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County told now is time to grow business

The current downswing in the economy probably will last the rest of the year, and now is the time for Nevada County to attract business, according to a San Francisco consultant.

At a joint meeting Friday of the Nevada County supervisors and the city councils of Truckee, Grass Valley and Nevada City, Libby Seifel, of Seifel Consulting Inc., said the county needs “a shift of focus” away from just attracting tourism. The county needs to attract new firms and expand what business it has, Seifel said at the meeting to discuss economic development in the county.

Seifel authored a 2007 report for the county called “Western Nevada County Economic Development Strategy.” Its recommendation to shift strategies dismayed many local officials, who in January said tourism should remain an important segment of the county’s economy.



But on Friday, Seifel stuck by her earlier advice, saying the county needs to aid recruitment of high-tech, high-paying businesses with a one-stop center of information, “a central database or Web site where people attracted to this county can go,” Seifel said.

In addition, the county should consider building 100 acres of ready-to-go business park to attract and keep firms, Seifel said.




“If you can show developers they can get infrastructure, they will pay,” she added.

“You also need opportunities throughout the county,” Seifel said, referring to Truckee and south Nevada County. “It has to happen within a reasonable time frame.”

But in the past two years, large developers in the Grass Valley area had sought to reduce the amount of acreage devoted to commercial and industrial space required for their properties, preferring to expand housing – though they later reduced their housing requests as real estate prices plunged. Land developers could sell houses more quickly than they could sell commercial and industrial space, area building experts have said.

The only new commercial area in the western county is the Nevada City Tech Center in the Seven Hills district; Grass Valley’s Whispering Pines business area is nearly built out, a process that has taken more than 25 years.

Someone needs to take the lead in spurring economic growth, basing that effort on the area’s cultural amenities and beauty, Seifel said.

“I believe we are the committee and agency you’re talking about,” said Gil Mathew, of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council.

Supervisors and council members did not take a vote to make the ERC the hub of an economic plan, but said they would discuss the situation at their next quarterly meeting.

Nevada City Mayor Sally Harris said she would get the discussions rolling at an upcoming meeting of the mayors and supervisors chairman Ted Owens.

Citizens Bank president Judy Hess and The Union publisher Jeff Ackerman also have offered to host a workshop to get an economic plan rolling, Harris said.

“You have to take a personal stake in it to make it happen,” Seifel said. “You need a set of actions with responsible people” to carry them out.

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To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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