County residents need better jobs than serving tourists
The report that overall bed tax collections are soft reminds us that while tourism is important, economic diversification and job creation must continue to be a county goal.
Bed-tax collections in western Nevada County during 2001 were down from 2000, the first year in some time that this tourism health indicator was down. Considering the nationwide economic malaise compounded by the horror of Sept. 11, we shouldn’t be surprised. Our informal travel behavior poll indicates that locals are fairly typical; we travel less when times and jobs are uncertain. Nevertheless, there is general agreement that tourism is good for us. Visitors spend money on all kinds of things but don’t demand classroom space or land for housing. Local retailers depend heavily on the tourist dollar and have done an excellent job of creating the kind of unique shopping necessary to attract then.
The jobs created by tourism pay less than other types of jobs. Many of them are part time jobs in lodging, retail, and restaurant businesses. Those business are highly competitive and usually can’t afford to pay high wages while keeping prices low enough to ring the register.
These are still important jobs that fit perfectly for the lives of many of us. But manufacturing jobs pay more than double the annual salary of retail jobs. Construction jobs pay 60 percent more. Financial industry jobs pay 50 percent more.
We cannot forget that our hometown neighbors didn’t sell their expensive Somewhere Else house in order to afford living here. Many of us are trying to stake a claim to the good life here and are sacrificing something in order to stay in the county. Many of us are sad to see our children leave for college with little hope of returning to a well-paying job in their hometown.
Well-paying jobs are created by existing and new businesses when communities understand the importance of these jobs and provide conditions for the housing appropriate to the income levels of the jobs.
Tourism is important, but isn’t the solid foundation we need to maintain a successful community.
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