Lake Tahoe prosperity plan aims to create cohesive economic strategy for region |

Lake Tahoe prosperity plan aims to create cohesive economic strategy for region

Matt Welch
Sierra Sun

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. and#8212; The Tahoe Basin is a complicated economic collage.

But a collaboration between among area leaders aims to make the area and#8212; two states, five counties, 3,000 businesses, one incorporated city and numerous residential areas and#8212; into a portrait of regional economic success and stability.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Prosperity Plan held two workshops this week with representatives from civic and planning organizations around the lake. The formation of the group began in 2007 when Bea Gorman, executive director of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce, brought together a group of leaders from the area to discuss economic development.

and#8220;We began exploring how we might diversify and strengthen the local economy,and#8221; Gorman said.

The plan became more formalized late last year when it received funding from the Economic Development Administration, part of the federal government. The Prosperity Plan group intends to combine resources between the various governmental and business groups around the lake to create a strategy for economic development and growth.

and#8220;This is an exciting endeavor,and#8221; said Steve Teshara, executive director of the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce. and#8220;We have been moving quickly.and#8221;

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The group hired Applied Development Economics, a Sacramento-based firm, to study the area. At this week’s sessions, Doug Svensson and Trish Kelly of ADE gave a 90-minute, 49-slide presentation outlining the current conditions in the Basin and demonstrating and#8220;economic clustersand#8221; on which the region could potentially focus for growth. These clusters are broad categories for businesses and other developments, composed of leading industries, support industries and foundational structures that help or hurt those businesses.

and#8220;The core will be around some key economic clusters that can be the drivers,and#8221; Svensson said. and#8220;We need to be future-oriented.and#8221;

The five-county region in which the lake falls has seen 24 percent economic growth from 2000 to 2007, while areas in the lake’s watershed has seen a drop of 6 percent, Svensson said.

and#8220;(Tahoe) is basically not a pretty picture from an economic standpoint,and#8221; he said.

Kelly said the seasonal nature of recreation and leisure in the area and a lack of affordable housing for families were problems that needed to be addressed.

and#8220;There are assets here, but they’re not leveraged as much as they could be,and#8221; she said.

The economists then outlined the seven economic clusters they saw in Tahoe’s economy, ranging from visitor services to government to health care. The largest two were visitor services, comprising 18,108 jobs and 672 establishments in 2007, and green business and environmental technology, with 2,500 jobs and 501 establishments in 2007.

Svensson said the group hopes to pick three to four clusters to focus on that will generate jobs and economic activity. The clusters chosen could come from the ideas the consultants have brought or from input from community members, he said.

At Thursday’s meeting in Kings Beach, Karen Craig, an economist working with Douglas County, said she thought the clusters seemed to be the correct categories, but she wondered about the values involved in choosing to live and work in the basin. She mentioned environment, inspiration, education and recreation as key elements to the lake lifestyle.

and#8220;I would do it by what’s unique to Tahoe and what’s seductive,and#8221; Craig said.

Numerous representatives mentioned broadband Internet in the region as a way to improve technological and business development in the area. Steve McKibben, headmaster of the private K-8 Lake Tahoe School in Incline Village, said he saw ideas like that as ways to spark innovation.

and#8220;You want to be as pragmatic as possible,and#8221; McKibben said.

Teshara said that while Truckee is not part of the area examined in the consultant’s study, it remains an important part of the region and will continue to be considered throughout the process.

and#8220;Even though Truckee’s not in the watershed, they’re in the business shed,and#8221; Teshara said.

The consultants look to present a strategy in September, Gorman said. She said the implementation stage will be one part of this long process, which will vary in approach and timing based upon industry and location.

and#8220;There isn’t going to be one thing or one speed,and#8221; she said. and#8220;It’ll be a public/private partnership.