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Truckee’s economic outlook

Darin Olde, Sierra Sun

In Truckee the adage “if you build it, they will come,” should read “they’re already here, and they need more room.”

At least that was one of the major conclusions presented by Steve Wahlstrom, the consultant hired by the Town of Truckee to identify economic strategies, policies and opportunities for growth in Truckee.

Wahlstrom presented a report Tuesday in the first of a series of new workshops planned at Town Hall.

Members of Truckee Town Council, staff and the Planning Commission listened as Wahlstrom, a representative of Applied Development Economics, presented results from a study that goes back several years and involves analysis, interviews and surveys of hundreds of Truckee businesses and second homeowners.

“Truckee is a resort economy,” began Wahlstrom.

Full-time residents are responsible for only 27 percent of the retail spending in Truckee. The vast majority of revenue comes from second home occupants, overnight visitors and day visitors.

“The challenge for Truckee is getting more day visitors to stay for the night,” said Wahlstrom.

Wahlstrom identified “big box” general stores such as K-Mart or Target and car sales as significant leaks in Truckee’s retail economy. People go out of the area for those stores and products, Wahlstrom said, “so these store types could be attracted to Truckee.”

Members of Town Council suggested that whether or not Truckee residents want a “big box” development is another story.

Based on surveys of Truckee retailers, however, less than 20 percent of retail businesses want to expand or relocate. Eighty percent intend to continue at their current location.

Industrial or business park businesses, on the other hand, are exploding, and they can’t find enough space.

“It’s different now, but nine months ago we were dealing with a really hot economy in non-retail business,” said Wahlstrom.

Out of approximately 150 responses, 62 percent said they were growing moderately and 27 percent said they were expanding greatly, or experiencing rapid growth.

Only 1 percent of those surveyed said their business was declining.

Town Council member Maia Schneider asked Wahlstrom if he had a handle on how the economy was slowing. Wahlstrom said he did not have data on the slowing economy in this report.

Sixty-seven percent of commercial businesses rent rather than own their buildings.

Wahlstrom concluded that there is a pent-up demand for 980,000 square feet of business and industrial park space in Truckee.

“That’s a big number, but the bottom line is that you have a lot of demand here,” he said. “Even if that number is wrong … you still have demand for a large amount of space.”

Of the business owners who said they wanted to expand, 58 percent were professional services such as medical or architectural. Business and financial services made up 20 percent of the economic sector wishing to expand.

The tourism industry continues to be big business in Truckee.

From 1992 to 1998 the counties surrounding Truckee showed increases in revenue from 25 to 50 percent.

The report was compiled using a variety of models and analysis, and involved a committee of 11 local business representatives in the Truckee area.

“We made three attempts to contact every business that was listed,” said Wahlstrom Wednesday. “We were as thorough as we could possibly be.”

The report will go back to the committee of Truckee business representatives before the report is officially presented to the council and commission for use.

The forums take place the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. in Town Hall. Next month will be a discussion on the historic inventory report, followed by discussion of permanent Town Hall sites in July.


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