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Business council releases annual wealth index

Staff Reports

Truckee-based Sierra Business Council, an association of more than 500 businesses from throughout the Sierra Nevada, released its 1999-2000 Sierra Nevada Wealth Index this week.

The index is a comprehensive assessment of the social, natural and financial “capital” characteristics of the region’s economy.

Robert C. Haydon, president and CEO of Placer Sierra Bank and chairman of the Sierra Nevada Wealth Index Advisory Committee, explained that SBC developed the index to help business leaders and policy makers understand and track the assets that sustain the Sierra Nevada.

“Only by monitoring trends in our social, natural and financial capital, and taking full account of those trends in our investment decisions, will we be able to build the wealth of our communities for ourselves and our descendants,” said Haydon.

“The Sierra Nevada’s prosperity depends on more than just financial capital,” added SBC Chairman Janice Forbes, publisher of Sierra Heritage Magazine and a fifth generation Sierra Nevada resident. “Our exceptionally high social and natural capital are the magnets holding and attracting financial capital to our region. Environmental quality, attractive towns, and good schools are no longer simply nice amenities; they are essential elements for business retention and investment.”

The 1999-2000 Sierra Nevada Wealth Index is a refinement of the first edition published in 1996. The 1999-2000 index includes 45 indicators, from high school student performance on the SAT and housing affordability, to air and water quality, business growth, and tourist spending. It also includes detailed data and key findings for each of the 12 counties in the region.

Among the report’s findings:

n The Sierra Nevada has had the third fastest growing population of any region in California since 1990. After tripling to 664,000 between 1970 and 1998, the region’s population is projected to surpass one million by 2020.

n Rapid improvements in communications and transportation have transformed the region’s economic prospects. This reality is reflected clearly in such indicators as increasing economic diversity, rising personal incomes, declining unemployment, and new heights of scholastic achievement.

n The technological and demographic changes that have driven the Sierra Nevada’s expanding prosperity have not come without costs: rapid loss of farmland, surprisingly high levels of water and air pollution, declining biodiversity and unsightly sprawl.

This diminishment of natural capital, if it continues, will ultimately drive financial capital from the region to places with effective long-term plans to safeguard their natural capital as population increases.

– The Sierra Nevada’s expanding prosperity has not reached everyone or everywhere. In some counties, the growing number of children in poverty, declining personal incomes, low literacy rates, and outdated communications infrastructure show that people and communities are being left behind. That this should be so at the end of the 20th century, when much of California has been prospering as never before, only reinforces the need to invest in social capital so as to build regional wealth.

“This is information we must have to ensure our region’s lasting prosperity,” noted Haydon. “As we look forward, we must put behind us forever the notion that our economy functions in a vacuum, isolated from society and the natural world. Our wealth is our total capital and our investment strategies must reflect this reality.”

The Sierra Business Council is an association of businesses working to secure the economic and environmental health of the Sierra Nevada for this and for future generations. Founded in 1994, the Council is led by a Board of Directors of business leaders representing a spectrum of large and small enterprises from throughout the region. The Board of Directors oversees the Council’s work which includes research, policy analysis, public education, and leadership development.

Copies of the 1999-2000 Sierra Nevada Wealth Index can be purchased for $25 plus tax and shipping. To order a copy, call the SBC office in Truckee at (530) 582-4800.


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