Our county’s vexing issue: How to grow? | TheUnion.com

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Our county’s vexing issue: How to grow?

The Union’s front page Feb. 9 featured an article on the general plan’s 150,000 population estimate for Nevada County vs. 96,000 today. That’s a huge amount of growth, though our area’s trends and attractiveness make it plausible.

Left unanswered is the nature of that population growth:

Will we be a retirement community?

What kinds of jobs can we reasonably expect to create locally?

How do we avoid losing the unique community character and balance which we cherish?

Today’s article follows up on a Jan. 27 The Union article which introduced our group (four members of this year’s Nevada County Community Leadership Institute) and provided background information on economic development in Nevada County. Our intent is to address the topic of economic development through a series of articles over several months in which we present related facts, solicit public viewpoints and summarize community-based thoughts.

Our initial question was “What kind of economy do we want?” To that question, we received a wide range of responses which, with only two exceptions, were overwhelmingly supportive of the importance of good jobs in our community’s future. Following is a representative sampling of the responses:

Nevada County “is a place to come to die.” Ouch, although the overall response addressed the need to broaden beyond being a retirement area.

“If we don’t do something about this situation we may find that our community becomes nothing more than a bedroom community for commuters and a home for retirees”. Note: Approximately 27 percent of working Nevada County residents now commute out of Nevada County for work. The median age in Nevada County is already 43, while the California median age is 33.

“Life is going to get a lot worse here for all of us except the developers, and even they could get eaten up by the big out-of-town money panting at the door.”

“Growth tends to be developer driven … There is almost no job creation in any of the developer models and the few jobs that are created are primarily service jobs, which are already difficult to fill in this community.”

“I grew up in Grass Valley … I left, believing the only way I would be able to return to Grass Valley would be to retire there … Until we get over the fear that having a few more employers in the area will ruin it, those who graduated from Nevada Union and Bear River will keep leaving western Nevada County. It will become a bedroom community where everyone commutes to work, no one really knows their neighbors, and where only the rich can afford to live.”

“I don’t believe that choking the local economy to keep growth down is in anyone’s best interest.”

“Job development … should be the primary goal of the local communities.”

Let the debate continue.

We invite further input to the initial question but now pose the following questions to move the discussion along.

What should we do regarding economic development?

Should we take a “hands-off” approach and just let things happen? What would the results be?

Or should we take a proactive approach? Is there sufficient public support for an overall, coordinated economic development effort for our local economy? What kinds of businesses and jobs should be targeted?

These are the questions we pose to you for our second phase of input. We hope to hear from you, the citizens of Nevada County. Send your comments to either of the following addresses:

Mail: PO Box 1570, Nevada City, CA 95959

E-mail: econdevl@macol.net

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Chris Crain, Patty Parks, Carol Wong and Rose Asquith are residents of Nevada County and participants in this year’s Nevada County Community Leadership Institute.