How “The Great Reset” was discussed at Sierra economic development summit

We’re not in a depression or recession but a “Great Reset” that nobody has experienced before, attendees at the Sierra Innovation Summit at Sierra College in Rocklin were told Friday.

This is defined by the ongoing crisis in housing, banking, high debt, offshore outsourcing of jobs and the loss of middle-class jobs. What’s more, our government is broken, because we can’t work together. Housing is going to “reset” at 20 percent lower (or worse) when all is said and done.

Though sobering, the presentation hosted by the Sierra Business Council was right on the mark, and it provided a roadmap for recovery. About 100 people attended, and the presentation will be posted on SBC’s website.

We attended as Sierra business owners. (Our digital and print tourism-related business is healthy and growing in this “Great Reset,” and one reason is that we put a high priority on presentations like this – not just to network but to see how we can benefit from the changes. Amid the rubble, there is always opportunity, we know from past experience. We are SBC members and the conference cost only $35, making it a “no brainer” to attend).

Other locals that attended ranged from Nevada City Engineering to the City of Grass Valley, One Stop Business and Career Center in Grass Valley, Sierra Commons and PlacerGROWN. Stephen Wahlstrom of Wahlstrom & Associates, who has performed a study on Glenbrook Basin Redevelopment, was present. Stephen is a regular commenter on Sierra Foothills Report, so it was good to meet him in person.

I was disappointed not to see a county Economic Resource Council executive committee member present, though Brent Smith of the Sierra Economic Development Corp. was there (Brent regularly attends county ERC meetings). I was also disappointed not to see the local media there, but it was announced that the region’s Capital Public Radio has created an energy and environmental reporter to handle issues like this. There are bright spots in our region’s journalism.

Here are some highlights from the keynote speeches:

Steve Frisch, president of Sierra Business Council:

-Steve did an excellent job of framing the issue, going back to the 2008 financial crisis. But he also pointed out that a “reset” has been going on in the Sierra for longer, because of our ongoing problems: a failure to diversify our economy much beyond construction and real estate; and a lack of capital, among other factors. He also discussed the unsustainable runup in real estate prior to 2008 that crushed the Sierra economy.

He pointed to energy efficiency programs as a bright spot, noting how the plan had reduced the cost of energy to small businesses. SBC alone has helped perform 540 small business retrofits in the region.

He cited the need for government reform, because neither side is working together. On the constructive side, he pointed to SBC’s support of legislation that called for multi-year government budgeting rather than such a short-sighted approach.

He also talked about the change to American culture that will occur from the “Great Reset,” just as it did during the Great Depression.

Steve also initiated a mapping exercise where attendees shared their experiences, a pragmatic learning tool for us as well as one that showed the benefit of working together.

Glenda Humiston, United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development-

Glenda provided some important economic background, reminding us of the explosion of “off farm” income in rural areas traditionally built on farming, lumber and mining. The charts she showed were stark reminders of the ongoing trend.

She emphasized the need to focus on existing businesses rather than “reinvent the wheel,” a pragmatic and commendable approach from government.

She also pointed to the job growth potential in foothills’ agricultural businesses, such as raising cattle for statewide, organic beef production, a growing business. There is a major gap in the infrastructure, such as “cut and wrap” (a polite term for butchering), packaging, storing, transport. With the right regional coordination, and a slaughterhouse, a whole network of jobs can be created rather than a piecemeal approach. Local colleges can provide the training.

Glenda pointed to the benefits of agricultural marketing programs. She started the one in Sonoma decades ago, known as “Farm Trails.”

Dan Ripke, Center for Economic Development, California State University, Chico-

Dan, who has presented in our county before, showed population data pointing to the aging, declining population in the Sierra and foothills, a trend we discuss here regularly.

The unemployment charts were startling, showing figures that doubled or tripled in some counties during the “Great Reset.” The “greying of the Sierra,” as he put it, continues to provide challenges when it comes to economic growth. We need more families, and we need higher-paying jobs.

Bill Feying, Northern California Carpenters Regional Council-

Bill pointed out the benefits of apprenticeship training. In construction, 3,200 apprentices from the Sierra have been trained between 1995-2010, he noted. The benefits include longer lasting, safer structures; higher wages to boost community sustainability, and families who are less dependent on public service.

With all the union bashing going on nowadays, I was glad to see the benefits of apprentiship training highlighted.

Ari Derfei, Slow Money and owner of Gather Restaurant in Berkeley
-Ari described the growing “slow money” movement. The idea behind slow money, modeled on the 20-year-old slow food movement, is to create an infrastructure for investing in local food systems, as Business Week, which named this one of the top new business ideas, explains.

“When businesses borrow or get investment directly from their customers (in the CSA model, for example), that means that customers’ interests are aligned with creditors’ or shareholders’ interests — they’re the same group,” the magazine notes. “In a local economy, they’re part of the same community, too, so they have incentives to create value beyond just pure financial returns, by doing things that benefit the local environment and community. (E.g., a farm chooses not to use pesticides that pollute the local water system — a benefit local shareholders see.)”

Besides the keynote speakers, there were “breakout” sessions focusing on training the new workforce; business tips & tools for accessing capital in the rural Sierra; rural entrepreneurs; and an overview of the California Stewardship Network Policy Agenda, which brings together 11 regions from across the state to develop regional solutions to the state’s most pressing economic, environmental and community challenges.

