Sierra Commons founder to lead ERC |

Sierra Commons founder to lead ERC

Robert Trent
John Hart | The Union

After an extensive search, the Nevada County Economic Resource Council has contracted with a new executive director, a committee member said.

Robert Trent, founder of the business incubation organization Sierra Commons, was announced as the executive director during the nonprofit’s Thursday regular meeting.

“After an exhaustive search, we offered the position to Robert Trent,” said Lisa Swarthout, a Grass Valley councilwoman, who sits on the ERC’s executive committee. “We feel Robert is very qualified to take over the role of executive director, and we look forward to working with him and having him continue the great work started under (former director) Jon Blinder.”

Trent expressed enthusiasm over the opportunities that come with the new position.

“It feels fantastic, wonderful,” Trent said. “I think it’s a validation of the work I’ve been doing with the Sierra Commons for the past three and a half years and in Nevada County for the past 15 years or so.”

Swarthout said Trent will be expected to build consensus among disparate county entities, such as the various community chambers of commerce and other business-oriented organizations.

Trent said he is up to the challenge.

“That’s why I was hired,” he said. “I have worked with a lot of groups and forged many strong relationships. I also look forward to working to get to know other organizations.”

A priority of Trent’s new stint, which is currently slated to run until June 30, will be to meet or exceed the requirements of the $120,000 contract between the ERC and Nevada County, which comes with a number of stipulations and performance standards.

“It’s a high priority,” Trent said. “I need to get up to speed.”

Swarthout said the ERC has taken significant steps forward on attracting tourism to the region.

“We’re making terrific progress,” Swarthout said, adding that Sunset Magazine is set to do a story on the Highway 49 corridor, and a gaggle of San Francisco-based travel writers are set to descend on western Nevada County in March.

Trent also believes serving as a liaison to prospective businesses is a vital function of the ERC.

“We need to be a clearing house of information,” he said. “A big role will be to direct people to the experts in the area capable of dealing with specific issues.”

Trent is encouraged by signs in the local economy, such as store and restaurant openings and housing prices slowly crawling upward.

“I think the economy is slowly improving, and I hope we keep on that path of slow but steady growth,” Trent said. “But we also have to prepare if it doesn’t go that way. It’s a volatile economy. So it’s a situation where you hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”

The ERC has been without a leader since late September, when the executive committee accepted the resignation of Jon Blinder.

While the board expressed satisfaction with Blinder’s performance, the real estate agent and public figure was arrested in September and charged with six felonies for his alleged role in a real estate fraud operation. Blinder continues to profess his innocence.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda email or call 530-477-4239.

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