Nevada County supes look at how to spend tourism, economic development dollars | SierraSun.com

Nevada County supes look at how to spend tourism, economic development dollars

Kyle Magin
Sun News Service

NEVADA COUNTY, Calif. and#8212; With so few dollars available, Nevada County’s leaders are debating carefully how to spend them.

The Board of Supervisors this week discussed the best way to parse out the county’s $125,000 economic development budget, which covers tourism/marketing along with business attraction and development.

Supervisors approved the economic development budget for the upcoming fiscal year and#8212; it starts July 1 and#8212; but didn’t allocate any of the money beyond agreeing to call for a bid to run the county’s tourism website, http://www.GoNevadaCounty.com and#8212; an estimated $15,000-$20,000 annually, said Assistant County CEO Alison Lehman.

Supervisors are discussing which way to go with the rest of the budget.

In 2010, the county made a splash by spending $90,000 for a tourism and marketing strategy, and on Tuesday Dist. 4 Supervisor Hank Weston said tourism should continue to be a county focus. Board Vice Chair Ted Owens echoed his counterpart.

and#8220;We know that we have great assets in terms of tourism, and we haven’t always done a great job of marketing them,and#8221; Owens said.

Traditionally the county has spent economic development funds on recruiting and retaining business. Whether or not to continue spending on that approach is something the board plans to discuss.

Board Chair Ed Scofield asked whether the county should continue to support the Economic Resource Council, which primarily tries to recruit and retain businesses in western county. The county agreed to fund the organization with $50,000 last year, down from an initial 2010 budget of $85,000.

and#8220;It’s become questionable,and#8221; said Scofield, who also sits on the ERC executive committee. In 2010, the ERC recruited manufacturer Huntington Labs to the Grass Valley area, one of the few successes produced by the organization, Scofield said.

and#8220;Is it worth the value of the money we put into it?and#8221; Scofield said. and#8220;It’s just kind of a confusing time at ERC, and we are assessing what its mission isand#8221; during the transition from former ERC CEO Gil Mathew, who resigned last year, and new head man Ron Moser.

Moser could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Owens is interested in a one-time infusion of funding, possibly $10,000, for Truckee Tomorrow, an economic development agency similar to the ERC in the eastern county, he said.

The organization, which has received funding from the Town of Truckee and Truckee Chamber of Commerce is assessing the mountain hamlet’s opportunities as huge upgrades are planned at area ski resorts Northstar-at-Tahoe and Squaw Valley USA.

and#8220;I think Truckee Tomorrow is in recognition of the changes that are going on around us,and#8221; Owens said. and#8220;How will we fit in? What will we be and what can we be? You can’t just sit by and let things change around you without having some intelligent discussion of where we can lead ourselves.and#8221;

Owens had previously voiced concerns over the ERC for being too focused on western Nevada County.

Whatever the county does, it needs to spend smartly on economic development now, as those funds may continue to dwindle along with the county’s overall budget, which dropped to $172 million from $181 million last year, Owens said. Such and#8220;discretionary fundsand#8221; may not be available in coming years, he added.

and#8220;The way the economy has been heading, coupled with the great difficulties that the state is facing … it’s going to become more difficult to fund things outside of the core services the county provides in the future,and#8221; Owens said.

County officials plan to hold future workshops to determine how to spend the remaining economic development budget, Scofield said.