All told, it was time well spent. I got home in time for a business meeting and to watch my nephew’s college football game on ESPN2 (Iowa State eeked out another win against Connecticut to go 3-0. I’m glad there’s a “bye” next week). I’m happy to share this writeup; part of the discussion at the summit involved how the internet is changing the way we communicate in the rural Sierra.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

17 thoughts on “How “The Great Reset” was discussed at Sierra economic development summit”

  1. I really enjoyed your well written piece. I am aways drawn to good writing that can, in the case of reporting, does not just make me aware of the facts but “takes me” there. You did and I thank you.

  2. Other upcoming business activities include:

    * The Grass Valley Job Fair and Job Development Forum

    This event looks like it could benefit from more of the kind of speakers and attendees who participated in SBC’s Innovation Summit, rather than for instance (as you can see in their line-up) David Watkinson, CEO of Emgold, whose project to re-open the Idaho-Maryland (a bad deal for Grass Valley) would probably drive out more jobs than it would create in our region. (See John Regan’s letter in today’s Union completely debunking Emgold’s ceramics tile plant fantasy).

    * The ERC’s “2011 Nevada County Economic Forecast Conference” (Oct 11 at Sierra College’s Multipurpose Center)

    This is well worth attending for a good overview of local, regional and state economic trends. We have attended this meeting in the past and found it informative, as well as a good opportunity to meet new people (aka “networking”).

  3. Thanks Don. I’m aware of those business activities, and this economic development forum was much more comprehensive, inclusive, and regionally focused. (It included the county’s economic outlook, as well as others).
    The ERC event you cite, which we’ve attended, also is a key fundraiser for them. The job fair should be focusing on economic diversity.
    We can be a “stubborn” county (and a “good old boys” network), but the county-by-county economic results in the Sierra hardly show us as successful. In the case of the ERC, we’ve pumped millions of dollars in taxpayer money into the group over the years with mixed results.
    Our county’s business and civic leaders need to work better within the region and shed its “not invented here” image.
    Having said that, it was good to see Nevada City Engineering, the City of Grass Valley and other locals in attendance at this economic development event.
    No county will succeed without regional support. Except for Placer, they’re just too small.

  4. I’m looking forward to viewing the conference online. Was there talk of rail systems and diversifying our local energy source with solar/ biomass. The most cost effective way of transport from a possible growth in statewide agriculture would be through local rails out to main lines/ corridors that move up and down the state.

  5. Alternative energy, including solar and biomass, was discussed. No rails, though. I suspect the cost of bringing them back is a real impediment.

  6. Good coverage, Jeff,
    Looking forward to seeing the presentations on the web. Could you give a heads up when postd?

    1. George, I will make sure that as soon as we get the video posted I will cross post it here. The initial video will be the long version. We will then cut it down to do a series of webinars to get additional input from the region re: innovation based economic development strategies.

      Thanks for your interest.

  7. This was an outstanding conference organized by the Sierra Business Council. Steve’s opening comments were right on. Ari Derfel’s slow money presentation was inspirational. My only regret is that I did not attend the financing panel, which I heard was great. Alas, I can see it on line.

  8. Thanks for the FyBates, Jeff! BTW, if invited and if my schedule is free, I will attend and shoot such events if still are desired, and comp them to this blog.

  9. Please see attached two articles that may help people think about how the economy is changing:

    I’m not sure I agree with the new New Deal analogy, but the growth of independent workers is a pretty interesting phenomenon.

  10. I still have not understood the plain and simple fact that we can easily attract businesses to our area based upon on a easy plan which would include ideas such as….

    1. No business taxes for 5 years (based upon hiring 75% of local based staff – within 5 years).

    2. Subsidized rent for 5 years (take the many commerical buildings in the Crown Point Circle and offer them no property taxes, and no cost municipal services as long as they work with these new businesses).

    3. Offer free municipal services (for 5 years) which would include water & sewer.

    4. City based staff who’s job it would be to help with all permitting and regulatory issues.

    5. Find specific issues that businesses need help with such as grant funding.

    I know that if we started a campaign of advertising in the Sacramento and SF BayArea’s we could easiler fill these empty businesses wioth local personnel who will more than make up for these losses by being employed spending money, and staying out of municipal serivces (police) hair.

    1. I like a lot of these ideas Brad. The issue of local hiring is a tough one. Procurement processes allow for some preference for local hiring, but there are limits on what can be done. Plus, I am not sure we charge a local business tax, or how significant it is. I know we tax property, including furniture, fixtures equipment etc. It may not be as significant an incentive as we think, but I would love to see the numbers. History shows that having a local government ‘ombudsman” to help with permitting works. Placer hired a grants procurement staffer several years ago and they brought in over $1 million per year for several years, a good investment.

      These are exactly the type of innovative ideas we should be exploring and experimenting with.

  11. to BG:
    will you help them sell their houses before they move here?
    The start-up business might have more problems with frustration over government regulations than the utilities and rent.

  12. At one of the break out sessions at the Innovation Summit, Julia Burrows, Managing Partner at Valley Vision, announced that there would be a major investment in the Sacramento metro region to do energy efficiency retrofits. Well here it is:

    Anyone interested in doing a building retrofit in Nevada County can contact Sierra Business Council through our web site. Look for the Sierra Nevada Energy Watch project. Our source of capital is much more modest, but it does the job.

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