Opinion: Lake Tahoe economy, housing top issues for 2017
January 31, 2017
Happy 2017! The Tahoe Prosperity Center's mission is uniting Tahoe's communities to strengthen regional prosperity and we plan to continue on that path throughout the new year.
First and foremost, we will continue our efforts to bring Tahoe's communities together on important regional issues, such as the economy. We will host our inaugural Tahoe Economic Summit in 2017.
As a California Stewardship Network member and an organization focused on the triple bottom line, we want to bring our community together on issues that impact all of us, no matter what town you live in or where you work.
By sharing best practices and learning from each other and other resort communities, we can better plan for the ups and downs of our tourism-dependent economy.
Community revitalization and transportation are critical to a thriving and prosperous region. We expect planners to balance the environment, economy and community when designing for the future. This ensures Tahoe can better weather tourism (or weather-related) economic downturns.
But we can't have these conversations in silos. That is why the Tahoe Prosperity Center is focused on bringing everyone to the table on issues such as housing, workforce development and community revitalization.
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Our Workforce Tahoe project is focused on finding solutions for businesses struggling to find the employees they need to succeed and for residents to find jobs that allow them to live and work here in Tahoe, rather than commute from out of the area.
This obviously touches on the housing crisis we're seeing in the market currently. The Tahoe Prosperity Center is actively seeking input on solutions from the community related to these important issues.
Another problem we are tackling is the lack of high-speed internet and cell phone coverage. Businesses and residents need it on a daily basis and tourists expect it when they visit Lake Tahoe. Yet, with 24 million visitors in Tahoe each year, our existing system is not equipped to handle the additional capacity.
Our Connected Tahoe project is focused on implementing a "dig once" policy around the lake so that conduit for fiber can go into every public works, road or bike trail project — expanding the opportunity for broadband.
We also have identified a number of new cell tower locations to add cellular and direct wireless service. In 2017 we hope to see both of these efforts expand quickly — pun intended!
Of course, if Tahoe sees a larger Emerald or Angora Fire, our community, environment and economy all suffer. Therefore, our AlertTahoe campaign goal for 2017 is to add three more fire prevention cameras to the networked system around the lake.
We had great success in 2016 as more than 20 fires were stopped before they got out of control last summer in part due to these cameras.
These cameras provide real-time views of the forest and ridgelines and have already proven how valuable they are to protecting our mountain community. We are proud to support this public-private partnership with the University of Nevada Reno. And we thank all of those who contributed to the AlertTahoe campaign last year.
While I can't predict the future, I feel confident in saying that if we work together, if we truly balance the economic, community and environmental factors in our planning and if we stay focused on regional goals, then Lake Tahoe will be a thriving and prosperous community for years to come — not just in 2017.
Heidi Hill Drum is the CEO of the Tahoe Prosperity Center. Visit http://www.tahoeprosperity.org to learn more.