technologies.