Many residents like to put down Nevada City for being too liberal, scattered and out of touch with the rest of the county. They make fun of its culture.
But is Nevada City better positioned to bounce out of the recession than Grass Valley and the rest of the county?
The city has become the county’s leader in green and clean technology. Though our county is home to a stop AB 32 contingent, much of the rest of the country is embracing green technology – in Sacramento, Washington and Silicon Valley.
Nevada City, as I reported here first, has more solar installations per capita than any other California city. City Hall, led by the city engineer and others, also is embracing green technology.
The city led by A.P.P.L.E. received a grant to open a “Sustainability Center” on Commercial St. Its relatively new Farmer’s Market boomed last summer despite the recession, providing a catalyst to the “farm to table” local food movement.
The same trend is being underscored at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival that opens this coming weekend, the largest of its kind.
The Nevada City Marketplace will open as early as this week, at least the fresh fish store, and Cal Organics is on track to move into the Broad Street Furnishings Building. Bel Capelli, a new salon on Broad St., will open soon too.
The Amgen bike race starting in Nevada City underscores our unique outdoor lifestyle, activities that need to be promoted more in our town to draw tourists and young families.
Nevada City is going green faster than Grass Valley, whose mix of businesses and politics are still more traditional.
To be sure, Nevada City has some challenges: Its high unemployment rate and continued infighting at the Chamber of Commerce. Both sides are to blame.
Meanwhile, a bright spot for Grass Valley is the wine tasting rooms opening downtown. This is a young but growth-oriented business for our county.
In addition, the downtown is getting a big new mixed use building across from Maria’s Mexican restaurant (still not reported in the local media), and Maria’s itself is expanding.
On the other hand, some longtime businesses such as Amigos & Co. are departing Grass Valley for Nevada City on the same block where not one – but two – smokeshops have now opened. There are vacancy signs and big buildings (including the former Hedman and Alpha buildings) are for sale.
The Holbrooke continues to face financial challenges. Its ballyhooed Del Oro Mural is still not finished, missing a predicted year-end deadline.
In short, Nevada City seems to be adopting a more youthful, “out of the box,” forward-looking growth strategy compared with Grass Valley and the rest of the county. It’s embracing green, clean and the outdoors.
If it succeds, perhaps the rest of the county – still stuck in the past in many ways – will follow suit. Wouldn’t that be ironic? The county’s smallest town mapping a path for the rest of the region.