Adventure Towns: The new tech hubs

Snowboarding at Northstar California

From the winter issue of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine:

“Mountain burgs and cities with the perfect work-life balance aren’t just good for skiing, biking and hiking,” writes Outside magazine. “For years, these areas have reinvented themselves as outdoor-friendly tech alternatives to Silicon Valley.”

Outdoor-friendly tech towns with the lure of a work-life balance, along with a growing culinary and arts scene, offer the special ingredients to build a thriving economy.

This includes attracting college-educated millennials. It also fosters higher-paying jobs in the STEM fields (science, tech, engineering and math). Outside magazine points to Boulder, with a STEM job ranking that is higher than any other region in the nation outside of Silicon Valley.

We believe a similar plan can be adopted in our region, without bringing on the unintended consequences of traffic and congestion. For years, our magazine has mapped out a “path to prosperity” that pointed to the mutual benefits of bringing the cultures of the West Coast, including Silicon Valley, and the Sierra Foothills closer together.

We’ve discussed efforts to build our region’s presence as a tech hub, including a planned Sierra Digital Media Campus led by the Nevada County Economic Resource Council. Other projects include a 1 gigabit internet Bright Fiber network in western Nevada County, putting our region on a par with a few other urban areas with access to that kind of speed.

Our editorials have pointed to the benefits of Tesla’s “gigafactory” east of Reno, including Truckee’s role in offering the work-life balance for new workers.

At the same time, we have been chronicling a new culinary and arts “gold rush” in our region: We’ve reported about a new generation of chefs, farmers, winemakers, brewmasters, musicians and artists who are resettling the area—adding new energy and sophisticated offerings while honoring the region’s rich history.

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“Winter daybreak in Truckee” by Olof Carmel

We’ve pointed to our outdoor-friendly lifestyle, including world-class outdoor attractions, such as the Lake Tahoe, the American River and South Yuba River (featured in our last issue and archived on our website, SierraCulture.com).

As we begin the New Year, we’re noticing continued progress when it comes to reshaping our region’s economy.

Golden Era lounge in Nevada City

Golden Era lounge in Nevada City

Food and drink, the most basic human commodity, is at the heart of our cultural melding. Some examples from our current issue: The leaders of San Francisco’s booming craft cocktail scene have helped open Golden Era in historic Nevada City, arguably the most inviting craft cocktail lounge in the foothills. It has become a popular gathering place for young professionals, artists and musicians.

At the same time, an energetic San Francisco family who discovered the magic of Nevada City two years ago has opened the Goldtown Hideaway for visitors. “As many Bay Area aficionados will agree, it’s not always easy to find a town fit for foodies but Nevada City does not disappoint,” says innkeeper Mollie Poe.

Ani DiFranco at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley

Ani DiFranco at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley

In performing arts, The Center for the Arts, InConcert Sierra, the Auburn Symphony, Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra, Sierra Stages and others are offering top-notch entertainment. This winter The Center for the Arts presents the Cowboy Junkies, Marc Cohn and Ani DiFranco. InConcert Sierra is hosting world-renowned pianist Nikolaï Lugansky.

As for our area’s efforts in high tech, Tesla said it is “several quarters” ahead of schedule at its Tesla gigafactory, and battery assembly is underway. Tesla’s new Model X includes a rack for carrying skis and snowboards to Tahoe.

In western Nevada County, the California Public Utilities Commission approved funding in December for a 1 gigabit internet network, and a feasibility study is underway for the Sierra Digital Media Campus. All told, we are well on our way toward prosperity in the New Year.

(Photos: Northstar California Resort; “Winter daybreak in Truckee” by Olof Carmel; Golden Era lounge by Kial James; Ani DiFranco by Charles Waldorf)

About 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 SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.
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