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City plans to create economic development czar

Susan Wood

The campaign slogan, “It’s the economy,” has gone local.

If you have a penchant for economics, the South Lake Tahoe City Council may want you.

In approving a reorganization plan Monday, the city intends to hire an economic development coordinator on its staff and appoint a five- to seven-member commission to drive the commerce policies of the town.

The latest position – at a salary range of at least $54,468 from redevelopment funds – illustrates the city’s main focus in an era of staff cuts, business closures and sputtering tax revenues.

Economics will spin off the housing department and report directly to City Manager Dave Jinkens, who created the proposed position to help “operate the city more efficiently.”

It is unclear if any money will be saved under the proposed reorganization. The plan will come back before the council within the month for City Council approval.

Other changes include Parks and Recreation falling under Community Development, code enforcement turning into a police function and the Lake Tahoe Airport reporting to Public Works.

But it was economic development that drove the discussion Monday.

“I see it as a pretty important position,” Mayor Tom Davis said, describing his focus as “the economy, economy, economy.”

Councilman Hal Cole agreed, calling the hiring of an business ombudsmen as the first priority.

Within the council’s list of strategic goals, retaining and attracting business has been deemed one of the most important.

Jinkens expects the economic development department to spearhead a business symposium to advance the City Council’s commerce-related objectives. A summit of that sort may cost the city about $10,000.

Part of the job will include grant writing and programs designed to make the city more business friendly.

“In many ways, this is probably one of the best environments for business. We have to overcome the perception among large retailers that’s it’s too hard to do business here,” Jinkens said.

He urged business to express its wishes and let the city work as an advocate to meet those goals.

The city is taking aim at tax revenues driven off the hill by the surge of retailers cropping up in the Carson Valley.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com


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