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.