Business, economy in Truckee: A Q-and-A with Steve Frisch, Sierra Business Council
TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212;-The Sierra Sun recently conducted an interview with Steve Frisch, president of the Sierra Business Council, a member-based organization of more than 700 individuals and businesses committed to stimulating the economy and protecting the environment in the Sierra Nevada region.
The group has focused on projects dealing with community improvement, economic improvement and healthy ecosystems since it was established in 1994. Frisch answered seven questions about the regionand#8217;s economy; below are some of his responses:
Sierra Sun: What is the SBCand#8217;s view on the Truckeeand#8217;s new loan program for businesses in the redevelopment area, and do you believe it will provide a significant stimulus for new business growth and business expansion?
Steve Frisch: SBC supports the redevelopment agencyand#8217;s loan program as a short-term stimulus for local businesses. We believe that funding should go to locally owned businesses within or seeking to locate within the redevelopment area. It is our understanding that the funds are limited to uses like leasehold and facade improvement, in other words, uses that would have been allowed under the redevelopment agency purposes already. There must be a transparent mechanism to ensure that redevelopment funds are secured. This action will provide some stopgap economic stimulus. Ultimately, the town should promote the creation of a long-term source of local capital, managed by local banks, funded by a portion of local government and special district reserve funds.
Sun: What are some of the specific economic challenges facing Truckee today and what is the SBC doing to counter them?
Frisch: The single greatest threat to our local economy is lack of economic diversity. In an economy, diversity creates resilience, and resilience increases your ability to adapt and thrive in new conditions. Dependence on traditional sectors, such as construction, real estate and industrial scale tourism, lead to an unhealthy boom and bust cycle in our local economy, and leaves us poorly prepared to weather national business cycles. These sectors have an important place, but they cannot be the only game in town. Lack of diversity exacerbates our next most difficult challenge, the decline of the middle class, as more workers are either haves or have nots.
SBC is focusing attention on developing new opportunities, including energy efficiency, which saves people money and creates new trades; watershed restoration, which improves the environment and creates work for underemployed workers; biomass utilization, which helps reduce the risk of wildfire and generates renewable energy; and supporting statewide strategies to expand innovation based businesses.
Americaand#8217;s next generation of economic competitiveness will come from embracing entrepreneurship and linking our intellectual capital, our power to innovate, to the next generation of social, economic and environmental problems. We can build a new economy based on doing good and doing well at the same time.
Sun: On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate Truckeeand#8217;s economic health compared to past years? Why?
Frisch: Clearly Truckeeand#8217;s economy is still not in good shape three years and#8220;after the fall.and#8221; Underemployment is a continuing and nagging problem. With a high level of service sector employees, if we do not find ways to increase wages, and create meaningful benefits, we will not make real progress. We have seen tough times before, and we will weather this storm. The question really is whether we will learn the lesson from this bust, reduce dependence upon single sectors, and diversify.
Sun: Where do you see Truckee in the way of tourism-based business in the next 5 or 10 years?
Frisch: Travel and tourism is shifting to a new business model. Outdoor recreation will remain incredibly important, but people are seeking more authentic experiences like outdoor education, local arts, local foods, and exposure to historic and cultural assets. Businesses that link to this trend by promoting local assets, marketing local goods and services, providing interpretive and educational experience, will thrive. Truckee is the gateway to a remarkable region including Lake Tahoe, the Little Truckee River, Castle Peak Wilderness, Donner Summit and Sierra Valley. We are a National Recreation Area without the designation. We can and should increase tourism to the region by spreading the visitors out to a broader region.
Sun: Where do you see Truckee in the way of businesses depending on local clientele for the majority of revenues in the next 5 or 10 years?
Frisch: Truckee could become a center for new businesses based on selling our ideas, intellectual capital, and high value services. Clear Capital, a business that could be located anywhere but choose here, is a great example of the art of the possible. With the advent of high-speed communications, easy access to air travel and access to the Bay area economy, Truckee could be a Mecca for creative industries, consulting, and entrepreneurial enterprises. We need to get off the idea that we are just a service economy for the leisure class; we need to develop our own indigenous creative economy.
Sun: Looking at employment, what would be the most significant way to immediately boost job growth in Truckee in the short term? In the long term?
Frisch: We should do what we can in the short term, but the reality is that national and state trends are going to be way more important than anything we can do right now. We should focus on a long-term economic development strategy that boosts new business development, creates local sources of investment capital, creates an environment where entrepreneurs will want to locate and thrive and get the heck out of the way.
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