For ERC, success means expanding its scope
After four months at the helm of Nevada County’s foremost nonprofit organization dedicated to economic development, Robert Trent said the Nevada County Economic Resource Council can not only fulfill its core mission but expand it.
“We have achieved great success so far in a lot of areas,” Trent said in a recent interview.
Trent replaced former ERC Executive Director Jon Blinder during a tumultuous time, as Blinder was under investigation for defrauding real estate investors (charges have since been dropped), and the organization was tasked with delivering measurable achievement on a $120,000 contract from Nevada County.
Last August, the ERC was awarded a lump sum of $120,000 with the mandate to increase tourism to Nevada County with the caveat that the organization must meet quarterly benchmarks and lead a collaborative effort to bring more tourists.
“I think people involved with tourism have been collaborating to a certain extent,” Trent said. “I think each entity is working on their piece of the puzzle to create a cohesive tourism picture, but it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Tourism is deemed such an important component in improving the local economic picture because it essentially imports cash from other jurisdictions, Trent said.
Also, people who are exposed to the unique quality of life in the Sierra foothills sometimes decide to move to the environs, bringing their skills, income and network with them, he said.
GoNevadaCounty.com is a large part of how the ERC plans to attract tourists to the area, and Trent said recent analytics regarding web traffic show more and more people — most of whom are from Sacramento, Reno and the Bay Area — are at least seeing what Nevada County has to offer.
While much of the public scrutiny has concentrated on the tourism contract with the county, the ERC has many facets to its operation, Trent said.
Another way to “import cash” is by attracting businesses that establish operations in Nevada County and export their products or services elsewhere.
The ERC has sought to become a resource for businesses contemplating a move to the Sierra foothills region, helping with business permitting and location advice, while advocating for vital infrastructure improvements.
Chief among the needed improvements, Trent said, is a viable Internet network. Proximity the to Silicon Valley, an attractive quality of life and plenty of outdoor recreation options mean the area could serve as an ideal arena for Internet-based start-ups.
However, the current lack of high-speed Internet remains a serious impediment, but Trent is encouraged by recent efforts to install a county-wide fiber optic cable network aimed at attacking the problem.
Trent also has a personal passion project, as he believes the opportunity to promote and enhance the agriculturally oriented operations in western Nevada County is ripe.
“It’s not exactly going back to the historical agricultural roots but is more about innovation,” Trent said. “There is a lot of youthful energy, new ideas gaining a lot of traction. It is a significant portion of our economy, and it deserves more focus.”
Many agricultural products such as herbs, soap and produce are being crafted locally, and the exports of those products strengthen the local economy, Trent said.
“As farmers markets gain popularity throughout Northern California, you could see the development of high-end specialty foods,” Trent said.
The ERC needs to be nimble in how it thinks about economic development, and while concentrating on the enhancement of traditional economic clusters such as television and Internet technology and tourism, it needs to look toward other emerging sectors of the local economy that could attract investment and visitors, Trent said.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4239.
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