Nevada County pulls out of regional economic group |

Nevada County pulls out of regional economic group

After 42 years of membership, Nevada County will withdraw from SEDCorp, a regional economic group that officials say is not providing much in the way of benefits to county residents.

“We didn’t feel we were getting a lot of value,” said Supervisor Chair Ed Scofield, after the county board on Tuesday approved the withdrawal effective July 1. “It’s just kind of run its course.”

Scofield said this will allow the county to focus on the local Economic Resource Council as its key business-related engine, saving the $3,700 annually the county was paying to belong to SEDCorp. Nevada County contributes $125,000 annually to ERC.

“With the exception of the lending function, ERC’s mission and activities overlap substantially with those of SEDCorp,” Scofield said in a March 24 memo. “Since this board has expressed its intent to extend its contract with ERC for another five years, it makes budgetary sense to focus our limited resources on only one of these two entities.”

Randy Wagner, CEO of Auburn-based SEDCorp, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Wagner was active during the past year in helping rural Nevada County neighborhoods look at high-speed Internet options.

On Tuesday, the comments from Scofield, who serves on both the SEDCorp and ERC board of directors, were echoed by Grass Valley City Councilman Howard Levine, current president of the SEDCorp board.

“There’s a lot of duplication with ERC,” Levine said. “Only one Nevada County resident has used the SEDCorp loan program.”

Both Scofield and Levine said they were not being critical of Wagner, who “worked diligently to maintain SEDCorp’s relevancy,” Levine said.

“After being with SEDCorp for more than 40 years, the relevancy may just not be viable any more,” Levine added.

Supervisor Nate Beason said he recalled only three high-risk loans being made — all to Sierra County residents — when he served on the SEDCorp board.

“There was one where the collateral was a prosthetic limb, one where the collateral was a horse and the other collateral was a truck that quit running,” Beason said.

For Beason, it was “not just a money issue — it was a time issue,” he said, referring to the SEDCorp board meetings in Auburn that often lasted two or three hours but accomplished little. “I thought we should get out of it then, and now, Ed (Scofield) has confirmed it.”

The history of SEDCorp began in 1973, when Nevada, El Dorado, Placer and Sierra counties formed a Joint Powers Authority called Sierra Planning Organization, which created a special committee called Sierra Economic Development District, or SEDD.

In August 2007, the name was changed to SEDCorp, which stands for Sierra Economic Development Corporation, a private nonprofit organization devoted to supporting economic development in the rural counties north and east of Sacramento.

Scofield said Nevada County had been paying up to $16,000 annually to belong to the group. But three years ago, after the organization expanded to include larger cities such as Citrus Heights, the county’s contribution was lowered to $3,700, he said.

Around the same time, then-Executive Director Brent Smith left the group. He was later replaced by Wagner.

“I concur with this decision (to withdraw),” said Nevada County CEO Rick Haffey. “The operation has been so small that it hasn’t had much impact.

“SEDCorp has been trying to find a reason to exist,” he added. “I don’t think it’s a key to our operation.”

To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email or call 530-477-4239.

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