Tahoe’s Prosperity Playbook – positive, productive, promising (Opinion) | SierraSun.com

Tahoe’s Prosperity Playbook – positive, productive, promising (Opinion)

Heidi Hill Drum / Guest column
Heidi Hill Drum


After the roller coaster years of 2020-2022, we look forward to the future of Tahoe-Truckee with hope and enthusiasm. Last year we completed a community driven, collaborative economic resiliency strategy: the Envision Tahoe Prosperity Playbook. This Playbook would not have been possible without the significant input from local residents, businesses, community, government and education leaders along with the expert analysis and data connecting the dots.

The Tahoe Prosperity Center board is proud of this Playbook and the potential it brings to the Tahoe-Truckee region. Our board, the U.S. Economic Development Agency and the thousands of others that supported this work know that Envision Tahoe will result in future economic and community prosperity for our region.


We asked, and residents told us during public polling that Tahoe is at a tipping point and needs to balance the effects of tourism as our dominant economic driver with the needs of our resident workforce. This is clearly top of mind for people working in tourism as well as local businesses. What was significant in the survey was that regardless of income level, location or age demographic, a majority of residents feel there is a need to refocus local efforts on Tahoe as a “community” instead of Tahoe as a “destination.”

TPC feels strongly that this focus on community will better support economic diversification strategies, encourage a more welcoming atmosphere for all, and result in positive outcomes for local residents and visitors. It is inherent in all of the Prosperity Playbook strategies that the positive effects of these initiatives will ripple through communities, the economy, and the regional environment to make Tahoe somewhere people can live, work, play, and thrive.

There were a few interesting data points we uncovered during our extensive research:

  • While the Tahoe region did gain some new residents during the pandemic, we’ve once again seen a decline in overall population. We know this is due to the high cost of living, generally low wages, and lack of local workforce housing. The Playbook lays out a number of strategies to hopefully bring back our 25-44 year old age group demographic that we’ve been losing in recent years. 
  • Since 2015, there has been a 42% increase in the percentage of Lake Tahoe’s population that holds a Doctorate Degree and a 19% increase in those with a Master’s Degree.
  • The number of Tahoe residents making over $75K/year has increased by 17% since 2019.


The current efforts of the Destination Stewardship group led by Core Team, should result in more balance in our regional Tourism economy. This is another collaborative effort that many of you in the community contributed to via the public workshops.

Implementing the Playbook will result in higher wage jobs for our local workforce and more job opportunities in the healthcare or environmental innovation sectors. Higher wage jobs and improved housing opportunities through the Placer County workforce housing preservation program for example, or Placemate’s Lease to Locals programs in our region will hopefully bring back some of the 25-44 year old locals that we have lost in recent years. To have thriving town centers and strong communities, it is critical that we capitalize on opportunities to repurpose old, blighted buildings and accelerate new workforce housing projects. Other ongoing efforts that will help our regional economy include:

  • Tahoe Inc., an entrepreneurship incubator group that organically grew out of the Envision Tahoe process, has already hosted four Entrepreneurship Roundtables and is planning a May, 2023 Tahoe Venture Summit. You can find out more at TahoeInc.org or EnvisionTahoe.org.
  • The Washoe Tahoe Housing Partnership has almost completed their community focused Housing Roadmap. More information about this can be found at https://tahoeprosperity.org/housing-tahoe/wthp/. This is the final part of the lake to complete a housing needs assessment and planning effort to encourage workforce housing.
  • Placer County and Washoe County are both updating their Tahoe Basin Area Plans to aide productive, environmentally sound development.

We know it is easy to be scared of changes being made to our favorite place in the world, but maintaining the status quo to preserve run-down buildings, empty storefronts, and vacant second homes is a disservice to Tahoe’s residents, economy, and environment. To create thriving communities built of full-time residents, there needs to be workforce housing, a robust economic base, and diverse job opportunities for all of Tahoe’s workforce, so that Tahoe can become the community that we all envision it can be.

To stay up to date on the Tahoe Prosperity Center’s work and get involved, sign up for our newsletter at tahoeprosperity.org. Whether you engage through our work or with other non-profit organizations, agencies, or community groups in Tahoe-Truckee, we sincerely hope you are able to get involved in the planning of Tahoe’s future. From the TPC team, we hope you and yours have a prosperous, safe, and joyful 2023.

Heidi Hill Drum is CEO of the Tahoe Prosperity Center. She has expertise implementing complex collaborative solutions, which make her especially suited to lead the Tahoe Prosperity Center’s mission of uniting Tahoe’s communities to strengthen regional prosperity.

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