Parallel universes: economic development and State of Jefferson

Telestream is profiled in the Sacramento Bee this weekend. “In 2015, private equity firm Genstar Capital acquired Telestream,” writes columnist Cathie Anderson (who keeps tabs on our region and whom I visit with from time to time).

“None of the sales prices was disclosed, but (CEO Dan) Castles said that if you were to add each of the sales figures, the company would have created in excess of $1 billion in aggregate value. Annual revenue has surpassed the $50 million mark, he said, and the company employs roughly 250 people worldwide, 165 of them in Nevada City.

“We see lots of room for growth because more and more content is being created and viewed,” Castles said. “People want to view it on more devices … and the number of formats is getting more and more complicated.”

This is good news, along with a recent grant for a gigabit internet network, as well as a feasibility study for a Sierra Digital Media Campus. Other efforts including “building bridges” with Sacramento with the Rural County Representatives of California, the community-wide effort to keep South Yuba River State Park open and repair the Bridgeport Bridge.

But we need more private and government investments to make all this happen. We need businesses to invest in our community to create jobs, we need private investments to complete the one gigabit internet (the 40 percent balance), and we need more government funding for the Sierra Digital Media Campus — and to repair the Bridgeport Covered Bridge, with its escalating costs. We also need more government support for our network of County Fairs, accomplished with participation in the Western Fairs Association.

Parallel Universes

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, we have a band of locals who want to secede from the State of California. The political tactics are often toxic. It is counterproductive and risks undermining the efforts to build bridges with the rest of the state, not burn them.

And this time the blame is on the right, rather the extreme right — not the left, who often is tarred with an anti-growth mindset. We need to change that.

The polarization has been getting worse, largely stemming from the intransigent and aggressive mindset of the tea-party patriots and other hard-right political activists. The co-founder is local Mark Meckler. In 2011, Meckler was arrested after he took a gun to LaGuardia Airport. He claimed he was unaware that his gun license was not valid in New York, which has strict gun laws.

Congressman Tom McClintock also has stirred the pot. In 2010 he announced it was time to ‘get rid of that left wing clerk/recorder,'” according to a gathering. In 2014, the group got together to form a tea-party managed PAC, targeting board and commission seats in the county with like-minded candidates. It is part of a national plan. “Because Mark Meckler lives in a small, rural county in California, we decided to try there,” the group’s website said.

The State of Jefferson movement is the latest iteration. The County Board of Supervisors has declined to go along, but the SOJ activists keep pressing on. They say they have gathered enough signatures to put an SOJ measure on the ballot, with an air of arrogance.

At this point you have to ask yourself whether a private investor would want to plunk down his money in a place where extreme right-wing politics create such a climate of uncertainty and polarization. It is no different than investing in a business climate that is perceived as anti-growth because of leftwing politics. Many other opportunities exist.

At the same time many of the tea-party and SOJ activists are smacking down government, other groups in our community are seeking their support and dollars. It’s a dysfunctional environment — not a democratic one.

It’s not very conducive to raising a family either. Many of the high-achieving youths want to leave the area after they graduate from school.

The New Year is starting off as more politically contentious than the last. And I expect it will continue.

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.

4 thoughts on “Parallel universes: economic development and State of Jefferson”

  1. The Sacramento Bee article is great news for Nevada County. Most of California knows nothing about the parallel universe described as the State of Jefferson (SoJ). The SoJ is the most recent iteration of the Tea Party/hard right minority searching for an idea that feeds the angry, old, white voter in our Northeast Region.

    If the SoJ is successful in placing an advisory item on the June or November 2016 Nevada County ballot the job of the rest of us is to defeat it resoundingly. It’s that simple. When that happens, they will quiet down for a while.

    At the same time we need to work with the California Legislature, local representatives, and others to build relationships and provide an environment that shows we welcome reasonable growth and progress.

    Last point, I participated in a presentation to government students at Nevada Union High School recently. When I asked the students (about 100 were in attendance that period) how many planned to go to college, almost every hand went up. When I asked how many planned to come back to Nevada County after college, two hands went up. That’s the challenge being faced by Nevada County.

    1. Jim is absolutely correct. Why would a Valedictorian at NU or BR come back here; to what? A new subdivision or a new shopping mall isn’t going to bring them back.

      Another ‘side-bar’ issue ( I seem to be thinking of these alot), and this is out of our control, is Auburn.

      One advantage of ‘getting out of town’ once in a while, is I speak with people from neighboring communities. With my boys playing sports, I speak with many parents.

      More than once, I’ve had people tell me they would have loved moving to our area. However, they have businesses/practices in the Bay Area and Sacramento. They want to be on the ‘down hill’ side of Auburn; too many traffic lights and too much time. Even Bell Road is going in the wrong direction. Even if the time isn’t that much (and it is….getting worse), the psychological aspect of being “in traffic” is what they’re trying to avoid. My friends in Lincoln can be in Sacramento in 20-30 minutes. Rocklin, Granite Bay, Folsom, same time.

  2. And to add to your point Jim. We have some of the most wonderful scholarships for students. Most are for graduates, who leave the area. There is not much to have the graduates stay, let alone come back. A paradigm shift is needed.

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