Demystifying the Sierra Business Council |

Demystifying the Sierra Business Council

The terrific Sierra Sun columnist, Katie Shaffer, occasionally writes a column about the mysteries of Truckee, with questions about unusual things in town like the artificial tree behind Mountain Hardware or the locked up phone building next to Commercial Row.

My purpose here is not to answer those questions, but to clear up another local mystery: what is the Sierra Business Council (SBC) and what are we doing in Truckee?

In a nutshell, SBC is a unique non-profit organization of more than 600 members, based in our headquarters on Donner Pass Road (next to the CB White House). We’ve been here since 1994 and work to “secure the economic, social and environmental health of the Sierra Nevada for this and future generations.”

Pretty grand words, but what do they mean?

In practice, we pursue research, public policy, and leadership programs that protect the Sierra’s landscapes, revitalize the region’s town centers, promote economic development, and create win-win projects for business and the environment. SBC’s programs include:

— Our Working Landscapes Initiative to help ranchers use conservation and business diversification tools to protect the Sierra’s magnificent ranchlands and farm economy.

You may have seen the recent good news about our work to broker an agricultural easement on the Bar One Ranch in Sierra Valley (30 miles north of Truckee). The easement will keep the 13,000 acre ranch in ranching forever, protecting the property’s economic and environmental values.

— Our Town Planning Program that helps residents in towns like June Lake (near Mammoth) and Minden, Nev. develop community plans that preserve the towns’ historic assets and strengthen their Main Street economies.

Closer to home, SBC worked with Truckee to secure a $350,000 grant to redevelop the Old Mill site east of Commercial Row – a huge opportunity for our town to pursue a new Town Hall site, affordable housing and centrally located retail space in downtown next to the Truckee River.

— Our Research Program, which produces a nationally acclaimed Sierra Nevada Wealth Index that tracks 45 indicators of economic, social and environmental health in the region.

We are also on the verge of publishing two new guides: one to help rural communities achieve economic success in the 21st century and the other to help Sierra towns develop more profitable and attractive commercial districts.

— Our Conservation Program, which helped launch Placer Legacy, a collaborative program that brought together builders, environmentalists and farmers (imagine that!) to protect one of the key assets that attract people and business to Placer County: the beautiful landscape.

This program has been so successful that it was just honored with the prestigious California Governor’s Award for Environmental and Economic Leadership. We have also been leading a coalition – of the ski industry, building industry, ranchers, and environmentalists – to create a Sierra Nevada Conservancy, a state program to steer millions of dollars to the Sierra for historic, cultural, and environmental conservation.

— Our Business Effectiveness Program that helps businesses achieve greater profitability and environmental effectiveness. One example: bringing together ski resorts such as Mammoth, Alpine Meadows, Northstar, and Heavenly to develop new techniques for erosion control that will improve water quality and save the resorts money.

This is just a sample of all we do in our small blue house with the red door in Brickeltown. If you go to our web site ( or stop by our office, you can also learn about our annual conference, member forums, or Sierra Leadership Seminar, one of the best leadership training sessions in the West.

You can also join us! If you do, you’ll be in good company. One thing I’m proud of is the diversity of businesses – especially in Truckee – who support SBC’s balanced approach to economic and environmental prosperity, companies ranging from Cabona’s, East-West, and Sugar Bowl to Porter-Simon, Tahoe Resort Properties, and Tahoe Truckee Lumber.

So come on by our office. We’re open during regular business hours and love visitors (as well as solving mysteries!).

Jim Sayer is President of the Sierra Business Council. One other mystery solved: Jim is the guy you may have seen around town this fall on his bicycle, dropping his daughters off at Truckee Elementary and pre-school in a Burley bike trailer).

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