Can Nevada County be marketed as a whole? | SierraSun.com

Can Nevada County be marketed as a whole?

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun
File photo courtesy Truckee River PhotosRafters take on whitewater on the Truckee River in eastern Nevada County. The Nevada County Board of Supervisors wants to market the region as a whole to tourists.
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NEVADA COUNTY ” Nevada County’s supervisors are looking for new ways to promote and coordinate tourism from Nevada City and Grass Valley in the west to Truckee in the east.

The board discussed a proposal from supervisors Ted Owens and Hank Weston this week that would reduce county funding for area chambers of commerce, opening the funding up to other organizations vested in tourism. The proposal also called for creating a Convention and Visitors Authority and a new visitor website.

“In these hard economic times, we felt we needed to do the best we could to help our businesses,” said Weston, who represents the western-most reaches of the county. “To bring untapped dollars into the county, as a county.”

The county pays $115,000 to the joint chambers ” three in unincorporated Nevada County, along with Grass Valley, Nevada City, and Truckee ” from transient occupancy taxes collected from the unincorporated areas and from county taxpayer dollars, said Owens, who represents eastern Nevada County and Truckee.

This means money from unincorporated areas is primarily benefiting the incorporated cities and town, he said.

The money is also exclusive to the chambers, and not available to other groups that might have a good idea to promote tourism, Owens said.

“I’m looking for project-specific contracts ” anybody with a good idea whether it’s from a chamber, the winery association, the contractors association or heck, the Boy Scouts, if they have a good idea,” Owens said.

Lynn Saunders, president and chief executive officer of the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce, said she was for more countywide collaboration, and reduced funding from the county wouldn’t hurt the chamber as much as its western counterparts, which don’t get the same support from their cities.

“We are very fortunate the town leaders recognize the value of marketing,” Saunders said.

Compared to the $28,000 in county funding that could be reduced under new proposals, the town pays the chamber nearly $300,000 under contract for running the visitors center and for marketing, she said.

Others took issue with trying to market the county as a whole, with such disparate areas from the gold country in the west to the high mountains in the east.

“I think marketing the whole county is going to be very difficult, and the chambers at both ends are already doing a good job,” said Peggy Levine, owner of the Swan-Levine House bed-and-breakfast in Grass Valley.

Supervisor John Spencer went so far as to propose taking money away from only Truckee, concentrating on western county.

“The Truckee chamber has a budget of $500,000. I don’t think they need our money. We need money from them,” he said.

Owens, of course, took issue with this.

In the end, the board decided to form a subcommittee of Owens and Supervisor Ed Scofield, along with an ad-hoc committee with representatives from around the county, to explore the ideas outlined in the proposal.

The El Dorado County Visitors Authority was a common example used in Tuesday’s discussion of a Nevada County-wide tourism effort.

“Our success is based on our structure ” we have representatives from every facet of the tourism industry at the table,” said Laurel Brent-Bumb, chief executive officer for the El Dorado County Visitors Authority. “But it took quite some time to build trust … we probably spent the first three years building trust and building consensus.”

Carol Chaplin, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority in South Lake Tahoe, said her organization is just starting to come to the table.

“Marketing a region has potential power in terms of appeal to various markets,” Chaplin said. “Here you can go from apple farms and wineries to the most beautiful lake in North America.”

Working as a region also means a bigger pool of money with more leverage for marketing, she said.

Working regionally, Steve Frisch, president of the Sierra Business Council, said it will be important to work together to grow the tourism market, rather than fighting over it.

“We need to be careful not to steal from Peter to pay Paul,” Frisch said.