Don Rogers: Future depends on business
Have you noticed how economic crashes also spawn next big things amid the wreckage? General Motors, Microsoft, cable TV, Uber. For us, this time, maybe the Nevada County Relief Fund and the Truckee Resilience Fund.
Community foundations are not uncommon, especially in ski towns. Truckee and north Lake Tahoe nonprofits benefit from the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, which gives $300,000 to such groups each year, and the Tahoe Mountain Resorts Foundation, which invested $400,000 last year in environmental and community service.
Come catastrophe, say pandemic sweeping the world fast and furious, these foundations are there to throw lifelines to valuable, always fragile groups that do so much to improve life in our communities.
In the case of the Tahoe Mountain Resorts Foundation, that includes the Sierra Sun and Moonshine Ink, which I believe provide an essential service right behind life, safety, livelihood. Timely information vetted for accuracy and relevance — local news — may be overlooked and taken for granted, but it also saves and shapes lives for the better.
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The foundation, along with regular advertisers able to hang in there through this and my goodness, individual donors, are helping the local Fourth Estate at the lake and foothills keep going. I have too long a list of thank yous to be able to get in here, but we’re grateful and all the more mindful of our responsibility.
But western Nevada County has never had a community foundation like these. There’s no lack of community service groups, maybe more nonprofits per capita than anywhere in the universe, along with a ready pool of volunteers. It’s astounding to witness, all these groups scratching along, some along the same path. United Way serves as an umbrella organization, and does this well, I think, only without the resources of the community foundations I know.
But there’s something else about the Truckee Resilience Fund and Nevada County Relief Fund that perked my ears listening to county projects administrator Caleb Dardick speak to the Grass Valley Rotary. On Zoom, of course.
If the nonprofits make life better in our towns, well, the business community makes life here possible. Seriously. Goods and services and jobs are just the start, and not necessarily the most crucial. Try everything we hold dear: health, safety, fire protection, education, culture, everything that makes a community.
Businesses provide the foundation for all of that. I mean the collective might of small businesses as well as the behemoths out there. Just short of 100% of businesses in this country are small businesses employing fewer than 500 people, three-quarters of which are sole proprietors. They provide nearly half the nation’s economic activity.
Around here, they provide most of the direct support for the nonprofits year in and year out.
Today’s economic derailment — however necessary or not, only history will show — is taking down first the businesses before rippling on through municipal, state and federal governments. Your retirement, your government or teaching job, all of it at root depends on the health of the business community, fundamentally.
With stakes that high, and they are, I think it matters that we as a community do what we can to preserve and strengthen such a fragile and valuable asset, our gold.
This is not to suggest the organizations devoted to nurturing small businesses are shirking or ineffective. Only that this is worth what community foundations can bring, too.
The point is nothing profound, only true. We just forget, maybe, until downturns, catastrophes or a pandemic changes our world. Rebounding starts at the foundation. The foundation here is the business community, on which all else depends.
So bravo to Nevada County starting the Relief Fund, and the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation administrating it, to provide grants countywide to small businesses. And to the Truckee Resilience Fund, created by the Sierra Business Council, to provide micro loans to businesses within the boundaries of the Truckee Airport District. The Sierra Business Council works on grants with the Relief Fund, as well.
For now, it’s all about surviving the economic consequences of COVID-19. But I like to think that the funds devoted to supporting the local business community will continue on to help shape the future from the foundation up.
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The Nevada County Relief Fund has reached $300,000 in donations this week, and plans to announce grant winners on May 29. Dardick, the coordinator of the fund, said the need for the funds is far greater than this and that the work continues at each $100,000 milestone to take applications and award grants.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.
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