Nevada County Economic Resource Council holds summit | TheUnion.com

Nevada County Economic Resource Council holds summit

The Nevada County Economic Resource Council met Wednesday at Gold Miner's Inn for its annual summit.

The keynote speaker was David Roland-Holst, a professor of economics at UC Berkeley, discussing "Prospecting for Growth in the Gold Country."

Roland-Holst noted housing affordability is a major concern for those working and living in Nevada County, with lack of choice being both responsible for and a product of high ownership.

According to Roland-Holst, 28 percent of Nevada County residents are renters. The low rental rate means there are a large number of potential residents who are being overcrowded by the lack of affordable housing. The number of renters in Nevada County lies at roughly half the state average.

"Housing is not that affordable for the median worker," Roland-Holst said.

Roland-Holst referred to the popular concept of "not in my backyard." This ideology encompasses the belief the county's exclusion of newcomers improves living standards, which Roland-Holst said is a common fallacy.

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"Exclusion doesn't work at a common level," he said.

Cannabis was also brought up during the presentation, with Roland-Holst suggesting the regulation of cannabis offers businesses additional opportunities.

"Denial isn't a river in Africa," he said. "The bottom line is, whether you like it or not, there is the potential for the county to get in front of this thing. (Denial) is not going to help.

"The question is, how do you come to terms with it? Economically it's obvious: you've got to make sure that this sector pays its way, that you take full advantage of it as an entrepreneurial activity, and just don't let it slip away if it has economic potential."

Technology was also a big part of Roland-Holst's presentation. He said Nevada County is in a position to reap the benefits of technology becoming more mobile, making our rural region more ably connected to the latest in developments.

"Free internet is an entitlement," he added. "Internet access is the new drinking water."

"Nevada County needs to be proactive and market itself as a second-tier tech hub," he said. "The information infrastructure is the most essential."

Acknowledging the region has been known as a popular tourist destination, Roland-Holst emphasized businesses could leverage the county resources to their gain, and thus increase visitor value. He added the area could be used by corporations as a destination for retreats, conferences, and incentives. His recommended message to those living outside the area: you want to live here.

Roland-Holst concluded with his suggestion that local retail taxes are relatively low and should be raised in order to lay the foundation for a more sustainable economic future.

"The top one percent of taxpayers pay almost half the state income tax," he said. "That is a very thin edge to balance on."

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com or 530-477-4231.