At its monthly meeting four days ago, the county Economic Resource Council released a draft of its new master plan, outlining short- and long-term goals and a matrix to measure its success.
I have a healthy interest in our county’s economic development — such as attracting more families and higher-paying private sector jobs — so I asked for a copy of the report from the public meeting. I also promised to provide some feedback.
The 20-page document is the economic-development group’s boldest step yet to state specific goals and hold itself accountable for the results, and I hope it gets some publicity. The majority of the group’s $165,000 annual budget comes from the the county, and cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City.
The master plan is being prepared for the county board of supervisors.
Here’s some highlights:
•Short term goals (zero to two years): Scout existing employers for compatible companies that would make good neighbors. Site interviews with existing employers to help build their businesses. Continue a “bring them home” campaign to help encourage high-school graduates to stay here.
Also partner with schools and Sierra College to improve workforce training. Work to increase workforce housing. Community development to educate the community about economics.
•Long term goals (two to five years): Create incentives to attract, such as fast track planning and permitting. Create a business incubator. Strengthen funding resources with a “venture fund.”
Also ensure sufficient land, infrastructure and services to attract companies who desire buildings of 40,000 square feet and up. The report also argues for increasing the ERC’s staff size from just 1.5 positions at present.
I also was pleased to see the ERC wants to target “low energy user,” “low infrastructure impact” and “clean or green friendly” businesses, among others. ERC officials also will attend a medical device and manfacturing conference and others.
No mention was made of attracting mining businesses, but it will come up later.
After a passionate discussion, the ERC will support the Idaho-Maryland mine project by summertime, I predict. But it won’t be a slam dunk, as the growth initiative was. For example, groups such as real estate agents, which are represented on the ERC board, are divided on the issue.
I’m pleased the ERC’s master plan highlighted some real barriers to growth — not being on a major transportation artery, a lack of adequate infrastructure and the lack of fibre-optic cable.
Under a section “what gets measured gets done,” the report also lists a matrix that will measure the actions and successes of the ERC each year.
Too often our government-funded economic-related groups — I’m thinking of our myriad chambers and their boards — are not held accountable enough by the funding providers. Why not? Gadzooks.
I was glad to see an effort to get Truckee more involved in the group, including providing more money. We don’t do a very good job of embracing the eastern county around here.
In short, it is a thoughtful plan for “smart” growth in our county, with a plan to hold the ERC accountable for helping to execute it.
Since this is just the draft version, keep in mind that it might change. I suspect the general focus of what I’ve discussed here won’t change much, if at all, though.
A copy of the draft plan is here.