Gregory: To be or not to be … business friendly
August 11, 2014
The Nevada County Economic Resource Council's vision statement is very clear: turn Nevada County into the most economically competitive rural county in the U.S. in five years.
The best way to gauge whether it has, is simple: are more of your friends, family and neighbors employed in permanent, quality jobs? Are office and manufacturing facilities filled?
Do more local newspaper headlines, community blogs, and radio news broadcasts feature stories associated with business success?
Why is the topic of becoming more economically competitive so important? Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup since 1988 and author of the book "The Coming Jobs War," said in a recent interview: "Gallup has discovered that having a good job is now the great global dream; it's the number one social value for everyone … a good job is more important than having a family, more compelling than democracy and freedom, religion, peace and so on. Those are all very important but they are now subordinate to the almighty good job. … Stimulating job growth is the new currency of all leaders because if you don't deliver on it you will experience instability, brain drain, sometimes revolution – all of the worst outcomes of failed leadership."
Clifton continues "Creating good jobs is tough, and many leaders are doing things wrong. They're undercutting entrepreneurs instead of cultivating them."
We are lucky in that many of the counties and cities we are competing against – both inside and outside of California – do not have the proper leadership to compete for jobs. They continue to do economic development the same old way; primarily as a community development function largely based on chasing dollars to ensure next year's organizational budget is balanced, and current jobs within the organization retained, with little regard to achieving meaningful economic impact and business growth.
However, there are dozens of communities across the U.S. poised for success. They represent "the major leagues" and our true competition. We must examine how we stack up against these places, making any necessary improvements in our efforts to grow the economy.
This will require a sustained sense of urgency among policymakers, senior government staff, business and high-tech leaders, and the local media, all of whom play a critical role in achieving economic success.
Texas is often used as the barometer for measuring a business friendly environment. Let's quickly examine two other real-world examples closer to home.
In one example, the Governor of Nevada is personally calling the founders of a Truckee-based tech company enticing them to relocate across state lines, and offering a package of resources should they choose to do so. And just last week Chico-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Company opened its new East Coast brewery in Asheville, N.C., which successfully competed against more than 200 U.S. communities in vying for the new $108-million brewery and 100 jobs being created.
Asheville has strategically positioned itself as "Hops City" and is aggressively building one of, if not the leading microbrewery industry clusters in the U.S. with a combination of local resources that make it an attractive business location.
At the ERC, we have determined that growing the video technology industry is where a significant part of our economic development efforts should be focused, and we are in the early stages of formulating the strategies to take a strong position on creating jobs within this fast-growing global industry that is being redefined as Digital Media. Establishing a business friendly reputation will be paramount as company executives decide where to locate their companies.
This decision is largely subjective. Part of the decision relates to business factors, while others relate to lifestyle characteristics viewed in comparison with competing communities. Examples include: (1) a blend of available turn-key sites and office or industrial facilities at various sizes priced appropriately during a business ramp-up stage; (2) high-speed Internet availability both on site at the business location, as well as in outlying areas where employees often work remotely; (3) local governments that work proactively with business owners or their site location teams to accelerate permit and other regularly approvals; (4) when potentially costly public improvements are required on land and building development projects, local governments that proactively pursue any and all available resources to minimize the financial impact on the business; (5) a current (and future) workforce capable of fulfilling the vital technical (often engineering), sales and/or executive management requirements of growth companies, (6) a stakeholder community at-large (ERC, local governments, businesses leaders) that pursues innovative ways to provide a "sweetener" to attract or retain companies and often provides the competitive edge that serves as the final determinant of a business location, and (7) important lifestyle considerations, i.e., safe and clean communities, quality schools, abundant cultural and recreational opportunities, are in place that are family-friendly.
Positively addressing each of these seven key hot points can put Nevada County "over the top" — the perception that local leaders truly care about supporting existing and attracting new businesses can send a compelling, positive message.
Are we going to settle for being a cellar dweller in Nevada County, or are we going to compete for the jobs and economic competitiveness prize? The outcomes of both private and public discourse on this topic over the next 12 months will largely determine our fate. I'm interested in your input on this topic.
Please send your thoughts to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jon Gregory is the executive director of Nevada County Economic Resource Council. Contact him at email@example.com.