Measure E: Good for Nevada County |

Measure E: Good for Nevada County

I’m pretty certain that Nevada County will never be home to the NCAA basketball champions. The chances that a four-year college will ever be built in Nevada County are about the same as the chances that Wal-Mart will move its corporate headquarters to downtown Nevada City.

We do, however, have the opportunity to pursue higher education by way of our quality Sierra College Nevada County Campus. And since it serves as our only direct community access to college courses, we must be ready to consider and support well-reasoned efforts to enhance Sierra College.

Voters have the opportunity to invest in our future on March 2. Ballot Measure E will seek approval for a $394 million bond to be repaid with $19 per $100,000 assessed valuation on local real estate.

Bond proceeds will be used to address critical needs throughout the Sierra College system. Nevada County residents can look forward to a doubling of the campus’ student capacity, and the addition of a new nursing lab, public safety training center, upgraded computer technology and classroom remodeling to enhance the flexibility of the college’s existing space.

The college plans to work closely with local employers to identify anticipated workforce skill needs, and to structure curricula that will provide our companies with trained entry-level workers and continuing education opportunities for existing workers.

An educated workforce is absolutely critical to a community’s ongoing economic health. When we attempt to determine why employers choose to locate or remain in a given community, we can construct a list of factors that would include the cost of doing business, local and state tax burden, quality of life, access to transportation and to markets, regulatory climate and many more.

Without question, however, the No. 1 factor related to business location is access to talent, a concentration of experienced and skilled labor appropriate to the needs of employers. While we are fortunate to have a very talented workforce in Nevada County today, there will always be a need for training and education resources that provide opportunities for initial learning, as well as skill upgrades.

It is not overstating the issue to suggest that without an eye to securing skilled talent for local employers now and in the future, the very economic stability of our community will erode rather quickly. Competition in the global economy is fierce and increasing, and employers find it more and more difficult to maintain any edge. Without knowledgeable, trained workers as a minimum entree to business, an employer cannot hope to be successful.

Let’s face facts. Nevada County has been fortunate up to this point. Our history includes having been insulated from the impacts of the Great Depression due to the area’s innovation in mining technology. The area was also incredibly fortunate to experience a transition to more of a technology-based economy right when our resource-based mining and logging activity went into decline. That transition was not attributable to any grand economic principle, but more to the fact that Charles Litton Sr. chose to locate his business here, and invited his friend, Dr. Douglas Hare of Connecticut, to join him in Nevada County. Hare’s fledgling efforts eventually led to the rise of Grass Valley Group.

More recently, we have seen a continuing resilience that has produced an overall mix of quality employers that includes a world-class cluster of broadcast equipment companies, innovative software development companies, medical manufacturers, an extensive list of health care specialties, a growing array of agricultural enterprises and a surprising number of truly innovative individuals with strong entrepreneurial tendencies.

Wisdom would dictate that we not look to continued success due to circumstance, or dependence on quality-of-life factors. To overlook responsible planning and action in hopes of somehow having a Litton/Hare connection happen again would be the height of complacency and foolishness. We must take charge and do whatever we can to assure the future well-being of Nevada County by providing the best educated workforce that we are able to produce.

Measure E provides us with one such opportunity, and to reject this opportunity is to reject a chance to enhance the future of this community for ourselves, our children and grandchildren.

Whether working, retired or a student, you have an important stake in the well-being of our community and its assets. Your vote for Measure E this March 2 will prove to be an investment not only in the college’s future, but in your own as well.


Larry Burkhardt is president and CEO of the Economic Resource Council.

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