Trade official touts county’s prospects |

Trade official touts county’s prospects

John HartLon Hatamiya, secretary of the California Technology, Trade & Commerce Agency, says the state economy is recovering.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

While relocation of businesses to Nevada County slowed along with the state’s economy, a state trade official said Tuesday the county will benefit from an upturn in the economy, and will continue to attract businesses.

Overall, the county has weathered the economic slowdown relatively well, with an unemployment rate below the state average. With access to Sierra College, a diversified economic base, a flexible and well-trained work force, and help from the Internet to level the playing field, Nevada County stands to benefit as the economy improves, said Lon Hatamiya, secretary of the California Technology, Trade & Commerce Agency.

Hatamiya said the state’s economy has already started to pick up. He bases that appraisal on new job creation, a stabilization in the stock market, and an increase in exports last quarter from a year ago.

“Things are starting to pick back up,” said Hatamiya.

Hatamiya visited The Union to talk about the state’s economy and the budget. It is one of seven rural newspapers he has visited in the past six months.

Hatamiya said he’s visited the papers to get factual information out to rural communities, not to campaign for Gov. Gray Davis, who appointed him to his position.

He said there has been a tremendous amount of job creation in the last four years, despite the current economic downturn, creating a million new jobs.

Since he was appointed by Davis in 1999, Hatamiya has overseen an agency that has doled out two Rural E-commerce Program grants to the Nevada County Economic Resource Council to develop business over the Internet.

The most recent grant for $90,000 to the ERC will be used to set up an Internet portal that will map out the area, giving information on available commercial space, sewer access and other local information for prospective employers. The Internet portal is expected to become operational next year.

Hatamiya said the Internet helps level the playing field for rural areas like Nevada County.

Another plus for this area is a nucleus of local firms in some of the up-and-coming sectors of the state’s economy – telecommunications, biotechnology, biomedical devices and environmental technology.

“Those are some of the areas that we think are going to be the stronger growth areas over the next five years, next 10 years, and actually we’re seeing some of those types of companies develop in Nevada County as well,” said Hatamiya.

But the stream of companies that moved here from pricier, Bay Area digs has slowed to a trickle this year.

Business relocation activity has been slow this year as companies hunker down and are reluctant to move, said Larry Burkhardt, the ERC’s president and chief executive officer.

This year, the ERC has he lped one company move here, DayStar Technologies of Colorado, and is working with two more prospects, said Burkhardt.

From 1999 to 2000, the ERC helped 10 companies relocate here from the Bay Area, adding 98 new jobs to the local economy.

Burkhardt believes companies will continue to move here. It’s just a matter of finding them.

“We have to find out who they are, where they are, (and) expose them to the benefits of a Nevada County location,” said Burkhardt.

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