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ERC gets city grant to attract tech companies

Ivan Natividad
Staff Writer

The Nevada County Economic Resource Council received a $10,000 grant Tuesday night from the city of Grass Valley for its Royal Welcome initiative, a facet of the group’s strategic plan to attract growth-oriented businesses looking to relocate or expand into Grass Valley.

“There’s been a good partnership between the city and the ERC, and between Jon Gregory and Bob Richardson,” Grass Valley Mayor Dan Miller said.

“They both bring a couple of real talents as far as economic development, business attraction, and business retention and expansion. I think the city has to invest in economic development, for us not to invest and not become a partner I think is a violation of what we’re supposed to be doing as a city council.”

As ERC Executive Director, Gregory spoke to city council members Tuesday, highlighting the main objectives of the Royal Welcome initiative.

“The high-tech companies that we are pursuing have a disproportionately positive impact on the economy…”
ERC Executive Director Jon Gregory

“The high-tech companies that we are pursuing have a disproportionately positive impact on the economy, in that the jobs that they employ are typically far higher than the average hourly wage, or salary, than other types of jobs,” he said. “And also because they are selling their product on a national or global scale. When they sell their product somewhere else, that money comes back to Nevada County or Grass Valley.”

Gregory added, “You then have all these employees who now have income to buy local goods and services from local retailers and use local stockbrokers, and go to the local medical groups, and all of the local ripple effects associated with it.”

Gregory said a high-tech industrial camera start-up with technology licensing out of a Southern California university is currently considering Grass Valley as a location, but he would not give any specifics on the company, other than one of its business partners has ties to Nevada County.

“They’re looking to decide whether to locate the business into the Grass Valley area or to Morgan Hill,” Gregory said.

Grass Valley City Council member Lisa Swarthout said that providing the ERC with funds to attract high-tech businesses will reap benefits for the future of the local economy.

“Job creation is probably the single best thing we can do for economic development,” Swarthout said. “Especially in the high-tech industry, it provides high-paying jobs so it goes to people who live here, which creates disposable income. If people work here they spend their money here, which creates sales tax for the city, which is 50 percent of our city’s general fund.”

As a nonprofit corporation, the ERC board is comprised of volunteer members who represent different businesses, organizations and nonprofits in the county. Swarthout, who is also the ERC chairperson, said that voting for the ERC grant was not a conflict of interest for her because she sits on the ERC board as a representative of the city.

“It’s a function of work that we do as members of the city council,” Swarthout said. “Which, in my understanding, does not cause a conflict of interest. If I chaired the domestic violence coalition and they came to the city and asked for money, that would absolutely be a conflict because I would be sitting there as an individual, not as a representative from the city of Grass Valley. I would have to recuse myself.”

Gregory, who is an independent contractor and paid member of the ERC, said the $10,000 grant will go to the time and resources associated with trying to attract a high-tech company to Grass Valley.

“It could be any of a range of things that are essential to help a company find a location and get their business up and running and operational,” Gregory said. “We would help them in getting product to market as soon as possible.”

According to Swarthout, the ERC will also receive a similar type of grant from Truckee, and is going into the final year of a three-year contract with Nevada County, which funds the ERC to the tune of $125,000 annually.

“Most municipalities have economic development people on their staff that do the same thing that Jon Gregory does,” Swarthout said.

“We support this type of activity because we can’t afford to have a full-time economic development person on our staff. It’s a very small price to pay for what we get back from it.”

For Gregory, the city’s grant contributes not only to the Royal Welcome initiative, but to the group as a whole.

“The ERC has a strategic plan to grow the local economic pie,” Gregory said. “And these grants and funding we get are all pieces of the puzzle that will help us achieve our goal of growing the local economy and bringing high tech companies into the area.”

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email inatividad@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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