Nevada County’s Economic Resource Council meets this morning to vote on a plan proposing to promote local economic development by encouraging sustainable business growth throughout the county.
During a six-hour planning session in February, the ERC board of directors, headed by newly appointed Executive Director Jon Gregory, hatched its new business plan, which features a strategy the board believes will help develop and support new and existing businesses within the county, and in turn grow the county’s economic pie.
“We’re going to be looking for companies with some kind of demonstrable growth potential that we can help with, whether it’s landing them customers or raising them capital to grow their company,” Gregory told The Union.
The business proposal plans to identify five high-potential businesses in the county each year and provide each company with up to 200 hours of volunteer expertise annually, support that the ERC board believes will help in advancing business milestones that will foster job creation and retention.
“If we incrementally do things to improve some of the weaknesses in these businesses, then that will do things to raise the boat even better,” Gregory said.
The board’s plan also proposes to convince growth-oriented businesses that are planning to relocate or expand to move their companies into Nevada County. ERC members and partner organizations plan to support this effort by meeting with targeted company CEOs and management to provide them with the positive attributes that Nevada County can offer a business.
According to the ERC business plan, these include a quality K-12 school system, “comparable cost of doing business, access to outdoor activities and cost of living, as well as a propensity for tech spinoffs in a manner unusually high in comparison with other rural counties.”
“The usual way that a community would try to attract businesses to come to it would be to go to an industry trade show. (When) we go there we buy a booth, we hand out hundreds of business cards to the companies that are there,” Gregory said.
“But we’re saying that’s the old way that you do economic development. We think to be successful in Nevada County, let’s specifically identify some companies in the Bay Area and find something in the founders’ background that has that unique fit to Nevada County.”
The board’s final business initiative aims to find 10 businesses outside Nevada County and have them vie each year for a prize — a combination of cash and services if they relocate to Nevada County.
Gregory says that while the ERC will look for diverse business partnerships, there is a specific industry the group is looking to grow.
“There is a unique video technology base that exists in Nevada County that really is second to none in the world,” Gregory said.
“So there’s a base of really high-tech companies and talent that exists here that can be built upon.”
Gregory added, “We’re going to be specifically looking at those business opportunities that add value and leverage to that industry and also contribute to the aesthetics and the quality of life here.”
ERC Chair and Grass City council member Lisa Swarthout said that while the plan proposes to grow the local economy by supporting business relocation, it shouldn’t change the area’s community oriented way of life.
“It’s always been the strategy at the ERC to target our quality of life here because that’s what will really make the difference for a CEO who wants to perhaps be in an environment that has mountain biking, that is close to skiing, and that is still near a metropolitan airport,” Swarthout said. “But we still have that small-town rural quality that sometimes people look for. That’s something that sets us aside from other counties.”
As for moving forward with the plan, Swarthout is very confident.
“We really feel like we’re on the right track moving forward with Jon,” Swarthout said.
“As for the plan, people are very eager to approve the plan, get started with the plan and move forward with the plan.”
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“If we incrementally do things to improve some of the weaknesses in these businesses, then that will do things to raise the boat even better.”
ERC Executive Director Jon Gregory