NC Media Watch

A quest for reason and accuracy in letters to the editor, guest editorials and other issues of interest to the citizens of Western Nevada County.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

County looses valuable economic resource

George Boardman writes about "Local CEO accepts position in Colorado," July 6, 2005
Larry Burkhardt, who took the county Economic Resource Council from a "card table and a stapler" to an active advocate for Nevada County's economic development, has been lured to similar but bigger job in Colorado.
We were most fortunate to have nine years of professional economic development leadership in Nevada County. Larry is one of only a few certified economic development professionals in California. A few years ago his skills were sought by another community, but he elected to stay in Nevada County.

It is unfortunate many in the community are unaware of the impact the ERC has has on our local economy. Even though Larry has a weekly radio show on KNCO, a monthly column in Nevada County Business, and wrote a monthly column in the Union for many years. Many business understood the long term impact of economic development, but many others did not and refused to support the ERC. Set up as a public/private partnership the ERC is funded by a combination of public and private funding.

Unfortunately a partnership that never reached it’s full potential, because funding never reached a critical mass. The study which launched the program, pointed out that the ERC’s budget needed to be about twice the initial $129,000 budget, if the ERC was to promote effective programs.

As an ERC volunteer for nine years, I helped write many of the grants which funded some of the more successful programs, especially the GIS Business ReLocator and Broadband Community Network Study. As an early ERC volunteer, it was clear to me that the 1996 Board of Supervisors were more interested in limiting growth, than promoting economic development, thus they underfunded the ERC. Giving the ERC enough to survive, but not enough to be truly effective. This low ball funding level set the tone for Grass Valley and Nevada City. Truckee elected not to participate. Bottom line the ERC has been underfunded since inception, and Larry has struggled for years to make it an effective organization.

Month after month for years Larry struggled to keep the ERC’s doors open. With multiple business organizations including the Nevada County Business Association, Chamber of Commerce, and GV Downtown Associations competing for business donations, many business were reluctant to fund one more economic development organization.

After years of uncertainty, Larry sought out a community which recognized the full value of professional economic development. An organization with secure annual funding. This quote tell the whole story:
"The chance to serve as the lead economic developer in a dynamic community like Weld County, Colorado, is a very exciting and exceptional opportunity," Burkhardt said Tuesday. "The organization is significantly larger, serves a larger area, and has a larger staff and budget."
Now, as the local community seeks to find Larry’s replacement, are we going to annually fund the ERC so it can reach it’s full potential? It is true that the County and City’s committed additional funds for the ERC this year, but made it very clear, this was a one time increase. Again raising the level of uncertainty to the ERC's future. Will the ERC have enough money to complete its mission next year, enough to pay the staff, enough to succeed?

After nine years of uncertainty, I think Larry made the right decision. He is a friend and mentor and I will miss him. Volunteering at the ERC added a depth of purpose to my part time retirement, and provided a way I could contribute to the community. Economic development was a challenge that could use some of my writing and concept development skills. Best of all my efforts were always appreciated by Larry and Julie, his part time assistant.

The question now is will the community, public and private, finally get serious about funding economic development? Or, are we just going to create another risky situation for another CEO and his dedicated staff. More details on ERC mission (here).

Click here for an e-mail comment.


Post a Comment

<< Home