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.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Is it time to stop pretending?

NCCLI members suggest "Community leaders should focus on jobs," July 21, 2005

Rose Asquith, Chris Crain, Patty Park and Carol Wong, participants in the annual Nevada County Leadership Institute program studied economic development issues and submitted a final report to the Board of Supervisors.

We believe that there is a unique opportunity and need for an increased proactive government role, differing from a regulatory or reactive one. Our view is not one of central planning, but a role which is clear in its communication and support on economic development. Such involvement is consistent with their publicly stated goals.

We recommend that the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, in conjunction with cities and other public groups, adopt a key role by:

Communicating clear policy and tone to staff economic development;

Regularly update the public on related issues, policy, actions and responsibilities;

Add attention to related infrastructure needs (e.g., land use, traffic, education, broadband).

The NCCLI Team is on target. We have fractured economic development in Nevada County. Recently the County Staff submitted a grant request to study economic development without coordination with the Economic Resource Council, which is the County’s prime economic development contractor. Last minute coordination took place when the grant request was discussed on an open meeting with the ERC present. One ERC board member noted that developers are required to fund economic development studies, which is a duplication of county funded economic developmnent studies. Both clear examples of what the NCCLI team is writing about.

Following the Chabin Report, a study of County economic development needs in the early 1990s, the ERC was created as a public private partnership, funded by both government and private donations. Larry Burkhardt, a professional economic developer was hired to coordinate local economic development. Then the turf wars broke out. The Chambers, Business Association, and Downtown Association did not want to give up any turf to ERC coordination. Thus, today we have fractured economic development activities.

The ERC funding was never at the level defined in the Chabin Report. There was enough funding for one full time economic developer and part time staff. No funding for any economic development programs. Over the past nine years the ERC struggled to fund programs with State Rural Economic Development grants. When the State budget crashed, this Trade, Commerce and Technology funding vanished.

Now, after nine year of make due funding, on going turf war skirmishes, and squishy community support Larry Burkhardt is now leaving for a County in Colorado with a robust economic development program, with a well funded budget, a staff of four, plus a benefits package equal to those in private sector corportations.

It is time for the community take a serious look at our economic development infrastructure, our ability to create entry level and well paying jobs. If the community, both public and private, cannot fund economic development at a level where we can have a professional staff and well funded programs lets stop pretending.

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