Nevada County taps Sierra Business Council for development initiatives |

Nevada County taps Sierra Business Council for development initiatives

John Orona
Staff Writer

For the first time in five years Nevada County is changing the way it does the business of economic development.

The county board of supervisors approved a contract with the Sierra Business Council taking effect this month that would have them take over economic development initiatives from the Economic Resource Council, which provided that service to the county for the last half decade.

According to resource council Chair Lisa Swarthout, the organization supported and encouraged SBC’s bid for the one-year, $165,000 contract since it was not confident in delivering the business consulting and long-term economic study required in the agreement.

The Sierra Business Council’s proposal included continuing a partnership with the ERC, which the two parties will outline in an memorandum of understanding. The ERC previously contracted with the business council for consultation services through its Sierra Small Business Development Center program.

“We just flipped the role of the ERC and SBC with this contract and it’ll be exciting to see how that dynamic works out for our county.”Dan Miller, Nevada County supervisor

“We really look forward to the partnership with SBC,” Swarthout said. “We believe we can provide the necessary resources in the western part of the county to make this really successful, but leveraging all they offer from their staff and their leadership is really important for the overall promotion of economic development in the whole county.”

According to Swarthout, the ERC has not had a paid executive director in several years and has had to increasingly rely on part-time and volunteer staff. Now the ERC will focus on managing workforce development at its tech center, working with manufacturers, and creating a tourism business improvement district.

“The ERC is not going away just because this contract was awarded to another organization, we’re just going to be looking to focus our efforts to work on those three items moving forward,” Swarthout said.

Other services the SBC will provide include warm hand-off services with the county’s community development agency, implementing its Last Mile Grant program, and working on steps toward a regional economic development plan.

Developing businesses will be of particular focus, after the ERC failed to deliver on that front, according to Dan Miller, ERC board alternate and Nevada County supervisor.

“I think the business recruitment has been a failed function of the ERC; everyone who has been involved with ERC is going to admit that,” Miller said. “We just flipped the role of the ERC and SBC with this contract and it’ll be exciting to see how that dynamic works out for our county.”

According to SBC Vice President of Business Innovation Kristin York, the organization will focus on “economic gardening” to build business opportunities, which entails moves like supporting local young entrepreneurs and creating spaces for people already connected with the area to move or start their businesses here. She said focusing on a niche of mid-level companies with 20-50 employees, rather than larger corporations, would make a significant local economic impact.

“We’re not Silicon Valley, we’re never going to be Silicon Valley,” York said. “In traditional economic development, we think about business attraction and business retention. Economic gardening is really about looking within your community, recognizing your assets and investing there.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email or call 530-477-4229.

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