Fixing Tahoe’s economy: ‘Multi-pronged approach’ needed for financial health |

Fixing Tahoe’s economy: ‘Multi-pronged approach’ needed for financial health

Read 2015's “Measuring for Prosperity" report, available online and in print. Visit for more information.
Courtesy photo |


• Employment in the Tahoe Basin region is primarily focused on tourism and visitors services — which accounts for approximately $2 billion of the $5 billion generated in the region.

• While gaming and skiing revenues have declined over recent years, lodging properties and retail sales concentrated in town centers are seeing an increase in revenue; this shows that visitors are spending more on shopping and dining. Redevelopment and amenity enhancement is suggested to benefit visitor and local enjoyment. Recreation opportunity expansion is also encouraged lake wide.

• Since the 2008 recession, the region lost 6,500 workers from the labor force.

• Most recent statistics from 2013 show there are more jobs than workers in the area, but many of those positions are seasonal and low wage.

• Professional jobs show signs of stabilizing between 2009-13, indicating a positive trend toward higher-wage jobs regionally; yet with a predicted 50,000 jobs coming to the Reno/Sparks region by 2020, continued workforce drain is expected.

• As of 2010, the median home price in the Tahoe Basin was 1,007 percent of the median income.

• One-half to two-thirds of Tahoe’s housing are considered second homes, not primary residences, resulting in fewer spending dollars at local businesses, fewer tax dollars from sales tax and difficulty building “community” and fostering civic engagement.

Source: Measuring for Prosperity report (2015), Tahoe Prosperity Center

LAKE TAHOE — While Heidi Hill Drum’s mission is simple — improve Tahoe’s lake-wide resort economy — the path toward regional financial health is anything but.

It includes redevelopment efforts, including affordable housing, improved phone and web services, an increased focus on creation of full-time, year-round work, and more.

“To the outside world, we’re one Tahoe,” said Drum, Tahoe Prosperity Center’s executive director, adding that poverty is a huge issue for Lake Tahoe Basin communities, regardless of shore location. “We’re a regional organization — we’re not North Shore, South Shore, Nevada or California.”

To help key players better understand the region, Drum spearheaded the creation of a report titled “Measuring for Prosperity,” which published in September of last year.

There were two reasons to create the report, according to Drum: the only comprehensive economic data done on the Lake Tahoe Basin was a 2010 prosperity plan; and such a report can be used by local government, nonprofits and businesses for budgeting, planning purposes and grant applications.

“The information is now in one place,” she said. “You still have to pull the data for the piece you need.”

Jesse Walker, a Tahoe-based economist involved in guiding report research, said “a multi-pronged approach” is necessary to improve Tahoe’s lake-wide economy.

This should include improving “employment opportunities that are year-round, stable, and offer high wages in ‘white collar’ industries that are outside of tourism;” “aggressively pursuing opportunities to improve our tourism sector in order to be more competitive with other destinations;” and “improving housing affordability for local residents.”

According to Walker, “If we don’t do something to improve the ability for our workforce to afford quality housing, we are going to see them leave the basin in droves to pursue both housing and employment opportunities in Reno, Carson Valley and elsewhere.

“This is already occurring, and with the projected growth in Reno over the next five to 10 years, it will only get worse.”

Drum agreed with that sentiment, saying “The visitors will come anyway (to Lake Tahoe). If you create communities that have quality of life, it will benefit visitors. If we’re raising the bar for our residents with restaurants, affordable housing and mixed-use development, it will benefit everyone.

“We’re not talking about new development; we’re talking about redevelopment,” she added. ”It’s better for the environment. Outdated buildings are the main reason we’re seeing sediment go into the lake. With redevelopment you get environmental benefits.”

For more information about Tahoe Prosperity Center and its recent report, visit

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