The leader of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council signaled a subtle shift in its strategy to spark enhanced economic activity in the region.
While much of the ERC’s recent focus has centered on attracting more tourism to the region, ERC Executive Director Robert Trent told the Nevada County board of supervisors that infrastructural improvements capable of spurring new businesses and attracting high-paying jobs should be and are an organizational priority.
“Helping new business start and grow is where I believe the ERC should be focusing on and is focusing on,” Trent said during a brief presentation.
Trent emphasized the renewed organizational focus does not mean ERC will abandon efforts to enhance tourism, as he touted the benefits of GoNevada County.com, attendance at the California State Fair and the insertion of print and online advertising in various publications throughout Northern California during a presentation to the board last Tuesday.
“We’ve done a good job using our limited resources to get as many eyeballs on our branding and getting our message across,” Trent said. “I think it’s been a highly successful year for tourism marketing in the area.”
Trent pointed to a 19-percent increase in Transient Occupancy Tax revenue but was careful to not fully attribute the surge to the ERC’s outreach efforts. The TOT is a charge levied in California on people staying in overnight accommodations such as hotel/motel rooms, vacation rentals, campgrounds, etc.
The county collects the tax from such establishments in unincorporated areas, and for the past two years, the board has selected the ERC to spearhead efforts to market the region to prospective tourists.
The financial contribution from the county is important to the ERC, Trent said.
Yet, Trent said he envisions a more diversified mission for the ERC, stressing the importance of fostering an environment conducive to entrepreneurial efforts combined with the growth of existing job providers.
Tourism, while important, does not produce the type of sustainable high-paying jobs that are crucial to economic vitality, Trent said.
A chart provided by California Labor Market Info and cited by Trent demonstrates that most of the jobs produced by tourism activity pay the lowest wages.
Tourism-related jobs account for the nine lowest paying jobs and include counter attendants, concessions and coffee shop workers, food preparation workers, hotel desk clerks, recreation attendants and restaurant workers.
The highest wage earners in a tourist-related industry were chefs and head cooks, but they did not crack the top 10, which was dominated by health care professionals such as surgeons, psychiatrists, physicians, dentists, etc.
“Tourism is undoubtedly important to this area, but there are other areas we can focus on that create high paying jobs,” Trent said.
Trent said the main priority for attracting entrepreneurs and high wage earners is to address the broadband Internet deficiency in western Nevada County.
Without access to high speed Internet — an indispensable element of modern business — entrepreneurs will continue to overlook the region as a viable place to set up shop.
Progress has been made, Trent said, alluding to the Central Valley Next-Generation Broadband Infrastructure Project, which entailed the installation of 44 miles of fiberoptic cable designed to enhance Internet infrastructure.
“High-speed Internet is essentially like having running water to many businesses,” Trent told The Union earlier this year. “Getting more access to broadband in Nevada County is an essential component to business growth and economic growth.”
Trent said another critical component in attracting potential entrepreneurs and high wage earners is the lifestyle western Nevada County affords.
Access to outdoor recreational amenities, a vibrant arts and culture scene, flourishing restaurants without all the traffic and air quality headaches that accompany urban living in California combine to present an attractive picture to prospective residents.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4239.
“Tourism is undoubtedly important to this area, but there are other areas we can focus on that create high paying jobs.”
Robert Trent, ERC executive director